Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 5 April 2020

'Middle-earth’s first scholar': JRR Tolkien's son Christopher dies age 95

Christopher Tolkien edited and published much of his father's work posthumously, and was known as 'Middle-earth’s cartographer and first scholar'

Christopher Tolkien edited and published much of his father's work posthumously. Courtesy The Tolkien Society
Christopher Tolkien edited and published much of his father's work posthumously. Courtesy The Tolkien Society

Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien's youngest son, Christopher, has died age 95, the Tolkien Society has announced.

The society, which is dedicated to promoting Tolkien's life and works, released a statement on behalf of the family late on Thursday night to confirm the news.

"It is with great sadness that we can confirm that Tolkien’s son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien has died aged 95," the statement read.

Tolkien was born in Leeds, United Kingdom, on November 21, 1924.

He grew up in Oxford and joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and was stationed in South Africa. After the war, he finished his studies and became a lecturer in Old and Middle English, as well as Old Icelandic at the University of Oxford.

JRR Tolkien once referred to Christopher as his "chief critic and collaborator", and named him his literary executor in his will.

When his father died in 1973, Tolkien became the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate and went on to edit and publish his father’s unpublished material, some of which were simply handwritten on old scraps of paper.

This began with The Silmarillion, a collection of mythopoeic works, in 1977, which was initially supposed to be released alongside The Lord of the Rings.

This was followed by short story and essay collection Unfinished Tales in 1980, and The History of Middle-earth in 12 volumes between 1983 and 1996.

In April 2007, Tolkien published The Children of Hurin on behalf of his father, which was one of JRR Tolkien's earliest stories, the first version of which dated back to 1918, but was abandoned.

Tolkien continued to serve his father's legacy well into his final years.

He served as director of the Tolkien Estate until 2017, and published his final work in 2018, entitled The Fall of Gondolin.

Tolkien was not the biggest fan of his father's work being brought to the big screen, and openly criticised director Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.

In 2008, he commenced legal proceedings against New Line Cinema, which he claimed owed his family millions in unpaid royalties. He later reached an undisclosed settlement with the company.

Tolkien Society chair Shaun Gunner said "we have lost a titan and he will be sorely missed".

"Christopher’s commitment to his father’s works have seen dozens of publications released, and his own work as an academic in Oxford demonstrates his ability and skill as a scholar."

Tolkien scholar Dr Dimitra Fimi reflected on Christopher’s academic contribution: "Tolkien studies would never be what it is today without Christopher Tolkien’s contribution. From editing The Silmarillion to the mammoth task of giving us the History of Middle-earth series, he revealed his father’s grand vision of a rich and complex mythology.

He gave us a window into Tolkien’s creative process, and he provided scholarly commentary that enriched our understanding of Middle-earth. He was Middle-earth’s cartographer and first scholar."

Updated: January 17, 2020 09:24 AM

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