Friday, January 17, 2020

The scholar of Middle Earth

Christopher Tolkien, the great champion of his father's literary estate, has died at 95:
It is with great sadness that we can confirm that Tolkien’s son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien has died aged 95.

Christopher was born in Leeds, United Kingdom, on 21 November 1924. After a childhood in Oxford, he joined the RAF during the Second World War and was stationed to 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. After his father’s death in 1973, he became the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate and went on to edit and publish his father’s unpublished material starting with The Silmarillion in 1977 and ending with The Fall of Gondolin in 2018.

Upon hearing the news, Tolkien Society Chair, Shaun Gunner, said:

All of us in the Tolkien Society will share in the sadness at the news of Christopher Tolkien’s death, and we send our condolences to Baillie, Simon, Adam, Rachel and the whole Tolkien family at this difficult time. 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. Millions of people around the world will be forever grateful to Christopher for bringing us The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, The History of Middle-earth series and many others. We have lost a titan and he will be sorely missed.

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.

The Tolkien Society sends its deepest condolences to the Tolkien family.
Christopher Tolkien was the very model of the ideal literary executor. He not only protected his father's legacy, but substantially added to it through his editing and publishing of the source material that were the foundation for his father's landmark books. He was a good and faithful servant to his father and Middle Earth fandom, and both Christians and Tolkien fans can rejoice at the thought of the proud approbation with which his father will have welcomed him to his reward.

Very few sons of great men are worthy of them; as the son of a very successful man myself, I can testify to the soul-crushing burden paternal success tends to impose upon a young man, especially a young man of ambition. But through his embrace of a difficult role to which he was literally born, Christopher Tolkien undoubtedly proved himself worthy of his great father.

The Grey Havens



Blogger Shane Bradman January 17, 2020 8:23 AM  

God Bless Christopher. One of my favourite of his many accomplishments was The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, which he translated and edited from Icelandic. His skill in linguistics and philology perhaps exceeded his father's with that story.
A great man, now reunited with his great father. I doubt there will ever be more official additions to the Middle Earth Saga because nobody was as close to the stories as Christopher was. Now, after almost 50 years since father Tolkien departed, with the departure of son Tolkien, this really is the end. There is no more to come, the story has ended.
Raise your glasses and say your prayers.

Blogger Ant_B January 17, 2020 8:31 AM  

The knew Amazon series - We Wuz Elvz and Shiiiet!

Blogger Ledford Ledford January 17, 2020 8:36 AM  

I thought Children of Hurin was very good, have read it twice. Not a lot of books I read more than once.

He will be missed.

Blogger mistaben January 17, 2020 8:41 AM  

"And even in [his] mighty company I shall not now be ashamed."

Blogger Diogenes January 17, 2020 8:46 AM  

I was unaware Tolkien had a son who carried on the editorial legacy of his father. Considering how gently treated the works have been since they were published (and particularly since JRR died) I must offer belated praise to Christopher for being a faithful servant as well. My prayers for his peaceful passing and warm welcome to the Lord's side.

Blogger JE Hamilton January 17, 2020 8:47 AM  

May his soul and the souls of all the faitful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

This has affected me more than I ever expected.

Blogger Ingot9455 January 17, 2020 9:02 AM  

Would that every father had such a son.

Blogger Ora Tevzre January 17, 2020 9:02 AM  

“PIPPIN: I didn't think it would end this way.

GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?

GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

PIPPIN: Well, that isn't so bad.

GANDALF: No. No, it isn't.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

RIP CRR Tolkien

Blogger peacefulposter January 17, 2020 9:11 AM  

It is tempting to be envious of men who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but that spoon can indeed be extremely heavy, especially in a society that celebrates the rags to riches story.

Even a man who manages to far exceed is father's success, like Donald Trump, is constantly denigrated for not doing it "alone". He'd be nothing without a loan from Daddy!

Blogger Silent Draco January 17, 2020 9:15 AM  

The wise and humble steward fulfilled his duties to God, family, and master. Welcome him home, Lord.

Blogger Balkan Yankee January 17, 2020 9:23 AM  

@8: Complete Victory and a New Beginning all rolled into one.

Blogger Bearbrained Schemer January 17, 2020 9:29 AM  

And the inevitable season two - Folk of Adequate Size: How Unions Saved Middle-Earth

Blogger szook January 17, 2020 9:48 AM  

Time to pause and reflect. No words.

Blogger Cataline Sergius January 17, 2020 9:51 AM  

I honestly feel that if it hadn't been for Christopher Tolkien his father's works would have been a forgotten footnote in the history of fantasy.

Blogger Oswald January 17, 2020 9:52 AM  

It has been a long time since I have read any of Tolkien's work, but so many parts of his stories have stuck with me through the years. I am glad he had a son that kept his world from being converged. I hope the next executor will stay the course.

Blogger wreckage January 17, 2020 9:55 AM  

It is hard to appreciate the delicate balance of humility and ambition that would lead a man to undertake such great works in the service of another man's vision.

Blogger binks webelf January 17, 2020 9:56 AM  

I remember clearly the first time I laid eyes on 1977's The Silmarillion in our local bookshop. My brain went: "Wait-- there's MORE?" Tolkien's trilogy helped baptise my imagine; I pored over the maps of Middle Earth; I only learned later that JRRT's son Christopher was the first editor of LOTR, the map-maker; and-- now, editor of the Silmarillion.. with all new maps, and invaluable background on his father's sub-creation of Middle Earth.

Since then, he did so much more in new books, defending the legacy, and his multi-volume series on the making of the stories. Thank you, John. Thank you Christopher. May you rest in peace, and rise in glory, friends whom I have yet to meet.

Tenn' enomentielva!


Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia January 17, 2020 9:57 AM  

Can you imagine taking a course in medieval literature from either the father or the son?

No doubt those who did found such an encounter arguably the greatest and most profound experience of their educational journey.

Blogger LAZ January 17, 2020 9:58 AM  

Season 3- Dragons Need Friends Too

Blogger Avalanche January 17, 2020 10:06 AM  

Decades after high school (40+ years!), I still have in my file case the cardboard covers of my notebooks from then, covered top-to-bottom in Elvish writing. JRR, and now CRR, spent their lives providing the most amazing cultural touchstones for Brits and for U.S posterity; such as the paperwork-citizens and illegals invaders cannot ever encompass.

Such a loss; I pray the material will be as well-shepherded in future, as it has been till now.

Blogger Avalanche January 17, 2020 10:10 AM  

Have y'all heard the record (LP) that was released in 1967, with JRR himself reading poetry? "Poems And Songs Of Middle Earth."
Tolkien reads: A! Elbereth Gilthoniel (15 second)

Blogger Scott January 17, 2020 10:12 AM  


During my study of the Gospel of Matthew today, I was reminded of the climax of the Two Towers.

Matthew 24: 16, 27 "16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:"

"27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

Revelation 19: 11-14 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean."

The best scene in the Lord of the Rings. May those of us with faith await the Return of the King.

Blogger Matt January 17, 2020 10:13 AM  

God bless Christopher Tolkien.
As a 15-25 year old action-loving male at the time, I was once frustrated with his criticism of the Peter Jackson films. But I’ve come to see he was always right, and appreciate his father’s world and how much he loved and defended it.

Blogger Oswald January 17, 2020 10:20 AM  

22 Scott. Amen Brother.

Blogger Avalanche January 17, 2020 11:04 AM  

OMG, he's barely buried and look who's being 'welcomed to the cast':

Amazon's TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is already getting "diversified".

EVERYTHING will be taken away from whites. White literature is up for grabs for quite some time and it can be altered at will because cultural appropriation only works one way.

Blogger OGRE January 17, 2020 11:12 AM  

We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.

I have not my own words to fully describe the sense of gratitude and loss I feel for Christopher Tolkien. As his father's works live on through human history, Christopher's handiwork will be an indelible part of it. Few sons could do a father more proud.

Blogger A rebel without a General January 17, 2020 11:26 AM  

Season 4 the hobbits welcome Orc refugees

Blogger Conan the Cimmerian January 17, 2020 11:33 AM  

A great son of a great man indeed.

Blogger Bogey January 17, 2020 11:44 AM  

I saw that @Avalanche, but I'm waiting for the SJW meltdown on Twitter because the cast still isn't diverse enough.

Blogger Bibliotheca Servare January 17, 2020 11:44 AM  

A great and honorable man has passed into his reward; the world is poorer for his absence, but he left us a tremendous legacy.

May he rest in the Joy and Presence of his Lord forever.

Blogger xevious2030 January 17, 2020 11:45 AM  

R.I.P, he honored his father and carried on the great work in a way few do. J.R.R. did good.

Blogger doctrev January 17, 2020 11:49 AM  

All my life, I've benefitted as from from Christopher's calm stewardship as JRR's legendary world. Those decades of the Tolkien legacy will live on my shelves and in my data, no matter what happens next. Return to your Father, Christopher, with my blessing.

Poor GRRM. His legacy was humiliated on an international level, and the poor fool was alive to see it. Chris Rock judged the contest between Michael Jackson and Prince with similar finality.

Blogger Crazy Dave January 17, 2020 11:57 AM  

Chris Tolkien definitely saved the best for last with the Fall of Gondolin.

rest in peace, sweet prince.

Blogger RobertDWood January 17, 2020 11:58 AM  

His Beowulf work will be required study as we homeschool my sons. Great men both.

Blogger Doktor Jeep January 17, 2020 12:03 PM  

So how long until some grandson fresh out of indoctr... Uh... College is retconning LOTR with black gay elves?
Place your bets.

Blogger Warunicorn January 17, 2020 12:26 PM  

Bogey wrote:I saw that @Avalanche, but I'm waiting for the SJW meltdown on Twitter because the cast still isn't diverse enough.

Hell, remember when they lost their sh*t over The Return of the King movie about the Haradrim? That was back in 2003. It's all on steroids now.

Blogger binks webelf January 17, 2020 12:52 PM  

Rejoice, for Rachel Fulton Brown will be teaching a class on Tolkien via in 2020! #MustSeeTV

Blogger Sillon January 17, 2020 1:07 PM  

Concerns about SJW ruining of lord of the rings?

Simple solution, do not watch it or read any new stuff that did't came from the Tolkiens.

I do not think it is worth it and why get upset about it?

I'm not curious in the slightness, I found the Peter Jackson trilogy mildly irritating, I do not want to watch a converged LTR/Hobbit adaptation.

I pass.

Blogger Constantin January 17, 2020 1:12 PM  

R.I.P. Chistopher Tolkien. We Middle-Earth fans owe this man a great debt of gratitude. Without him his father's works would arguably not be anywhere near as famous as today.

I'll make sure to buy the hardcover editions of every work regarding Middle Earth + blurays of the movies. No way I trust these new people in charge of the Tolkien estate to not attempt to "update" his work and then not allow any of the original text to be sold anymore (just like what George Lucas did to the original SW trilogy).

God rest his soul.

Blogger Skuli Jakobsson January 17, 2020 1:15 PM  

I still remember fondly when I read the Icelantic translation of L.O.T.R. when they came out in '92-'95.
The translation was a true mastery.
Far and beyond anything I have read before or since. I am sure that Chris was involved.

Blogger IncoherentM January 17, 2020 1:18 PM  

I can't add anything more to what's been said, just that I'm very thankful for what Christopher left for all of us by his tireless work to preserve his Father's legacy.

Blogger Kat January 17, 2020 1:31 PM  

As someone said on FB - we've lost the last Inkling.

Rest in peace.

Blogger Michael D. January 17, 2020 1:31 PM  

What are the chances of Tolkien getting the Lovecraft-treatment from modern writers now, that is them being 'allowed to play in his sandbox'? I truly hope that Middle Earth will remain protected as it was heretofore - it is enough to see all the 'subversive' takes on Lovecraft to see what we would get if some major publisher embarked into some such project.

Blogger Apoliteia January 17, 2020 1:32 PM  

@4 An excellent summary! What's more to be said?

Blogger Snidely Whiplash January 17, 2020 1:34 PM  

Michael D. wrote:I truly hope that Middle Earth will remain protected as it was heretofore - it is enough to see all the 'subversive' takes on Lovecraft to see what we would get if some major publisher embarked into some such project.
Movie and TV rights are owned by (((Saul Zaentz))) so don't expect preservation.

Blogger Kiwi January 17, 2020 1:51 PM  

A blessed family to have such wonderful role models to follow after. I'm sure he will be missed.

Blogger Azimus January 17, 2020 2:28 PM  

RIP, Mr Tolkien

Blogger VD January 17, 2020 2:39 PM  

Movie and TV rights are owned by (((Saul Zaentz))) so don't expect preservation.

Not anymore. He died in 2014.

Blogger Bernard Korzeniewicz January 17, 2020 2:53 PM  

Lets pray for him.

Blogger Emmanuel January 17, 2020 4:18 PM  

Why? It's not going to help where he ends up at. That's kind of the point of Christianity: you're only given this life to decide where you want to go after you die. After you dead, you don't have any say in the matter.

Blogger Lauri Stark January 17, 2020 4:52 PM  

He has sailed to Undying Lands. RIP.

Blogger patlalrique January 17, 2020 5:12 PM  

So they're telling me this fine man does a better job than Brian Herbert?

Blogger Hammerli 280 January 17, 2020 5:13 PM  

"Very few sons of great men are worthy of them; as the son of a very successful man myself, I can testify to the soul-crushing burden paternal success tends to impose upon a young man, especially a young man of ambition."

This is very, very true. There's probably a decent book that could be written on the subject. Christopher Tolkien would make a good study. The McCain naval dynasty. The Patton dynasty. Theodore Roosevelt Sr., his son the President, and HIS sons.

It's damned hard to stand in the footsteps of titans. Some men succeed, some fail, and some turn things 90 degrees and do great deeds in a completely different field.

Blogger dooder January 17, 2020 5:24 PM  

What a beautiful eulogy to a kind, quiet man

Blogger Shane Bradman January 17, 2020 6:52 PM  

Emmanuel, this is not the place to sell your version of theology. Have some respect.

Blogger tweell January 17, 2020 7:55 PM  

Thank you, Christopher Tolkien. Thank you.

Blogger papabear January 17, 2020 10:56 PM  

Don't forget the dwarf men who identify as elven queens.

Blogger papabear January 17, 2020 10:58 PM  


Blogger Sargent.matrim January 17, 2020 11:36 PM  

A great man, produced by a great man. I am forever thankful for their combined efforts.

My 7 year old boy just started reading the Hobbit. He said, "Dad this is like the Grimm stories."

Their work will bless generation after generation.

Thank you Chris for honouring your dad's legacy so thoroughly.

Blogger Lincoln Annie January 18, 2020 1:19 PM  


~A metaphor for those who grieve~

So near, so near, so far away,
The birthing, dawning grey of gloom
Speaks unveiled Light and Door to day—
There is no bridge in Khazad-dûm.

Behind, the weird of drumbeats calls,
The shadows dance the chant of doom;
Before, the shivered footbridge Falls—
The perishing of Khazad-dûm.

We stumble to the shattered edge
Beside so many unconsoled,
Lost on the brink of sorrow's ledge
In drowning dark in cavern old.

A distant, ancient voice and cry
Bewails the tumbling stony span
That broke the bond of earth and sky,
Untimely parting God and Man.

Those hearts that knew are gone to dust,
Those eyes that saw are tears become,
Slain by the Night that rendered thus
The emptiness of Khazad-dûm.

No power of this world of Men
Can span the void of Primal doom,
Nor ‘til the world’s at last a-mend
Bestride the gulf of Khazad-dûm.

But Hope—the Shepherd—to atone
Has crossed the bridgeless chasm deep,
And, passing o'er, was shaped in Stone;
The Secret Fire bore bloodied feet.

So weeping, wounded, numb, we wait
Until the Builder sets that Stone,
Which, dropped, will key a new-born gate,
Make one the soaring limbs new-flown.

Thus, in the mending of the sun,
The mending of the earth and moon;
When last the weary years are done,
There’ll be a Bridge in Khazad-dûm.

CB '08

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