Farewell, Christopher Tolkien

January 17, 2020 Authors 2

The fantasy world is mourning the death of Christopher Tolkien, son of J. R. R. Tolkien and steward of Tolkien’s literary legacy. Christopher died on January 15, 2020, at the age of 95. His death was announced by the Tolkien Society and confirmed by his brother-in-law, Daniel Klass.

Following his father’s death, Christopher Tolkien took on the mammoth task of editing and publishing Tolkien’s unpublished material (70 boxes’s worth!), beginning with The Silmarillion, which Tolkien had intended to publish, and continuing with much of the other material Tolkien wrote while developing the history of Middle-Earth as well as some of his other writings. It is thanks to Christopher’s untiring efforts that we have the Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth, the entire 12-volume History of Middle Earth series, The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin, plus a number of other books and collections, including Tales from the Perilous Realm (a collection of five original fairytales), The Fall of Arthur, and The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún.

As Tolkien’s youngest son, Christopher was part of the original audience for the tales that became The Hobbit, and recieved. Later, he drew the original map of Middle-Earth for the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings. In addition to his editorial work, Christopher Tolkien also contributed a number of scholarly introductions and essays to many of the posthumously-published works. He was, in the words of Tolkien scholar Dimitra Fimi, ” Middle-earth’s cartographer and first scholar.”

Without Christopher’s steadfast, tireless labor of love, carried out over four decades, we would know little of Middle-Earth beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien fans (and I count myself among them) owe him our deepest gratitude.

Namárië, Mr. Tolkien, and may you see at last, “White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

Sources and Resources

These obituaries and tributes are all worth reading if you have the time.

Obituaries: BBC; The Guardian; HarperCollins; New York Times; NPR; The Tolkien Society; Tor.com. Tributes: Tolkien Society Twitter thread. Biographies and bibliographies: Goodreads (J.R.R. Tolkien page, listing all of Tolkien’s works); Wikipedia.

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