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Christopher Tolkien

Christopher Reuel Tolkien
Born (1924-11-21) 21 November 1924
Leeds, England
Occupation Editor, novelist, academic
Genre Fantasy

Christopher Reuel Tolkien (born 21 November 1924) is the third and youngest son of the author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), and is best known as the editor of much of his father's posthumously published work. He drew the original maps for his father's The Lord of the Rings, which he signed C. J. R. T.; the J. stood for John, a baptismal name that he did not ordinarily use.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Editorial work on J. R. R. Tolkien's manuscripts 2.1
  • Personal life 3
  • Opinions and activities regarding filmed versions of J. R. R. Tolkien's works 4
  • Notes and references 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Christopher Tolkien was born in Leeds, the third and youngest son of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. He was educated at the Dragon School (Oxford) and later at the Oratory School.

He entered the Royal Air Force in summer 1943 and was sent to South Africa for flight training, completing the elementary flying course at 7 Air School, Kroonstad, and the service flying course at 25 Air School, Standerton. He was commissioned into the general duties branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 27 January 1945 as a pilot officer on probation (emergency). He was given the service number 193121.[1] He briefly served as an RAF pilot. He transferred to the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve on 28 June 1945.[2] His commission was confirmed and it was announced he was promoted to flying officer (war substantive) on 27 July 1945.[3][4][5][6]

After the war he studied English at Oxford University, taking his BA in 1949 and his B.Litt a few years later.


He had long been part of the critical audience for his father's fiction, first as a child listening to tales of Bilbo Baggins (which were published as The Hobbit), and then as a teenager and young adult offering much feedback on The Lord of the Rings during its 15-year gestation. He had the task of interpreting his father's sometimes self-contradictory maps of Middle-earth in order to produce the versions used in the books, and he re-drew the main map in the late 1970s to clarify the lettering and correct some errors and omissions.

He published Saga of King Heidrek the Wise: "Translated from the Icelandic with Introduction, Notes and Appendices by Christopher Tolkien" in 1960.[7] Later, Tolkien followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a lecturer and tutor in English Language at New College, Oxford, from 1964 to 1975.

Editorial work on J. R. R. Tolkien's manuscripts

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a great deal of material connected to the Middle-earth legendarium that was not published in his lifetime. Although he had originally intended to publish The Silmarillion along with The Lord of the Rings, and parts of it were in a finished state, he died in 1973 with the project unfinished.

After his father's death, Christopher Tolkien embarked on organizing the masses of his father's unpublished writings, some of them written on odd scraps of paper a half-century earlier. Much of the material was handwritten; frequently a fair draft was written over a half-erased first draft, and names of characters routinely changed between the beginning and end of the same draft. Christopher Tolkien said, of assembling and editing The Silmarillion, "It became clear to me that to attempt to present, within the covers of a single book, the diversity of the materials – to show The Silmarillion as in truth a continuing and evolving creation extending over more than half a century – would in fact lead only to confusion and the submerging of what is essential. I set myself therefore to work out a single text, selecting and arranging in such a way as seemed to me to produce the most coherent and internally self-consistent narrative."[8]

In the years following his father's death, Christopher Tolkien worked on the manuscripts and was able to produce an edition of The Silmarillion for publication in 1977; his assistant for part of this work was the young Guy Gavriel Kay, who would later become a noted fantasy author. Christopher Tolkien had to make some difficult editorial decisions in presenting his father's material, and both he and others have criticized some of these decisions.[9] The Silmarillion was followed by Unfinished Tales in 1980 and The History of Middle-earth in twelve volumes between 1983 and 1996; between HME and UT most of the original source-texts from which the 1977 Silmarillion was constructed have been made public.

In April 2007 Christopher Tolkien published The Children of Húrin, whose story his father had brought to a relatively complete stage between 1951 and 1957 before abandoning it. This was one of J. R. R. Tolkien's earliest stories, its first version dating back to 1918; several versions of the story are published in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth. The Children of Húrin is a synthesis of these and other sources.

In May 2009 HarperCollins published another J. R. R. Tolkien work edited by Christopher Tolkien: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, a verse retelling of the Norse Völsung cycle. In May 2013 HarperCollins published The Fall of Arthur, another Christopher Tolkien edited J. R. R. Tolkien work not connected to the Middle-earth legendarium.[10] In March 2014 HarperCollins announced the forthcoming publication of Christopher Tolkien's edition of his father's translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf.[11]

Personal life

Christopher Tolkien currently lives in France with his second wife, Baillie Tolkien (née Klass), who edited J. R. R. Tolkien's The Father Christmas Letters for posthumous publication. They have two children, Adam Reuel Tolkien and Rachel Clare Reuel Tolkien. Although he supposedly disowned his son by his first marriage, barrister and novelist Simon Mario Reuel Tolkien, partly after a dispute surrounding the making of the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy,[12] they have now reconciled.[13]

Opinions and activities regarding filmed versions of J. R. R. Tolkien's works

In 2001, he received some attention for his stance toward The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. He expressed doubts over the viability of a film interpretation that retained the essence of the work, but stressed that this was just his opinion.[14] He voiced sharper criticism in a 2012 interview with Le Monde: "They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds."[15]

In 2008 Christopher Tolkien commenced legal proceedings against New Line Cinema, which he claimed owed his family £80 million in unpaid royalties.[16] In September 2009, he and New Line reached an undisclosed settlement, and he has withdrawn his legal objection to the The Hobbit films.[17]

Notes and references

  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36989. pp. 1492–1494. 16 March 1945. Retrieved 06 January 2013.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37327. pp. 5275–5276. 26 October 1945. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37237. p. 4282. 1 August 1945. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37264. p. 4575. 11 September 1945. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37237. p. 4282. 21 August 1945. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  6. ^ His rank was given on the Navy List as Acting Sub-Lieutenant (Air)
  7. ^ Tolkien, Christopher (1960) The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise; translated from the Icelandic with introduction, notes and appendices. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. ASIN: B000V9BAO0
  8. ^ Alison Flood. "Christopher Tolkien answers questions about Sigurd and Gudrún". the Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "The Fall of Arthur – J.R.R. Tolkien".  
  11. ^ Alison Flood. "JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf to be published after 90-year wait". the Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Thomas, David (24 February 2003). "'"J R R Tolkien's grandson 'cut off from literary inheritance.  
  13. ^ Hough, Andrew (18 November 2012). "Simon Tolkien: J R R Tolkien's grandson admits Lord of the Rings trauma".  
  14. ^ "Middle-earth & J.R.R. Tolkien Blog". Middle-earth & J.R.R. Tolkien Blog. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Raphaëlle Rérolle. "Tolkien, l'anneau de la discorde". Le Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  16. ^ "Hobbit movies meet dire foe in son of Tolkien". The Sunday Times. 25 May 2008.
  17. ^ "Legal path clear for Hobbit movie". BBC News. 8 September 2009.

External links

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