Christopher Tolkien

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (born 21 November 1924) is the third son of the author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), and 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.

Christopher Tolkien
BornChristopher John Reuel Tolkien
(1924-11-21) 21 November 1924
Leeds, England, United Kingdom
OccupationEditor, novelist, academic
EducationDragon School
The Oratory School
Alma materTrinity College, Oxford (B.A., 1949)
SpouseFaith Faulconbridge
Baillie Klass
Children3, including Simon Tolkien
RelativesJ. R. R. Tolkien (father)
Edith Tolkien (mother)
Tim Tolkien (first cousin, once removed)
See Tolkien family

Early life

Christopher Tolkien was born in Leeds, the third and youngest son of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and his wife, Edith Mary Tolkien (née Bratt). 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 Trinity College, Oxford,[7] taking his BA in 1949 and his B.Litt a few years later.[8]


Tolkien 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. J. R. R. Tolkien invited Christopher to join the Inklings when he was twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of the informal literary discussion society that included C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Warren Lewis, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill.[9]

He published The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise: "Translated from the Icelandic with Introduction, Notes and Appendices by Christopher Tolkien" in 1960.[10] Later, Tolkien followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a lecturer and tutor in English Language at New College, Oxford, from 1964 to 1975.[8]

In 2016, he was given the Bodley Medal, an award that recognises individuals for outstanding contributions to literature, culture, science, and communication.[11]

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. He had originally intended to publish The Silmarillion along with The Lord of the Rings, and parts of it were in a finished state when he died in 1973, but the project was incomplete. Tolkien once referred to his son as his "chief critic and collaborator", and named him his literary executor in his will. Christopher Tolkien organized 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. In the years following, 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 Guy Gavriel Kay who became a noted fantasy author himself.

The Silmarillion was followed by Unfinished Tales in 1980 and The History of Middle-earth in 12 volumes between 1983 and 1996. Most of the original source-texts have been made public from which the Silmarillion was constructed. 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 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. Beren and Lúthien is an editorial work and was published as a stand-alone book in 2017.[12] The next year, The Fall of Gondolin was published also as an editorial work. The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin make up the three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days which J.R.R. Tolkien considered to be the biggest stories of the First Age.

HarperCollins published other J. R. R. Tolkien work edited by Christopher Tolkien which is not connected to the Middle-earth legendarium. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún appeared in May 2009, a verse retelling of the Norse Völsung cycle, followed by The Fall of Arthur[13] in May 2013, and by Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary in May 2014.[14][15]

Christopher Tolkien also served as chairman of the Tolkien Estate, Ltd, the entity formed to handle the business side of his father's literary legacy, and as a trustee of the Tolkien Charitable Trust, until his retirement in 2018.

Reaction to filmed versions of J. R. R. Tolkien's works

In 2001, he expressed doubts over The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, questioning the viability of a film interpretation that retained the essence of the work, but stressed that this was just his opinion.[16] In a 2012 interview with Le Monde he criticised the films saying: "They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds."[17]

In 2008 Christopher Tolkien commenced legal proceedings against New Line Cinema, which he claimed owed his family £80 million in unpaid royalties.[18] In September 2009, he and New Line reached an undisclosed settlement, and he withdrew his legal objection to The Hobbit films.[19]

Personal life

Christopher Tolkien currently lives in the French countryside 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. In the wake of a dispute surrounding the making of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy he disowned his son by his first marriage, barrister and novelist Simon Mario Reuel Tolkien,[20] though they have since reconciled.[21]


As author or translator

  • (1953–1957), "The Battle of the Goths and the Huns" (PDF), Saga-Book, 14, pp. 141–163CS1 maint: date format (link)
  • The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (PDF), translated by , 1960 , from the Icelandic Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks

As editor


  1. "No. 36989". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 March 1945. pp. 1492–1494.
  2. "No. 37327". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 October 1945. pp. 5275–5276.
  3. "No. 37237". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 August 1945. p. 4282.
  4. "No. 37264". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 September 1945. p. 4575.
  5. "No. 37237". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 August 1945. p. 4282.
  6. His rank was given on the Navy List as Acting Sub-Lieutenant (Air)
  7. "Bodleian Libraries - Home".
  8. "Tolkien, Christopher Reuel". Routledge. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  9. Diana, Glyer (2007). The Company They Keep. Kent, OH: Kent State UP. ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0.
  10. 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
  11. Onwuemezi, Natasha (31 October 2016). "Christopher Tolkien awarded the Bodley Medal". Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  12. "JRR Tolkien book Beren and Lúthien published after 100 years". BBC. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  13. "The Fall of Arthur – J.R.R. Tolkien". HarperCollins. Archived from the original on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  14. Alison Flood. "JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf to be published after 90-year wait". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  15. Ken Raymond (30 May 2014). "Tolkien's 'Beowulf' battles critics". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  16. "Middle-earth & J.R.R. Tolkien Blog". Middle-earth & J.R.R. Tolkien Blog. Archived from the original on 25 June 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  17. Raphaëlle Rérolle. "Tolkien, l'anneau de la discorde". Le Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  18. "Hobbit movies meet dire foe in son of Tolkien". The Sunday Times. 25 May 2008.
  19. "Legal path clear for Hobbit movie". BBC News. 8 September 2009.
  20. Thomas, David (24 February 2003). "J R R Tolkien's grandson 'cut off from literary inheritance'". Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  21. Hough, Andrew (18 November 2012). "Simon Tolkien: J R R Tolkien's grandson admits Lord of the Rings trauma". Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
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