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SYFY WIRE J.R.R. Tolkien

Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien and executor of his father’s literary estate, dies at 95

By James Comtois
Christopher Tolkien

Christopher Tolkien, son of The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien and curator of his father’s legacy, has died, the New York Times has reported. He was 95.  

Born in Leeds, U.K., on Nov. 21, 1924, Christopher Tolkien became one of the earliest audience members for The Hobbit as a child. During the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force 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 J.R.R. Tolkien’s death in 1973, Christopher became executor of his father’s literary estate and spent the bulk of his life curating, editing, and protecting his father’s work. In 1977, Christopher collected and published The Silmarillion, a work exploring the origins of Middle-earth that J.R.R. had intended to publish. From 1983 to 1996, he compiled, edited, and published The History of Middle-earth, a 12-volume series analyzing and exploring the fantasy world that his father created. 

Christopher was also an outspoken critic of filmmaker Peter Jackson’s adaptation of his father’s work. In a 2012 interview with French media outlet Le Monde, Christopher dismissed Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films as “an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25.” 

Upon receiving The Bodley Medal in 2016 for all his work editing his father’s posthumous writings, Christopher said: "Although I have never looked for anything remotely of such a kind, I find it especially welcome to receive the Bodley Medal in that it affirms the unique significance of my father's creation and accords a worthy place in the Republic of Letters to Tolkien scholarship. It gives me particular pleasure that the award comes from and is conceived by the Bodleian, where a great part of my father's manuscripts lie and where I have happy memories of the great library itself."

In 2017, he resigned as director of the Tolkien Estate. SYFY WIRE has reached out to the Tolkien Estate for comment.

He is survived by his second wife, Baillie, and his children, Simon, Adam, and Rachel.