‘If Gondor has been a stalwart tower, we have played another part.’
Christopher Tolkien died on 16 January at the age of 95, in the town of Draguignan in Southern France where he had been living for many years. We send our sincerest condolences to his sister Priscilla, his wife Baillie, his children Simon, Adam and Rachel, and all the Tolkien family.
After serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, Christopher graduated in English from Oxford in 1949. From 1964, he was Fellow and Tutor of English Language at New College, Oxford, and University Lecturer in Early English Language and Literature. His academic publications include editions of Chaucer’s poems, and an edition and translation of the Icelandic poem The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise. Christopher left his academic job in 1975 to dedicate himself to the literary legacy of his father, a mission that Tolkien himself had given to him, just as Bilbo had entrusted his writings to Frodo (LOTR 988).
It is not unfair to say that without Christopher the world of Middle Earth would not exist: not only because the vast majority of Tolkien’s writings were published thanks to his painstaking editorial effort, which concluded only two years ago with the publication of the Fall of Gondolin, the last in a long series of posthumous volumes that began in 1977 with the Silmarillion. Since his very early years, Christopher was Tolkien’s main literary partner, occupying, in his father’s own words, ‘the multiple position of audience, critic, son, student in my department, and my tutorial pupil’ (Letter 98). As a young boy Christopher corrected drafts of the Hobbit, and later he closely followed, encouraged, and inspired the writing of the Lord of the Rings, for which he drew its elegant maps.
Christopher was also Tolkien’s very first scholar, who investigated his father’s work with unmatched philological rigour, critical acumen, and commitment to its beauty and seriousness. This is the legacy that Christopher leaves to all his successors; the possibility, and invitation to study Tolkien’s literary creation with the same seriousness and consideration, especially to what he called in an interview the ‘aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation’.
Giuseppe Pezzini, Oronzo Cilli, Michaël Devaux, José M. Ferrández Bru, José María Miranda, Timothy Radcliffe, Martin Simonson, Guglielmo Spirito, Judith and Brendan Wolfe
and all the team of the Exhibition ‘The Tree of Tales’