Birthday: November 21, 1924
Died At Age: 95
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Christopher John Reuel Tolkien
Born Country: England
Born in: Leeds, England
Famous as: English editor
Height: 5'9" (175 cm), 5'9" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Baillie Tolkien (m. 1967), Faith Faulconbridge (m. 1951–1967)
father: J. R. R. Tolkien
mother: Edith Mary Tolkien (née Bratt)
siblings: John Francis Reuel Tolkien, Michael Tolkien, Priscilla Tolkien
children: Adam Reuel Tolkien, Rachel Clare Reuel Tolkien, Simon Tolkien
Died on: January 16, 2020
place of death: Draguignan, France
City: Leeds, England
education: Trinity College, Oxford (B.A., B.Litt.)
awards: Gandalf Award for Book-Length Fantasy
Who was Christopher Tolkien?
Christopher Tolkien was an English editor, illustrator, author, and translator. He was, however, better known as the youngest son of renowned English fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien of The Lord of the Rings fame. Born in Leeds, Christopher studied in Oxford and later even served in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. He is mostly known for his efforts in retrieving and editing the unfinished works of his father. He drew the maps of the “Middle-earth” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “legendarium” and also corrected the errors in them in later versions. Some of Christopher’s most notable works as an editor were The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, the 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth, and Beren and Lúthien. He was unhappy with the movie version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He married twice in his lifetime and later moved to France with his second wife. He died in 2020, at the age of 95.
Childhood & Early Life
Christopher John Reuel Tolkien was born on November 21, 1924, in Leeds, England, to world-renowned author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (popularly known as J.R.R. Tolkien) and his wife, Edith Mary Tolkien (née Bratt).
Christopher was the third of the four children of his parents. He grew up with his two elder bothers, John Francis (born in 1917) and Michael Hilary (born in 1920), and his younger sister, Priscilla Anne (born in 1929).
As a child, he often listened to father’s stories of Bilbo Baggins, which later took the shape of the children’s fantasy novel named The Hobbit.
Christopher Tolkien initially studied at the Dragon School in Oxford and later joined The Oratory School.
In 1943, he joined the Royal Air Force and visited South Africa for flight training. He completed his elementary flying course at 7 Air School in Kroonstad. He also finished the service flying course at 25 Air School in Standerton.
On January 27, 1945, he joined the general duties branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, as an emergency pilot officer on probation. His service number was 193121.
On June 28, 1945, Christopher Tolkien transferred to the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. His commission was later confirmed. On July 27, 1945, it was declared that Christopher would be promoted to the post of flying officer (war substantive).
Following the war, he joined the Trinity College, Oxford. He majored in English and earned his B.A. degree in 1949. Later, he also obtained a B.Litt. degree.
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Christopher Tolkien had grown up listening to his father’s tales. As, a teenager, he would often offer his feedback to his father on The Lord of the Rings, throughout the 15 years it took his father to write the masterpiece.
One of his most significant contributions to his father’s works was drawing the maps of the “Middle-earth,” which Christopher also corrected often. In fact, in the 1970s, Christopher re-drew the primary map, correcting more errors and editing out some portions.
His father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just 21. With this, Christopher became the youngest member of the literary society that also included literary stalwarts such as C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill.
From 1964 to 1975, Christopher served as a lecturer of English Language at New College, Oxford.
A lot of writings by his father that were related to the “Middle-earth legendarium” had not been published in his lifetime. The Silmarillion was supposed to be published with The Lord of the Rings. However, the project was still incomplete when his father died in 1973.
Christopher Tolkien thus gathered all his father’s unpublished works, incomplete manuscripts and hand-written notes. He worked on them and published The Silmarillion in 1977.
In 1980, Christopher published Unfinished Tales. Between 1983 and 1996, he released 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth.
J.R.R. Tolkien had almost finished writing the story of The Children of Húrin between 1951 and 1957. However, he later abandoned it. In April 2007, Christopher published the book.
In 2016, Christopher won the Bodley Medal, awarded to individuals with outstanding contribution to the fields of literature, science, culture, and communication.
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In 2017, Christopher published Beren and Lúthien, an editorial work. The following year, he published The Fall of Gondolin, another editorial work.
The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin together form the three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days.
Christopher edited a lot of other works by his father, which were not associated with the “Middle-earth legendarium.” Such works, namely, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009), The Fall of Arthur (2013), and Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (2014), were all published by HarperCollins.
Additionally, he wrote The Battle of the Goths and the Huns (1953–1957). He also released The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (1960), translated from the 13th-century Icelandic saga named Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (“The Saga of Hervör and Heidrek”).
He also edited The Nun's Priest's Tale (1958), The Pardoner's Tale (1959), and The Man of Law's Tale (1969), all of which are works by Geoffrey Chaucer, the legendary English poet and author of the Middle Ages.
Christopher Tolkien was the chairman of the Tolkien Estate, Ltd., which managed the commercial operations of his father’s works. He was also a trustee of the Tolkien Charitable Trust. In 2017, Christopher resigned as the director of the estate.
In 2001, Christopher expressed his disappointment with the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson. He believed the film trilogy diluted the effect of his father’s works.
In 2008, Christopher sued New Line Cinema for not paying the family a sum of £80 as royalties. In September 2009, the issue was settled with an undisclosed amount.
Personal Life & Death
Christopher Tolkien was initially married to sculptor Faith Faulconbridge. Faith was the daughter of F. T. Faulconbridge. J. R. R. Tolkien was acquainted with F. T. Faulconbridge as a fellow student of King Edward's School, Birmingham.
Christopher and Faith tied the knot on April 2, 1951. In 1959, they had a son, Simon Mario Reuel Tolkien, who later grew up to be a barrister and novelist. The couple separated in 1964, and their divorce was finalized in 1967.
On September 18, 1967, Christopher married Baillie Klass. She was the daughter of a renowned surgeon and had edited the posthumous edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Father Christmas Letters. This was Baillie’s second marriage, too.
They had two kids: a son named Adam Reuel Tolkien (born in 1969) and a daughter named Rachel Clare Reuel Tolkien (born in 1971). In 1975, Christopher and Baillie moved to France.
During his legal conflict with the makers of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Christopher disowned Simon due to a disagreement. They, however, reconciled before Christopher died.
Christopher Tolkien breathed his last on January 16, 2020, in Draguignan, Var, France. He was 95 at the time of his death. The Tolkien Society confirmed his death via a short statement on Twitter.