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Christopher Tolkien

Christopher Tolkien (1924–2020), J.R.R. Tolkien’s son who edited his Middle-Earth legends

by Linnea Crowther

Christopher Tolkien was the youngest son of “Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien, who edited and published his father’s work in the years after his death. He has died, the Tolkien Society announced Thursday.

Tolkien organized the massive amount of writing his father left behind upon his 1973 death, publishing works including “The Silmarillion,” “Unfinished Tales,” and “Beren and Luthien.” These and other works posthumously published by the younger Tolkien expanded upon the world of elves and hobbits, dwarves and wizards that had been created in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” Tolkien also drew the original maps of Middle-earth included with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

  • Details of death: Died at the age of 95.
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An early fan

Tolkien was one of his father’s first audiences, listening to tales of Bilbo Baggins and the other magical characters who inhabited Middle-earth even as his father first began to formulate them. As the stories grew, Tolkien grew with them, finding purpose in pulling together his father’s attempts at a map into a more comprehensive map for publication. The author once called Tolkien his “chief critic and collaborator.”


Tributes to Christopher Tolkien

“RIP Christopher Tolkien. Thank you for bringing to life your father’s works in the Silmarillion so that we could all share in its brilliance. My constant companion. The book I read every year.” —“Lord of the Rings” actor Jed Brophy

“I’ve just recently heard that Christopher Tolkien has died. So ends the watch of a man who without question fulfilled his quest. A more faithful and diligent steward of Middle-earth no one could have asked for. We owe him a tremendous and incalculable debt.” —Twitter user @tolkienprof

“Christopher Tolkien made the entire field of Tolkien Studies. He made it. Without his lifetime’s effort to curate his father’s works, we’d have four novels. No Silmarillion, no Histories. No linguistic journals. His impact cannot be understated.” —Athrabeth Podcast

Full obituary: The New York Times

Related lives

  • J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–1973), “The Lord of the Rings” author
  • C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), author of “The Chronicles of Narnia”
  • Ursula K. LeGuin (1929–2018), grand master of science fiction and fantasy

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