Christopher Tolkien, son and literary executor of JRR Tolkien, has died at the age of 95.

Christopher was involved in the creation of The Lord of the Rings, notably drawing the maps in the back and also functioning as one of the first early readers through correspondence with his father while stationed in the RAF.

When Tolkien died, he gave Christopher complete control over his unpublished writings, to destroy or publish any of them in whole or part.

Christopher is responsible for bringing most of Tolkien's posthumous publications to light, including The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, Children of Hurin, and the 12 volume 5,000 page History of Middle-earth

He was also the last surviving member of the Inklings, the literary group which include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.

In what I believe is the last publicly available footage of him, here's a video from last year of him discussing his father painting the "Rivendell" watercolor in The Hobbit.

He's passed on west into the Undying Lands but will always be remembered for his part in preserving and safeguarding his father's legacy.

EDIT Some nice quotes from other sites:

Christopher was born in Leeds, United Kingdom, on 21 November 1924. After a childhood in Oxford, he joined the RAF during the Second World War 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 his father’s death in 1973, he became the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate and went on to edit and publish his father’s unpublished material starting with The Silmarillion in 1977 and ending with The Fall of Gondolin in 2018.

The Tolkien Society

Christopher was the third child and youngest son of J.R.R. Tolkien, who became his father’s literary executor in 1973 and during a remarkable period of 47 years edited or oversaw the publication of 24 editions of his father’s works, many of which were international bestsellers.

Christopher was an editor from the age of 5, catching inconsistencies in his father’s bedtime tales, and was promised tuppence by his father for every mistake he noticed in The Hobbit. As a young man he was typing up manuscripts and drawing maps of Middle-earth and around the time he was commissioned an officer in the RAF in 1945, his father was already calling him ‘my chief critic and collaborator’. Following Tolkien’s death in 1973 Christopher carried out his father’s wishes by completing The Silmarillion, the book that his father had worked on his entire life. The Silmarillion was an international bestseller, selling more than 1 million copies in the UK.

Appointed by his father as literary executor, Christopher Tolkien left Oxford in 1975, moving to France to edit Tolkien’s massive legendarium. Christopher found himself confronted with 70 boxes of unpublished work. Much of the archive concerned the history of Middle-earth, and the notes contained a broader picture of the world only hinted at in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had intended to bring that picture to light, but he died before completing a final, coherent version. Christopher took it upon himself to edit that book, which was published in 1977 as The Silmarillion. He then turned to another project drawn from his father’s papers, then another – ultimately publishing poetry, academic works, fiction, and the monumental 12-volume History of Middle-earth.


  • 11
    Well sh*t. That's a big one.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 16, 2020 at 18:25
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    Where do the rights to the Tolkien properties fall now? Jan 16, 2020 at 18:33
  • 7
    @DCOPTimDowd That sounds like a question for the main site :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 16, 2020 at 18:35
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    Dibs!!!!!!!!!!! Jan 16, 2020 at 18:38
  • 3
    @DCOPTimDowd - Probably still with the Estate and whomever they appoint as his successor.
    – ibid
    Jan 16, 2020 at 19:28
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    Namárië, Christopher.
    – PM 2Ring
    Jan 16, 2020 at 19:58
  • 4
    – ibid
    Jan 19, 2020 at 11:18
  • tolkiengesellschaft.de/32764/…
    – ibid
    Jan 19, 2020 at 16:09
  • @ibid, that babylonbee "article" is satire.
    – Martha
    Jan 20, 2020 at 15:59
  • 2
    @Martha - I found it funny though
    – ibid
    Jan 20, 2020 at 17:01

3 Answers 3


For Tolkien nerds, like us and many on this site, Christopher Tolkien is best known for the editing work he did on his famous father's Middle-earth stories.

For those who've only read JRR Tolkien's books without knowing about all that, Christopher and his brothers actually appeared in one of their father's works of fiction:

Anyway, just when Rover was feeling his miserablest, into the shop she walked with a shopping-basket. She had seen Rover through the window, and thought what a nice little dog he would be for her boy. She had three boys, and one was particularly fond of little dogs, especially of little black and white dogs. [...] The father and mother and the three little boys lived close by the sea in a white house that looked right out over the waves to nowhere.

The "little boy Two" who owns Roverandom is not Christopher but his brother Michael. However, reading this story (annotated version) was the first time I came across the name Christopher Tolkien.

  • I always thought he was best known for being unnecessarily greedy regarding licensing content for movies which is why we went so many years without quality Tolkien stories on the big screen. I'll raise my pipe to the next executor if they permit more films to be made for us all to enjoy.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 28, 2020 at 23:56
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    @corsiKa I'm deeply grateful to Christopher Tolkien for preventing even more great literature from being debased in crappy films. Fearing a turn for the worse in the Tolkien Estate now.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 29, 2020 at 6:40
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    @corsiKa I'm not sure if that was a joke or not, but he was not greedy. That implies he wanted more money than people were willing to pay him. He did not want more movies made in the first place and he strongly disagreed that the movies we did get were 'quality'. Also he did not sell the rights for the ones he we did get, JRR Tolkien did that earlier when he needed money. May 7, 2020 at 2:11
  • @suchiuomizu Greed is not all about money. Christopher's greed lies in his unwillingness to share the treasures he was trusted with. He's stuck in the 50's.
    – corsiKa
    May 7, 2020 at 2:19
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    @corsiKa - He's personally published (or approved others to publish) far more of his father's papers than I think JRRT would have been comfortable with. The will specified that Christopher was allowed to publish or destroy every writing he found, and thanks to him we now have access to thousands of pages of Tolkien's notes. The man set aside his entire to career to studying and publishing his father's writings and it's really hard to see how you could look at that and say he's being "greedy".
    – ibid
    Aug 6, 2020 at 0:06

A quote from J. R. R. Tolkien's Letter #66 to Christopher Tolkien, from 6 May 1944:

Keep up your hobbitry in heart, and think that all stories feel like that when you are in them. You are inside a very great story!

(The story behind the letter is an interesting one, and the full letter is a worthwhile read - but this is not quite the right context for it.)

Christopher Tolkien was indeed inside a very great story - his own, as well as a continuation of his father's. He did a great job of carrying out/"completing" his father's legacy.

I'll close with a quote by Gandalf to Pippin from Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (per this answer, it was adapted from Frodo's dream in the original The Fellowship of the Ring novel that is also referenced in the third book):

Pippin: I didn't think it would end this way.

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?

Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Pippin: Well, that isn't so bad.

Gandalf: No. No, it isn't.

  • 4
    Given Christopher Tolkien's distaste for the Jackson films, it might make a nicer tribute to use the corresponding book quote instead.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 17, 2020 at 12:24
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    @Randal'Thor: Nah. Christopher Tolkien was entitled to his opinion, but I think the movie version of the quote reads better as a sort of eulogy here.
    – V2Blast
    Jan 18, 2020 at 17:51

már cata ná, i ambar palla

Sindarin translation of "Home is behind, the world ahead"

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    "Home is behind, the world ahead" (Quenya)? Jan 16, 2020 at 22:42
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    Seems this is a translation of "A Walking Song" from The Fellowship of the Ring.
    – V2Blast
    Jan 18, 2020 at 17:56

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