Tolkien’s heir, R.I.P.

Christopher Tolkien, Keeper of His Father’s Legacy, Dies at 95:

Christopher Tolkien, the son of the writer J.R.R. Tolkien, who guarded his legacy and brought forth monumental posthumous works, like “The Silmarillion,” based on his father’s writings, died on Wednesday in Provence, France. He was 95.

The younger Tolkien became notable in his own right over time. J. R. R. Tolkien died in 1973. Over the last 50 years, it is his son, Christopher, who carried the torch for the vision of the father. Though the older Tolkien would have been notable and known as a minor historical figure without his son’s efforts, I think it is highly likely that he would be a much more marginal figure by now. We would probably remember J. R. R. Tolkien mostly as one of C. S. Lewis’ acquaintances, who also wrote an expansive fantasy series that achieved some success after World War 2.

Without Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion and the various follow-up works would likely have never been published. Though he did not appreciate the films directed by Peter Jackson in the early 2000s, I think it is highly likely that the viability and interest in the films was a consequence of Christopher Tolkien’s effort in keeping his father’s legacy a living thing for generations which grew up after the 1960s.

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3 thoughts on “Tolkien’s heir, R.I.P.

  1. Yes Razib you are right about Christopher Tolkien, he really did so much to keep his father’s legacy alive for so long. The Unfinished Tales were really great scholarship, and some of the entries in the series really shone a light on JRRT’s thinking about both his fictional world and our world.

    It’s probably a mercy he passed before having to endure the Amazon LOTR TV series.

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  2. I agree Razib, his contributions were probably not as fully appreciated, J.R.R. Tolkien would not have the fame today he enjoys if not for him. For me personlally, one of my first gratitudes to him, was helping to flesh out and complete the Simarillon. This was such a treasure to enhance and enjoy the Tolkien universe by itself, along with editing and completing all of his Father’s other works. RIP Christopher Tolkien, bless you for preserving your father’s legacy.

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  3. Well, it’s hard to say. Far more people read _The Lord of the Rings_ than _The Silmarillion_ or any of the volumes of _The History of Middle Earth_. And LOTR had a huge fandom and major influence on other writers even before _The Silmarillion_ was published in 1977. I think we still would have had the movies without Christopher Tolkien.

    On the other hand, the later volumes trickling out every few years kept Tolkien’s name prominent among people who only heard about the later books but did not read them. Without Christopher Tolkien we would have a lesser understanding of The Lord of the Rings.

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