Author Archives: pembrokemcr

Christopher Tolkien, 1924 – 2020

The Committee for the J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature at Pembroke College was very saddened to learn of the death of Christopher Tolkien on January 16th 2020.

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien was born in Leeds on November 21st 1924, the third child of J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Mary Tolkien. Upon his father’s appointment to the Rawlinson and Bosworth Chair of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, the family moved to Oxford, where Christopher was schooled at the aptly named Dragon School, and later the Oratory School, Woodcote. As a child, Christopher and his siblings heard their father reading the first drafts of The Hobbit, clearly an influential experience in Christopher’s life. Christopher went on to read English at Trinity College, Oxford, completing his studies—after an interruption due to his service in the RAF during WWII—in 1949.

After obtaining his BA, Christopher took up a teaching post in the 1950s at Oxford’s Faculty of English, during which time he married his first wife, Faith Faulconbridge, with whom he had a son, Simon, and wrote his B.Litt., an edition and translation of the Old Norse Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (subsequently published as The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise in 1960). It was during this time that Christopher not only published on Old Norse, but also co-edited a few tales from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, along with fellow member of the Inklings, Nevill Coghill. In 1963, Christopher was appointed a fellow of New College, Oxford, lecturing—like his father before him—on Old Norse, Old English, and Middle English. Christopher and Faith separated in 1964 and in 1967 he married Baillie Klass, with whom he had a son, Adam, and a daughter, Rachel.

After his father’s death in 1973, Christopher took on the role for which he is, and will surely always be, best known: literary executor of his father’s vast body of unpublished work. After publishing his father’s translations of the Middle English poems, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo in 1975, Christopher resigned from his fellowship at New College and moved with his family to southern France. In 1977 he edited and published The Silmarillion, marking in earnest the beginning of a new career in which he would also publish his father’s Unfinished Tales (1980), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983), The Book of Lost Tales (1983, the first in the monumental twelve-volume The History of Middle-earth, 1983–1996), and, more recently, a series of Tolkien’s retellings and translations of medieval texts, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009), The Fall of Arthur (2013), and Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (2014), and finally, the much-awaited Middle-earth Legendarium tales of Beren and Lúthien (2017) and The Fall of Gondolin (2018).

Recognising in the preface to this final contribution to a very long list of edited works that ‘in [his] ninety-fourth year The Fall of Gondolin is (indubitably) the last’, Christopher finally drew to a close a formidable career in editing and publishing spanning over six decades. His legacy in making the extensive œuvre of J. R. R. Tolkien accessible to as wide a readership as possible is, indubitably, without equal.

Sonr er betri,
þótt sé síð of alinn,
eptir genginn guma;
sjaldan bautarsteinar
standa brautu nær,
nema reisi niðr at nið. 

‘A son is better,
though he be born late,
after his father has passed;
seldom do memorial-stones
stand near the road,
unless one kinsman raises them for another.’

Hávamál, stanza 72

Christopher Tolkien, credit: François Deladerrièr

Photographs, podcast, and video for the Fourth Tolkien Lecture

Our thanks once again to Terri Windling for her fascinating and inspiring talk, ‘Tolkien’s Long Shadow: Reflections on Fantasy Literature in the Post-Tolkien Era’.

If you missed it, or simply want to listen again, you can listen to the audio of the talk, or watch the video:

Reviews and reflections: SF critic and publisher Cheryl Morgan; Fantasy author Juliet E. McKenna.

Adam Roberts Lecture Podcast Now Available

Thanks to everyone who came to another exciting Tolkien lecture at Pembroke!

For those who weren’t able to make it, or for those who just want to listen to Adam’s witty and stimulating lecture again, there is now a podcast available, which also includes the questions at the end:

Adam Roberts, ‘Tolkien and Women’, 2nd May 2014 (1 hour and 2 minutes; questions start 51 minutes in)

Podcast Cover

Photographs from the Second Pembroke Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature

Thank you to everyone who came to the Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke yesterday evening, and for our speaker for such an interesting and engaging talk! We will be posting a recording of the lecture soon — in the mean time here are three photographs from the event.

The photograph of Professor Roberts outside Pembroke recreates this photograph of J.R.R. Tolkien outside Pembroke.

Pembroke College Tolkien Lecture Sign-up 2014

Both the lecture and the signing reception are free and open to the public, but due to demand, we kindly request that you complete this form to ensure places.

Please sign up using this form.

This year’s Pembroke Tolkien Lecture will be held at Pembroke College’s Pichette Auditorium at 7 pm on Friday, May 2nd. The lecture will be delivered by Adam Roberts, Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published fourteen science fiction novels, the most recent of which are Jack Glass (Gollancz 2012), which won the BSFA and Campbell awards for best SF novel of the year; and Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea (Gollancz 2014; with Mahendra Singh). With his academic hat on, he has published articles and books on a range of topics including Tolkien. The Riddles of the Hobbit (Palgrave 2013) is the most recent.

The subject is ‘Tolkien and Women’, but Professor Roberts will also touch on the fantasy genre in general, as well as on his own work.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor and fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford, for twenty years, during which time he wrote The Hobbit and the majority of The Lord of the Rings.

Announcing the Second Annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford

Adam RobertsWe are pleased to announce that science-fiction author Professor Adam Roberts will be delivering the second annual Pembroke Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature.

The lecture will take place at 7pm on Friday, 2nd May, at the Pichette Auditorium, Pembroke College. Please sign up here if you wish to attend. We hope to welcome as many people as possible, both from inside and outside Oxford University.

Adam Roberts is Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published fourteen science fiction novels, the most recent of which are Jack Glass (Gollancz 2012), which won the BSFA and Campbell awards for best SF novel of the year; and Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea (Gollancz 2014; with Mahendra Singh). With his academic hat on, he has published articles and books on a range of topics including Tolkien. The Riddles of the Hobbit (Palgrave 2013) is the most recent. The academic hat is purely metaphorical. He does not generally wear headgear.

If you have any questions about the upcoming lecture, please contact Gabriel Schenk or William Badger.