This week, Christopher Tolkien died. Not only do we mourn the loss of a great man, we mourn the loss of an era.
Of course, Christopher Tolkien was well known for championing his father, J.R.R. Tolkien’s, work.
What is less commonly known is how Christopher, as a boy, partially sparked the entire Middle Earth.
According to the late Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien first told The Hobbit to his children as bedtime stories. While Tolkien’s good friend C.S. Lewis was later the true impetus for the actual publishing of Tolkien’s work, Christopher got the ball rolling:
“I (then between four and five years old) was greatly concerned with petty consistency as the story unfolded, and that on one occasion I interrupted: ‘Last time, you said Bilbo’s front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a gold tassel on his hood, but you’ve just said that Bilbo’s front door was green, and the tassel on Thorin’s hood was silver’; at which point, my father muttered ‘Damn the boy,’ and then ‘strode across the room’ to his desk to make a note.”
Called “the first Middle Earth scholar,” Christopher Tolkien was largely responsible for publishing Tolkien’s posthumous works and drew the map of Middle Earth that now adorns our walls.
A scholar in his own right, Christopher Tolkien studied Old English, Middle English, and Old Icelandic. He also followed his father’s legacy by teaching at Oxford. As a boy, his father paid him two pennies for every mistake he found in his work, and at the age of 21, he became the youngest member of the Inklings – the literary discussion club that famously included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. He also served in the RAF during World War II.
We will always remember J.R.R. Tolkien as the literary genius that created Middle Earth – the pinnacle of high fantasy. Every writer since, in some way, walks in the footsteps of the Lord of the Rings. Billions of words have been written in the fantasy genre since then, and none have surpassed it.
Since we remember the father, let’s take a moment to remember the son.
Without Christopher Tolkien’s support and advocacy for his father’s work, the world would be a much harsher, colder place.
We’re moving into a new decade in a new millennium. As we bid Christopher Tolkien goodbye, let us remember the little boy who, in his own small way, changed the world:
“Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” –Elrond, The Lord of the Rings
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About The Blogger
Sarah Beach is a writer, editor, and researcher with an intense need for herbal tea. She writes about a variety of subjects, including social media, mental health, memes, and holistic wellness. Sarah is a graduate student in the field of Communication Studies and teaches rhetoric. She is also a registered Reiki practitioner and enthusiastic ukulele player. When she’s not writing, you can find her wandering aimlessly outdoors or watching period dramas.
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