Christopher Tolkien, son of Lord of the Rings author, dies aged 95

LONDON — Christopher Tolkien, the son of J. R. R. Tolkien who was responsible for publishing many of his father's works, has died aged 95, the Tolkien Society said.

The academic, a former lecturer in Old and Middle English as well as Old Icelandic at the University of Oxford, is credited with drawing the 1954 map of Middle-earth for his father's novel "The Lord of the Rings".

After his father's death in 1973, he became the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate.

He spent years compiling and editing his father's material before publishing many of his works, including "The Silmarillion" in 1977 and "The Fall of Gondolin" in 2018.

"We have lost a titan and he will be sorely missed," Tolkien Society chairman Shaun Gunner said in a statement Thursday.

"Christopher's commitment to his father's works has seen dozens of publications released, and his own work as an academic in Oxford demonstrates his ability and skill as a scholar," Gunner added.

"Millions of people around the world will be forever grateful to Christopher for bringing us 'The Silmarillion', 'The Children of Hurin', 'The History of Middle-earth' series and many others."

Tolkien scholar Dimitra Fimi hailed him for enriching the public's understanding of Middle-earth.

"Tolkien studies would never be what it is today without Christopher Tolkien's contribution," she said.

"He revealed his father's grand vision of a rich and complex mythology.

"He gave us a window into Tolkien's creative process, and he provided scholarly commentary that enriched our understanding of Middle-earth. He was Middle-earth's cartographer and first scholar."

Tolkien's death was confirmed by his brother-in-law Daniel Klass, according to The New York Times. He died in Draguignan, southeastern France, local newspaper Var-Matin said.

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, became one of the highest-grossing movie series of all time.

"The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), "The Two Towers" (2002) and "The Return of the King" (2003) earned more than $2.9 billion in worldwide receipts.

Christopher was critical of the "commercialization" of his father's work in a 2012 interview with French newspaper Le Monde.

"Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of our time," Christopher Tolkien was reported as saying.

"The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work and what it has become has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing.

"There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away."

Charlie Redmayne, chief executive of HarperCollins UK which publishes much of J. R. R. Tolkien's work, said he was "the most charming of men, and a true gentleman".

"Christopher was a devoted curator of his father's work and the timeless and ongoing popularity of the world that J. R. R. Tolkien created is a fitting testimony to the decades he spent bringing Middle-earth to generations of readers," he said.

Christopher Tolkien was born in Leeds, northern England, on Nov. 21, 1924, his father's third and youngest son.

He joined the Royal Air Force during World War II and was stationed in South Africa.

Tolkien then studied English at Oxford's Trinity College.

He had a son, novelist and former lawyer Simon, by his first marriage, and two children, Adam and Rachel, with his second wife Baillie, with whom he lived in France since the 1970s. — AFP