Christopher Tolkien left us.
Apart from being the main world authority in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, has been an enormously tenacious, insightful and solvent editor who made a titanic work for more than forty years – perhaps unique in the history of literature – to make known the unknown treasures of his father. After the death of J.R.R. Tolkien in 1973, Christopher Tolkien left his job at the University of Oxford to devote himself, body and soul, to tidying up the huge number of manuscripts that the famous author of The Lord of the rings He had left unpublished. They were mostly unpolished jewelry, and since the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977 until his last edited work, The fall of Gondolin, published in 2018, did not cease its efforts to bring the wonderful stories of his father to the readers, in an accessible but at the same time rigorous way.
There is no doubt that Christopher Tolkien was the right person to edit his father's legacy. First, it was one of the first receivers of fairy tales that Tolkien told his children in the 1920s and 1930s, among others The Hobbit. From a young age he helped his father look for typos in his manuscripts, and later he edited and improved the maps to The Lord of the rings. However, Christopher Tolkien was not only present in the writer's family environment; he also lived directly the intimate intellectual environment in which it was designed The Lord of the rings, the opus magnum since Tolkien was an active member of the Inklings, the group of writers and academics who met weekly at the pub The Eagle and Child Oxford to read aloud the stories, poems and novels they were writing. In the professional field, he was an English professor at the University of Oxford and had a deep knowledge of the medieval literary works of North and Northwest Europe that inspired his father. No one knew J.R.R. Tolkien that Christopher – as a father, as a scholar of English language and literature, as a writer and as a person. He knew him so well that he even knew how to interpret his (often) convoluted lyrics; a quality that proved to be essential for the work he carried out for so long, and with such rigor and elegance. For all these reasons, Tolkien Sr. could not have found a better literary executor than his own son.
The contribution of Christopher Tolkien as editor of his father's posthumous writings is invaluable, a true tour de force. He published a total of 24 editions of his father's texts, with introductions, essays and explanatory notes; among them the twelve volumes of The history of Middle Earth in which he unraveled the intricate evolution of legendarium from its faltering beginnings in 1916-17 to the last writings, produced shortly before the author's death. These meticulous comparative editions, which include poetry, prose, annotations, drawings and maps, shed a new light on the creative mind of the now famous author, and offered a multitude of clues about his motivations as a writer and creator of literary myths. Christopher Tolkien was also able to do something that his father never achieved, to the extent that he compiled and gave cohesion to the material related to The Silmarillion, thus fulfilling the dream of its parent. He also published the essentials Unfinished tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, and new editions of what Tolkien Sr. considered the three “great stories” of the First Age – Beren and Lúthien, The fall of Gondolin Y The sons of Húrin – as well as his father's versions of various medieval works in Northern Europe, such as The legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Arthur's fall Y Beowulf.
With the death of Christopher Tolkien, those of us who study and translate the work of J.R.R. Tolkien we have been orphaned by the greatest specialist in our field, but we are not the only ones – millions of readers worldwide have a huge debt to him. Without Christopher Tolkien we would not have known the epic adventures of Tuor and Túrin Turambar, the exciting love story of Beren and Lúthien, or the sinister machinations of Sauron in The fall of Númenor. We would not have been able to contemplate the wonders of Menegroth, nor would we have ever found the way to Gondolin. If it were not for him, we would not have been able to feel the fury of the impetuous and brilliant Fëanor, nor could we have admired the Thingol and Melian regions. We would not have seen how Eärendel lit a new light in the sky.
Without Christopher Tolkien, Middle-earth would have been much poorer. And so do we.
Homage article by Martin Simonson, translator of Tolkien's work into Spanish.