Priscilla Tolkien (1929-2022)

Priscilla Tolkien in 2005. Photo by Sancho Proudfoot.

Priscilla Tolkien died February 28 after a short illness at the age of 92. She was the youngest of J.R.R. Tolkien’s children and his only daughter.

Priscilla Tolkien interacted with fandom many times over the years. She attended The Friends of Lewis party held at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1975 hosted by Fr. Walter Hooper, where Owen Barfield, Nevil Coghill, Colin Hardie, A.C. Harwood, Fr. Gervase Mathew, Clyde Kilby, and her brother Fr. John Tolkien were among those present. That’s where Mythopoeic Society founder Glen GoodKnight met her – visiting from the U.S. – and discovered she was then selling books for charitable purposes that had belonged to her father (who died in 1973). About half of these were first edition translations of Tolkien in various languages. GoodKnight bought all he could carry away in two empty suitcases. (GoodKnight died in 2010 and his collection is now at Azusa Pacific University.)

For the U.K.’s Tolkien Society, she wrote “My Father the Artist,” published in a 1976 issue of Amon Hen, the Society bulletin. In 1986 she accepted appointment as the Society’s honorary vice-president, and hosted members of the Society at its annual Oxonmoot.

Priscilla Tolkien in 1992. Via Glen GoodKnight.

Priscilla, Christopher, and John Tolkien were all present at The J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, held in 1992 in Oxford by the Mythopoeic Society and The Tolkien Society.

In 2005, when the Tolkien Society celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings at Aston University, Birmingham she opened the event by wishing that “a star would shine upon our meeting.”  

She was a probation officer in Oxford, a social worker, and a tutor at High Wycombe College, before retiring.

After her eldest brother John returned to Oxford in 1987, the siblings began identifying and cataloging the large collection of family photographs. In 1992, she and John published the book The Tolkien Family Album containing pictures of the Tolkien family to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of their father.

She launched the special Tolkien edition Royal Mail stamps commemorating her father’s works in February 2004. 

In 2012, as a trustee of The Tolkien Trust, she joined a coalition of British publishers to sue Warner Brothers for US$80 million, accusing them of exceeding their rights by exploiting Middle-earth characters to promote online gambling (see “What Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”).

Priscilla is the last of the Tolkien’s four children to pass away, following Michael (1984), John (2003) and Christopher (2020).

GoodKnight Collection Donated to Azusa Pacific University

Roger White, Ed.D. of the APU Inklings Collection

Glen GoodKnight (1941-2010) lived in a home decorated the way many fans would like, the walls all covered with bookcases. Glen filled his shelves with multiple editions of Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, not only in English but in many different languages — collecting them was his lifelong passion. And now his family has made sure Glen’s collection of Inklngs rarities will remain intact by donating it to Azusa Pacific University.

The 4,000 volume GoodKnight Collection will become a featured part of APU’s Inklings Collection, curated by Roger White, Ed.D., which already includes the Owen Barfield Family Collection, and many other Inklings-related publications and artifacts.

Glen started reading and acquiring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams as a teenager, writings he valued so highly he founded the Mythopoeic Society in 1967, devoted to the study of mythopoeic literature, particularly the works of members of the informal Oxford literary circle known as the Inklings.

That same year, 1967, Glen’s collection took First Prize in the Student Library Competition at CSULA, though in size it was less than 3% of what it would become. By 1992, the Tolkien portion alone amounted to 700 volumes published in 29 languages and, he told a reporter that he lacked only the versions in Armenian, Moldavian and Faeroese, a language spoken on islands near Iceland. In 2010, Glen’s website devoted to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Editions and Translations showed that series had been published in 47 languages or scripts other than English (including Braille).

Family members transferred the GoodKnight Collection to APU this summer, where it is being processed and cataloged. In July, Roger White invited me to see some of the amazing things that will be available to future scholars thanks to this donation.

The GoodKnight Collection in process.

Perhaps the rarest Tolkien collectible GoodKnight owned is the small paperbound copy of Songs for the Philologists (Tolkien & Gordon, 1936), printed by students in hand-set type as an exercise on a reconstructed wooden hand-press but never distributed because permission had not been requested from Tolkien or Gordon. The stored copies burned when the building where they were kept was bombed during WWII. However, a few copies survived in the hands of the students who printed them.

Another old volume, with some of Tolkien’s early published poetry, is Leeds University Verse 1914-1924, an anthology with three of his poems.

GoodKnight also collected examples of Tolkien’s scholarship, such as the 1932 article on “The name ‘Nodens’” published as an appendix to Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric, Roman, and Post-Roman Site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, a discussion of three inscriptions found at the excavations which he concluded is the name of an unrecorded deity.

The GoodKnight Collection contains 100 English-language versions of The Hobbit – ranging from the 1938 first American edition, to a 1968 copy from Tolkien’s own library with his notes.

There are many inscribed books, such as a copy of The Hobbit (1937) signed by the author’s son, Christopher Tolkien, and a boxed set of Lord of the Rings which Christopher Tolkien signed when he attended the 1987 Mythopoeic Conference at Marquette University.

GoodKnight built his collection through a combination of diligence and good luck. In the days before the internet, he made discoveries by checking bookstores in every city he visited, combing through book dealers’ catalogs, and bidding on items auctioned at the annual Mythopoeic Conferences. On top of that, he had the good luck to visit England in 1975 and meet Priscilla Tolkien, then selling books for charitable purposes that had belonged to her father (who died in 1973). About half of these were first edition translations of Tolkien in various languages. He bought all he could carry away in two empty suitcases.

Among the works once owned by Tolkien as part of his personal library are:

  • Foreign translations of The Hobbit in Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch (first edition, with Tolkien’s pipe ash where the pages meet in several places), Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish and Swedish.
  • In de Ban van de Ring (3 vols.), the Dutch first edition of The Lord of the Rings published in 1956; signed by Tolkien.
  • Mythlore (first issue) – with handwritten comments by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Lord of the Rings inscribed by members of the Tolkien family.
  • Preface to Paradise Lost 1942 first edition inscribed “with kind regards, C.S. Lewis, Jan, 1943.”

The acquisition of the GoodKnight Collection adds greatly to the Inklings-owned books already held by APU, which includes the Owen Barfield Family Collection.

  • More than 250 books from the family library
  • More than 300 family photographs
  • Postcard collection from the early 1900s
  • Assorted personal documents and household records

C.S. Lewis called Barfield “the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers.”

Roger White shows Mke Glyer the Inklings Collection room in APU’s Darling Library.

APU’s Inklings Collection also owns a number of books that were formerly part of C.S. Lewis’ personal library, acquired from Lewis biographer George Sayers. One is C. S. Lewis’s annotated copy of E. M. W. Tillyard’s Milton, a book that prompted an exchange between the two men that led to their jointly authored work, The Personal Heresy. Some of Lewis’s books include handwritten notes he made on end pages, plus the dates he read or reread them.

There are 50 books from Priscilla Tolkien’s personal library – for example, a Sir Walter Scott novel received as a present from Christopher Tolkien in 1943.

APU even possesses the manuscript of Humphrey Carpenter’s group biography The Inklings.

Glen’s friends will be delighted to know that his collection is being preserved, and that in years to come scholars will be able to use it to do innovative research projects about this group of writers.

Books by Inklings Warren Lewis and Charles Williams.

GoodKnight Services Held

Diana, Lynn Maudlin and I went together to Glen GoodKnight’s funeral at Rose Hills Memorial Park on November 13. Around 50 people gathered in the impressive SkyRose chapel, a vast, airy gothic structure set high on a hill, the sanctuary window overlooking Los Angeles skyscrapers 15 miles away.

We were greeted by Bonnie Callahan, then joined other early arrivers in the narthex beneath a giant video screen to watch a slideshow of fine photos of Glen with Ken Lauw, at events with other friends and family, and posing at tourist spots in Oxford, Paris and Berlin.

When the memorial began, people shared the profound impact Glen had on their lives.

One of Glen’s former teaching colleagues told about her pleasure exchanging ideas with him about things to try in the classroom, and her admiration for his work on teachers’ union issues.

Doris Robin, a founding Mythopeoic Society member, spoke about Glen’s leadership. Sherwood Smith spoke about meeting Glen and other Tolkien fans when she was a 16-year-old high school student, and how great it had been to discover people who took fantasy stories seriously and liked to discuss them for hours. Messages of condolence from other literary organizations were read.

Ken Lauw, Glen’s partner, spoke about their 22 years of friendship, their 2008 marriage and how devastating it was to lose his teacher, mentor, protector and friend.

Later in the day I saw that the online Los Angeles Times had published Glen’s obituary. Because of how these things work in fandom I never really gave a lot of thought to whether GoodKnight was his “real” name – but it was:

For a man preoccupied with all things Tolkien, his name appeared invented: Glen Howard GoodKnight II. But it was authentic, down to the unexpected capital “K” that stands sentry like a castle in Middle-earth….

He was born Oct. 1, 1941, the eldest of three children of Glen GoodKnight, who made his living doing odd jobs, and his wife, the former Mary Bray. His last name was an anglicized version of the German “Gutknecht,” according to his family. Society made in Glen’s memory will go toward helping deserving scholars to attend Mythopoeic Conferences.

Also, Lynn Maudlin has announced that the Council of Stewards of the Mythopoeic Society has decided to rename the “Starving Scholars Fund,” which helps selected academics afford to attend Mythcons, the “Glen GoodKnight Scholarship Fund.” This will memorialize Glen’s focus on scholarship and his encouragement of new scholars.

Update 2010/11/14: Corrected spelling of Doris Robin, per comment.

Glen GoodKnight (1941-2010)

Glen GoodKnight, founder of the Mythopoeic Society, died November 3. As Bonnie Callahan told readers of a Yahoo group:

“….Glen GoodKnight passed away on Wednesday night. He had been in poor health for a number of years, but was actively participating in many online activities, cataloging his collection for eventual sale/donation, and appeared to be in stable condition.”

I was often in the home of Glen Goodknight and his partner Ken Lauw when I was on Glen’s 1997 Mythcon committee. It was the ideal fan’s home, walls covered with bookcases, though unlike other fans Glen’s shelves were filled with editions of Lord of the Rings in every language it had appeared: collecting them was his passion. He was a highly interesting and very knowledgeable fan.

Glen founded the Mythopoeic Society in 1967 in the aftermath of the legendary “Bilbo-Frodo Birthday Picnic” held in September of that year. He invited fans to his house on October 12 to form a continuing group. The 17 attendees became the Society’s first members. Within a few years they had planted 14 discussion groups around the country. In 1972 at the suggestion of Ed Meskys of the Tolkien Society of America the two organizations merged and overnight the Society grew to more than a thousand members.

Mythcon I in 1970 was organized to help knit the Society’s different groups together. Glen married Bonnie GoodKnight (later Callahan) at Mythcon II in 1971.

Glen edited 78 issues of the Society journal Mythlore between 1970 and 1998.

After staying away from Mythcons for several years, Glen returned to celebrate the Society’s 40th anniversary at Berkeley in 2007. Greeted with a standing ovation, he delivered an emotion-filled reminiscence of the Society’s early days. Glen came back to Mythcon the following year, too. I was glad to see him renewing his links with the Society. Now I’m sad to know I won’t be in his company again.

Ken Lauw and Glen GoodKnight at 2007 Mythcon.