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).