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The Tolkien Society

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The Tolkien Society - logo.png
Founded6 November 1969 (informal)[1]
15 January 1972 (formal)
7 July 1977 (charitable status)[2]
FounderVera Chapman
TypeEducational charity, fan club, academic society
Key peopleJ.R.R. Tolkien (President)
Priscilla Tolkien (Vice-President)
Shaun Gunner (Chairman)
SubsidiariesTolkien Society Trading Ltd
Amon Hen

The Tolkien Society is an international fan club and educational charity based in England. Founded in 1969 with the blessing of J.R.R. Tolkien, it has expanded its membership across the United Kingdom, Europe and the world.



The Tolkien Society was formed in 1969 by Vera Chapman, an Oxford-educated retired teacher/civil servant, who, horrified at the annexation of Tolkien's works by 'the drugs-orientated writings of hippiedom',[4] decided to form a group dedicated to the true appreciation of Tolkien's works.

On 6 November 1969, Chapman announced the formation of the Tolkien Society in the United Kingdom in the New Statesman.[5] Initially London-based, the Society would meet in Chapman's North London flat; they kept in communication via a photocopied newsletter called Belladonna's Broadsheet (Chapman had adopted the name "Belladonna Took" as her Middle-earth alias), which was first published in December 1969.[5] The Society's inaugural meeting was held in January 1970,[5] and its constitution was ratified on 15 January 1972.

The Tolkien Society grew steadily, and Chapman willingly passed over responsibility for the bulletin to other hands whilst a more scholarly publication, "Mallorn" also appeared. Belladonna's Broadsheet went through a number of identity changes, being "Henneth Annun" for one issue before its then editor, John Martin, adopted its current name: "Amon Hen".

The Society also undertook a pilgrimage to Oxford, exploring the colleges and sites relevant to J.R.R. Tolkien's life. Visit was made to Wolvercote Cemetery where wreaths in tribute were laid. At that first visit, it was found that a wild bramble had rooted in the topsoil of the grave. This was rapidly uprooted, and the Society offered to buy a rose plant, the offer of which Priscilla Tolkien - Tolkien's only daughter - accepted. The weekend event culminated with a visit to the home of Priscilla Tolkien.

Relations with J.R.R. Tolkien

In 1972 New Year Honours, Tolkien was made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) just two days before his birthday. Allen & Unwin had encouraged the Tolkien Society to write to Tolkien on the occasion, and they sent the following telegram:

—The Tolkien Society's telegram to J.R.R. Tolkien[6]

The Society also published a congratulatory message in The Times on the 3 January in the 'BIRTHDAYS' section: "TOLKIEN. Professor J. R. R. Tolkien, C.B.E. Congratulations on your 80th birthday. 'Elen sila lumenn' omentielmo.' The Tolkien Society." As a birthday present, the Society also sent him a green china tobacco jar - designed with a huntsman and a white deer - which included best Latakia Mixture tobacco; attached was the following note:

FROM all Hobbits, Elves, Elf-friends, Dwarves, Ents, Numenoreans, Rohirrim, etc. etc. etc. of the TOLKIEN SOCIETY (in Britain) with love and honour and hearty congratulations, to the creator of so much wonder. Although not to be compared with the true LONGBOTTOM LEAF, we hope that this will at least raise a few smoke-rings of happy recollection.
—The Tolkien Society's message to J.R.R. Tolkien on his birthday[6]

Joy Hill, Tolkien's secretary, phoned Vera Chapman on the 3 January and said, "Of all the tributes he received, this was the one that gave the greatest pleasure."[6] A month later, he wrote to her:

Dear Mrs. Chapman,
May I thank you and the Tolkien Society for your good wishes and kind gift on my 80th birthday. I appreciated your generosity very much indeed.
Best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
J.R.R. Tolkien [signed]
Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Vera Chapman, dated 6 February 1972[6]


On the 27 June 1972, Vera Chapman was invited to a sherry party by Rayner Unwin, where she met Tolkien himself. After exchanging a few words with him about the belladonna plant, she asked if he would would be willing to be the Society's honorary president; he said "Certainly" before concluding, "If I can help your society in any way, I will."[7]

Following the death of J.R.R. Tolkien on 2 September 1973, the Tolkien Society offered the post of Honorary President to Christopher Tolkien, Tolkien's son, but Christopher declined saying he thought the his father should remain president forever. At the AGM on 16 February 1974 the motion was passed that J.R.R. Tolkien should remain the Honorary President in perpetuo; he remains the Society's president to this day.[8]

List of Chairmen

The following is a list of chairmen of The Tolkien Society. Italic text indicates an acting chairman who was appointed, rather than elected.

NameStart of termEnd of termDuration
Vera Chapman29 January 197020 November 1970296 days
Keith Bridges20 November 197015 January 19721 year, 57 days
1Keith Bridges16 January 197217 February 19731 year, 32 days
2Hartley Patterson18 February 197316 February 1974363 days
3Jonathan Simons17 February 197413 April 198511 years, 56 days
4Brin Dunsire14 April 198516 April 19883 years, 2 days
5Alex Lewis17 April 198811 April 19923 years, 360 days
6Amanda Fingleson12 April 199220 April 19964 years, 9 days
7Chris Crawshaw21 April 199619 April 200811 years, 364 days
8Matthew Vernon20 April 20088 January 2009264 days
Sally Kennett8 January 200925 April 2009107 days
9Sally Kennett26 April 200920 April 20133 years, 360 days
10Shaun Gunner21 April 2013present2 years, 230 days


  • Belladonna's Broadsheet the first bulletin of The Tolkien Society.
  • Amon Hen is the bulletin of the Society and is published six times a year.[9]
  • Mallorn is the journal of the Society and is currently published once a year, in the Spring.[10]
  • Quettar was the journal of the Linguistic Fellowship of The Tolkien Society.


The Tolkien Society organises the following events each year:

  • The Birthday Toast is held on 3 January (Tolkien's birthday) every year. The Society encourages Tolkien fans from across the world to toast the Professor at 9pm wherever they are.
  • Tolkien Reading Day, held annually on 25 March, is an international event which promotes the reading of Tolkien's works.
  • The Annual General Meeting and Springmoot involves a meeting where formal business (with regard to the running of the Tolkien Society) is discussed, followed by a semi-formal dinner with a guest speaker. It is held over a weekend each April.[11]
  • The Seminar is an event which consists of a programme of talks on a Tolkien-related theme. It is held most summers (around June or July).[12]
  • Oxonmoot is a convention held at an Oxford college on the weekend closest to 22 September, Bilbo and Frodo's birthday.[13]

The Tolkien Society also organises large conferences in order to celebrate an anniversary around J.R.R. Tolkien and/or his works. Past events:

See Also


  1. Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 17
  2. "Charity framework - The Tolkien Society", The Charity Commission (accessed 30 June 2012)
  3. Ian Collier, "Behind Glass Doors" in Andrew Butler (ed.), Amon Hen 254, p. 18
  4. Charles E. Noad, 'The Early Days of the Tolkien Society', A Long-expected Party: Progress Report 1, p. 10
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: II. Reader's Guide, p. 287
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 21
  7. Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 22
  8. Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 23
  9. "Amon Hen - The bulleting of the Tolkien Society", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
  10. "Mallorn - The Journal of the Tolkien Society", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
  11. "About The Annual General Meeting", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
  12. "Seminar home page", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
  13. "Oxonmoot index page", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
  14. "Tolkien Centenary Conference 1992", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
  15. "About Tolkien 2005", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
  16. "The Return of the Ring - Celebrating Tolkien in 2012", The Return of the Ring (accessed 7 August 2012)

External links