|Established||6 November 1969|
|Legal status||Educational charity|
|J. R. R. Tolkien (in perpetuo)|
|Affiliations||Alliance of Literary Societies|
In the November 1969 issue of The Middle Earthworm, a letters of comment fanzine mainly aimed at British members of the Tolkien Society of America, Vera Chapman announced "if not quite the birth, at least the hopeful conception of a Tolkien Society of Britain".:17 This was supplemented by a personal column by Chapman in the New Statesman published on 7 November which ran "TOLKIEN SOCIETY of Britain — write Belladonna Took [Chapman's pseudonym], c/o Chapman, 21 Harrington House, Stanhope St. London NW1".:17 Since this would have hit news-stands a day before publication, the Tolkien Society's informal beginning has been placed at Thursday 6 November 1969.:17
The Tolkien Society gradually took shape over the following years. December 1969 saw the publication of Belladonna's Broadsheet, which after three issues was replaced by The Mallorn in October 1970. This was conceived as a quarterly publication, and the first issue was joined by The Tolkien Society Bulletin, which was to be produced on a six-weekly basis.:18–19 The Society's official bulletin was replaced in January 1972 with Anduril, but was quickly supplanted by Henneth Annûn after three issues (the first had been numbered 0 and it continued independently until issue number 7). This new publication changed its name to Amon Hen with the second issue, seemingly for no particular reason.:20–21 It, together with Mallorn (the definite article having being dropped from issue 2), are still published by the Tolkien Society.
The "inaugural" meeting of the Tolkien Society was hosted by the Hobbit Society of University College London (UCL) on 29 January 1970, where the name of the new society was discussed and the first committee was appointed.:17–18 A constitution was considered at the first general meeting of the Tolkien Society on 20 November 1970 at UCL, but was ultimately rejected.:19 The Tolkien Society did not become a legal entity until a constitution was finally ratified on 15 January 1972.:21 It later obtained charitable status in England and Wales on 7 July 1977.
An AGM has been held each year since 1972, and since 1973 has featured a talk from a guest speaker.:22 It is one of the three main annual Tolkien Society events, the largest and most popular being "Oxonmoot". In the December 1973 issue of the fanzine Nazgul, contributor John Abbot asked, "[w]hat do you think of the idea of Oxford Moot this year?":23 The 1974 AGM approved the idea, and the first Oxonmoot met at The Welsh Pony 13–15 September later that year.:23 The first (near-)annual Tolkien Society "workshop" was held on 22 March 1986, morphing into the "Tolkien Society Seminar" from 1989 onward. The more informal "Summermoot" was held on an irregular basis in the 1980s and 1990s, occasionally hosted by Joanna Tolkien and Hugh Baker at their farm in Wales. According to their son (and Tolkien's great-grandson) Royd Tolkien,
As a family, we’ve always been involved with The Tolkien Society and when I was a kid they used to come up to our small farm in Wales for Summer Moots. They’d dress up as characters, camp in the field, sword flight, let off homemade fireworks and have huge campfires. The first awareness of the legacy came from those fun times.
The Tolkien Society has also organized a number of major conferences to celebrate significant Tolkienian anniversaries. "The J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference" at Keble College, Oxford, marked one-hundred years since Tolkien's birth in 1992.:287 "Tolkien 2005: The Ring Goes Ever On" celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings at Aston University, Birmingham. "The Return of the Ring: Celebrating Tolkien in 2012" marked seventy-five years since the publication of The Hobbit at Loughborough University, and received a special video message from director Peter Jackson and artists John Howe and Alan Lee.
Vera Chapman first contacted J. R. R. Tolkien on behalf of the Tolkien Society upon the suggestion of Joy Hill, Tolkien's secretary during the 1960s. On 1 May 1970 she wrote Tolkien a letter introducing the Society and its aims.:18 Later, following the announcement that Tolkien had been awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours, the Society sent Tolkien a telegram on his eightieth birthday on 3 January 1972. The Society also sent him a gift of tobacco in a green china jar, along with a congratulatory note. That evening, Joy Hill telephoned Chapman to say that "[o]f all the tributes he [Tolkien] received, this was the one that gave the greatest pleasure. There was a chance he might write personally.":21 And, on 6 February, he did:
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.
J.R.R. Tolkien [signed]:21
Later that year, Chapman met Tolkien in person. On 27 June, she was invited to a sherry party hosted by Tolkien's publishing firm George Allen & Unwin. During their brief exchange, she asked Tolkien if he would consent to become the Society's honorary president. "Certainly", he responded, "[i]f I can help your society in any way, I will.":22 Tolkien died the following year. Upon offering the presidency to Christopher Tolkien, he wrote back suggesting that his father could remain president in perpetuity. This was agreed at the following Annual General Meeting held at the Ivanhoe Hotel in London on 16 February 1974.:23
The Tolkien Society currently organizes five events on an annual basis:
Membership of the Tolkien Society includes a subscription to the bulletin Amon Hen and journal Mallorn. The former is published six times a year, while the latter is published once a year. Mallorn tends to be more scholarly than Amon Hen, although the range of content has varied over the years. Prominent contributors include Christopher Tolkien, Priscilla Tolkien, and Tom Shippey.
Quettar was the bulletin of the Linguistic Fellowship of The Tolkien Society between 1980 and 1995, running for forty-nine issues before being wound up.
The Tolkien Society has also published a number of one-off publications, including the proceedings of the 1992 and 2005 conferences. Its "Peter Roe" series of books are published irregularly, and tend to print proceedings of seminars and talks by guest speakers.
Local groups affiliated to the Tolkien Society are known as "smials", the name used for hobbit-holes in The Lord of the Rings. One smial at the University of Cambridge, known as the "Cambridge Tolkien Society" and "Minas Tirith", has published the open access journal Anor since the 1980s.:1137
The Tolkien to the World programme raises funds to send Tolkien books to schools and libraries across the world. Its aim is "to work towards a situation where everyone in the world has access to Tolkien’s principal works of fiction".
The Tolkien Society Archive maintains a large number of Tolkien books and journals together with a collection of ephemera such a press clippings and responses (both commercial and creative) to Tolkien which might not otherwise be preserved.
The 1992 Centenary Conference, organized by the Tolkien Society and the Mythopoeic Society, sponsored a memorial to Tolkien in Oxford University Parks. This involved the installation of a bench with an accompanying plaque and the planting of two trees representing Telperion and Laurelin from The Silmarillion.
The Tolkien Society Awards were established in 2014 to "recognise excellence in the fields of Tolkien scholarship and fandom". The awards are held annually and are announced at the Annual Dinner during the Society's AGM and Springmoot weekend. Past winners include authors Christopher Tolkien, Tom Shippey, Dimitra Fimi, John Garth, and artist Jenny Dolfen.