Pembroke College Unveils Long-Expected Memorial to J.R.R. Tolkien


We are proud to announce the completion of a memorial in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the College’s most esteemed fellows and a literary giant of the 20th century. The memorial, created by sculptor Tim Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien’s great-nephew, was officially unveiled on 12th June before invited donors, guests, and members of the community. Award-winning author Neil Gaiman served as master of ceremonies prior to delivering his Tolkien Lecture at the Oxford Town Hall later the same evening. A recording of the lecture will be made available here.

Side angle of Tolkien memorial, with Tim Tolkien (sculptor)

Pictured: Sculptor Tim Tolkien with new memorial in Old Quad

The memorial design features a central bronze relief depicting Tolkien as he looked during his time at Pembroke, where he served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon from 1925 to 1945. Tolkien began his association with Oxford in 1911 as an undergraduate student at Exeter College, before beginning his academic career at Leeds University. He returned to Oxford in 1925 to take up his Fellowship at Pembroke which he would hold for 20 years, while living in North Oxford with his wife, Edith, and children. It was during this period that he wrote The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings, as well as critical works of lasting vitality, including ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’. In 1945 he moved to Merton College as Professor of English Language and Literature.

'We are honoured to celebrate the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien with this memorial’, shares Sir Ernest Ryder, Master of Pembroke. ‘His impact on generations of readers and writers worldwide is immeasurable, and we hope that this memorial will serve as a lasting tribute to his contributions to literature and to our College community.’

Pembroke postgraduate students Will Badger and Gabriel Schenk worked with the MCR Committee to develop the original proposal and select the artist. The Junior and Middle Common Rooms each raised ten percent of the project costs, with generous additional funding coming from the Tolkien Society, the Tolkien Estate, and individuals and groups across the Pembroke community and beyond.

In addition to remarks from Neil Gaiman and Tim Tolkien, the unveiling ceremony featured a poem written for the occasion by Pembroke alumna and Lambda-Award winning writer Roz Kaveney.

Neil Gaiman speaking at Tolkien Memorial unveiling

Pictured: Author Neil Gaiman at the memorial unveiling