When Lee met Tolkien!
Sir Christopher Lee was the only one involved in the making of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films to have ever met Professor Tolkien in person. Many of the cast were not yet born when Tolkien passed in 1973.
Christopher Lee talks about meeting his literary hero in an english pub!
I have assembled here several rare quotes from interviews were Christopher Lee talks about meeting Professor Tolkien in the late 1950s in the english pub The Eagle and Child which of course was the home of the Inklings!
In these excerpts from several interview over the last 10 years, Lee talks about what it was like meeting Tolkien in the english pub made famous as the meeting place of the Inklings, which included Tolkien himself and another author of note C.S. Lewis. There were quite a few members of this informal literary discussion group and you can see a full list HERE
Apparently at this time Christopher Lee was still reading through the trilogy of books, which had only been published in the last few years. However even then, Lee was able to see how important a literary work The Lord of the Rings was to become.
“I was immensely impressed with what I read. I still think THE LORD OF THE RINGS is the greatest literary achievement in my lifetime. Like so many other people, I couldn’t wait for the second, and then the third book. Nothing like it had ever been written. Other authors like T. H. White and Lewis Carroll invented imaginary worlds, but Tolkien not only invented an imaginary world, he invented imaginary races, which you can easily believe in. And he created very long appendices with all the family trees and the names of the previous Kings and so-forth. It’s quite incredible, really, the scholarship and imagination that went into the writing of it. And what is even more remarkable is that Tolkien, who was a professor of philology, invented new languages. The Elf languages are two: Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya is based on Finnish, and Sindarin is basically Welsh. Most of the Elves speak Sindarin. And if you want, you can learn to read it, to write it and to speak it, just like English or any other language. I always thought the books would make a wonderful film, but I also felt it would probably never happen, because of the enormous amount it would cost to make. But if they ever were made, I dreamed that I would be in them. It just goes to show you, that sometimes dreams do come true.” Christopher Lee in Cinefantastique June 14, 2010
Here are several excerpts culled from interview where Christopher Lee discusses this fateful meeting with J.R.R. Tolkien which rook place in the 1950s.
“Yes, quite by chance, really. I met him with a group of other people in a pub in Oxford he used to go to, The Eagle and Child. I was very much in awe of him, as you can imagine, so I just said, ‘how do you do?’ I also met T. H. White who wrote The Once and Future King.”
Christopher Lee in Cinefantastique June 14, 2010
I did meet him, very briefly, in the Fifties. It was in a pub that he used to go to in Oxford, called the Eagle and Child. I was there having a beer and I was completely overcome when he walked in. I had already started reading the books and thought, “This man has created a unique form of literature – one of the great works of all time.” While I was filming The Lord of the Rings, I thought about what he would have thought all the time, and hope he would have approved. I’m still an enormous fan – I read The Lord of the Rings every year.
Christopher Lee The Independent February 11, 2009
We were sitting there talking and drinking beer, and someone said, “Oh, look who walked in.” It was Professor Tolkien, and I nearly fell off my chair. I didn’t even know he was alive. He was a benign looking man, smoking a pipe, walking in, an English countryman with earth under his feet. And he was a genius, a man of incredible intellectual knowledge. He knew somebody in our group. He (the man in the group) said “Oh Professor, Professor…” And he came over. And each one of us, well I knelt of course, each one of us said “how do you do?” And I just said “Ho.. How.. How…do you do?”
“Interview with Christopher Lee, Ian Mckellen, and John Rhys“, Christopherleeweb.com June 12 2013
Interior of the Eagle and Child