03:04, April 28 325 0 theguardian.com

2019-04-28 03:04:06
JRR Tolkien’s son ‘sexually abused by one of father’s friends’

Lord of the Rings fans who settle down to watch the film Tolkien this week will be told the story of love and young friendships that later inspired the author to write his tales of Middle-earth. What the biopic won’t show, however, is the dark scandal of abuse that continues to haunt JRR Tolkien’s family more than 45 years after his death.

Last year the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) heard evidence of how the eldest son of The Hobbit’s author, Father John Tolkien, abused young boys during his time as a Catholic priest in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent.

Now it has emerged that the cleric said that he himself was abused as a boy, and that he was assaulted in the family home by at least one of his father’s learned Oxford friends.

In a tape-recording made by one of the priest’s chief accusers and heard by the Observer, a man said to be him is heard discussing his childhood during the 1920s. At the time, JRR Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford and a fellow of Pembroke College. His friends included CS Lewis, a fellow academic and author of the Narnia novels, and among his students was the poet WH Auden.

When the priest was asked if he had been abused himself as a child, he said: “When I was a boy I was constantly surrounded by my father and colleagues of my father. Almost without exception, his colleagues were academics and, you know, some of them were pretty strange fellows …. Often, people would stay the night at our house …. I often awoke in the morning to find someone sharing my bed. More often than not, it would be … well, I don’t intend to name names, just to say that this particular person who I loved dearly, not in a sexual way, you understand, this person would be fast asleep, huddled up next to me when I woke in the morning. Well, let’s say things had gone on in the night. I knew this. If you wake up with your pyjamas off and they were on when you went to sleep you would wonder, wouldn’t you?”

The recording was made in June 1994 by Christopher Carrie, a Birmingham man who told the IICSA that John Tolkien sexually assaulted him twice in 1956. He first made allegations in 2001 but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge the priest in view of his health. He died in 2003. Before then, Carrie had tracked Tolkien down with a view to challenging him. Carrie died last year, but the recording he made of his conversation with Tolkien is in the hands of his family and its solicitor. Carrie received out-of-court compensation from the Catholic church.

Richard Scorer of Slater and Gordon solicitors, which has acted for victims of the priest, said: “Tolkien’s family name and consequent status in the Catholic community probably gave him even more power and he exploited it to the full.”

The Tolkien family declined to comment.