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Obituary: Charles Noad
Photo of Christopher Tolkien and Charles Noad, standing at Keble College for the 1992 Tolkien Centenary Conference. Photo used at Charles’s request.

We’re very sorry to report that the Tolkien Society’s longest-standing member and stalwart of the Tolkien community, Charles E. Noad, passed away last week at the age of 75.

Born in London in 1947, Charles’s professional career was as a programmer at Imperial College. In 1977 he published The Trees, the Jewels and the Rings, his own speculation on what might be in The Silmarillion. He became a friend of Christopher Tolkien, which led to him proofreading a number of books including volumes of The History of Middle-earth series, A Secret Vice, The History of The Hobbit, The Children of Húrin and others. He famously – and proudly – was able to spot whether a full-stop was in italics or not; he stated his tactic for proofreading was to read the book backwards.

Due to his experience and knowledge, his article “On the Construction of ‘The Silmarillion'” in Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth is a critically important document on understanding the published version of “The Silmarillion”, and perhaps what J.R.R. Tolkien would have done. He served as the Society’s bibliographer and photographer and, rather poignantly, was responsible for penning obituaries for others.

When I got the news of Charles’s death, I cried. Not for the huge, incalculable loss to the Tolkien community, but for the loss of a friend I first met nearly 20 years ago. I enjoyed his company, hearing from him the history of the Society and Tolkien fandom, his thoughts on various publications, and indeed his playful and subtle sense of humour. For some years I had been encouraging him to conclude his work on the nature of the Ring, a work which was substantial in both scale and scope; I hope it is able to be published. It was an honour for me to be able to lead the standing ovation to Charles at Oxonmoot 2022, and to invite him to lay the wreath at Enyalië. The Society will never be the same.” – Shaun Gunner, Chair of the Tolkien Society

For decades he had corresponded with a huge range of people – particularly in the USA – and was unfailingly kind. Many Americans will no doubt remember with gratitude the effort Charles went to in providing them with British editions of Tolkien’s works, and his hospitality to visitors when they came to London. His influence over the Tolkien community was not headline-grabbing, but it was nonetheless subtle, profound and wide-ranging. He was the elder statesman of the Society.

Anyone who knew Charles would know he was unfailingly polite, mild-minded, private and fiercely passionate about Tolkien (and indeed his other interests). He had been attending Northfarthing smial for over 50 years – the smial of the Society based in London and which had a critical role in the founding of the Society, and indeed Tolkien fandom – and due to his resolute status within the community, he received a standing ovation at Oxonmoot 2022 when he received his “50 years” badge, so far the first and only member to have been a member for 50 years.

He leaves behind a huge network of friends, and a hole that no one else could fill.

Announcement from Northfarthing smial

Charles fulfilled several roles within the Society: he was an expert bibliographer; a genius proof-reader, especially of the H.O.M.E. and other HarperCollins publications; and the Society’s photographer. His albums have been handed over to the Society. He also composed the obituaries for members of the Tolkien family, most recently for Joanna Tolkien last March.

The Northfarthing Smial has lost one of its founder members, and a dear friend who kept up regular attendance from 1972 until a few months ago. One of his last appearances was at our Annual Dinner in March which replaced the Birthday Dinner and celebrated the Downfall of Sauron.

Charles’s continual, nay obsessive attention to scholarship was one of the key elements which made the Society what it is today, a community of fans and scholars. He was also an enthusiastic fan of science-fiction, geeking out at Eastercons, WorldCons, meetings on the space programs held by the British Interplanetary Society, and showings of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. However, he always wore his trademark suit and tie, never a fannish T-shirt and jeans!

The Northfarthing Smial
16th July 2023

Other tributes to Charles Noad

Amon Hen 303 will contain a full list of tributes to Charles.

About the Author: The Tolkien Society
The Tolkien Society is an educational charity and worldwide membership organisation devoted to promoting research into, and educating the public in, the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Society organises regular events (such as Oxonmoot and Tolkien Reading Day), publishes regular books and journal (such as Amon Hen and Mallorn), and is working towards a permanent home to Tolkien in the UK.