Tolkien And The Great War: The Threshold Of Middle-earth

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jun 1, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 398 pages
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"Very much the best book about J.R.R. Tolkien that has yet been written." -- A.N. Wilson

"A highly intelligent book ... Garth displays impressive skills both as researcher and writer." -- Max Hastings

"It is a strange story that Garth tells, but he tells it clearly and compellingly." -- Tom Shippey

"Somewhere, I think, Tolkien is nodding in appreciation." -- Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News

"Gripping from start to finish and offers important new insights." - Library Journal

"A labor of love in which journalist Garth combines a newsman's nose for a good story with a scholar's scrupulous attention to detail... Brilliantly argued." -- Daily Mail

"Insight into how a writer turned academia into art, how deeply friendship supports and wounds us, and how the death and disillusionment that characterized World War I inspired Tolkien's lush saga." - Detroit Free Press

“To be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than in 1939 . . . by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.”

So J.R.R. Tolkien responded to critics who saw The Lord of the Rings as a reaction to the Second World War. Tolkien and the Great War tells for the first time the full story of how he embarked on the creation of Middle-earth in his youth as the world around him was plunged into catastrophe. This biography reveals the horror and heroism that he experienced as a signals officer in the Battle of the Somme and introduces the circle of friends who spurred his mythology into life. It shows how, after two of these brilliant young men were killed, Tolkien pursued the dream they had all shared by launching his epic of good and evil.
This is the first substantially new biography of Tolkien since 1977, meticulously researched and distilled from his personal wartime papers and a multitude of other sources.
John Garth argues that the foundation of tragic experience in the First World War is the key to Middle-earth's enduring power. Tolkien used his mythic imagination not to escape from reality but to reflect and transform the cataclysm of his generation. While his contemporaries surrendered to disillusionment, he kept enchantment alive, reshaping an entire literary tradition into a form that resonates to this day.

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Tolkien and the Great War: the threshold of Middle-earth

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Interest in J.R.R. Tolkien has soared since the release of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. With the upcoming release of the third installment, these two titles are sure to ... Read full review

Review: Tolkien And The Great War: The Threshold Of Middle Earth

User Review  - Sandi - Goodreads

A deeply moving book, well-written, detailed, it cogently draws out the threads of the influence of Tolkien's wartime experiences on his writings. Garth ends with showing how the landscapes, tone and ... Read full review


A young man with too much imagination
The Council of London
The shores of Faerie
Benighted wanderers
Too long in slumber
Tears unnumbered
In a hole in the ground
The Lonely Isle
Castles in the air
Tol Withernon and Fladweth Amrod
A new light
One who dreams alone

Larkspur and Canterburybells
A bitter winnowing
Something has gone crack

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About the author (2005)

John Garth, winner of the 2004 Mythopoeic Society Scholarship Award, studied English at Oxford University and has since worked as a newspaper journalist in London. A long-standing taste for the works of Tolkien, combined with an interest in the First World War, fueled the five years of research that have gone into Tolkien and the Great War and he has drawn extensively on previously unpublished personal papers as well as Tolkien's service record and other unique military documents.

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