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Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth Paperback – June 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
A long-standing passion for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, coupled with a growing curiosity about the individual's experience of war, led to the writing of Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. The authoritative account of Tolkien's life in and around the 1914-18 conflict, it is the fruit of five years' research in public archives, among the family papers of Tolkien and his close friends, and on the site of the Battle of the Somme.
Tolkien and the Great War has been described by C.S. Lewis biographer A.N. Wilson as a 'masterpiece' and 'very much the best book on J.R.R. Tolkien that has yet been written'. It garnered the Mythopoeic Award for Scholarship in 2004 and has so far been published in Great Britain, the United States, Italy and China.
John Garth has also reviewed books for the Times Literary Supplement, The Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, The Evening Standard and others. He is a regular contributor to the annual scholarly journal Tolkien Studies and has spoken at the National Army Museum in London, as a special guest of various societies, and at international conferences. He is interviewed on the extended DVD edition of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and on National Geographic's Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
His numerous other interests include history; northern mythologies; language and place-names; rock and pop, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s; photography; and the great outdoors. As well as Tolkien, he is also partial to (among others) Charles Dickens, Susan Cooper, Frank Herbert, William Blake, Tove Jansson, Alan Garner, John Irving, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, and the vintage television tour de force that is The Clangers.
For further information and to read more of John Garth's writings, visit his website at www.johngarth.co.uk
Top Customer Reviews
Earth. Tolkien himself wrote little directly upon that war, so the reader should not expect a blow-by-blow account of life in the trenches and hospitals. But Garth has pieced together a reasonably comprehensive picture of the events witnessed by Tolkien and uses this platform for exploration of the writings and, in particular, Tolkien's relationships with a close-knit group of school-friends known as the "TCBS" -- The Tea Club and Barrovian Society, originating as a cluster of like-minded youths at King Edward's School in Birmingham, youths with lofty artistic ambitions and a belief that destiny would indeed carry them to artistic heights. Tolkien and three close friends were the heart of the TCBS, although there were other associates who shared their views. The alliances of the TCBS continued even after its members went off to Oxford and Cambridge and, after the war began, into the army and navy. By the end of the war, as Tolkien was to later comment, all of his close friends but one was dead, and he himself was a partially invalided veteran of the horrific Battle of the Somme. But the war did not kill the ideals of the TCBS and in many respects Tolkien was to carry them onwards.
It is easy today to view the First World War through the lens of unremitting disenchantment and disillusion that dominated the literary picture of that conflict in the late Twenties and Thirties, yet as Garth shows, such a perception is inadequate.Read more ›
The book begins in pre war England with J.R.R. Tolkien and his small cluster of friends. Beginning with their schoolboy days at King Edward's School in Birmingham and continuing through the beginnings of their academic careers at Oxford and Cambridge, Tolkien (John Ronald in those days) had a close friendship with a group of highly intelligent kindred souls who formed the TCBS, or Tea Cake and Barrovian Society. Partly literary and partly just for fun, the TCBS must have been one of hundreds of similar societies founded in the semi-cloistered world of schoolboys. Unlike most such groups, the TCBS lived on in the hearts of its participants, four of whom, John Ronald Tolkien, Christopher Wiseman, Geoffrey Bache Smith, and Robert Gilson, were particularly close. They encouraged each other in their literary and artistic pursuits and by their early twenties were already producing work which boded well for their futures.
Then World War I broke out. Tolkien, Gilson, Wiseman, and Smith were sucked into the British armed forces along with thousands of other men, Wiseman into the navy, the others into the army. Gilson and Smith were killed in 1916 (Smith's letter to Tolkien about Gilson's death, ending with "My dear John Ronald whatever are we going to do?" is one of the saddest things I have ever read.) Tolkien and Wiseman survived and never forgot their dead friends.Read more ›
Garth then shifts into a fascinating study of the often surprising and unexpected influence of the war on Tolkien's vast Middle-earth mythology. Note that Garth sticks mostly with Tolkien's earlier works, The Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion, while only brushing upon the later but more famous The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The point is that in the earlier works Tolkien was still constructing his literary worlds rather than expanding and perfecting them, and that was when his war experience loomed the largest. Tolkien experts are probably going to disagree with some of the details in Garth's literary analysis. But his larger point can't be denied. Tolkien's universe of mythological creatures and heroic epics was far from mere escapism, which is a frequent inaccurate criticism. Instead, Tolkien was making crucial points about war, friendship, industrialization, and tyranny, in the guise of some of the most epic literary creations the world has ever seen. [~doomsdayer520~]
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A fascinating read. Sometimes kind of sloggy to get through, it seems in areas like Mr. Garth tries to emulate Professor Tolkien's verbose, flowery mannerisms in his descriptions... Read morePublished 23 days ago by Kami
I have been a Tolkien fan for years and teach a course on the Professor. This book gave me insight into an often overlooked - but very important, very formative period in the life... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Thomas G. Romano
A must read for any Tolkien fan or scholar. Garth draws the connection between author and authored texts deftly. Read morePublished 2 months ago by M. Corso
Giving this as a Christmas present to someone who is a real Tolkien fan.Published 4 months ago by Cat
This is thin stuff. Tolkien spent a month in the 1916 Somme offensive as a signals officer before getting sent back to England with typhus, where he spent the rest of the war. Read morePublished 12 months ago by A Customer
Very useful not only for Tolkien's biography but also as an introduction to a kind of artistic circle found in young men of his background in his day. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a timely and important contribution to Tolkien studies. However, the reader needs to engage seriously with the details of the part of the Somme offensive that Tolkien was... Read morePublished 15 months ago by onthefringe
John Garth’s account of Tolkien’s wartime experiences makes for one of the best books about Tolkien, and the Inklings in general, yet written. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Jonathan-Paul Hooper
This is a beautiful book. The best Tolkienian reading for this year 2014.Published 17 months ago by José Hernández