Tolkien and the Great War

Tolkien and the Great War

The Threshold of Middle-earth

Book - 2003
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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.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2003]
Copyright Date: ©2003
ISBN: 9780618331291
Branch Call Number: 828.91209 T577G 2003
Characteristics: xviii, 398 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm


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Sep 10, 2018

On November 8th of 1916, after almost 6 months of service at the front, Second Lieutenant John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, a signals officer with the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, was invalided home to England with a severe case of trench fever. It was during his long recovery, first in hospital and later in the Royal Defence Force, that Tolkien would begin to tie together his scattered fantasies into a coherent mythology, the foundation of the legendarium that served as the basis for his later masterpieces.

Tolkien and the Great War, beyond presenting the bare facts of Tolkien's service in the War and the fate of his closest friends, traces the impact of the War on Tolkien's imagination. For Garth, Tolkien developed his legendarium not to escape from the brutal material reality of the War, but as an attempt to place his ordeals in a moral and spiritual context. This was not expressed, as one might expect, by assigning proxies for the warring nations on the sides of good and evil - to the contrary, Tolkien was only too aware of the orcishness present on all sides. Rather, the War confirmed for Tolkien the need for a recovery of memory and renewal of language, while his explorations of the meaning of suffering led to a deeper understanding of the paradoxes of evil, eucatastrophe, and the ultimate triumph of the lowly over the mighty, themes which would become the hallmarks of his future work.

lilacviolette Jun 28, 2017

A superb work that explores the lasting influence that Tolkien's war experience had on the creation of his famous legendarium. Not only is this book impeccably researched, the detailed writing vividly portrays the episodes that make up this experience. A must-read for the Tolkien scholar or anyone interested in the life of the literary giant.


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