Talks on Tolkien: John Garth and Tolkien’s Great War

A Single Leaf blog by Anna Smol

This week’s “Talk on Tolkien” features the historical, biographical, and literary research of John Garth, who continues to dig into Tolkien’s early years, the beginnings of his mythology, and his experiences in the First World War. Garth’s book, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, published in 2003, won the Mythopoeic Award for Inklings Scholarship and has been translated into five languages so far. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the experiences of Tolkien and his friends in the war and for tracing the early stages of Tolkien’s writings.

Recently, Garth has published more new research in his booklet Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford Undergraduate Created Middle-earth, which presents a vivid picture of Tolkien’s friendships and activities while a student at Oxford. You can find more of Garth’s research in other publications, but one good place for keeping up with his work is his blog, which features reviews and news of his ongoing research.

Although I don’t have a video recording of a complete talk by John Garth, the following presents some intriguing highlights from his presentation at the Tolkien Society‘s Oxonmoot in September 2014. In this video, Garth talks about Tolkien’s early writings, “The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star” and his “Story of Kullervo.” Some additional details can be found in Garth’s blog post, “Middle-earth turns 100.”

If you want to hear a complete talk by John Garth, and you are lucky enough to be within reach, he will be speaking at the Hudson Library and Historical Society in Hudson, Ohio on March 3 and at Sam Houston State University in Texas on March 25.

In the video clip above, John Garth sets Tolkien’s early writings against a backdrop of war. You can also hear him speaking more about this subject in the following documentary, “Tolkien’s Great War,” (Elliander Pictures), which provides an excellent account of Tolkien’s early life, his friendships at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, the way in which he and his friends faced the Great War, as well as some observations about how Tolkien’s war experiences influenced his writing. This beautifully filmed documentary provides a glimpse into the kind of research that informs John Garth’s various publications.

Tolkien’s Great War by Elliander Pictures <> on Vimeo.

You can find John Garth on Facebook:; on Twitter: @JohnGarthWriter; or, as I mentioned above, on his website: or blog:

3 responses to “Talks on Tolkien: John Garth and Tolkien’s Great War”

  1. […] As Tolkien scholars and readers, we usually see the story in this way, primarily as it relates to John Ronald. However, Elliander Pictures has produced a documentary on Rob Gilson which allows us a glimpse of the young man himself who was so important to the idealistic members of the TCBS.  Elliander Pictures’s previous production, Tolkien’s Great War, is also well worth watching. In both documentaries, you will see Tolkien scholar John Garth, whose book Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth is an authoritative scholarly source on the subject. You can find the previous film, Tolkien’s Great War, and information about John Garth’s work here. […]


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