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Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth by [Garth, John]
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Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Amazon Review

John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War will certainly captivate the millions of new captives of the Lord of the Rings saga, who have been roped into JRR Tolkien's fantasy world as the result of Peter Jackson's three-part cinematic interpretation, but it's written more for those who've long been enthralled by Middle-earth and its fantastic denizens. While many early readers found parallels between World War II and the Lord of the Rings fairy tale, Garth reaches back to World War I to find the deep roots in Middle-earth. Prior to the Great War, Tolkien was a scholar with a deep passion for language and fables; with a few school pals he formed a literary circle dubbed the Tea Club and Barrovian Society. Its members had the misfortune of coming of age just as the war was reaching a fevered pitch; Tolkien, a second lieutenant in the British army, survived the bloody Battle of the Somme, which took the lives of two of his closest friends. Garth adeptly chronicles how the devastation Tolkien witnessed helped shape the mythic tale that was already brewing in his mind. Written with a seriousness one associates with the time it chronicles, Tolkien and the Great War is an erudite but eminently readable exploration of how the harsh reality of the early 20th century coloured one of the beloved fantasies of the modern era. --Steven Stolder, Amazon.com

Review

"Gives insight into how a writer turned acadamia 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."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1424 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (28 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0051ANQ1E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #185,400 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer on 28 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
An interesting analysis and certainly the most detailed outline of Tolkien's wartime experiences I've come across. Rather too willing to view Tolkien's early poetry uncritically though - Tom Shippey takes a more balanced approach and admits it isn't very good, even if it is useful for looking at Tolkien's development. Also rather unfair on the 'War Poets' in the final section, notably Wilfred Owen. Nonetheless, I'd recommend this to anyone interested in knowing more about the genesis of Tolkien's ideas and the influence of the First World War upon him.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Garth's book is a revelation. I say this after having read, across decades, many accounts of Tolkien's background materials, and the Humphrey Carpenter biography and his "Inklings" book, and more.
Garth is familiar with Tolkien, his closest friends, and the broad context of World War I and the British Army's role in France and Belgium.
What emerges is a clear outline of the earliest fragments of Tolkien's mythology.
I had always thought Middle-earth, along with Tolkien's created languages of elves and dwarves and others, was a response to the losses of the Great War. Instead, it was beginning even before Tolkien joined the Army.
There may be more detailed, and more extended explorations of Tolkien's war experience. (I have seen examples listed in Amazon, with helpful reviews.)
But Garth's study is readable, convincing, freshly insightful, and profoundly satisfying, as a standalone monograph for a general readership in Tolkieniana.
Very highly recommended!
John Gough - Deakin University - jagough49@gmail.com
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this as a Christmas gift for my adult son, who is a great Tolkien fan and also because of its topical nature with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1. My son was delighted to receive it. I am unable to comment on its content as he has barely started it, but i think it is a must for any Tolkien fan.
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Format: Paperback
From his first encounter with the name Éarendel (in Cynewulf's otherwise unappealing 'Crist', which also mentions 'middle-earth'), Tolkien said 'I felt a curious thrill, as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep.'

With Peter Jackson's multi-million dollar Hobbit trilogy mid-way through and the centenary of WWI - the 'Great War' - rapidly approaching, John Garth's book on Tolkien's early life and his experiences in that conflict, is ripe for the reading, both for admirers of Tolkien and his literary and imaginative work, those generally interested in the continuing evolution of our culture, and perhaps especially those who think of Tolkien as a reactionary and escapist. Personally I think Garth does a splendid job of examining these early formative years of Tolkien's life and their complex interweaving into some of the most traumatic episodes of the previous troubled and bloody century.

Admirers of Tolkien's achievements, and Garth is clearly one such, will doubtless find themselves largely in agreement with his sympathetic and nuanced readings of both the author's evolving corpus and it's broader context. Certainly he succeeds in his stated aim of giving 'Tolkien's early poetry and prose the serious consideration they deserve'. He's frequently at pains to counter the increasingly common views from certain quarters that Tolkien is merely a backwards looking nostalgic escapist. I think Garth succeeds in making a solid case to rebut the most simplistic of such charges of this type as are laid at Tolkien's door, also noting that 'No one has defended Tolkien more eloquently against the charge of 'escapism' than Tolkien himself.
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Format: Audio Download
This is a biography that was well overdue. Using Tolkien's own personal papers, letters and other documents as well as the material provided by Christopher Tolkien in The History of Middle-earth Series, John Garth manages to trace, in often harrowing detail, Tolkien's own wartime experiences at the Battle of the Somme. The first part of the book covers Tolkien's early life and school days, where he made lasting friendships and formed the TCBS group of four like-minded individuals. It is through their eyes and correspondence that we get to know Tolkien, and experience, with him, their deaths on the Western Front.

Garth also links what Tolkien was creating with his languages, poetry and growing mythology with the events in his life, providing insight into how he transformed his experiences into literature and language. For anyone interested in the evolution of Tolkien's mythology and how Tom Shippey could justifiably call him one of the traumatised authors from the Great War, then this book provides that story. The postscript, in particular, shows how his later more famous works - The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - were invigorated and directed by his wartime experiences. Garth wonders that, if there had been no Great War, if Tolkien's legacy would have been merely one of a minor craftsman (like William Morris) or a brilliant academic? "Middle-earth, I suspect, looks so engagingly familiar to us, and speaks to us so eloquently, because it was born with the modern world and marked by the same terrible birth pangs". Garth overwhelmingly demonstrates the truth of this statement.

John Garth narrates his own book and proves to be an excellent reader, bringing the words and descriptions to life. Incredibly detailed, often moving, it is not always an easy listen, but it is a much-needed supplement to Humphrey Carpenter's authorised biography from thirty years ago.
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