Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth

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How the First World War influenced the author of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy: “Very much the best book about J.R.R. Tolkien that has yet been written.” —A. N. Wilson
 As Europe plunged into World War I, J. R. R. Tolkien was a student at Oxford and part of a cohort of literary-minded friends who had wide-ranging conversations in their Tea Club and Barrovian Society. After finishing his degree, Tolkien experienced the horrors of the Great War as a signal officer in the Battle of the Somme, where two of those school friends died. All the while, he was hard at work on an original mythology that would become the basis of his literary masterpiece, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
 
In this biographical study, drawn in part from Tolkien’s personal wartime papers, John Garth traces the development of the author’s work during this critical period. He shows how the deaths of two comrades compelled Tolkien to pursue the dream they had shared, and argues that the young man used his imagination not to escape from reality—but to transform the cataclysm of his generation. While Tolkien’s contemporaries surrendered to disillusionment, he kept enchantment alive, reshaping an entire literary tradition into a form that resonates to this day.
 
“Garth’s fine study should have a major audience among serious students of Tolkien.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“A highly intelligent book . . . Garth displays impressive skills both as researcher and writer.” —Max Hastings, author of The Secret War
 
“Somewhere, I think, Tolkien is nodding in appreciation.” —San Jose Mercury News
 
“A labour 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 (UK)
 
“Gripping from start to finish and offers important new insights.” —Library Journal
 
“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
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About the author

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. Garth’s long-standing taste for the works of Tolkien, combined with his interest in the First World War, fueled the five years of research that went into Tolkien and the Great War, for which he drew extensively on previously unpublished personal papers, as well as Tolkien’s service record and other unique military documents.
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Jun 11, 2013
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780544263727
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures
Literary Criticism / Science Fiction & Fantasy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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NOMINATED FOR THE 2002 HUGO AND LOCUS AWARD

When J.R.R. Tolkien created the extraordinary world of Middle-earth and populated it with fantastic, archetypal denizens, reinventing the heroic quest, the world hardly noticed. Sales of The Lord of the Rings languished for the better part of two decades, until the Ballantine editions were published here in America. By late 1950s, however, the books were selling well and beginning to change the face of fantasy. . . . forever.

A generation of students and aspiring writers had their hearts and imaginations captured by the rich tapestry of the Middle-earth mythos, the larger-than-life heroic characters, the extraordinary and exquisite nature of Tolkien's prose, and the unending quest to balance evil with good. These young readers grew up to become the successful writers of modern fantasy. They created their own worlds and universes, in some cases their own languages, and their own epic heroic quests. And all of them owe a debt of gratitude to the works and the author who first set them on the path.

In Meditations on Middle-earth, sixteen bestselling fantasy authors share details of their personal relationships with Tolkien's mythos, for it inspired them all. Had there been no Lord of the Rings, there would also have been no Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin; no Song of Ice and Fire saga from George R. R. Martin; no Tales of Discworld from Terry Pratchett; no Legends of Alvin Maker from Orson Scott Card. Each of them was influenced by the master mythmaker, and now each reveals the nature of that influence and their personal relationships with the greatest fantasy novels ever written in the English language.

If you've never read the Tolkien books, read these essays and discover the depthy and beauty of his work. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, the candid comments of these modern mythmakers will give you new insight into the subtlety, power, and majesty of Tolkien's tales and how he told them.

Meditations on Middle-Earth is a 2002 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Related Work.

The definitive Tolkien companion—an indispensable guide to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and more, from the author of The Road to Middle-earth.
 
This “highly erudite celebration and exploration of Tolkien’s works [is] enormous fun,” declared the Houston Chronicle, and Tom Shippey, a prominent medievalist and scholar of fantasy, “deepens your understanding” without “making you forget your initial, purely instinctive response to Middle-earth and hobbits.”
 
In a clear and accessible style, Shippey offers a new approach to Tolkien, to fantasy, and to the importance of language in literature. He breaks down The Lord of the Rings as a linguistic feast for the senses and as a response to the human instinct for myth. Elsewhere, he examines The Hobbit’s counterintuitive relationship to the heroic world of Middle-earth; demonstrates the significance of The Silmarillion to Tolkien’s canon; and takes an illuminating look at lesser-known works in connection with Tolkien’s life. Furthermore, he ties all these strands together in a continuing tradition that traces its roots back through Grimms’ Fairy Tales to Beowulf.
 
“Shippey’s commentary is the best so far in elucidating Tolkien’s lovely myth,” wrote Harper’s Magazine. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century is “a triumph” (Chicago Sun-Times) that not only gives readers a deeper understanding of Tolkien and his work, but also serves as an entertaining introduction to some of the most influential novels ever written.
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