Welcome to my website. I am a freelance writer, editor and researcher, the author of the award-winning Tolkien and the Great War, and a blogger and public speaker. Here you will find:


12 April: Guest speaker, Tolkien Society AGM, Hay-on-Wye. My Tolkien and the boy who didn’t believe in fairies is voted best article in the inaugural Tolkien Society Awards.

11 April: I interview writer and comedian Ruby Wax, Oxford Today.

8 April: I talk about my book and researches on the German Tolkien Society website. German and English.

7 April: I talk to major German news website Spiegel Online about Tolkien.


25 May: International History Festival, Gorizia, Italy.

Blackwell Companion to Tolkien30 May: A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Stuart D. Lee, to be published by Wiley-Blackwell, including my ‘A Brief Biography’.

June: Minotauro to publish Tolkien and the Great War in Spanish.

18–20 July: Guest of honour at Tolkien Thing, the annual gathering of the German Tolkien Society, at Castle Breuberg.

2–9 August: I teach a week’s course on Tolkien and Oxford with Dr Maria Artamonova for the Oxford University Summer School for Adults, focusing on his backgrounds as a war writer and academic.

Late 2014: I talk on location about Tolkien’s war in a BBC TV documentary on writers on the Somme.


26 April: Founder’s Day talk on Tolkien, Exeter College, Oxford.

31 March: I talk to Australian news website The New Daily about Tolkien’s enduring appeal.

25 March: Discussion of Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg on Deutschlandradio Kultur.

Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg24 March: Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg published by Klett-Cotta, with audiobook from Der Hörverlag.
Here, also in German, Marcel Aubron-Bülles talks about translating the book.

Further news ...

Freelance work

Journalism includes interviews with Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Carnegie-winning author Alan Garner (both pictured below by Joby Sessions) and recent features on the summer 2013 Bodleian exhibition, Britain’s 2014 floods, and the digital future of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Alan Garner Aung San Suu Kyi by Joby Sessions

I have also interviewed Newbery-winning novelist Susan Cooper, polemicist Naomi Wolf, Pulitzer winner Siddhartha Mukherjee, Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Cook, and Britain’s most decorated living soldier Sir Tommy Macpherson, among many others. I first trained as a reporter on local papers in London.

The Fall of Arthur by JRR Tolkien
The Gurkha's Daughter by Prajwal Parajuly

Book reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Sunday Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, The Evening Standard, The Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere, dealing with modern historical fiction, contemporary short stories, fantasy, medieval literature, literary reference, biography, and lexicography.

Editing experience spans new media, newspapers and books. I was an Evening Standard sub-editor for many years, and I have proofread books by Robin Hobb, Simon Tolkien, Greg Iles, Jack Higgins, E.R. Eddison and Agatha Christie.

Research for Tolkien and the Great War took me to Oxford’s Bodleian Library where I examined Tolkien’s personal papers; to the British Library; to the National Archives at Kew; and to the battlefields of the Somme. I researched and wrote the chronology for Agatha Christie’s The Grand Tour, about her round-the-world 1922 trip, filling gaps she left in her account. Other topics include the lives of many friends and connections of Tolkien, particularly R.Q. Gilson, an artist and junior officer killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. I have traced my family to the early 18th century, and have used genealogy extensively in other biographical research.

Tolkien and the Great War spineOn Tolkien
Tolkien and the Great War, hailed on publication as ‘the best book that has been written about Tolkien’, won the Mythopoeic Award for Scholarship. The only substantially new narrative biography of Tolkien since 1977, it is available in English, Italian and Chinese, and also as an audiobook voiced by me.

JRR Tolkien EncyclopediaOther writings include the chapter-length study ‘Tolkien, Exeter College and the Great War’ and items in the Routledge J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, The Blackwell Companion to Tolkien, Tolkien Studies and Exeter College: The First 700 years. I’ve reviewed books by and about Tolkien for the press in Britain and the US; I've also spoken around Britain, the US and Europe, and been interviewed on TV, radio, DVD, in print and online.
I teach on Tolkien for the Oxford University Summer School for Adults.
Jeremy Banning, Peter Barton, Sebastian Barfield and John Garth at Thiepval, October 2013At the old front line, October 2013, with Great War researcher Jeremy Banning, historian Peter Barton and director Sebastian Barfield, filming a BBC documentary on writers on the Somme

Further news


22 March: Bring on the monsters! My Guardian preview feature on Tolkien’s forthcoming Beowulf translation is an Editor's Pick.

19 March: Interviewed in the Guardian and Telegraph and quoted in El País on Tolkien’s Beowulf.
— My review of A Strong Song Tows Us, Richard Burton’s biography of Basil Bunting, published at Oxford Today.

Tolkien et la Grande Guerre par John Garth6 March: Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, left, published by Christian Bourgois; highlighted in L’Express and reviewed in La Nouvelle Quinzaine.

5 March: Blog post, Tolkien at fifteen, a warrior-to-be, reveals the facts behind a newly discovered photo. Also in Italian, French and Portuguese.

27 February: Somme feature in El País highlights Tolkien and the Great War.

20 February: Le Monde reviews ‘le passionant essai Tolkien et la Grande Guerre’ in a (subscription-only) piece on the literary impact of the war.

February: Blog posts: Sam Gamgee and Tolkien’s batmen (now also in Portuguese and French) and The Tolkien brothers of Bumble Dell.
The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment out in paperback and ebook, with several of my contributions.

29 January: Blog post, Tolkien, the Somme, and scholarship. Also in Portuguese.

26 January: ‘100 years of Middle-earth’ – the debut post on my blog. Also in Portuguese at Tolkien Brasil.

6 January: Review, Peter Lewis’s A Rogue’s Gallery, Oxford Today.


6 December: Review, Ian Wilson’s Little Dictionary of Big Words You Should Know, for Oxford Today.

5 December: Lire special issue previews Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, with extract.

3/12 December: Comments on Tolkien and the First World War, as the Imperial War Museum displays his revolver. The Guardian, MailOnline and The Times.

25 November: Report on the JFK anniversary talk by biographers Randall Woods and Godfrey Hodgson at Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute.

22 November: Tolkien Brasil gives me a regular guest column.

20 November: My appreciation of artist and friend Pauline Baynes – guest column at JJ Books.

14 November: Launch of Exeter College: The First 700 Years, including my contribution on ‘The Undergraduate Tolkien’.

13 November: On The Oxfordians, a new art group, for Oxford Today.

8 November: Talk to the Oxford Tolkien Society on how Tolkien’s experience in the First World War shaped Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.

3 November: Long-form feature on the coincidental deaths of JFK, CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley 50 years ago at the Daily Beast. Previously presented as a talk to the Oxford CS Lewis Society and in short form in Oxford Today. I was later interviewed on the topic by Al Jazeera English.

24 October: Review of Alison Brackenbury's poetry collection Then, in Oxford Today.

17 October: Talk: Tolkien’s Dead Marshes, National Army Museum.

16 October: joined Twitter as @JohnGarthWriter.

6 October: ‘Battle of the Somme: the “animal horror” that inspired JRR Tolkien.’ In the Sunday Telegraph’s First World War supplement.

4 October: I talk to the Foreign Office’s Foreign Policy Counsellor in Washington, Jennifer Cole OBE, about her time at Oxford.

27 September: Online for the first time, my article Tolkien and the boy who didn’t believe in fairies, which uncovers the encounter that first taught him fairy-stories are not kids’ stuff. With previously unseen pictures. Now available in Spanish.

September: My Evening Standard article ‘Tolkien fantasy was born in trenches of the Somme’ is now in Portuguese.

31 August: I talk to Newbery medallist Susan Cooper on her new novel Ghost Hawk, at The Daily Beast.

John Garth at the Return of the Ring conference, 2012, by Emil Johansson John Garth at the Return of the Ring conference, 2012. Picture: Emil Johansson

29 July: Talk on Tolkien, British Studies at Oxford summer school, St John’s College.

29 July: Interviewed by Malcolm Boyden on BBC Radio Oxford on the 59th birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring.

3 July: Launched Facebook page, John Garth, writer.

July: Interview with outgoing Oxford English Dictionary editor John Simpson, in Blueprint. Read here.

July: Review of The Broken Scythe: Death and Immortality in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, in Tolkien Studies 10. Read here (Project Muse subscription only).

June: Major feature in The Times on the Bodleian Library’s summer exhibition, Magical Books. Now also available subscription-free here.

June: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Tolkien and the Great War ebook published.

May: Two-page review of Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur, at The Daily Beast. Since published in French (September) and Portuguese (November).

April: Landmark interview with Carnegie-winning author Alan Garner in Oxford Today, plus an interview with the 2012 Turner Prize winner, Elizabeth Price.

21 March: Opening talk at the Oxford Tolkien Spring School, on Tolkien’s life.

March: Visited the Oxford Literary Festival for Oxford Today, hearing Alister McGrath on C.S. Lewis and Lucy Hughes-Hallett on her Samuel Johnson Prize-winning biography of proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio.
— Reviewed Mark Atherton’s There and Back Again, on Tolkien and The Hobbit.

5 February: Talk on Tolkien, Oxford C.S. Lewis Society.

25 January: Reviewed Prajwal Parajuly’s The Gurkha’s Daughter, The Guardian.

January: Interviewed on BBC Online and ITV Meridian on Tolkien’s birthday.


December: Interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford’s James Cannon Show on the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

October: Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s only print interview from her historic 2012 visit to Britain — in Oxford Today, alongside my interviews with £75million university bursary donor Michael Moritz and biographer Michael Korda.

30 September: Gave a talk on Tolkien via live video feed to the National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.

19 August: At the Tolkien Society’s Return of the Ring conference I spoke about Tolkien’s close friend Rob Gilson and took part in a panel discussion about research.

3 August: Spoke on the BBC Radio 4 documentary Tolkien in Love about J.R.R. Tolkien’s reunion with his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt, their marriage, and their wartime separation.

16 June:
Hungarian Tolkien Society conference in Budapest: talk on how the First World War shaped the portrayal of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. Published in Hungarian in J.R.R. Tolkien: Fantázia és erköles, ed. Dr Pődör Dóra, Nagy Andrea and Füzessy Tamás.

15 June: Q&A with Michael Martinez of the Middle-earth and JRR Tolkien News website.

For older publications and appearances, please visit the relevant pages via the navigation bar at the top of this page.








HarperCollins paperback
(text corrected 2011)

John Garth Writer Tolkien And The Great War

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Tolkien and the Great War HMH

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ebook

Audiobook read by
John Garth

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© John Garth 2006