I’m author of the award-winning Tolkien and the Great War and the current Fellow in Humanistic Studies at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C Harter Black Mountain Institute of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where I combine writing and research with teaching on Tolkien. For the past few years I’ve been a freelance writer, editor and researcher, as well as a blogger and public speaker. Welcome to my website, where you will find:
13 May: French website Tolkiendil showcases my work, including links, reviews, and the film Tolkien’s Great War with French subtitles.
11 May: You can now watch a superb documentary on which I help tell the story of Tolkien’s TCBS friend Robert Quilter Gilson up to his death in the Battle of the Somme. Commissioned by King Edward’s School in Birmingham, it is closely based on my work with his letters.
15 April: In the New Statesman I review A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins.
9 April: My blog post ‘Tolkien’s “immortal four” meet for the last time’ is named Best Article in the Tolkien Society Awards 2016 – the second time in three years that one of my pieces has won this award. You can read the 2014 winner here. Spanish versions of the two pieces are here and here; a Portuguese version of the more recent piece is here.
April: I review Grevel Lindop’s biography Charles Williams: The Third Inkling for Oxford Today.
16 February: ‘Shadow of the past: How Tolkien’s ghosts came back to haunt The Lord of the Rings’, talk and discussion, at the fabulous Writer’s Block bookshop, Fremont Street, Las Vegas.
21 January: My 400-level (advanced) course on Tolkien begins at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
31 December 2015: ‘A must-have for anyone seriously interested in Tolkien’s life and work is John Garth’s Tolkien at Exeter College. Garth, who wrote the ground-breaking study Tolkien and the Great War, has extended his research to Tolkien’s time as an undergraduate, with new discoveries and insights (and photographs). This new, short book is an excellent complement to the longer study, and deepens our understanding of the origins of Tolkien’s lifelong work on The Silmarillion.’ —Holly Ordway, ‘The Best Books I Read in 2015’, Catholic World Report.
18 December: Publication of Tolkien l’esperantista (‘Tolkien the Esperantist’, Cafagna Editore, Italy), with essays by Tolkien, Oronzo Cilli, Arden R Smith and Patrick H Wynne, and a preface by me.
December: Longform interview on Tolkien in German-language journal of fantastic literature Quarber Merkur.
17 November: I talk about my research as Fellow in Humanistic Studies at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C Harter Black Mountain Institute, as part of International Education Week at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
Research: I’m currently pursuing new lines of investigation on Tolkien’s life and work, as Fellow in Humanistic Studies at the Black Mountain Institute, UNLV. 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. Supplementary research in college archives and elsewhere led to Tolkien at Exeter College.
◼︎ 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.
Teaching: I am giving an advanced undergraduate course on Tolkien as a major British author at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. In 2015 I taught a 24-week course on Tolkien’s Wars and Middle-earth for students seeking MA credit with the online Mythgard Institute; and I jointly devised and taught a week-long course on Tolkien and Oxford for the Oxford University Summer School for Adults in 2014.
Talks and media appearances on Tolkien, the First World War and related subjects: I regularly speak to general and specialist audiences and give interviews on television, radio and online.
Journalism includes interviews with Ruby Wax, Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Carnegie-winning author Alan Garner (both pictured below by Joby Sessions) and recent features on social change in the First World War, the future of work, and Oxford’s Story Museum.
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 London papers.
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 am digital editor of Oxford Today: The University Magazine. I regularly take on proofreading commissions, and have worked on books by Robin Hobb, Simon Tolkien, Greg Iles, Jack Higgins, Patrick O’Brian, E.R. Eddison and Agatha Christie.
Tolkien and the Great War, hailed on publication in 2003 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, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin Chinese, and also as an audiobook in English (voiced by the author) and in German.
Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford undergraduate created Middle-earth (2014) is the definitive account of Tolkien’s life in the vitally formative years 1911–15, drawing on extensive new research to enlarge the account in Tolkien and the Great War. 64 pages, with 40 images include previously unseen pictures by and of Tolkien. Michael Ward, Planet Narnia author and Mythopoeic Award winner, calls it ‘a must-read for all Tolkien aficionados’. Mythlore says: ‘good things come in small packages, and John Garth’s latest chronicle … is a very good thing indeed’. Elbakin.net describes it as ‘rich in surprises and discoveries’. Buy here...
Other writings include a life of Tolkien in the Blackwell Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien; and articles in the Routledge J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, Exeter College: The First 700 years and Tolkien Studies. I’ve written and commented on Tolkien for the press in Britain and the US. I’ve also spoken live around Britain, the US and Europe; taught for the Oxford University Summer School for Adults; and been interviewed on TV, radio, DVD, in print and online.
6 September: My review of Tolkien’s Story of Kullervo appears in the Mail on Sunday.
27 August: I speak to BBC News about The Story of Kullervo, and Tolkien’s fascination with Finnish language and lore.
17 August: I take up my position as Fellow in Humanistic Studies for 2015-16 at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C Harter Black Mountain Institute, the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
13 August: ‘The birth of a legend’, article on Tolkien at Exeter College for the college’s Exon magazine (pdf).
August: Widely quoted in media ahead of publication of Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo (ed. Verlyn Flieger).
3 July: ‘“Quickened to full life by war”: A fresh look at why Tolkien fell for Faërie’ — talk at the Tolkien Society Seminar 2015, Leeds.
25 June: I joined Peter and Fran Jackson on their visit to Exeter College, Oxford, and showed them highlights of the Tolkien-related archives there.
30 May: Tolkien at Exeter College is named a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award for Scholarship (won by Tolkien and the Great War in 2004).
April 2015: ‘John Garth’s latest chronicle on the early life of JRR Tolkien is a very good thing indeed. Like its predecessor ... it belongs on the bookshelf of every Tolkien scholar.’ —Tolkien at Exeter College reviewed by Mike Foster in Mythlore.
9 April: Tolkien talk for the Brigham Young University London Centre, LDS Church, London.
5 April: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers in the Great War, a web resource by Edward James and partly inspired by Tolkien and the Great War, wins the Best Non-Fiction prize in the 2014 British Science-Fiction Association awards.
31 March: Review of Tolkien at Exeter College at Elbakin.net: ‘riche en surprises et en découvertes … une lecture à conseiller à tous les fans de Tolkien qui s’intéressent tout particulièrement à la genèse de la Terre du Milieu’.
27 March: Podcast, ‘100 years on, how Tolkien came to the brink of Middle-earth’ — a recording of my paper at last November’s Merton College Tolkien in Oxford symposium.
— ‘How Tolkien discovered fairy-tale through Beowulf and war’, previously presented at October’s Oxford English roundtable, published at the launch of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Network.
25 March: I talk on Tolkien and the Great War at Sam Houston State University, Texas, left, for the Tenth Annual Joan Coffey Symposium.
25 March 2015: For Tolkien Reading Day, on the theme of friendship, the Tolkien Society filmed me reading a deeply moving letter to Tolkien from the trenches, 1916.
20 March: I’m honoured to be named Fellow in Humanistic Studies for 2015-16 at the Black Mountain Institute, the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
16 March: ‘Root and branch’, interview with the extraordinary gardener of one of Oxford’s most extraordinary college gardens. Previously appeared, slightly cut, in Oxford Today’s Michaelmas 2014 issue, 16 October.
3 March: Talk on Tolkien and the First World War at the Hudson Library and Historical Society, Ohio.
27 February: Tolkien on the brink of Middle-earth 100 years ago: I talk at Regent’s Park College, Oxford.
21 February: My work on Tolkien is the focus of a blog post by Dr Anna Smol of Mount St Vincent University, Nova Scotia. With videos: my Oxonmoot 2014 talk and Tolkien’s Great War.
20 February 2015: Rites of passage: student experiences abroad – singing at the Sorbonne, particle physics at CERN . . . and building loos in Cambodia. Oxford Today. Also at Oxford University’s Annual Review.
18 January: Dragon scale: Why it’s impossible to size up Tolkien’s Middle-earth – blog post. Also in Portuguese.
27 December: A big feature by Javier Noriega in ABC, Spain's third-largest newspaper, based on my book. ‘Asistido por su notable intuición y erudición, nos acerca a un Tolkien en sus múltiples facetas, de oficial, escritor, estudioso y ser humano.’
22 December: I interview Tim Severin about his famous ‘Brendan Voyage’ across the Atlantic in a replica sixth-century leather boat, and about his first adventure: retracing Marco Polo’s route to China – on a motorbike with Boris Johnson’s dad.
18 December: Interviewed about ‘the trenches where Middle-earth was conceived’ in the Spanish Catholic paper Alfa y Omega.
14 December: ‘Der wahre Krieg des Herrn der Ringe’ (‘The real war of The Lord of the Rings’), in Die Welt, an abridged text of my 2 November talk to a capacity crowd at the Militär Historisches Museum in Dresden.
8 December: Interviewed for the Daily Mirror centre-spread feature, ‘How First World War inspired Middle-earth epics’. Read online here...
— Comments in the Oxford Mail at the opening of the Ashmolean Museum exhibition William Blake: Apprentice and Master.
4 December: I talk about Tolkien’s life and work in a France 5 TV special, JRR Tolkien: Le Seigneur des Ecrivains, also featuring George R.R. Martin and French Tolkien scholars Vincent Ferré, Leo Carruthers, Isabelle Pantin and others.
November: I appear in a splendid half-hour film, Tolkien’s Great War, made for the First World War centenary exhibition at King Edward’s School, Birmingham – the best video accompaniment to Tolkien and the Great War you’ll find right now. Also available at Tolkiendil with French subtitles.
28 November: Tolkien and Oxford, article in German for TV magazine Arte.
27 November: In Tolkien Studies 11, ‘The road from adaptation to invention’: How Tolkien came to the brink of Middle-earth in 1914, the in-depth exploration I only touch on in my Guardian piece. In the same issue I Tolkien’s first Elvish lexicon and major later work too (as published in Parma Eldalamberon 12 and 21). The book can be ordered here.
26 November: Tolkien’s Dead Marshes, at Great War and Modern Imagination Conference, Beverley, East Yorks.
17 November: Video interview for French website Tolkiendil (in English).
16 November: ‘Es fällt schwer, den Enthusiasmus des Autors für sein Thema nicht zu teilen. Garth beschreibt Tolkiens Leben so facettenreich und liebevoll, dass es eine Freude ist.’ Review of Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg, n-tv.de.
15 November: I talk on location about Tolkien in BBC2 documentary War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme, right.
15 November: Live Q&A, Compiègne’s Bibliothèque Saint-Corneille, as part of exhibition, Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, le fondement d'une mythe.
11 November: Talk to the Oxford CS Lewis Society on Tolkien’s 1914 creative breakthrough.
9 November: I read from the letters of Robert Quilter Gilson, TCBS, as part of the centenary Remembrance Sunday events at his alma mater, Trinity College, Cambridge.
5 November: ‘Fire, Fawkes and fisticuffs’, Oxford Today.
22 October: I talked with four Oxford Anglo-Saxon professors in ‘Tolkien’s Beowulf: A Roundtable’, a Medieval English Research Seminar with the Faculty of English at Oxford University. The text is now online at the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Network.
17 October: China’s new long march: 80 years after Mao set out, what lies ahead for a nation he would barely recognise?
10 October: Talk on Tolkien to Western Front Association (Herts and Beds branch), Harpenden.
6 October: ‘Recovering Hydra’, Oxford Today – how my Tolkien research led me to discover historic lost issues of a Great War magazine edited by Wilfred Owen. A fuller account appeared in September in the Wilfred Owen Association Journal, 2014 issue 2, on 17 June on my blog, and on 12 June in Oxfordshire Limited Edition (Oxford Times).
24 September: In a triple whammy for the centenary of Middle-earth, I give three different considerations of the 1914 creative breakthrough that started it all — in the Guardian, in a video of my Oxonmoot talk, and at my blog (also in Italian). At Oxonmoot I was interviewed on video on this topic and others by Jay Johnstone.
12 September: My 64-page illustrated book Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford undergraduate created Middle-earth is published with the college.
— I also talk at Oxonmoot, the Tolkien Society annual gathering, on ‘Tolkien on the brink of Middle-earth, 1914’. Video highlights here...
August: I am now digital editor of Oxford Today: The University Magazine.
27 August: Guest appearance on Son Rise Morning Show, EWTN Radio.
23 August: Tolkien y la Gran Guerra is profiled in major Spanish daily paper El Mundo.
9 August: I celebrate Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, on her centenary – at the Daily Beast.
4–8 August: Articles on the First World War for UniteLive, focusing on workers who went to war, the ‘Red Clydeside’ agitation over living and working conditions, women, war and the work revolution, agricultural workers, and the changing balance of power.
2–8 August: I teach a week’s course on Tolkien and Oxford with Dr Maria Artamonova for the Oxford University Summer School for Adults, exploring Tolkien the war writer and academic.
23 July: Talk on Tolkien to the University of Alabama’s Oxford summer school, Worcester College.
18–20 July: Guest of honour at Tolkien Thing, the annual gathering of the German Tolkien Society, at Castle Breuberg in Hesse.
14 July: Why your grandchildren may work as hard as you – or even harder. Oxford Today.
11 July: I talk to a scientist whose work is inspired by the heart disease that runs in his family. Oxford Today.
1 July: I review John Carey’s autobiography The Unexpected Professor, for Oxford Today.
5 June: Tolkien y la Gran Guerra published in Spain by Minotauro.
29 May: My review of Tolkien’s Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with ‘Sellic Spell’, in the New Statesman.
28 May: Spanish daily La Razón publishes a double-page feature on Tolkien y la Gran Guerra. Subscription only.
21 May: Panel discussion on Tolkien and the First World War, éStoria festival, Gorizia, Italy. Watch the discussion here (in Italian and English)...
18 May: I comment on Tolkien’s Beowulf in the New York Times.
15 May: Review in L’Humanité — ‘Si, jusqu’ici, Tolkien ne semble pas avoir l’attention qu’il méritait de la part des écrivains français, la faute sera sans doute réparée avec la traduction d’un ouvrage d’importance, Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, de John Garth… Lisez ce livre. Lisez le Seigneur des anneaux, le Silmarillion, Bilbo le Hobbit. Lire Tolkien ce n’est pas fuir le monde, c’est le rencontrer différement.’
15 May: An exploration of Oxford’s new Story Museum. Oxford Today.
May: A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Stuart D. Lee, published by Wiley-Blackwell, including my ‘A Brief Biography’.
30 April: I give the Rector’s seminar on Tolkien, Exeter College, Oxford.
16 April: I write on the explosion in migration studies, Oxford Today.
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. It’s also available in Spanish.
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.
6 April: Founder’s Day talk on Tolkien, Exeter College, Oxford.
4 April: I hear from TV historian Lucy Worsley, Arthurian author Kevin Crossley-Holland and Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn at the Oxford Literary Festival, for Oxford Today.
31 March: I talk to Australian news website The New Daily about Tolkien’s enduring appeal.
27 March:I talk to major German news website Spiegel Online about Tolkien.
25 March: Discussion of Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg on Deutschlandradio Kultur.
24 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.
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.
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.
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.
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: Filmed an interview with the BBC in and near the trenches of Thiepval Wood for a 2014 documentary on writers on the Somme.
— Reviewed 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.
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.
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: Interviewed 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).
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.