Tolkien at Exeter College, by John GarthMy new Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford undergraduate created Middle-earth brings extensive fresh research to Tolkien’s life from 1911 to 1915. Rich with archive material, it includes more than 40 images, including previously unseen pictures by and of Tolkien. The 64-page book adds significantly to the account in Tolkien and the Great War or any elsewhere.

‘A must-read for all Tolkien aficionados’ — Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia and Mythopoeic Award winner.

Buy here...


I’m author of the award-winning Tolkien and the Great War, digital editor of Oxford Today, freelance writer, editor and researcher, and a blogger and public speaker. Here you will find:


21 February 2015: 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: 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.

Coming up

9 April 2015: Tolkien talk, Brigham Young University London Centre.

25 March 2015: I talk on Tolkien and the Great War at Sam Houston State University, Texas (Tenth Annual Joan Coffey Symposium, Olson Auditorium).

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, Pusey Street, Oxford. Open to all, 5.15pm, with book signing and drinks reception afterwards.

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.

13 December: Comments in the Boston Globe on the final Hobbit movie, here and here.

9 December: ‘Tolkien’s death of Smaug: American inspiration revealed’, in the Guardian and (20 December) South China Morning Post.

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.

7 December: Interviewed for the lead Sunday Times News Review feature, ‘The hobbit's guide to our warring world’ (subscription needed). Also at The Australian.

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Freelance work

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 new Story Museum.

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 London papers.

Talks, media appearances and classes 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. I have also taught at the Oxford Tolkien Spring School and the Oxford University Summer School for Adults.

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 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.

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.
Agatha Christie's The Grand TourI 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, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin Chinese, and also as an audiobook in English (voiced by me) and in German.

JRR Tolkien EncyclopediaOther writings include a 64-page illustrated book, Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford undergraduate invented Middle-earth; 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.

Further news


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.

28 November: Tolkien and Oxford, article in German for TV magazine Arte.

Tolkien Studies 1127 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 review 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.

18 November: I spoke on Tolkien’s 1914 creative breakthrough at Tolkien in Oxford: A Symposium, Merton College.

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,

John Garth in BBC2's War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme15 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.

17 October: China’s new long march: 80 years after Mao set out, what lies ahead for a nation he would barely recognise?

16 October: Interview with David Leake, head gardener of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. As pdf or via Oxford Today reader or app (pp. 60–61).

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.

Tolkien at Exeter College, by John Garth12 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.

John Garth's talk on the breaking of Tolkien's first fellowship1 August: Illustrated biographical talk, The Breaking of Tolkien's First Fellowship, opening a weekend of Great War commemorations in Marston Green (home of the Gilson family).

29 July: ‘Why World War One Is at the heart of Lord of the Rings’, Daily Beast – for The Fellowship of the Ring’s 60th anniversary. Also available in Portuguese.

26 July: I talk to a journalist about how the First World War turned Tolkien into a writer in this article in the major Brazilian newspaper Estadão. For my full comments, in English, see here.

23 July: Talk on Tolkien to the University of Alabama’s Oxford summer school, Worcester College.

John Garth signs Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg at Tolkien Thing 2014, Burg BreubergSigning copies of Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg after my talk as guest of honour at Tolkien Thing 2014, Burg Breuberg

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.

John Garth, Tolkien y la Gran Guerra (Minotauro)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.

Blackwell Companion to TolkienMay: 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.

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.

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.

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 the BBC2 documentary War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme.


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: 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.

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: 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).

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.








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