It is a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, drawing upon vast research to recount specifically Tolkien's time at Exeter College, the forming and endurance of the T.C.B.S., and the experiences in the First World War of him and his close friends. Garth provides frequent analysis of Tolkien's poetry, up to the end of the war, and of the progressing stages of his legendarium.
The book earned Garth the 2004 Mythopoeic Society Award in Inkling Studies, and since its second edition in 2005, has been published in the UK, the US, India, Germany, France, Spain, and China.
Tolkien and the Great War tells for the first time the full story of how he embarked on the creation of Middle-earth in his youth as the world around him was plunged into catastrophe. This biography reveals the horror and heroism that he experienced as a signals officer in the Battle of the Somme and introduces the circle of friends who spurred his mythology into life. It shows how, after two of these brilliant young men were killed, Tolkien pursued the dream they had all shared by launching his epic of good and evil. This is the first substantially new biography of Tolkien since 1977, meticulously researched and distilled from his personal wartime papers and a multitude of other sources. John Garth argues that the foundation of tragic experience in the First World War is the key to Middle-earth's enduring power.
—Houghton Mifflin Publishers
Tolkien and the Great War features two maps displaying the war-movements and battles of the Somme Offensive in France, a chronology of Tolkien's service and participation in the war, and illustrations by Tolkien alongside photographs of personnel and scenes across the Somme.
After 300 pages of text is an extensive list of citations, a bibliography, and index.