Category Archives: 100 years of Middle-earth

Tolkien at Exeter College: Birth of a legend

In which I blow my own trumpet… When you picture J.R.R. Tolkien, it’s probably as a member of Oxford’s Inklings, writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the 1930s and ’40s, or in old age when fame … Continue reading

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Tanks at Gondolin

Here’s an excerpt from my book Tolkien and the Great War to mark the centenary of Tolkien’s discharge on 9 December 1916 from military hospital, where he had begun writing his first ‘lost tale’ of Middle-earth, ‘The Fall of Gondolin’. … Continue reading

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Beren and Lúthien, a centenary publication

Note, 2 June 2017: Since writing this, Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien has been published, so the speculations below regarding its content are out of date. My New Statesman review of the book as published can be read here.    In … Continue reading

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A turbulent darkness: Tolkien’s first story

Here’s a short review of Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo that I wrote for the Mail On Sunday when the book came out in September 2015. I reproduce it here, with permission, as the book becomes available in the USA, … Continue reading

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Tolkien’s death of Smaug: American inspiration revealed

My latest article for the Guardian: As well as its familiar roots in Icelandic mythology, this Middle-earth story also has some surprising transatlantic sources The dragon soars overhead, its underside armoured with gems from its hoard. The bowman has one … Continue reading

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Middle-earth turns 100

It is 100 years since Middle-earth began. The earliest glimpse of any character or situation from his mythology was in a poem, ‘The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star’, which J.R.R. Tolkien dated 24 September 1914. He wrote it at … Continue reading

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Why World War One Is at the heart of Lord of the Rings

It’s sixty years since the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s first volume of The Lord of The Rings. Why was he so inspired by the Great War—and a group of schoolfriends? War runs like iron ore through the bones of Tolkien’s … Continue reading

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Tolkien at fifteen, a warrior-to-be

A newly discovered photograph reveals J.R.R. Tolkien at fifteen in his school’s new cadet corps—launched in 1907 as nations geared up for war. Tolkien is one of some 120 unnamed figures in the picture, unearthed by the history department at … Continue reading

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The Tolkien brothers in Bumble Dell

Tolkien’s brother Hilary was born 120 years ago today. To mark the occasion, I reproduce here my review of Black and White Ogre Country, a book of his jotted reminiscences covering their childhood, the storied world as they imagined it, … Continue reading

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Sam Gamgee and Tolkien’s batmen

Tolkien, like a good poker player, kept his cards close to his chest, and gave very little away about the impact of experience upon his fiction. He could be less guarded in private, as Humphrey Carpenter revealed in his 1977 J.R.R. … Continue reading

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