Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review - Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien

Short review: Two short tales by J.R.R. Tolkien featuring cakes and fairies in one, and a giant-killing farmer in the other.

Smith meets with fairies
And has cakes for dream dinner
Then Giles kills giants

Full review: This book contains two short tales by J.R.R. Tolkien featuring somewhat silly protagonists in reasonably standard fairy tale situations. Tolkien loved fairy stories, and hated that the genre had been transformed into little more than children's literature. The result was some very well-told fairy stories that draw upon the English tradition.

Smith of Wootton Major, the first story, centers on cakes, fairy stars, and the gaps between our world and the land of fairy. The tale isn't world-shattering in scope, and there is little threat to be dealt with other than vanity, arrogance, and pig-headedness, which doesn't ultimately feature much in the story anyway. It remains interesting in a dream-like manner - in some ways, reading Smith of Wootton Major feels a little like reading an account of a dream.

The second story, Farmer Giles of Ham, is a tale about an accidental hero. Farmer Giles doesn't intend to drive away a giant, but does so. He doesn't intend to be viewed as a dragon-slayer, but is. It is comical, absurd, and in some ways, it seems to be a variation of Jack the Giant Killer, although slightly off-kilter.

In the end, both stories are quite enjoyable, although they are entirely unlike The Hobbit (read review), The Lord of the Rings, or The Silmarillion. If you are looking for a book like those, this is not it. If you like fairy tales, this book will probably be right up your alley.

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  1. I had never heard about these Tolkien tales even though I'm a huge fan of his books. I specially love Lord of the Rings.

    1. @Rosa Silva: I'll be reviewing the volumes of The Lord of the Rings in the reasonably near future.