|Illustration from Smith of Wootton Major by Pauline Diana Baynes.|
|Cover by the|
Of the two, Farmer Giles of Ham is by far the most accessible. Whereas Smith of Wootton Major's narrative introduces a number of characters, and progresses in such a way that it seems intended to serve as an allegory (despite my online reading revealed that Tolkien insisted that it not be read as such), Farmer Giles is much more straight forward. Smith is a difficult story to properly summarize in a line or two, so I won't make the attempt According to Wikipedia, it began as an attempt on Tolkien's part to explain the meaning of "Faery," both a central location and idea in this tale of cooks and a magic cake as seen in the image at the top of the post.While I suspect both were written for an audience similar to The Hobbit; for my tastes, Smith meanders too much from idea to idea to be read purely as an enjoyment, though I'm confident there is something here that I may not be clever enough to appreciate.
Pauline Diana Baynes.
While disguised as a fairly traditional heroic narrative, Farmer Giles of Ham is anything but, and it is this juxtaposition of expectations on the part of the reader, that, along with Tolkien's conversational storytelling style, make the tale particularly engaging. Due perhaps in part to the story's subject, Farmer Giles style and language is much more reminiscent of Tolkien's Hobbit than the Rings trilogy.
With the unlikely Giles as its balding, overweight, de facto protagonist, Tolkien uses a number of common fantasy archetypes such as the giant who doesn't realize his own defeat, a cunning dragon, Chrysophylax, who (unlike Smaug) uses his cunning in an effort to survive, and a deus ex machina, the magical sword Caudimordax or, in the vulgar tongue, "Tailbiter." Throughout, the Tolkien's narrator reinforces a strong cultural setting by including descriptions in the formal tongue of the time and the more common, or vulgar, language of regular folk.
Stopping by Barnes and Noble today, I noticed that this double-shot of Tolkien is still available for purchase, though with a slightly less-cool cover. For those who, like I , haven't previously read beyond Tolkien's more popular works, Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham seems to me a great way to gain access to his other fictional writings.
|Our new kitten Black Beard warms up the novel for me.|