Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Review: Little-Known Tolkien

For this week's Wednesday Review, I'm happy to present to you another story in text format: Smith of Wootton Major, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The dragon, regrettably, is in the second story.

Introduction: I stumbled upon this volume, containing two stories (Smith and Farmer Giles of Ham) while looking for Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I found Sir Gawain, as well, but being between jobs, I can no longer buy every book that strikes my fancy.

Since I've already read Sir Gawain in another translation and know I will remember to look for it again later, I chose Smith and Farmer Giles, which I had never heard of before.  I just finished reading Smith last night, so I haven't actually had time to ruminate on it very much.  This will be a first impressions review, as was my last review, about Out of the Silent Planet.

So what's it about?  Smith of Wootton Major is a tale of two men; Alf, the Cook's Apprentice, and Smith (the town's smith, you see?). It starts out mostly about Alf, then transfers to being primarily about Smith when he, as a boy, swallows a star from Faery.  The story chronicles his journeys into that magical land.

My Review:  Smith of Wootton Major is a great story if you like medieval stuff or if you are a Tolkien fan.  There's a lot in there reminiscent of his better-known works about Middle Earth (Smith takes place in medieval England, as far as I can tell).  It is not, however, a particularly good story if you are interested in plot and lots of character details.

Although the content is certainly interesting, there's not a whole lot that actually happens in this story.  In addition, no reason is presented for the star's legacy, and Alf's motives are completely unknown.  It could be that the whole story is meant to establish the Elves of Faery as the benefactors of men, gifting a fortunate few of them with great skill and creativity.  Not sure.

Anyway, I found it an interesting read.  It's not long, so the lack of plot isn't such a big issue.  If you enjoy reading and have any interest at all in medieval literature and/or Tolkien, you'll probably enjoy this story, such as it is.

Original copyright date: 1967
Length: 59 pages in pictured Del Ray edition
Genre: Fantasy

My rating: 3 stars

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