Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham

I couldn’t help myself when I came to the Tolkien section at the bookstore recently and found a small paperback with two short fantasies I’d never read. I picked it up thinking of adding it to my reads for Carl’s Once Upon a Time II challenge, and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed both stories, and realized once again how much I love the work of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Smith of Wootton Major was the first novella, and most definitely my favorite of the two. Every 24 years, 24 children in the town of Wootton Major are invited to the Festival of Good Children. A great cake filled with trinkets and prizes is baked and is the highlight of the festival. As the story begins, there is a new Master Cook, a vain, arrogant, lazy and unqualified man, so it is his apprentice who actually bakes the cake. He is not just an apprentice, though, he is actually from the world of Faerie, and one of the trinkets he puts into the cake is a magic star (a fay star) that will grant access to the world of Faerie to whomever finds it. The blacksmith’s son swallowed it unknowingly as he ate his piece of cake, but it didn’t make itself known until the day of his tenth birthday. From that time on, Smith was able to travel into Faerie, where he was called Starbrow, and had many adventures there. But after 24 years, it is time to pass the star on to another generation …

As with all of Tolkien’s works, the story alone is wonderful, but it is also rich in meaning and background. I loved the idea of this star being a gift of fantasy, and a gift that enables the bearer to see the world differently than those around him as well as giving him access to the wonders of Faerie. I also love the idea of having to pass it on to a new generation, so that there is always one person in Wootton Major with that special vision and that ongoing connection to the other world.


The second novella was Farmer Giles of Ham, a humorous story of an unlikely hero and a bothersome dragon. It was entertaining and fun, and definitely a Tolkien tale.

“As you like,” said Chrysophylax, licking his lips again, but pretending to close his eyes. He had a wicked heart (as all dragons have), but not a very bold one (as is not unusual). He preferred a meal that he did not have to fight for; but appetite had returned after a good long sleep. The parson of Oakley had been stringy, and it was years since he had tasted a large fat man. He now made up his mind to try this easy meat, and he was only waiting until the old fool was off his guard.

But the old fool was not as foolish as he looked …

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7 thoughts on “Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham

  1. Nymeth

    I love that picture of him. He looks so friendly and hobbit-like.

    I haven’t read those two stories, but they sound lovely. I’m glad you enjoyed them πŸ™‚

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  2. Bookfool

    I agree with Nymeth — that’s a lovely photo. I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’ve yet to read any Tolkien (although I have a book of his art). But, I’ll get to him, one day!

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  3. Rhinoa

    I read Tales from the Perilous Realm for this challenge which had these two plus poetry in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Leaf By Niggle. I also read Roverandom this year which was my favourite of his short children’s stories. If you loved these two I definitely recommend the other three.

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  4. heather (errantdreams)

    Heee! I do so love Tolkein’s tales, even though I think I haven’t read any of it since…. eighth grade maybe? That was when I finished the Silmarillion, if I recall.

    Speaking of beloved authors, I hope you’ll consider joining in the errant dreams author meme. πŸ™‚

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  5. Robin

    Nymeth, I love that photo of him, too…except that I thought he was quite Gandalf-like!

    Bookfool…just think of how much you have to look forward to reading! I remember that the first time I read The Lord of the Rings was one delightful summer when I could just read and read. That’s the best…

    Rhinoa, thanks for the recommendations. I loved the character of Tom Bombadil in the LOTR, but didn’t know there was a book of his adventures. I’ll have to see if the library has Tales from the Perilous Room and read those two.

    Heather, I’ve never read The Simarillion, but have it on my shelf! Thanks for tagging me for the meme. It’s a nice one, so I’m in the middle of writing my responses and will post them soon.

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  6. heather (errantdreams)

    A funny story about reading the Silmarillion: when I was in ‘junior high’ (7th and 8th grades), we moved from classroom to classroom as a class to be taught different subjects by different teachers. They had us move in a counter-clockwise circular direction between classes, going from room to room, rather than going straight to the destination room via the hallway. So if there was a class that didn’t move from room to room between two classes, you’d walk through their classroom on the way to your own next class.

    One time in seventh grade I was completely engrossed in reading the Silmarillion while walking from one class to another. We passed through a room in which a class was staying, but my assigned seat for that room, which happened to be in the front row in a spot we passed right by, was open. Without even thinking I sat down—I was so deep into the book that I didn’t even realize that room wasn’t my destination.

    At the time it was very embarrassing, but it’s pretty funny now. πŸ™‚

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