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Farmer Giles of Ham [Paperback]

J. R. R. Tolkien
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: George Allen & Unwin (1984)
  • ASIN: B000SH86G0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

More About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on 3rd January 1892. After serving in the First World War, he became best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, selling 150 million copies in more than 40 languages worldwide. Awarded the CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University, he died in 1973 at the age of 81.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A miniature gem 1 July 2000
How a simple but cunning farmer got to be king of his world is told by Tolkien in classically simple style. This is a great stoty for telling to children, but, as always in the best childrens' tales, there are plenty of subtle jokes and sly digs to amuse the teller. Tolkien is, of course, one of the great experts in Dark Ages history and tales and his wide knowledge is reflected in the setting and background to the story. The characterisation is simple yet true to life and the plot twists in delightful ways. If you like historical novels, you will also enjoy the detail and the 'in jokes' in this short tale. Full of amusement yet so authentic in its feel, 'Farmer Giles of Ham' almost makes me wish that this story WAS dug up from among musty manuscripts in a forgotten archive to confound some dull scholar! I read it first in the original edition, again to my children some 15 years ago, to their great delight, and yet again recently; it remains as fresh as the first time. By the way, have you tried "Leaf by Niggle"? This is another little Tolkien beauty!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - with hidden depths 9 Dec 2001
By A Customer
I first read this book 32 years ago. Now I am buying it as a present for a teenager.
It was a delightful read the first time, full of gentle humour. However, I frequently re-read it, often finding something new. Having developed a passion for classical history, I discovered many lingustic and historical jokes, puns and allusions hidden in the text. For example, "Sunny Sam" the Blacksmith's true (Latin) name is Fabricius Cunctator - "Fabricius the delayer", a clear pun on the name of the famous Roman general Fabius Cunctator, who got his cognomen by delaying battle with Hannibal. There are many more absolute gems like this. If you don't recognise them it's still a charming story, but if you do, it enriches the experience even more and is potentially very educational. This book is a joy!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Rich Guardian of Gold 17 Mar 2008
By Craobh Rua VINE VOICE
"Farmer Giles of Ham" was written by JRR Tolkien in 1937, and was first published in 1949. It's set in Ham, a small village in England - sometime after the arrival of the Romans, but before Arthur's time. The book was originally illustrated by Pauline Baynes, who also illustrated CS Lewis' Narnia books.

Giles in married to Agatha, has a dog called Garm and is fond of his ale. Nothing of note had happened in Ham for a long time, something that Giles was perfectly happy about - neither Giles, nor his dog had ever given any thought to life beyond their borders.

Unfortunately , there is a troublesome giant living nearby. He doesn't appear to be a deliberately malicious sort - but he is larger and ruder than most of his fellow giants, as well as being short-sighted and deaf. Unsurprisingly, he manages to cause a lot of - quite possibly inadvertent - damage when he goes out for a walk. One day, he gets lost when he goes out for a walk and finds himself in Ham - a trip that sees him accidentally squashing Giles' favourite cow, Galathea. The giant is first spotted by Garm, who naturally runs off to tell his master all about it. (Although somewhat lacking in courage, Garm can apparently talk). Giles luckily has a blunderbuss, a top-of-the-range weapon for the time - he loads it up and manages to shoot the giant in the face. It doesn't do the thick-skinned giant any great damage, but - thinking he's stumbled across an unhealthy area and that he's been stung by a nasty dragonfly - turns around and leaves.

Giles as a result becomes a bit of a celebrity and - when the King hears of it - he receives a regal letter, a belt and what turns out to be a very famous sword called Tailbiter. Initially, Giles enjoys his fame - though it later comes to rue it a little.
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5.0 out of 5 stars In the vulgar tongue 28 Feb 2006
"Farmer Giles of Ham" (in the vulgar tongue) is an entertaining little tale, maybe the first real comic fantasy novel (actually, more like novella). It's certainly not on par with his tales of hobbits and elves, but it's still cute, funny and very well-written.
Aegidius de Hammo (or in the "vulgar tongue," as Tolkien archly tells us, Farmer Giles of Ham) is a pleasant, not-too-bright farmer (a bit like Barliman Butterbur) who leads a fairly happy life. Until the day his excitable dog Garm warns him that a giant (deaf and very near-sighted) is stomping through and causing mayhem. Giles takes out his blunderbuss and takes a shot at the giant, and inadverantly drive him off.
Naturally, Giles is hailed as a hero. Even the King is impressed, and sends him the sword Caudimordax (vulgar name: Tailbiter), which belonged to a dragonslaying hero. By chance, the not-so-fierce dragon Chrysophylax Dives has started pillaging, destroying and attacking the nearby areas. Can a not-so-heroic farmer drive off a not-so-frightening dragon?
It's a fast, fun little adventure story with blundering giants, greedy dragons and unlikely heroes (the last one is what Tolkien always does best). It's not epic and it's not deep, but it is entertaining, especially for people who enjoy comic fantasies. You'll like this if you enjoyed the cuter moments of "The Hobbit" and stories like "Roverandum."
Tolkien's writing always seems to be winking at the reader. There are a lot of in-jokes for people who know Latin (the "vulgar tongue" comments) and a lot of cute moments, like the young dragons exclaiming that they always knew "knights were mythical!" And the illustrations resemble old tapestries and paintings, but they usually have a funny sort of twist to them.
"Farmer Giles" is not the deepest or most riveting of Tolkien's works, but it's a straightforward, cute little adventure that kids, adults, fans and non-fans of Tolkien will enjoy.
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