Fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien is known best for the thrilling epic "The Lord of the Rings" and the works that accompany it. But "Poems and Stories" encompasses several shorter, less-well-known works, while giving a more rounded view of Tolkien's unique brand of genius.
"The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" is a charming collection of poems, mostly linked to Middle-Earth. They range from dark to whimsical, with trolls, dragons, elves, and "shadow-brides." The poem "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth" dips into medieval dramas, followed by Tolkien's thoughtful, fantasy-based ponderings "On Fairy-Tales," a long essay on the nature of good fantasy.
Then Tolkien's short novels come into play. "Leaf By Niggle" is an odd, pleasant little story about an artist named Niggle, who has to make a journey; "Smith of Wootten Major" is a beautiful little tale about a lost fairy king and a young smith who ate a fay star. Finally there's "Farmer Giles of Ham," a tongue-in-cheek comic tale about a bumbling farmer who, because of a deaf, nearsighted giant, inadvertantly becomes a hero.
There's no flagging of quality in "Poems and Stories" -- all of the material Tolkien wrote that is included here is top-notch, whether comic, dramatic or poetic. Some readers may be put off by the classically-written "Homecoming of Beorhtnoth," but it is still an excellent piece of work. He can argue forcefully, charm with sweet poetry, or tell an amusing story about bumbling heroes and not-so-fierce dragons.
Tolkien's exceptional writing is put on display in "Poems and Stories," a beautiful collection full of the Master of Middle-Earth's art. Highly Recommended.