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5.0 out of 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 stars

on 22 October 2006
These two unabridged stories, written by J R R Tolkien and read by Derek Jackobi are:

Smith of Wootton Major

Tells of the folk of a traditional old rural village who have some contact with the folk of Faerie. One of the village children is secretly passed a gift which has some magical effects on him and allows him to enter and explore the 'perilous realm'. He travels there at will over the course of his life, has many adventures, meets Faerie royalty and learns wisdom of the fair folk, until (now a venerable old fellow) he has to hand his 'passport' on to the next child. He's reluctant to relinquish his gift but finally does so without making a fuss and receives praise and respect for doing so and is allowed a say in who the next child should be to receive the magical object.

Leaf by Niggle

Is a strange little tale, which tells of a painter who wants only to paint a fabulous tree in peace, but is constantly interrupted by neighbours and other people wanting him to do other things. His precious painting is used by 'the authorities' to patch his neighbour's roof and he is sent away on a journey that he's been dreading. He seems to live in some sort of totalitarian society where people have, by law, to help their neighbours. Niggle is incarcerated in a place that he takes to be a hospital, to mend his selfish ways. There, after a long long time, he eavesdrops on a conversation in which his faults are being discussed by, what seem to be, a couple of bureaucrats of the after-life. They finally decide that he's been sufficiently rehabilitated to progress to the next stage of his 'journey' and he takes a train to a place where his marvellous painting has become a reality.

I read both of these stories many years ago when I was a child. I don't think I properly appreciated them then and I certainly didn't remember them very well. Perhaps it's Derek Jacobi's excellent reading that adds an extra touch of magic to them, but whatever the reason, I enjoyed them more than I remember doing first time round. So I recommend them for children of course, but I especially recommend them to those adults who appreciate a bit of fantasy. And if you haven't ever tried listening to an audiobook before, it's a luxury that you shouldn't deny yourself any longer - this is a good place to start.
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