The Tolkien Reader Mass Market Paperback – 1 Feb 1989
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From the Inside Flap
An invitation to Tolkien's world. This rich treasury includes Tolkien's most beloved short fiction plus his essay on fantasy.
FARMER GILES OF HAM. An imaginative history of the distant and marvelous past that introduces the rather unheroic Farmer Giles, whose efforts to capture a somewhat untrustworthy dragon will delight readers everywhere.
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL. A collection of verse in praise of Tom Bombadil, that staunch friend of the Hobbits in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
ON FAIRY-STORIES. Professor Tolkien's now-famous essy on the form of the fairy story and the treatment of fantasy.
About the Author
J.R.R. TOLKIEN(1892 1973) is the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic and extraordinary works of fiction as "The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, "and "The Silmarillion". His books have been translated into more than fifty languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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1. "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son": a play dealing with two men after the Battle of Maldon. Interesting, and shows more of the scholarly side of Tolkien.
2. TREE AND LEAF: This is a book consisting of two things: his essay on faerie tales, and Leaf By Niggle. Tolkien's essay is now considered one of the main centerpieces of literature defending and validating fantasy and faerie tale (as if THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT weren't enough). Leaf By Niggle is a very deep work, and basically it deals with his despair of mortality and not being able to finish his mythology, his great work. However, in the end Tolkien shows his glorious hope.
3. FARMER GILES OF HAM: a mock medieval story. Everything that THE LORD OF THE RINGS represents, this story pokes fun at and parodies. Very funny story, and shows Tolkien's sense of humour. This was written originally for his children (as much of his stuff was).
4. THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL: This is a very misleading title. It is a collection of poetry, and only the first two poems have anything to do with Bombadil. The rest of the poetry deals with Middle-earth, or set therein. It is a nice selection of his verse.
Overall, a well put together anthology. However, it would have been better had it included SMITH OF WOOTTON MAJOR. That, along with the two works constituting TREE AND LEAF, is the closest thing to autobiography he ever wrote, and all three are vitally important in any serious study of Tolkien
The 1986 edition in front of me was illustrated by Pauline Baynes. My understanding is that her work with Tolkien on "Farmer Giles of Ham" led him to recommend her to C.S. Lewis; the style of the pictures for that story resembles those she later created for "The Magician's Book" in Lewis' THE VOYAGES OF THE DAWN TREADER.
"The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son" is part analysis of an epic poem, and part play based on the poem. I find this hardest to get into of all the pieces in the book.
"On Fairy Stories" A serious essay, starting with prettified Victorian fairy tales and tracing them back to their origins in more serious stories of Faerie and its inhabitants. Personally I would have paired this up with SMITH OF WOOTTON MAJOR rather than "Leaf by Niggle" in terms of subject matter.
"Leaf by Niggle" I acquired the book solely for this story; everything else was icing on the cake. Niggle, although he knows that he will someday have to go on a long journey with no return, finds the idea distasteful and avoids preparing for it; instead, he prefers to spend all the time he can painting, being 'the sort of painter who can paint leaves better than trees'. But when the time for his journey finds him completely unprepared, it turns out that neither his time working on leaves nor helping his disagreeable neighbour Parish has been wasted.Read more ›
Most importantly, however, is that it contains his rather hard to find essay entitled
"On Fairy Stories" and its demonstration : "Leaf and Niggle." To appreciate more Tolkien's
other works (LOTR, etc.) I must recommed reading his essay. Eucatastrophe and all that jazz!