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Farmer Giles of Ham : The Rise and Wonderful Adventures of Farmer Giles, Lord of Tame, Count of Worminghall, and King of the Little Kingdom Hardcover – November 15, 1999
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Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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And if "Lord of the Rings" is a seven-course meal, "Farmer Giles of Ham" (in the vulgar tongue) is a pleasant little hors-d'oeuvre whose flavour lingers on the tongue. Tolkien wrote this in a charming, arch style, and seems to have had fun subverting some of the fantasy cliches that he helped create -- particularly that of the dragonslaying hero and the dragon he must deal with.
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, sedate 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 drives 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?
"Farmer Giles of Ham" is one of those Tolkien stories that seems to be aimed at very literate kids, or adults who haven't lost that taste for very British, arch whimsy. It's a fast, fun little adventure story with blundering giants, greedy dragons and unlikely heroes.Read more ›
Through all the laughter, JRRT does make some serious points. In his definition of 'blunderbuss' (lifted from the OED, of which he was a compiler) it says that a blunderbuss has been 'superceded in civilized countries by more sophisticated firearms.' JRRT immediately points out that, as Farmer Giles' country had not yet been civilized, the blunderbuss was the only kind of gun around, and was fairly rare at that. This is a dig, of course, at those who would access how 'advanced' a society is by its technology, particularly weaponry. The fashion-conscious knights, the learned parson, and the young dragons who thought (and are now sure) that knights are 'mythical' also provide subtle commentary which children will not get, but adults will.
Another major theme is that of the ordinary man, living a quiet, comfortable life, who is forced into an extraordinary situation in which his eyes are opened to a larger world--some of it beautiful, some of it horrible--beyond the borders of his snug, smug little corner of it, and who finds out that he's a lot braver, and a lot cleverer than anyone (including himself!) thinks he is. This is the central theme of 'The Hobbit', and is told in a slighter form here.Read more ›
...and a mighty fine story, it is. "Farmer Giles of Ham" is a simple delight, short and very sweet. Giles is a charming curmudgeon who just might have it in him to be a little more, and the various supporting characters (including the aforementioned animals, as well as the local miller, parson, and the doom-saying blacksmith)come to brilliant life with short, deft strokes of Tolkien's witty, ingenious pen, while the author's observations of courtly life and what it might do to a King and his knights are brilliant satire. Hardly the least interesting characters are the blundering giant and the not-so-terrible dragon, the last of which is one of the most delightfully memorable of his ilk in literature. No, it's not "Lord of the Rings," and anyone expecting that kind of depth or scale will be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, many of the fairy tale elements from this book are reminiscent of "The Hobbit," though they certainly carry a much lighter spin here. Highly suited for children, but fantasy fans of any age can and will appreciate it. The whole tale is a laugh-outloud-riot, and it's short enough to be consumed in only an hour or so. What, and a magic sword too?!? This one's got it all!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
JRR Tolkien shows that even with the simplest of storylines, he is a master of his craft.Published 3 months ago by Nicholas in Seattle
A beloved tale for my grands. Well read and written by a favorite authorPublished 13 months ago by Barbara L. Porter
Long ago, in the lands of the Little Kingdom, there lived a farmer by the name of Aegidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo – or in the vulgar form, Farmer Giles of Ham. Read morePublished 15 months ago by The Reviewer Formerly Known as Kurt Johnson
Farmer Giles of Ham is a novella written by J.R.R. Tolkien that takes place in England during the time of giants and dragons. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Stuart Dunn
Charming, uplifting, heroic tale, almost believable, and certainly induces one to wish it were all true. Read morePublished on November 16, 2013 by Dr. A.J. Gunning