122 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2001
In this wonderful volume (small and inexpensive enough for frugal hobbits to give away on their birthdays) three short stories and one collection of poems are to be found. The collection of poetry, "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" is drawn from the many poetic examples found in the Red Book of Westmarch and were written or compiled by Bilbo, Frodo, Samwise, and their families. Tom Bombadil is, of course, a well-known figure to those hobbits living in Buckland, and is a figure providing much comic relief. Some of the other poetic examples, however, are darker and more serious in nature. "Leaf by Niggle" is a wonderful short story about a little man (very hobbitlike in his habits) who is a painter whose dream and ambition far exceed the level of his talent. "Farmer Giles of Ham" discusses the adventures of a small farmer living in a town not unlike Bree who gets the best of a devious (but not overbold) dragon. "Smith of Wooten Major" tells the story of how an ordinary man is drawn into the perilous realm of faerie. All in all, this is a book that hobbit fathers would love to share with their children in the evening in front of the fire. I highly recommend this volume.
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
In Tales From the Perilous Realm we have five short stories or novellas by J.R.R. Tolkien, plus his very famous lecture "On Fairy Stories". Only one of the selections has a direct connection with Middle earth: the poems which make up "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil". The other four are "Leaf By Niggle", a short tale with deeply moving theological connotations which originally accompanied the Fairy Stories lecture; "Roverandom", a story written by Tolkien to comfort one of his sons who had lost a toy dog while at the seashore and not published until 25 years after the author died; "Farmer Giles of Ham," a rollicking tale set in early Britain featuring a bumbling farmer, a near sighted giant, and a dragon which was originally published in the late 1940s; "Smith of Wooton Major", a beautiful story published in the 1960s which is usually interpreted as being Tolkien's acknowledgment that his life was coming to a close and his gifts must be returned or passed on to others.
All of these stories have been published before in different formats, and I have loved them all for many years. I purchased Tales From the Perilous Realm in the interests of completing my collection but with some trepidation, because I knew the illustrations would be different. The late Pauline Baynes illustrated Farmer Giles, Smith, and Tom Bombadil, and her vivid interpretations are so marvelous that I dreaded seeing any depictions by any other artist. But as soon as I opened Tales From a Perilous Realm my fears were allayed. Alan Lee's pencil illustrations are enchanting in their own right, allowing the reader to experience the stories anew with additional pleasure and delight. I will always love Pauline Baynes' illustrations, but Alan Lee's efforts evoke Tolkien's worlds just as vividly. This will be a book to be treasured.
65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Tolkien's four greatest short stories (well, three acutally, plus the poetry) together in one volume.
"The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" involves two long poems with Tom as the main character, a number of poems from "The Lord of the Rings" as well as other assorted poetry concerning Middle Earth.
"Farmer Giles of Ham" is an extraordinary tale about a wise farmer who outwits a wicked (but not overbold) dragon. A wonderful story for children -- and full of delightful (and deliberate) anachronisms for the alert adult.
"Leaf by Niggle" is a profound and powerful story about death, life, Purgatory and eternity. It should be read in conjunction with Tolkien's non-fiction essay "On Fairy Stories".
"Smith of Wooten Major", one of the last works by the Master, tells the story of a very ordinary person who is given a very extraordinary gift. (The story also suggests the presence of the sacramental in the act of feasting).
Altogether, a wonderful collection, and one that is sure to delight. Only those far gone in the desubstantialization of the human race could fail to appreciate these stories.
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2009
Is this collection worth purchasing?
Tom Shippey's introduction is, as always, incisive and insightful, packed with quotable phrases and interesting observations placing these shorter pieces within Tolkien's oeuvre. But it is aimed at the new reader of these works - it is a guide to how to read them, not ground-breaking new scholarship.
I am personally not a fan of realism in illustration of Tolkien's works; I find that a more stylized approach better suits the atmosphere of his writing. This is perhaps purely a matter of personal taste, but I can't read the stories included in this collection without a deep longing for the original illustrations by Pauline Baynes - particularly for Farmer Giles, where Tolkien himself said he felt her artwork reduced his text to a commentary on the drawings. To my mind, Lee's pale, washed-out pencil drawings hardly hold a candle to Baynes' ability to convey the humor, enchantment, and melancholy of Tolkien's shorter works.
All of the included works by Tolkien are readily available elsewhere. Roverandom, Farmer Giles, Smith, and On Fairy-stories have recently appeared in excellent stand-alone editions with critical commentary and, when applicable, the original illustrations by Baynes or Tolkien himself. All but Roverandom and Smith are included in The Tolkien Reader, which is still in print, though alas only in paperback; I imagine this collection is meant to replace it in hardback.
If you are a fan of Alan Lee, the answer may be yes, though for most of the tales there are actually only two drawings each. But for the scholar or serious reader of Tolkien, the individual volumes with commentary are a wiser expenditure, and have the advantage of including corrected texts (I did not go through the texts in this volume with a fine-tooth comb, but I did spot at least one punctuation error). Is it a good introduction for the new reader of Tolkien, looking to read something beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? Perhaps; it gathers the most important texts conveniently in one place, but the Baynes illustrations (and Tolkien's own illustrations for Roverandom) add so much to the experience that I would hate to see the first-time reader miss them. I'm afraid Tales from the Perilous Realm won't be on any of my gift-giving lists.
Here are the items I recommend instead for the serious Tolkien reader:
Farmer Giles of Ham : The Rise and Wonderful Adventures of Farmer Giles, Lord of Tame, Count of Worminghall, and King of the Little Kingdom
Tolkien on Fairy-Stories
Smith of Wootton Major
The Tolkien Reader
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
There is a passage in one of the stories collected here that accurately sums up the content of the book itself. In "Leaf By Niggle," Tolkien describes a painting that the artist Niggle has been working on: "It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots...Niggle lost interest in his other pictures; or else he took them and tacked them on to the edges of his great picture. Soon the canvas became so large that he had to get a ladder, and he ran up and down it, putting in a touch here, and rubbing out a patch there."
If the great tree on the canvas is Tolkien's master-work, The Lord of the Rings, then the other little pictures that are "tacked on" to the edges of the bigger one are the stories that are contained within "Tales from the Perilous Realms." Although they are written in the same style and often contain the same themes as the famous trilogy, they are not directly related to Middle-Earth itself. Instead they are self-contained short stories that shed further light on Tolkien's ideas concerning the importance of fairytales, or more specifically, his love of Faerie (not the species, but the place) as a setting for adventures.
Contained here are four short stories, a collection of poems and an essay that explore Tolkien's work outside "The Lord of the Rings," supplemented by illustrations by Alan Lee. Although older editions of the stories were illustrated by Pauline Baynes (better known as the illustrator for C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia), Lee's art is not just an acceptable exchange, but somehow even more fitting. Thanks to his work on Peter Jackson's film adaptations of Tolkien's work, Alan Lee (along with John Howe) has come to be affiliated with Tolkien's work in the same way that we link Quentin Blake with Roald Dahl and John Tenniel with Lewis Carroll, and his beautiful pencil sketches (or watercolours, depending on what version you get) manage to capture the text's blend of whimsy and realism.
The story of "Roverandom" was born out of Tolkien's desire to comfort one of his sons after the boy's favourite toy dog went missing on a holiday to the seashore. Tolkien speculates that the toy was not a toy at all, but rather a real dog that had been transformed by a grumpy wizard, and who was now attempting to find his way home again. Journeying from the moon to the depths of the ocean, and meeting a host of magical creatures on the way, Roverandom's various adventures contain aspects of the ancient mythology that Tolkien admired so much. As the introduction by Tom Shippey points out, the dragons, serpents and wizards in the story all have their counterparts in later works; it is all "connected with the bigger picture."
"Farmer Giles of Ham" is distinctive due to its narrative voice, in which an imaginary editor translates an imaginary narrator, wherein the editor is more interested in the tale's scholarly value on historical place names. With a rather disdainful tone of voice, the editor is ultimately undermined by the spirit of the story itself, which pits a hapless farmer against a wily dragon, entirely against his will. Sound vaguely familiar? Clearer than in any other story we can glimpse Tolkien's love of hearth and home, and the supremacy of simple pleasures and old traditions.
Midway through the book is a segment titled "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil," named after one of sixteen poems included here, some of which were included in "The Lord of the Rings" and only two of which involve Tom Bombadil himself. As most readers already know, Tom Bombadil appears within the trilogy as one of its most mysterious characters, most widely regarded as a sort of embodiment of the English countryside; someone who is immensely powerful, but not interested in exerting that power. Tolkien's powers of creating mood and melancholy are at work here, particularly with the poignant "The Last Ship," which involves the passing of the Elves from Middle Earth.
Tolkien presents these poems as the "marginalia" of writing that was found in the Red Book of Westmarch, which most will recall as the book authored by Bilbo, Frodo and Sam at the conclusion of the trilogy, and from which Tolkien himself purported to gather his information on the War of the Ring. It is a clever way of including several of his early poems (many of which were composed before his great trilogy was properly conceived) into the framework of his greater story, and Tolkien even includes a foreword that speculates on which of his characters wrote which poems. This means he has to retcon a couple of details, as when he blames the fake Elvish names in the poem "Errantry" (which was written thirty years prior to the trilogy) as Bilbo's poor grasp of the Elvish language, but also provides intriguing details such as speculation that "The Sea Bell" was written not by, but in memory of Frodo, regarding to his disturbing illness after returned to the Shire. Needless to say, it all adds to the rich tapestry of "The Lord of the Rings."
"Smith of Wootton Major" is my favourite story in this collection. Despite its humdrum name, the tale is one of the deep enchantment that comes with passage between this world and "the Perilous Realms," after a lowly smith swallows a star concealed in a celebratory cake. Endowed with the ability to traverse the Faerie world, the story tells of his experiences there, until the time comes for him to pass the gift onto another. Sad and sweet, the story contains themes that permeate Tolkien's other work, such as the diminishing powers of the Elves due to people willingly reducing them to pretty little dolls, stripped of all their potency. Yet, as the Elf Queen says: "Better a doll, maybe, than no memory of Faery at all."
As mentioned above, "Leaf by Niggle" can be interpreted as a metaphor for the creation of "Rings", with Tolkien as the artist Niggle, a man who is desperate to get his life's work finished. Shippey describes it as an "otherworldly Divine Comedy", in which Niggle is constantly interrupted, first by his own habits, and then by outside forces, finally enduring a sort of Purgatory, before advancing on into the world beyond the frame of his his own work. Although all the stories so far can easily be read to and by children, this is one that may very well leave them baffled. However, this shouldn't stop anyone from actually reading it to them anyway, though it may take a few reads by adults as well in order to derive the full meaning of Niggle's mysterious journey. Having apparently coming to Tolkien in a dream, this story is one that transcends both our world *and* fantasy realms, taking us past death and into the (possible) afterlife.
Finally, the collection is capped off with Tolkien's famous "On Fairy-Stories" lecture, which essentially contains much of the ideology behind "The Lord of the Rings," and the blueprint for its themes and plotting. Here is where Tolkien coined terms such as the "eucatastrophe," and "sub-creations" and argues the full importance of fairytales in the world: "we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very heart web of story, and lets a gleam come through."
"Tales from the Perilous Realm" will most likely appeal most to Tolkien enthusiasts, particularly in its inclusion of the poems, but anyone with a passing interest in fairytales will most likely appreciate and enjoy this collection. Inevitably there are glimpses and echoes of "The Lord of the Rings," which add depth to Tolkien's later work whether it is read before or after this anthology. If you squint, the star in "Smith of Wootton Major" is almost like a benevolent Ring, which grants insight and a certain degree of power; whilst "Farmer Giles of Ham" has the warmth and familiarity of the Shire in its portrayal of the English countryside. And when Roverandom gets a glimpse of the Western Isles of the edge of the world, I felt a little shiver, knowing that in another time and place, Frodo would be glimpsing them too.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2012
I purchased this book, not just for the enjoyment of reading Tolkien's shorter works such as Smith of Wooton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham, but also because I had wanted to see the illustrations by Alan Lee on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 tablet. Lee has a real connection to Middle-Earth in the artwork he created for such works as the Silmarillion. Unfortunately, the Kindle editon of this work has none of his artwork included in it, despite the cover specifically used to market this edition featuring the words "With Illustrations by Alan Lee". I was deeply disappointed to find this level of deceptive marketing in use by both the publisher and Amazon.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a delightful little audio collection of some of Tolkien's short works, presented quite well by a full-cast dramatization. I liked the different voices and sound effects. There are times during the audio that I found the background music to be shrill to the point of drowning out the dialogue; I had to continuously adjust the volume of my car stereo to compensate for the differences between music and voices. However, these remain charming little stories in a creative presentation.
I especially enjoyed "Smith of Wootton Major." This is an engaging little tale of fantasy, faith, creativity, and simple goodness. I thought that the dramatization here was quite effective, and I could easily listen to this story alone over and over. It was also a treat to listen to "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" - I think any Tolkein fan will be happy to have additional doses of Bombadil, and this collection doesn't disappoint.
"Farmer Giles of Ham" is a sweet, humorous little story that reminds me of so many of the fairy tales I read as a child.
For me, the weakest entry here is "Leaf by Niggle." I actually nearly skipped over this story because I found the narrative to be so tedious. I get the message of the piece, but I think a little less being hit over the head by the message would have been more effective.
Although I like this audio version, I think being able to hold these stories and see illustrations would probably be a better way to absorb them. I missed out on some of the magic by listening rather than being able to use my own imagination during the tales. Still, this BBC Radio production is quite good, and I think that younger readers who can sit still for a short story reading would get a kick out of these little snippets of fantasy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Except in very broad terms, I am not going to comment on the plot lines of the stories themselves.
I rank the following areas:
Stories ............... 4.5 stars
Audio ................. 5 stars
Voice Acting ........ 5 stars
THE STORIES: They were written by Tolkien after all; that alone probably starts them off with a one-star advantage. Additionally, there are talking dogs, and fairies, and magical things, and hobbits - a smorgasbord of fantasy. My favourite was Smith of Wootten Major (so called because it was larger than Wootten Minor). I thought that acting and story came together best in this story. That said each of the stories was worth the listen.
The AUDIO was clear and the actors enunciated well. There was only one spot in which I had to replay for one word that I did not catch. On the second play, I understood it clearly so the error could have been my own moment of inattention.
The really lovely part though was that in usual fine BBC fashion, the VOICE ACTING was excellent! Each story was brought to fascinating life; and in a manner that makes it clear why in times past families gathered as a unit around the radio to listen to serials.
The actors managed to capture the nuances of each of the stories; the dog especially in the very first story grabbed my attention. I also confess that after a while his 'dog voice' began to grate on my ears. So much so that I considered giving 4 stars because of that. I decided however that there was nothing in the other stories to cause the deduction of an entire star and many things to recommend 5 stars. So here we are.
The peripherals - the slam of a door, crunch of footsteps - all added to the experience.
I predict that the CDs will be played over and over again in any home in which they reside.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2010
After reading Lord of the Rings many times over, and wearing out more than one copy of The Hobbit (with help from my boys, now), one can only wish that our old friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, had written more. (I long since tried the Silmarilion, but it seemed to be made for another race of readers.) How pleasant, then, to happen upon this book in the library.
Roverandom is a dreamy story about a dog who goes to the moon and under the sea. Told originally to Tolkien's children, I felt it was softer, less polished, in fact very nice to read to a child who likes dogs. (But I repeat myself.)
Farmer Giles of Ham was for me a delightful story. The cowardly, boastful talking dog is alone almost worth the price of the book . . . I found myself reading part of that story to my boys, though they are well past th age of being read to, or have not yet reached it again. Funny and delightful, including Tolkien's faux-scholarly introduction.
I didn't read Tom Bombadil; sorry, I had enough of him in the Fellowship of the Ring. I did read the intro, which was mildly amusing, more false scholarship of the kind that Tolkien and Lewis and friends liked to engage in in their letters.
Smith of Wooton Major is again quite good, about an obscure fellow who likes to go to Fairyland, and his adventures in the "real world." If this really is autobiographical, that makes it especially touching; one almost wants to read allegory in at points, but refuse, in respect for Tolkien's feelings about the matter.
Leaf by Niggle touched me. Tolkien expresses what life is about, how little of what we dream of comes true, what is real and what seems real, and the hope he had that more would come of our paltry works than we now dream. It reminds one of Thomas Aquinas' statement that his great work was only so much straw; and yet, knowing how Tolkien loved trees, it is a more positive statement than that.
On Fairy-stories is much the most difficult read in the book, but well worth reading. Here is a great story-teller and scholar's philosophy of imagination. He interacts with other great story-tellers, like Lang, Grimm, Chesterton (a major influence, I think) and Shakespeare (he had his criticisms!), and offers a fascinating theory of fantasy, "sub-creation," and the work of God in this world. This essay is ultimately a theology or Christian map of reality as well as a theory of fairy tales. Having written a couple books on how the Gospel fulfills truths in other cultures, I find his thoughts deeply significant for themselves, as well as for their influence on C. S. Lewis.
You don't have to read each of these pieces, of course; but it's so good to hear from this old friend, again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2008
Having never been a big fan of Tolkien's works, as I generally view them as wordy and dry at times, I was surprised at these tales. The Tom Bombadil poems were my least favorite in the collection, partially because I never cared much for the character. While not poor, these are the weakest of the four in this collection.
"Leaf by Niggle" was the best of the bunch with its a allegorical tale about life and death and what follows.
"Farmer Giles of Ham" was the second best of the bunch, the story of a farmer who is given a powerful dragon sword, named Caudimordax, for scaring away a giant. A dragon named Chrysophylax shows up and Giles is expected to handle the situation.
"Smith of Wootton Major" tells of a boy who is allowed to exit the real world to view the faerie world.
The voices and sound effects in the CD set are very good, which is typical of many BBC Radio productions.