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.
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