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Smith of Wootton Major by J. R. R. Tolkien
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Smith of Wootton Major (original 1967; edition 1967)

by J. R. R. Tolkien

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6081216,187 (3.78)15
Member:eggwood
Title:Smith of Wootton Major
Authors:J. R. R. Tolkien
Info:Houghton Mifflin (1967), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fantasy, ilustration

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Smith of Wootton Major by J. R. R. Tolkien (1967)

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English (11)  Italian (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The story itself is only about 57 pages long in the edition I borrowed from the library so is a very quick read. It contains medieval style illustrations by Pauline Baynes. This is the first story by Tolkien that I have managed to read; I have tried to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy many times in the past, and have not been able to get into it, but this style seemed completely different to me.

There aren't that many characters in this short story, the main ones being Smith, Nokes and Alf. As the story is extremely short, there isn't a lot of character development but I think due to the fairytale style of the book, and the fact that it is such a quick read, this doesn't deduct from the plot at all. Most of the characters and very caricatured; Nokes is the typical disbelieving grumpy old man, Alf the mysterious outsider and Smith is the typical curious protagonist. I think that this adds to the fairytale style and also makes the story a lot easier to read.

This story follows a few of the archetypal features of a traditional fairytale; with the magical object, the ordinary hero, the mysterious stranger and a strange other-world. I think that as this is such a short story, the level of description of Faery wasn't very extensive which left a lot of the details to the reader's imagination.

The plot wasn't very complex at all but this is sometimes vital to such a short story as it lets the reader become interested in the story without needing too much introduction or background. I really like how Tolkien established things like the Great Cake as a tradition in this fictional world in such a way that made the whole thing very believable.

Overall, like I said at the beginning of this review, I found the writing style in this short story a lot easier to read and understand than the writing in some of Tolkien's other publications. The sentence structures were very varied in the most part but a lot of the time the pacing was quite quick, meaning that although the story was pushed along at a comfortable pace, the plot lacked descriptive language and background to the characters.

Overall, I would give this a 4 out of 5 as I found the story interesting and the writing style enjoyable to read, but I found myself wishing that there was just more to it; more descriptive language, more establishment of the traditions and the environment. ( )
  charlottejones952 | Sep 2, 2013 |
Smith of Wootton Major is a fairytale, by Tolkien's own definition. The fairies are not small and precious, but real and potentially dangerous, and so is their land. It's a rather quiet story, I think -- there are no great dangers, no dragons to be fought or Dark Lords to be overthrown, though you might see echoes of that story here. The precious star was, in earlier drafts, a ring, after all.

In any case, it's a thoughtful little story. I almost said sweet, but I think that would be reducing it to something like the decoration on the cake which insults the fairy queen.

This extended edition casts light on Tolkien's thought process, during all stages of his creative process with it. It includes much of the backstory and explanations which support the story, which he had to know whether the readers did or not. It also contains some early drafts, both reproduced and transcribed. It's interesting, particularly if you're interested in Tolkien's creative process. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
I loved this little story, this fairy-tale. When I was a small child, I loved fairy tales, legends, sagas. After reading a lot of them and growing up, I do not like fairy tales as much as I used to. But this one was new to me. A very original little story that I read with great pleasure. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
This slender novella was one of Tolkien's last works that he saw published during his lifetime. It is a cross-generational fable about creativity, fortune, and loss. It is very effective when read aloud; I had the pleasure of having it read to me by my Other Reader over the course of three sittings.

Smith is unoriginal in the best possible way for a modern fairy-tale. I was reminded strongly of Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, but some of the episodes in Faery in the middle of the book exhibit the sort of psychedelic reverie that I associate more with the work of George MacDonald. Sure enough, the wikipedia article on Smith of Wootton Major gives Tolkien's story its origin in an attempt at a preface to MacDonald's "The Golden Key." Tracing the line of influence the other direction, I believe that Susanna Clarke must have read this book.

The Pauline Baynes illustrations are lovely, and really capture the spirit of the thing.
9 vote paradoxosalpha | Mar 13, 2013 |
Charming. Over used word and really not appropriate here – but on the surface charming.
Actually the story is a dream. A sleep walk with bright moments of wonder. The smith was a quiet, young boy, whom no one turned to view. He did not stop people on the street but he received the star from Faery.
His adventures were perilous but not extreme. His life saved by a birch and nothing he could do to repay.
That’s often how life is – we wander along and perish if no one lends a hand but often times out of nowhere help arrives.
The story was a dream, with language soft and open – at times a whisper and at times a soft laugh.
It was a wonderful story with an ending that continues. So nice to see the star move in the land no Faery. ( )
  skwoodiwis | Aug 13, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. R. R. Tolkienprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baynes, PaulineIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flieger, VerlynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gammarelli, LorenzoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hallqvist, Britt G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murro, IsabellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was a village once, not very long ago for those with long memories, not very far away for those with long legs.
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A new, expanded edition of one of Tolkien's major pieces of short fiction, and his only finished work dating from after publication of 'The Lord of the Rings', this title contains many previously unpublished texts.

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