4 Mar 2016



This book brings together Tolkien's essay, On Fairy-Stories, his early short story, Leaf by Niggle, a folk tale, Smith Of Wootton Major, and his dramatic poem The Homecoming Of Beorthnoth Beorthelm's Son.

SOURCE: Off our shelves, this book belongs to Mr T.

MY THOUGHTS: A book with four elements to it. Beginning with an essay on fairy stories, before moving onto Tree and Leaf, then, Smith of Wootton Major and, finally, The Homecoming Of Beorthnoth.

I have to say I had difficulty in rating this book as a whole as for me, as I'm sure it will be for many others, there were aspects  that I enjoyed more than others.

Perhaps more for those wishing to study the works of Tolkien, for those wishing to understand his views on the use of imagination in literature - after all in his Introductory Note he advises whilst 'they ('On Fairy-Stories' and 'Tree and Leaf') may still be found interesting, especially by those to whom The Lord of the Rings has given pleasure'. For myself personally whilst, yes, not altogether uninteresting, ultimately I found the essay On Fairy-Stories too dry.

Written in the same period (1938/9) and much more to my liking is the short story, Tree and Leaf. Also known as Leaf by Niggle - Niggle being an artist who, living in a society that holds art in scant regard, begins a painting of a huge tree starting with one single leaf - I believe this might be an allegory of Tolkien's life ... unless of course I'm reading into something that isn't really there which is quite possible given that I think this is one of those stories that can be read on so many different levels.

A magical little read despite its lack of what I think of as traditional fairy tale rhetoric. I was surprised to discover that Smith of Wootton Major was by far my favourite aspect of the book. 

Charming and yet really quite dark and profound. A fable that like Tree and Leaf I feel can be read on more than one level. I adored the fairies of Faery. Relished the 'Feast of Good Children', a festival that, only held every twenty four years, sees the baking of the 'Great Cake'. 

What I can only describe as a poem come short play written as a dialogue between two characters. Feeling as I do that verse is better read to you rather than by you, it's hardly surprising that The Homecoming Of Beorhtnoth was my least favourite aspect of the book.

Read for the following challenges: 

  • 'What's In A Name? 2016': 'A Book With The Word Tree In The Title' category
  • '2016 Reading Challenge': 'A Book Published Before You Were Born' category. Whilst this edition was published in 1975, Tree and Leaf was first published in 1964 making this perfect for this category of the challenge.


Gina R said...

Curious read indeed though I'm afraid not one I'll be seeking despite my affection for THE HOBBIT. Thanks for the share!

Sherry Ellis said...

I didn't even know about this book. Maybe someday I'll give it a read.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Always a mix of good and not so great with anthologies (essays), but you did find some good ones in there. I usually like those on occasion and I might have to try it.

Suko said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book, Tracy! It sounds as if you enjoyed some of this book a great deal.

Enjoy your weekend!

Melliane said...

I'm not sure it's for me but it's intriguing

ClaudineGueh@CarryUsOffBooks said...

I didn't even know about this book. Good thing you featured it, Tracy. I probably won't pick it up just yet. Still waiting to read LOTR first.

Neal Terry said...

Lots to learn about professor Tolkien !!! http://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/biography/

Kelly said...

This is one I probably wouldn't pick up, even though I might enjoy the Tree and Leaf short story. I was one of those who didn't like The Hobbit (I read it as a teen) therefore never attempted the LOTR trilogy. (though I watched and enjoyed the movies) I much preferred the writing of his crony, C.S. Lewis.

Brian Joseph said...

I would like to read these works. They all sound like they would be interesting to me.

In regards to On Fairy-Stories, I tend to be OK with stuff like this even if it is a little dry.

Nikki-ann said...

I've not read any of Tolkien's books, but I've recently got into the films. I've watched the 3 Hobbit films and the first Lord of the Rings film. I was surprised to find the Hobbit book is only 300 and something pages, yet they managed to make 3 long films out of it!

Neal Terry said...

There's a lot in the film Nikki-Ann that is not in the book. Some elements of the film are taken from other points in Middle-earth history and some that are implied or referred to but not written about and some that are entirely the vision of the script-writers.

Charlie (The Worm Hole) said...

Fascinating; I've never heard of this and whilst I wasn't keen on the LOTR I read (the first) this sounds a good option. An insightful review, Tracy! The fairytale essay might have been dry but it was good to read your thoughts, those of the others, too.

Literary Feline said...

This sounds very interesting. I loved Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, but I haven't been all that interested in exploring his other work nearly as much. I don't know if I will read this one, but you never know.