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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
What is your favorite non-legendarium book by Tolkien?


Mar 19 2007, 2:32am

Post #1 of 19 (454 views)
What is your favorite non-legendarium book by Tolkien? Can't Post

We've had many threads on Tolkien's "other" works, but I thought I'd create a thread to discuss our favorite book by Tolkien that is not set in the imaginary universe of Middle-earth, Beleriand, or, broadly, Arda in general.

For me, it's Farmer Giles because it has all the charm and somewhat lighthearted tone of The Hobbit. but is set in its own universe which is also familiar yet alien. I enjoy the characters and the mock-heroic trappings. As much as Smith encapsulates some of the themes of the lure of/dangers of Faerie and the more mythic elements of Tolkien's legendarium, Giles captures the more "hobbity" side of Tolkien's imagination and his ability to combine humor with legend. The Pauline Baynes illustrations also work so well with the text; I can't imagine the book without her pseudo-medieval images any more than I can imagine Lewis's Narnia without her visual stamp.

What's yours?

(Formerly drogo of the two names!)

Luthien Rising

Mar 19 2007, 3:38am

Post #2 of 19 (303 views)
On Fairy-Stories [In reply to] Can't Post

A rollicking good yarn ... suspenseful, touching, and darned funny ... two thumbs—

Okay, actually it just really makes me think. I've come back to it repeatedly and have found it to tell me about much more than just the experience of hearing "fairy tales" read, or of reading them. The idea of going to Faerie and returning just that bit unlike how you were when you left, perhaps more like you really are or ought to be, is a compelling one. Those are times we all seek, and Tolkien told us (as he showed us elsewhere) that they can really be ours with a bit of suspension of cynicism.

Lúthien Rising
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. / We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea

Mar 19 2007, 4:16am

Post #3 of 19 (288 views)
Leaf By Niggle [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure if that counts as a "book" though. It doesn't have the humor of Farmer Giles and others, but it's a beautiful little story. I love the sincerity and the hope it expresses.

Where's Frodo?


Mar 19 2007, 5:17am

Post #4 of 19 (273 views)
giles [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I missed smith of wooten, but I REALLY liked Farmer Giles: it's got the light tone of The Hobbit, yes, a pit of a parody (though good natured) poking fun at the conventions of "standard" Fantasy

Ironic that despite the fact that Tolkien is considered the "creator of modern fantasy novels"....he actually made fun of the cliches of the genre fairly often.

N.E. Brigand

Mar 19 2007, 6:52am

Post #5 of 19 (301 views)
Smith of Wootton Major. [In reply to] Can't Post

A beautiful fairy tale. I highly recommend Verlyn Flieger's recent edition of that book, not for her skimpy notes but for the fascinating essay that Tolkien wrote examining the history of his characters and villages; it's very much like some of his later HoMe essays.

Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 19-25: Tolkien illustrates The Lord of the Rings


Mar 19 2007, 10:56am

Post #6 of 19 (268 views)
me, too [In reply to] Can't Post

The longer I live, the more I like Niggle best. The more I understand it, maybe. The more I hope to see The Tree, complete.


"an seileachan"

Everybody's wondering what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worried 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
No one knows for certain, and so it's all the same to me:
I think I'll just let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


Mar 19 2007, 12:53pm

Post #7 of 19 (274 views)
I have to go with Farmer Giles [In reply to] Can't Post

It's very funny, and I like the little plays on words and the twist at the end when we all expect the hero to slay the dragon.

I love On Fairy Stories and Leaf by Niggle as well.

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I wish you could have been there
When she opened up the door
And looked me in the face
Like she never did before
I felt about as welcome
As a Wal-Mart Superstore--John Prine

Aunt Dora Baggins

Mar 19 2007, 4:09pm

Post #8 of 19 (271 views)
Me, too. [In reply to] Can't Post

I've read "On Fairy Stories" over and over and over in the past 35 years. I think what I love best about it is the feel you get for the author and his deepest loves. I love his indignation over the neighbor cutting down the elm tree, and his talk about Eucatastrophe and Evangelium. You can almost hear golden trumpets blowing.

"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com


The Shire

Mar 19 2007, 4:54pm

Post #9 of 19 (267 views)
Giles for me too. [In reply to] Can't Post

I love the satire in it and the way it pokes fun at all the conventions of heroic tales

Moriel - the Daughter of the Dark
Serving your wiseacre needs since the blooming of the Trees.

NZ Strider

Mar 19 2007, 6:18pm

Post #10 of 19 (267 views)
This is the one for me also. /nt [In reply to] Can't Post



Mar 20 2007, 1:35am

Post #11 of 19 (263 views)
Roverandom [In reply to] Can't Post

I like this little story very much. The idea of the four different wizards (earth, beach, Moon, and sea) is really intriguing, not to mention fun. The illustrations are also really charming. But I have to wonder if Roverandom isn't, in fact, in the legendarium. There are some hints, but I don't think it's necessarily so.


Mar 20 2007, 2:00am

Post #12 of 19 (274 views)
Leaf by Niggle [In reply to] Can't Post

Leaf by Niggle is my favourite. It is brief but also whole and even profound.


Mar 20 2007, 4:14am

Post #13 of 19 (245 views)
Agree with that, but so hard to choose [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I like Giles the best because it is so playful, and the characters of Giles, Chrysophylax, Garm, the knights and the villagers are all so distinct and well defined. They inhabit their world so comfortably.

But I also love Smith, especially the bittersweet ending (or just sweet/sweet and full of cakey if you are like Noakes).

And I also love Niggle, because I identify so strongly with him and his yearning for the mountains is so wonderfully much bigger than he himself is.

And I also love On Fairy Stories, because it is one of the first pieces of literary scholarship that I actually understood and wanted more of.

And how could one forget the hilarity of Father Christmas?

Forum Admin / Moderator

Mar 21 2007, 1:16am

Post #14 of 19 (238 views)
It is difficult! [In reply to] Can't Post

They all have such different qualities, that I find my "favorite" one changes, depending on my mood!

"Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!"

Beren IV

Mar 22 2007, 4:24am

Post #15 of 19 (238 views)
I honestly don't know, but [In reply to] Can't Post

I suspect that it would be his famous treatise on Beowulf and Dragons.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Mar 23 2007, 11:03pm

Post #16 of 19 (247 views)
Would you count the Bombadil poems? ... [In reply to] Can't Post

 Which came first, Arda or Tom? Close call either way. I jes LOve their rhythm.



For I also am a steward. Did you not know?

N.E. Brigand

Mar 23 2007, 11:19pm

Post #17 of 19 (239 views)
Poems or poem? [In reply to] Can't Post

Which came first, Arda or Tom?

The Lost Tales date to the late 1910s, and Tom to perhaps the late 1920s, so Arda came first (if perhaps not by that name).

But the first poem, "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", published in 1934, in its original form certainly counts as "non-legendarium"; though its setting is unnamed, Tolkien described Tom as the spirit of the Oxford countryside.

However, the 1962 collection, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, though many of its contents had been previously published in some form (often with no connection to the legendarium), was deliberately presented by Tolkien as something "from the Red Book", and that includes the second non-LotR Bombadil poem, "Bombadil Goes Boating" (interesting discussion of that poem here).

As squire noted last month, there is a third Bombadil poem, "Once Upon a Time", that was published in 1965.

Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 19-25: Tolkien illustrates The Lord of the Rings


Mar 28 2007, 6:57am

Post #18 of 19 (250 views)
Sounds like you're saying the plural... [In reply to] Can't Post

... I know that I've seen Tom pop up in the same metre even (can't think of the metre, but Tolkien defines it in Letters), in several so-called non-legendarium places.

What I really like - and this goes for the "legendarium" variety is to read them aloud. People around think you're a bit wobbly but it is fun - the louder the better. Try it! Some verses ain't too easy. RT knew what he was doing. If only we did...


PS: Tom came neither before nor after Arda...

For I also am a steward. Did you not know?

The Shire

Apr 16 2007, 5:53pm

Post #19 of 19 (259 views)
Leaf by Niggle! [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope to retire to my own Niggle's Parish one day. Angelic

Smith of Wootton Major comes in as a close 2nd.


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