Monday, October 13, 2014

Farmer Giles of Ham (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Farmer Giles of Ham is a novella written by J.R.R. Tolkien that takes place in England during the time of giants and dragons. Aegidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo or Giles of Ham (in the vulgar tongue) is the protagonist of this short tale. He is married and has a dog, named Garm, whom he generally mistreats. If this man doesn't sound like your typical hero, you would be correct. However, Garm likes to roam around and on these outings, he discovered a giant and a dragon (on different occasions). He ran back to his master for help, and Ham reluctantly takes action only when necessary. In this mini-tale, the story of the giant is a mere footnote, a build-up to his encounter with the dragon Chrysophylax Dives. The whole encounter with Chrysophylax is comical. We don't see a ferocious dragon like Smaug, but instead a dragon who uses his wits as much as his size and power. That's all I'll say for the plot of this story.

The 50th Anniversary edition of this book is a treat for Tolkien lovers. For starters, it contains original illustrations by Pauline Baynes. She has illustrated for other Tolkien titles as well as The Chronicles of Narnia. There is also a copy of the original manuscript and some notes on a possible sequel. The original manuscript was of some interest, but the sequel was disappointing in the lack of pages that were written. It really makes you wonder how much abandoned or unwritten stories were floating around in Mr. Tolkien's head during his lifetime. My only major gripe was the text quality of this book. I'm not sure if it was my copy or the intended text effect the publisher was going for, but a lot of my words were faded and hard to read. Overall, I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I'm happy to own it, but for several more dollars, I think a better investment would be Tales from the Perilous Realm.

This book was provided to me for free by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!