Friday, April 27, 2012

Smith of Wootton Major - J. R. R. Tolkien

Title: Smith of Wootton Major (Extended Edition)

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Publication Information: Harper Collins Publishers (2005)

This book contains the story of Smith of Wootton Major as well as notes, drafts, transcriptions and essays by J.R.R. Tolkien. 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.

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