I still remember when my mother gave me Lord of the Rings for Christmas when I was in my late teens. I thought it looked kind of silly but decided to give it a try anyway. I read all three volumes within the week. I have since read Lord of the Rings about ten times, the Hobbit about a half dozen times and the Silmarillion not much less that. I am hooked on J.R.R. Tolkien.
One of the books that I just recently had the chance to read was Tolkien’s Tales From the Perilous Realm. This is not a novel but a collection of stories (plus one essay). What ties them together is that they are all fairy tales.
The first story is Roverandom. This is a very strange tale about a dog named Rover. He has to change his name to Roverandom because the other two dogs he meets in the story are also called Rover. His adventure includes being turned into a toy by a wizard, travelling to the moon where he meets a dragon and visiting an undersea city to convince the wizard to change him back.
My favourite story is Farmer Giles of Ham. Farmer Giles is just a normal guy (except a bit grouchier) who accidentally scares off a giant. His people decided that victory qualifies him to take care of their new dragon problem. Farmer Giles does a fine job of fitting into his new role despite his initial misgivings. I loved this story!
Those familiar with Lord of the Rings may be interested the Adventures of Tom Bombadil. They are all songs in the style of what you find him singing in Lord of the Rings. Not all of them feature Tom but those that do have a number of connections with what we know of from Middle Earth including hobbits, a troll and even a barrow wight.
Smith of Wootton Major is perhaps the most classic fairy tale. The story is about what happens when humans cross over into faerie. It is a quite enjoyable story.
Leaf by Niggle is a story about a painter who is obsessed about painting a tree with each leaf in extreme detail. That does not sound very interesting but I found this to be the most thought provoking story in the collection. The story challenges us on how we plan to live our life. It had a bit of a C.S. Lewis feel to it. It is one that I definitely want to go back to.
The book concludes with an essay by Tolkien called On Fairy Stories. Here he discusses what makes a fairy story a fairy story. He examines the genre of fantasy and provides an apologetic for escapism. One of the interesting aspects of this essay is that Tolkien examines the connection between fairy tales and the Gospel of Jesus. Very interesting stuff.
So if you enjoy Tolkien and have not yet read Tales From the Perilous Realm, I highly recommend it.