Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fostering a Chestertonian love of Tolkien

If Bilbo Baggins had read GKC, he would have been a bit more well-prepared to face Smaug. Chesterton was practically a dragonologist (if that is how it should be spelt) teaching us important details of dragonhood like
"The Dragon is the most cosmopolitan of impossibilities."
"If there was a dragon, he had a grandmother."
and this important detail on their dining habits in an explanation about a toy theatre:
The trick is to so arrange the tale that the mere appearance of a person tells the important truth about him. Thus, supposing the drama to be about St. George let us say, the mere abrupt appearance of the dragon's head (if of a proper ferocity) will be enough to explain that he intends to eat people; and it will not be necessary for the dragon to explain at length, with animated gestures and playful conversation, that his nature is carnivorous and that he has not merely dropped in to tea.
and, in his pre-conversion argument for conversion in which he founded a 2000-year-old religion:
I felt in my bones; first, that this world does not explain itself. It may be a miracle with a supernatural explanation; it may be a conjuring trick, with a natural explanation. But the explanation of the conjuring trick, if it is to satisfy me, will have to be better than the natural explanations I have heard. The thing is magic, true or false. Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a
meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art; whatever it meant it meant violently. Third, I thought this purpose beautiful in its old design, in spite of its defects, such as dragons. ...
Well, alas, no one ever delivered the Illustrated London News to Bag End, little buddy.

And thanks to Mike Foster, I have just discovered a similar omission in my own reading! Somehow or other, despite having read The Lord of the Rings almost every year since 1978, I have somehow missed reading JRRT's Smith of Wootton Major.

In the current issue of Gilbert!, Mike Foster reviews a new edition of this short fantasy - "Tolkien's last complete work".

Have you read it yet? What did you think? (Don't go telling the ending, please!)

Thanks, Mike!


  1. Hullo Doc,
    I like Smith of Wootton Major very much. It's a beautiful little tale. THOUGH I like the bits where the smith ISN'T in elfland better than the bits when he IS.

    After reading Mikes review I went and found the story the Golden Key by George MacDonald and I could barely get through it. :)

    Nice Job on the review Mike!


  2. Yes it is VERY good. I haven't actually read it but I have listened to it several times and really, really liked it.

  3. I never finished it. I had a book where it was bundled with Farmer Giles of Ham (basically a better version of "the Reluctant Dragon"), which is much better, and made Smith hard to read by comparison.

    Seems a poor marketing technique, to me.


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