“Smith of Wooton Major” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien 2012

Goodreads: Smith of Wooton Major

Summary: A young boy in the town of Wooton Major eats a fay-star in his slice of cake at the Twenty-four Feast.  On his tenth birthday, the star falls from his mouth and he claps it to forehead, where it becomes a sort of passport for him in the land of Faery.

Review:  “Smith of Wooton Major” is a beautiful short story for anyone who enjoys a good fairytale—one about Faery itself, and not about a pretty princess looking for true love.  It opens with a description of the town and traditions of Wooton Major, where the Master Cook is held in high regard and hosts a special feast for twenty-four children every twenty-four years.  Tolkien’s hobbit-ish appreciation for food and good cheer really shines through, and readers cannot help but think Wooton Major sounds like rather a pleasant place to live.

The focus, however, is on what it means to open one’s mind, to accept the possibility and the value of magic.  Tolkien paints striking images of Faery, which is lovely but also stern and dangerous.  He brings the same seriousness and dignity to this land that he brought to the Elves in The Lord of the Rings.

Unfortunately, not everyone in Wooton Major can believe that this world exists.  Contrasted with the star-browed Smith is Master Cook Nokes, who makes light of even the mention of fairies.  Partially this is dangerous to him, because the King and Queen of Faery are real and powerful, but it is also very sad.  Nokes misses opportunities and great beauty through his own stubbornness.

“Smith of Wooton Major” can and has been read as an allegory, but I encourage reading it for its imagery and its message—that the imagination is important and that is not frivolous.  Adults, as well as children, can believe in magic and it is essential that they do so.

Published: 1967

*Posted as part of our Tolkien Reading Event.  You can participate by writing a review on your own blog or filling out our survey!

2 thoughts on ““Smith of Wooton Major” by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. David says:

    I actually own a copy of this, but haven’t read it yet. Perhaps this year is the year to read it! Of course I know it will be excellent, being as it is by Tolkien, but your review makes me even more eager. I think you’ve done a good job describing the tone and general thrust of the story without (seemingly) spoiling much of the plot.


    • Briana says:

      Usually I read “Farmer Giles of Ham” for Tolkien Reading Day, but I thought I would switch it up this year.

      I definitely tried not to give too much away; the story is so short that saying just about anything seemed like a spoiler! I’m glad you’re looking forward to reading it.


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