Everyone knows J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the epic Lord of the Rings as well as its prequel The Hobbit. But Tolkien was also a professor and philologist, as well as the author of many other works of fiction. His oeuvre spans children’s stories, lectures, and literary criticism–all of them with his fine eye for detail and his love of the magical. Not sure where to start with some of his lesser-known works? Check out some of our suggestions below.
FARMER GILES OF HAM
Farmer Giles of Ham lives a life of happy contentment until the day a giant blunders into his fields. Then suddenly he’s a local hero for getting rid of the fellow. Farmer Giles enjoys the attention well enough, but he is less pleased to find the villagers now expect him to deal with all the neighborhood monsters. When a dragon wanders into the vicinity, Giles puts on his homemade armor and ventures forth to slay the beast, but there may be more than one way to deal with a dragon. A humorous tale that will appeal to fans of The Hobbit.
LEAF BY NIGGLE
Niggle longs to complete his final painting before going on a journey he knows he must take, but his neighbor Parish constantly interrupts his work with requests for help. As Niggle fears, he at length has to depart with his work still unfinished and with nothing to help him on his way except the record of his past conduct. A lovely story that touches on the purpose of art.
Letters from Father Christmas
A collection of the illustrated letters Tolkien left for his children on Christmas, containing the adventures of the titular character as well as the North Polar Bear.
The Monsters and the Critics
Tolkien’s influential 1936 lecture arguing that Beowulf should be read as literature rather than simply mined for historical information about Anglo-Saxon culture. Did you read Beowulf in school? Tolkien is probably the reason you learned it as a poem full of monsters and heroic deeds, one worth studying as art. (Tolkien also wrote his own prose translation of Beowulf.)
“ON FAIRY STORIES”
Originally written for presentation at the 1939 Andrew Lang Lecture and later published in 1947, this essay describes J. R. R. Tolkien’s views on what makes a fairy tale distinct from other literary forms and explains his artistic philosophy, arguing that fairy tales are unique in their ability to offer readers the consolation and joy of the happy ending–an effect he calls “eucatastophe”.
As punishment for offending a wizard, the young dog Rover finds himself turned into a toy. His quest to regain his former shape and return to the boy who loves him will take him to the moon and under the sea, but when he finds the wizard at last, it may be too late. A children’s story that will appeal to fans of The Hobbit.
Smith of Wooton Major
A young boy swallows a star that becomes his passport through Faery throughout his life. But Faery contains dangers as well as wonders–and perhaps the greatest pain magic can inflict is its inability to be contained or controlled. A novella that explains some of Tolkien’s vision of Faery.
3 thoughts on “Beyond The Lord of the Rings: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Other Works”
Thanks for covering these! I have not read any of Tolkien’s non-Middle earth works and this gives me some ideas where to start. 🙂 Farmer Giles sounds interesting, and I’d be curious to see his thoughts on Faery as well so Smith might be a good choice. And I did read Beowulf- I had no idea he was so influential on that. Very interesting!
I like Farmer Giles because it showcases Tolkien’s unique brand of humor and wordplay. And I’ve always loved Smith of Wooton Major because it’s a more reflective piece. Truly, it’s hard to go wrong when picking up a new Tolkien book!
Yes, Tolkien is sadly overlooked for is academic achievements sometimes and I wonder why. Imagine how many students you could get excited over Beowulf by noting that Tolkien wrote Beowulf criticism!