Farmer Giles of Ham
|Farmer Giles of Ham|
|Publisher||George Allen & Unwin|
|Released||October 20, 1949|
"Farmer Giles of Ham" (written in 1947, published in 1949) is a short story written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The story describes a series of encounters between Farmer Giles and a wily dragon named Chrysophylax. It is set in a fantasy Britain of long ago, which has mythical creatures, medieval knights, and primitive firearms.
The book was originally illustrated by Pauline Baynes.
Farmer Giles was not a hero. He was fat and red-bearded and enjoyed a slow, comfortable life. One day a rather deaf and short-sighted giant blundered on to his land. Farmer Giles managed to scare him away with a blunderbuss shot in its general direction. The people of the village cheered: Farmer Giles was a hero. His reputation spread far and wide across the kingdom. Giles was rewarded by the King of the Middle Kingdom, with a sword named Caudimordax or "Tailbiter", a powerful weapon against dragons.
The giant reports to its monstrous friends that there are no more knights, just stinging flies (actually scrap metal from Giles' blunderbuss), in the Middle Kingdom. This prompts a dragon, Chrysophylax Dives, to investigate the area — and everyone turns to the accidental hero Farmer Giles to deal with it.
The story makes light of the great dragon-slaying traditions. The knights who are supposed to do the job are useless fops more intent on "precedence and etiquette" than on noticing huge dragon footprints littering the landscape. "Giles" is also an interesting commentary on how people react to danger. Heroes aren't simply called for, they are demanded and hapless farmers can be forced to be heroes.
The Latin names and references imply that Giles is a Briton, a late generation remnant of the old empire after the decline of the western authority of the Romans. All the Giles place-names are supposed to occur relatively close to Oxford, along the Thames or on the route from London to Oxford.
Among the jokes is a question put to "the four wise clerks of Oxenford"; Tolkien then quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary, on which Tolkien had worked. The phrase 'wise clerk of Oxenford' is also a reference to Chaucer's Clerk.
- 1949: Farmer Giles of Ham: Aegidii Ahenobarbi Julii Agricole de Hammo, Domini de Domito, Aule Draconarie Comitis, Regni Minimi Regis et Basilei mira facinora et mirablis exortus, or in the vulgar tongue, The Rise and Wonderful Adventures of Farmer Giles, Lord of Tame, Count of Worminghall and King of the Little Kingdom. Embellished by Pauline Baynes. London: George Allen & Unwin, [October] 1949. 78,  pp.,  plates.
- 1966: Reprinted in The Tolkien Reader.
- 1969: Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham. Illustrations by Pauline Diana Baynes. New York: Ballantine Books, March 1969. 156 pp.
- 1975: Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. London: Unwin Books, [30 October] 1975. 144 pp. ISBN 0-04-823125-8
- 1980: Reprinted in Poems and Stories
- 1997: Reprinted in Tales from the Perilous Realm
- 1999: Farmer Giles of Ham (60th Anniversary edition). Edited by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (4 Oct 1999). ISBN-13: 978-0261103771. 144 pages, hardcover.
- 1999: Farmer Giles of Ham (50th Anniversary edition). Edited by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 50 Anv edition (November 15, 1999). ISBN-13: 978-0618009367. 127 pages, hardcover.
- 2002: Reprinted in A Tolkien Miscellany. Garden City, N.Y.: Science Fiction Book Club, [July] 2002. 369 pp. (SFBC; #51697)