Farmer Giles of Ham

From Tolkien Gateway
Farmer Giles of Ham
Farmer Giles 1949.png
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorChristina Scull, Wayne G. Hammond (50th Anniversary edition)
IllustratorPauline Baynes
Roger Garland (1990 edition)
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released20 October 1949
FormatHardcover; paperback
Pages64
ISBN0859970620

Farmer Giles of Ham is a short story written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1947, first published in 1949.

The story describes the encounters between Farmer Giles and a wily dragon named Chrysophylax, and how Giles manages to use these to rise from humble beginnings to rival the king of the land. It is cheerfully anachronistic and light-hearted, set in Britain in an imaginary period of the "Dark Ages", and featuring mythical creatures, medieval knights, and primitive firearms. It is only tangentially connected with Middle-earth.

The book was originally illustrated by Pauline Baynes. The story has appeared with other works in compilations, including The Tolkien Reader, Poems and Stories, and Tales from the Perilous Realm.

Plot summary[edit]

Farmer Giles is not a hero. He is fat and red-bearded and enjoys a slow, comfortable life. But a rather deaf and short-sighted giant blunders on to his land, and Giles manages to ward him away with a blunderbuss shot in his general direction. The people of the village cheer: Farmer Giles has become a hero. His reputation spreads across the kingdom, and he is rewarded by the King with a sword named Caudimordax ("Tailbiter")—which turns out to be a powerful weapon against dragons.

The giant, on returning home, relates to his friends that there are no more knights in the Middle Kingdom, just stinging flies—actually the scrap metal shot from the blunderbuss—and this entices a dragon, Chrysophylax Dives, to investigate the area. The terrified neighbours all expect the accidental hero Farmer Giles to deal with him.

The story parodies the great dragon-slaying traditions. The knights sent by the King to pursue the dragon are useless fops, more intent on "precedence and etiquette" than on the huge dragon footprints littering the landscape. The only part of a 'dragon' they know is the annual celebratory dragon-tail cake. Giles by contrast clearly recognises the danger, and resents being sent with them to face it. But hapless farmers can be forced to become heroes, and Giles shrewdly makes the best of the situation.

Philological humour[edit]

Tolkien, by profession a philologist, sprinkled several philological jokes into the tale, including a variety of ingeniously fake etymologies. Almost all the place-names are supposed to occur relatively close to Oxford, along the Thames, or along the route to London. At the end of the story, Giles is made Lord of Tame, and Count of Worminghall. The village of Oakley, burnt to the ground by the dragon early in the story, may also be named after Oakley, Buckinghamshire, near to Thame.

50th Anniversary Edition[edit]

The 50th Anniversary Edition was published in 1999, edited by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond.

This edition reproduces the text and illustrations of the First Edition of 1949 in facsimile, including the colour plates. It also includes: an introduction and notes by the editors, the first written (manuscript) version of the story, drafts for an unfinished sequel, and a map of 'The Little Kingdom' by Pauline Baynes.

In 2009, the 60th Anniversary Editon was published, limited only to 500 copies. It has the same content as the 50th Anniversary Editon.

Publication history and gallery[edit]

Earlier editions
1949 edition  
1975 large print edition  
1976 edition  
1983 edition  
1990 hardcover & paperback  
50th Anniversary and later editions
1999 edition
(50th anniversary)  
2000 edition  
2000 edition
4th impression  
1999 edition
4th impression
(60th anniversary)  
2014 edition  

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References

Tales from the Perilous Realm
Farmer Giles of Ham · The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · Leaf by Niggle · Smith of Wootton Major
Roverandom (since 2008) · On Fairy-Stories (since 2008)
A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by Tolkien or based on his writings
Of Arda Authorized by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand ·
iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow ·
vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring ·
xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not of Arda Short stories
and poems
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · The Adventures of Tom Bombadil ·
Letters from Father Christmas · Mr. Bliss · Roverandom ·
Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictions The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · Finn and Hengest: The Fragment and the Episode ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays ·
Tolkien On Fairy-stories · A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages
Other The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Books by other authors
Reference book The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
Scholarly books containing Tolkien's writings J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · The Road to Middle-earth ·
A Question of Time · Tolkien and the Great War ·
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
Scholarly journal containing Tolkien's writings Tolkien Studies various issues
Other published works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar issues 1-50 · Parma Eldalamberon issues 1-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list only includes the major published works, for the full bibliography of Tolkien, see here or here