Smith of Wootton Major
|Smith of Wootton Major|
|Editor||Verlyn Flieger (2005 edition)|
Roger Garland (1990 edition)
|Publisher||George Allen and Unwin (UK)|
|Released||9 November 1967 (UK)|
The book began as an attempt to explain the meaning of Faery by means of a story about a cook and his cake, and Tolkien originally thought to call it The Great Cake. It was intended to be part of a preface by Tolkien to George MacDonald's famous fairy story The Golden Key. Tolkien's story grew to become a tale in its own right.
Smith of Wootton Major is not connected to the Middle-earth, except by the thematic "Faery" motif of the traveler who journeys to a land that lies beyond the normal world and is usually beyond the reach of mortals. (Smith can thus be likened to Beren in the realm of Thingol, or Eärendil journeying to Valinor, or Ælfwine's visit to Tol Eressëa.)
The village of Wootton Major was well known around the countryside for its annual festivals, which were particularly famous for their culinary delights. The biggest festival of all was the Feast of Good Children. This festival was celebrated only once every twenty-four years: twenty-four children of the village were invited to a party, and the highlight of the party was the Great Cake, a career milestone by which Master Cooks were judged. In the year the story begins, the Master Cook was Nokes, who had landed the position more or less by default; he delegated much of the creative work to his apprentice Alf. Nokes crowned his Great Cake with a little doll jokingly representing the Queen of Faery. Various trinkets were hidden in the cake for the children to find; one of these was a star the Cook discovered in the old spice box.
The star was not found at the Feast, but was swallowed by a blacksmith's son. The boy did not feel its magical properties at once, but on the morning of his tenth birthday the star fixed itself on his forehead, and became his passport to Faery. The boy grew up to be a blacksmith like his father, but in his free time he roamed the Land of Faery. The star on his forehead protected him from many of the dangers threatening mortals in that land, and the Folk of Faery called him "Starbrow". The book describes his many travels in Faery, until at last he meets the true Queen of Faery. The identity of the King is also revealed.
The time came for another Feast of Good Children. Smith had possessed his gift for most of his life, and the time had come to pass it on to some other child. So he regretfully surrendered the star to Alf, and with it his adventures into Faery. King of Faery, who had become Master Cook long before, baked it into the festive cake once again for another child to find. After the feast, Alf retired and left the village; and Smith returned to his forge to teach his craft to his now-grown son.
In addition to editorial notes and commentary, the edition includes much material that was previously unpublished, including: facsimiles of manuscripts and typescripts of the earlier versions, new essays (especially one dealing with the background of the story and the nature of Faerie) and notes by J.R.R. Tolkien, a time scheme, and a list of characters.
On 26 February 2015, the extended edition was reissued by HarperCollins as a pocket hardcover, with an additional gallery displaying the illustrations redrawn by Pauline Baynes for appearance in the 1980 deluxe edition of Poems and Stories.
Publication history and gallery
- Earlier editions
- George Allen and Unwin hardcover (1967), pp. 62.
- George Allen and Unwin hardcover (1975), ISBN 0048231215
- Unwin Paperbacks paperback (1983), pp. 78. ISBN 0048232327
- Unwin Hyman hardcover (1990), ISBN 0044407254
- Unwin Paperbacks paperback (1990), ISBN 004440722X
- 2005 Extended and later editions
- HarperCollins hardcover (2005), pp. 160. ISBN 0007202474
- HarperCollins hardcover (2015), pp. 224. ISBN 0007557280 (also included in the 2015 Tolkien Treasury pocket set)
|Tales from the Perilous Realm|
|Farmer Giles of Ham · The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · Leaf by Niggle · Smith of Wootton Major|
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