Tales from the Perilous Realm

Tales from the Perilous Realm - J.R.R. Tolkien The Perilous Realm of the title is Faerie Land, but Tolkien has not people it with diaphanous butterfly-winged sprites, but by dangerous and enchanting elves, dragons and giants. The four branches of the book are each different from each other, despite the thematic connection.Farmer Giles of Ham is the most straight-forward of the stories, the tale of a "little man" (though of great girth!) who is reluctantly forced into a heroic role. It is a humorous and somewhat satirical tale, easily enjoyed by children for the adventure, and by adults for the characterisations.The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is not a story, but rather a collection of poetry. The conception is that they represent poetry and rhymes written by Hobbits in The Shire, so they are intimately linked to Tolkien's Middle-earth but do not necessarily deal with scenes from the Legendarium. The quality is uneven, but that is deliberately so as they are intended range from more deliberately crafted works to pieces of folk-rhymeEasily the best, in my view, is the title poem, but Errantry is excellent, too, and all the poems have something to recommend them.Leaf by Niggle is an unusual choice for inclusion, as I don't really consider that Faerie enters into it at all. For me, this was the most surprising story in the collection as it is utterly unlike anything else I've read by Tolkien. It has a dystopian and Kafka-like opening and is set in an industrialised society, not at all a legendary, Dark Age or Medieval locale. It later moves onto more metaphysical, even theological, ground. Despite Tolkien's avowed dislike of allegory, that's what this story seems to be. I really liked it. If Tolkien had not been consumed by his Middle-earth conception, could stories of this nature have been what he was known for?Smith of Wootton Major is the most faerie-tale-like of the four branches. Smith's journeys into Faerie are haunting and the sense of lurking mortal peril is the most pronounced in this story. It put me somewhat in mind of the works of Lord Dunsany and George MacDonald.The thing I missed from this particular edition of the stories was the illustrations of Pauline Baynes, which I had constantly in mind as I was reading.