Farmer Giles of Ham

by J. R. R. Tolkien
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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266

Farmer Giles of Ham is the most finely- crafted and delightful of Tolkien's minor works. Thoroughly suffused with sly wit and word-play, it is also a well told mock-heroic tale. He revised it in July 1947, two-and-a-half years before completing the first draft of The Lord of the Rings. In Farmer Giles of Ham, Tolkien gently mocks the elements of heroic fairy tales—the plot; the fabulous creatures, such as giants, dragons, and talking dogs; the weapons; the people; and even the hero.

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In its tone, themes, and characterization, Farmer Giles of Ham represents a return to the less complicated world of The Hobbit. For example, Farmer Giles behaves in much the same way as Bilbo Baggins, the hero of The Hobbit; the giant resembles Bert, William, and Tom, the stupid trolls in The Hobbit; and Chrysophylax the dragon is a sly, cowardly relative of Smaug, the dragon of The Hobbit. The tone is none too serious, and yet Tolkien stays close to the formula that he is most comfortable with—the perilous quest pursued by one of the least likely to succeed.

Farmer Giles of Ham is a parodic distillation of Tolkien's longer works, published as a celebration of being freed of The Lord of the Rings, which took him twelve years to complete. It complements the dark seriousness of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. In this work, Tolkien has fun with the plot, the themes, and the very language of heroic - romance literature. Readers throughout the world have delighted in it, and it has been translated into fourteen languages, including Japanese.

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