Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Farmer Giles of Ham is a mock folktale, supposedly translated from a medieval Latin original. It purports, among other things, to reveal the origins of certain place names in Oxfordshire, which is more or less the locale of “The Little Kingdom.” It is certainly located, at some unspecified time in the past, in the Midland counties of England, with the mountains of Wales to the west.

From these mountains comes the first event to disturb the pleasant routine of Farmer Giles’s rural life. A deaf and nearsighted giant gets lost and stumbles through the English marches, trampling everything in his path. Giles’s talking dog, Garm, hears and sees this giant as he approaches their part of the world and, panic-stricken, wakes Giles and his wife in the middle of the night. Farmer Giles loads an ancient blunderbuss, never before fired in anger, and hits the giant in the face as he appears over a hill. The giant, thinking that he has been stung by a fierce insect, decides that the place is unhealthy, turns around, and stumbles back home. Garm boasts to the whole village that his master has fought off the giant. The king in his palace some miles away hears of this and, as a token of gratitude, sends Giles an old sword from his treasury for which he has no further use.

Giles enjoys his newfound reputation, that is until a Welsh dragon, hearing from the giant how pleasant Middle England is and being extremely hungry, sets out to find himself...

(The entire section is 471 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Tolkien takes pains in a prologue and epilogue to place the events of the story in the Little Kingdom, located in "the valley of the Thames,...

(The entire section is 178 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Farmer Giles of Ham rewards readers of all ages. Tolkien keeps his tongue firmly in his cheek in telling it, and yet he never stoops...

(The entire section is 551 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

This story should offend no one, except possibly at the point where Giles refuses to hand over his treasure to the king, an action which...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. The hero is a common man, a farmer, who, through luck and wits becomes ruler of the Middle Kingdom by the story's end. Is this message...

(The entire section is 291 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Tolkien used Northern European myths as models for his own. Consult several sources of Old Norse and Anglo- Saxon myths about dragons and...

(The entire section is 232 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Farmer Giles of Ham is the foremost of Tolkien's minor works of fiction, both in length as well as in craftsmanship. Yet it must be...

(The entire section is 122 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. London: Allen & Unwin, 1981. Carpenter presents a generous selection of...

(The entire section is 197 words.)