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Old 07-19-2021, 03:57 AM   #5
Legate of Amon Lanc
A Voice That Gainsayeth
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Palantir-Green The Baggins of Wootton Major

Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
The tale had an unexpected origin, typical for Tolkien! He was writing an introduction for a story by George MacDonald, explaining the true meaning of "fairy" by illustrating it with the outline of a story. Soon the story itself interested him more than the introduction (which was never finished or published).
This development does not surprise me at the least. Also, I have not read that much of MacDonald, but even with that the Smith was one of the first associations I had when I stumbled upon his writings, it very clearly belongs into the same "box".

Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
The opening lines of the story are wonderful: "There was a village once, not very long ago for those with long memories, nor very far away for those with long legs."
I very much like this as a variant, or elaboration, on the typical fairytale opening phrases.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
I love Smith, but have a possibly quite basic question: is there an origin for Tolkien's infatuation with stars on people's brows? Earendil, Elendil, Aragorn, technically Morgoth, Smith... it's a definite theme, and I have no idea whether it comes from anything, or he just came up with the idea and really liked it.
It is definitely a traceable theme, and I, too, would be interested in a study on its origins. Tolkien paper-writers, here's a prompt for you.

Otherwise: just from the opening couple of paraghraphs, there is a barrage of similarities to other Tolkien's works. There are minor associations this induces, such as the village's position within the landscabe reminding me of Bree and its neighbouring villages (one village on the edge of the wood, another smaller one already in - just like Bree vs. Combe, Archet and Staddle). This may be a minor matter, but as a writer, I know that often images of places in one's imagination overlap and are "reused" - not consciously - and this might very well be the same case.

But there are also bigger similarities. I recall having first read it with "Giles" back-to-back and no wonder some of it has blurred in my mind: both stories start with the description of a local custom of a feast where the Cook makes their Great Project (be it the dragon's tail or the cake) always at a given time, basically around Christmas. There is also the generic setting, the village with its set of characters with their flaws and sort of obliviousness to the magic that is in their midst - that is more similar to the Shire and the Hobbits' attitude towards Bilbo and Frodo. Or to all the pragmatic but awful people in Niggle. The new cook has, to me, some vague resemblance to Mr. Parish.

The most striking in the opening paraghraphs is probably the old Cook's departure, which is without reservation comparable to Bilbo's. "Tell them that I am taking a longer holiday and that I am not coming back" - does this even need to be elaborated on in any way? And I am pretty sure the parallels don't end there. I recall, for one, the scene where Alf intimidates the cook in the same manner as Gandalf the Grey uncloaked.

I have had only time to read a part of the story now and I will have to finish it later. But when I do, especially once I get to the Queen, I am sure that I will still have quite a bit to say. I am actually very curious how I am going to perceive the story now - I must have last read it nearly two decades ago.
"Should the story say 'he ate bread,' the dramatic producer can only show 'a piece of bread' according to his taste or fancy, but the hearer of the story will think of bread in general and picture it in some form of his own." -On Fairy-Stories
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