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Old 04-21-2021, 10:16 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Sting Minor Works -- 1 - Farmer Giles of Ham

Introduction

Farmer Giles of Ham is one of the few fictional works of Tolkien published during his lifetime. Like the Hobbit and Roverandom, it has its origins in a story that JRRT told to his children. The first manuscript was narrated by "Daddy", details were personal, and the sophisticated tone of the printed version we know was missing. A later version, the first typescript, added some details and changed the narrator to the "family jester".

In 1938 Tolkien revised and enlarged the story, adding philological jokes, Latin words, names, and scholarly allusions, then reading it in lieu of a paper on fairy stories to the Lovelace Society in Oxford - which was apparently very amused! He offered it to Allen and Unwin for publishing; they considered it too short on its own and decided to add illustrations. Those were provided by Pauline Baynes and highly approved of by Tolkien. Along with his "mock" Foreward, the tale was then complete and the book published in 1949.

The above information comes from Hammond and Scull's Introduction to the 50th anniversary edition (HarperCollins, 1999), which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to know more! It also includes the first manuscript version of the story, as well as the incomplete sequel Tolkien began writing later.

Let's begin the discussion with Tolkien's satirical Foreward - even if you don't normally read forewards, this one is short and amusing, so please do, and let us know what you think of it. In one to three days (depending on the volume of posting about the Foreword) we will move on to the actual story.
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Old 04-21-2021, 05:01 PM   #2
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Well! I have to confess it was only around five years ago that I read this story for the first time. I got it with a paperback also containing Smith of Wooten Major.

I like immediately the tone set by Tolkien. He lets the reader know that the story was
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derived not from sober annals, but from the popular lays to which its author frequently refers.
We have the scene set in England, but in a time that cannot be precisely set, much like Middle-earth (but much less removed).

Overall, it reminds me quite a bit of The Hobbit.
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Old 04-22-2021, 08:18 AM   #3
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I do love that Giles' dog is named Garm after the fierce and bloody guardian of Hel's Gate in Norse myth, who was loosed during Ragnarök and battled to the death with Tyr. In Tolkien's tale, Garm is neither fierce nor bloody, and certainly prone to tuck tail and flee.

In regards to the Forward, when Tolkien references the "Little Kingdom" I believe the conjecture is that he was referring to Surrey or Frithwuld's Surrey, a 7th century sub-kingdom of Mercia. Let the anachronisms begin with Giles' blunderbuss.
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Old 04-22-2021, 09:26 AM   #4
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I'll back up a bit and start with the Introduction by Hammond and Scull, it being a serious bit of scholarly history concerning the text. Their information reminds us of how important Tolkien's oral storytelling to his children was in his development as a writer. Roverandom and Farmer Giles began as stories to entertain his children, as well of course as The Hobbit. (Tom Bombadil has a nod to the children's affairs as well.) As much as philology and the creation of languages inspired Tolkien, so also was the impulse of oral storytelling. Of course, as Hammond and Scull point out, Farmer Giles was developed far beyond this original oral piece of entertainment with its satire, but remembering Tolkien's original audience for his stories is helpful in understanding the power of his later tales.

Tolkien's Foreward satirises scholarly concerns at the time over the origins of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. King Coel is non other than a reference to the children's nursery rhyme about Old King Coel, who was a merry old soul, who called for his pipe and his bowl and his fiddlers three. There had been much scholarly ado trying to discover which historical character is referred to in the nursery rhyme but scholars came up empty handed (or dry penned?) Sir Walter Scott even joined the speculation There were attempts to link Coel with Arthur's legends. So all in all this little satirical reference shows Tolkien's own interest in the legends and possibly the mythology of his little island, an interest which produced what we now know as The Book of Lost Tales, while providing, significantly, a satirical slight on the study of nursery rhymes not as art or story or entertainment but as historical content
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Old 04-22-2021, 02:30 PM   #5
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It's been a very long time since I last read Farmer Giles. I have to confess I didn't particularly like it then, nor did I like it as a kid when I was first acquainted with it. I'm curious what my verdict will be this time. Also, I'm a little saddened I only have the book in Finnish; while the translation is good, the story is so English that it seems already after the introduction that one is losing quite a bit by not reading it in the original. I'll cope, I guess!

That being said, I feel like one would also greatly benefit from being more familiar with English mythology and history. I feel like you can't really appreciate Tolkien's writing as much "just as a story", without a greater context. Now that I think of it, it's rather fascinating how he often wrote - in a way - for scholars and children at the same time, which is not really a common combination.

As for the foreword itself, two things stood out to me - two very trademark Tolkien things that we see in his major works too. One is that his love for and knowledge of linguistics is evident; how many other authors would say their story is just an explanation for odd place names? Or how many others would bother to establish what language the story is written, and what they're telling us it was translated from? And the trope of the somewhat unreliable translator-narrator passing on an old story, obscuring the truth of what "really happened," is of course the second thing. It is very much like the whole narrative framing of the Red Book of Westmarch.
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Old 04-22-2021, 05:44 PM   #6
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Tolkien

The Foreword is appropriately brief--two pages in my edition of Tales from the Perilous Realm, which is the text I have readiest to hand, though I first encountered it in a very dusty, unassuming copy of The Tolkien Reader on my Dad's bookshelves--a not-quite-standard collection of some of Tolkien's minor works. There are several of these, not all quite lining up in terms of content.

Farmer Giles has never felt quite Middle-earthen to me, which makes him stand stand out from both Roverandom and The Hobbit, which are its nearest comparisons in his catalogue. Where he draws nearest to Middle-earth might actually be here: this Foreword reminds me strongly of the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings: it's the same pseudo-scholarly voice.

It occurred to me, reading the Foreword this time, that it's a shame that Hobbitus Ille was the first official Tolkien-to-Latin translation, because this would have been a more appropriate attempt--possibly also more challenging, since it would be best to render it as "very insular Latin." My own Latin would not actually be up to the challenge of reading it, but I would still have been deeply amused by the gesture.
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Old 04-24-2021, 03:14 AM   #7
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Thanks for the apt and thoughtful comments on the Foreword! We'll proceed with the story proper, and if anyone has something to add, it can be posted any time.

The first pages introduce two of the main characters - Giles and Garm - as well as the antagonist of the first adventure. After a few pages, Agatha joins them. Considerably later, the villagers, the King and his knights join them.

Which characters do you enjoy most? How do you like the abundance of Latin names used? What opinion do you have of the talking dog? Do you enjoy the parodic humour?

Let's stay with the first adventure for now - it paves the way for the events that follow.
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Old 04-24-2021, 09:56 AM   #8
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Many years ago now, I bought a second hand copy of Tolkien's "Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham," copyright 1967, Ballantine Books. I reread Farmer Giles of Ham for the umpteenth time because I just love it. In the most recent reading it had not lost any of its charm for me.

I find in the Foreword some delicious comments in terms of geography: the valley of the Thames and excursions to the "walls of Wales." The pseudo history places the tale some time after King Coel (maybe) and after King Arthur ... which, of course, makes it pseudo-history in the plainest sense. If one were to take this seriously, then it would have to be a story about pre-Anglo-Saxon Britain. Will we find the ensuing text free of Anglo-Saxon place names? Wink wink.

Let the fun begin!
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Old 04-25-2021, 09:05 AM   #9
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I like the way Tolkien seemingly reinforces a theme from The Hobbit (taking place in a world with "less noise and more green") with this:

Quote:
The time was not one of hurry or bustle. But bustle has very little to do with business. Men did their work without it; and they got through a deal, both of work and of talk.
Then we have Giles described as being mostly interested in being safe and comfortable, and the fact that he and Garm didn't pay much notice to anything outside the immediate area of Ham (shades of Bilbo Baggins?).

I think Garm is endearingly annoying at times, but obviously very loyal to his master. I love the vocalizations he's given in the book, such as when he wakes Giles to warn of the giant, and gets a thrown bottle for his trouble:

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"Ow!" said the dog, jumping aside with practiced skill. "Help! Help! Help!"
The accompanying illustrations in my paperback compliment the story well.
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Old 04-25-2021, 10:49 AM   #10
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Does your book have the Pauline Baynes illustrations, Inzil? Those are such a wonderful complement to the story - and Tolkien really liked them. For those who remember her illustrations for the Narnia books, the style is similar. I find it has something medieval, but also something like comic book drawings. I love having the small pictures right where they belong in the text. And the black and white drawings make me want to colour them, though I wouldn't do it in the book...
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Old 04-25-2021, 11:02 AM   #11
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Does your book have the Pauline Baynes illustrations, Inzil? Those are such a wonderful complement to the story - and Tolkien really liked them.
It doesn't say specifically in my Smith/Giles paperback, but I also have the 1966 Tolkien Reader with PB illustrations, and they are indeed the same.
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Old 04-25-2021, 12:27 PM   #12
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Does your book have the Pauline Baynes illustrations, Inzil? Those are such a wonderful complement to the story - and Tolkien really liked them. For those who remember her illustrations for the Narnia books, the style is similar. I find it has something medieval, but also something like comic book drawings. I love having the small pictures right where they belong in the text. And the black and white drawings make me want to colour them, though I wouldn't do it in the book...
I have a hard cover copy of the U.S. Nelson Doubleday, Inc. edition (1976), and the color frontispiece and end covers by Baynes are excellent. The Baynes illustrations (both color and black and white) are certainly reminiscent of 12th century illuminated manuscripts.
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Old 04-25-2021, 04:34 PM   #13
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I realised that I did not have a copy of Farmer Giles of Ham lying around, nor could I find my copy of the Danish translation Niels Bonde fra Bold. I couldn't find it on my audiobook/library apps and my local library have a bit of delivery time. Today I had resigned to purchasing an e-book version, when I looked at the book shelf and realised I had a barely touched volume of "Tales from the Perilous Realm" standing right there... Anyways, I have only made it a little passed the foreword for now.


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Originally Posted by Thinlómien View Post

That being said, I feel like one would also greatly benefit from being more familiar with English mythology and history. I feel like you can't really appreciate Tolkien's writing as much "just as a story", without a greater context. Now that I think of it, it's rather fascinating how he often wrote - in a way - for scholars and children at the same time, which is not really a common combination.

As for the foreword itself, two things stood out to me - two very trademark Tolkien things that we see in his major works too. One is that his love for and knowledge of linguistics is evident; how many other authors would say their story is just an explanation for odd place names? Or how many others would bother to establish what language the story is written, and what they're telling us it was translated from? And the trope of the somewhat unreliable translator-narrator passing on an old story, obscuring the truth of what "really happened," is of course the second thing. It is very much like the whole narrative framing of the Red Book of Westmarch.
I think this scholarly approach is one of the reasons I still find Tolkien so fascinating. It is escapism, but it also speaks to the part of me that loves academia. Like Tolkien I prefer history, even if this history is imagined.

I agree with your comparison with the Red Book of Westmarch, which incidentally is one of my favorite things in the appendix to Lord of the Rings.

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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
I find in the Foreword some delicious comments in terms of geography: the valley of the Thames and excursions to the "walls of Wales." The pseudo history places the tale some time after King Coel (maybe) and after King Arthur ... which, of course, makes it pseudo-history in the plainest sense. If one were to take this seriously, then it would have to be a story about pre-Anglo-Saxon Britain. Will we find the ensuing text free of Anglo-Saxon place names? Wink wink.

Let the fun begin!
Tolkien quite caught my attention when he started talking about the valley of the Thames, because I have never really thought much about southern English geography before. Too me it is just a massive urban area, but all of the sudden my mind started wondering. Why did that area/London become so important. I remembered that it had already been important in Roman times, obviously the main reasons had to be geographical...
and so on.

Anyways, I quite expected the setting to be pre-Anglo-Saxon Britain-like... So I was immediately flustered by the blunderbuss, more so than the giant and the talking dog.
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Old 04-25-2021, 04:43 PM   #14
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Just popping in very briefly during the final minutes of an insane Day in the current Werewolf game to say that I loved the portrayals of the animals, Garm and the grey mare, they seem so true to life! Did the Tolkien family actually ever own a dog?


Also Pauline Baynes's illustrations, they remind me very much of the Manesse Liederhandschrift, our famous collection of German minnesang poetry from the 12th century.
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Old 04-27-2021, 08:55 PM   #15
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(shades of Bilbo Baggins?)
Giles doesn't remind me of Bilbo so much as Gaffer Gamgee.

It has been many a long year since I read the book, but it surprised me on this re-read how often I would read a passage and think to myself, "Oh that's where that line comes from!"

One of my personal favorites is the Parson, "The characters are archaic and the language barbaric."
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Old 04-28-2021, 01:54 AM   #16
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There are numerous quotable lines in this story! One that I enjoy is, "He [Farmer Giles] was finding that a local reputation may require keeping up, and that may prove awkward."

And I love the turn-around irony of this one: "So knights are mythical!" said the younger and less experienced dragons. "We always thought so."

Another, very reminiscent of the Shire quote about the rest of the world being there, even if they weren't aware of it (can't remember the exact words or location): "But the Wide World was there." Sounds just a bit ominous, doesn't it?!

One of the characters that grew on me as I read and reread this story is Giles' wife Agatha. She's not mentioned very often, and according to Scull and Hammond, she was not part of the original story Tolkien told to his children, nor of the first manuscript. I will keep an eye out for the passages in which she appears to see if their is any significance to her addition to the story.

Incidentally, I haven't seen anyone cosplaying Queen Agatha - so I remedied that situation at the "Tolkien 2019" event in Birmingham two years ago...
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Old 04-28-2021, 03:58 PM   #17
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Which characters do you enjoy most? How do you like the abundance of Latin names used? What opinion do you have of the talking dog? Do you enjoy the parodic humour?

Let's stay with the first adventure for now - it paves the way for the events that follow.
I know nothing of latin, but I have taken an interest in the Eastern Roman Empire (don't be surprised if I start a thread drawing comparisons with Gondor) and so I recognise the Greek title of Basileus in the title of the king.

Quote:
Augustus Bonifacius Ambrosius Aurelianus Antoninus Pius et Magnificus, dux rex, tyrannusm et Basileus Mediterranearum Partium
My guess is that it is used in accordance with Byzantine customs to mean emperor. It could also just mean king, but rex is already part of the title so it seems unlikely.

Anyways, I am mystified why a greek word appears in our story. I mean as far as I know it was never used in Latin...

Later we learn that the sword Tailbiter used to belong to the famed dragon-slayer Bellomarius, and now I am ready to go into conspiracy theory mode.

Bellomarius is such a strange name, and just too similar to Belisarius, the greatest Byzantine general of all time (instrumental in Justinian's attempt to reconquer the western half of the empire).

I look forward to see how the rise of Islam, Iconoclasm and the first crusade have been incorporated in the later stages of this book, as they no doubt have.
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Old 04-28-2021, 06:01 PM   #18
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I know nothing of latin, but I have taken an interest in the Eastern Roman Empire (don't be surprised if I start a thread drawing comparisons with Gondor) and so I recognise the Greek title of Basileus in the title of the king....

My guess is that it is used in accordance with Byzantine customs to mean emperor. It could also just mean king, but rex is already part of the title so it seems unlikely.

Anyways, I am mystified why a greek word appears in our story. I mean as far as I know it was never used in Latin...
The original meaning of "dux" was military leader (before it became attached to the aristocracy (duke in English, duc in French). So, King Arthur is referred to in some early texts as dux bellorum (war leader/general of battles). Given the pompous title Tolkien gives the king, I would consider dux rex to be "lord of all generals."

As far as the Greek basileus appearing in Tolkien's story (and the dragon's name Chrysophylax is Greek as well), basileus was used in the Eastern regions of the Roman Empire in reference to the Emperor in Rome (Imperator). The use of the term basileus survived in the West up until Charlemagne, who was recognized as "basileus Rhomaíōn" by the Byzantines as the titular ruler of Rome and emperor of the West.

It's basically the scruffy king of Mercia putting on airs, as evinced by the further title Mediterranearum Partium, usually in reference to the Mediterranean Sea, is here more a conveyance for imparting that the King reigns over the English Midlands, because Mediterranean literally means "in the middle of land, inland": medius ("middle"), terra ("land, earth").

Even the king's ponderous name Augustus Bonifacius Ambrosius Aurelianus Antoninus Pius (minus the titles) refers to the pre-Saxon Romano-British society of the Britons, and each aspect of the name concerns a certain personage in Briton history (Ambrosius Aurelianus, for instance, was a famous hero of Romano-British resistance to the invading Saxons).
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Old 04-28-2021, 06:58 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Rune Son of Bjarne View Post
I know nothing of latin, but I have taken an interest in the Eastern Roman Empire (don't be surprised if I start a thread drawing comparisons with Gondor) and so I recognise the Greek title of Basileus in the title of the king.



My guess is that it is used in accordance with Byzantine customs to mean emperor. It could also just mean king, but rex is already part of the title so it seems unlikely.
I too had noticed this oddity.

In the notes in the 50th Anniversary Edition it says thusly:

Quote:
Basileus is also 'king', but with the suggestion of 'administrator'.
I must admit I had never seen basileus as carrying that connotation before that footnote, and I don't think I have ever seen it again. I'm not sure where the editors got that reference from.
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Old 04-29-2021, 02:36 AM   #20
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I have finally the time to join in. Let me start just on the Foreword first...

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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
We have the scene set in England, but in a time that cannot be precisely set, much like Middle-earth (but much less removed).
It too struck me as obvious forerunner (well, or not exactly forerunner, rather, co-runner) of all the Aelfwine stuff and the attempt to frame also Middle-Earth into an "oh, this is real-world translated from ancient XY". Tolkien clearly was a lot into this, or at least he had a stage where he had been very much using that form.

It actually made me think not that it was just a satire, as some have mentioned here, but that perhaps he was simply following certain trends that had been there in 19th century and its echoes were probably still present, or it may have had enough influence on Tolkien in his youth and studies.

I am referring to the whole "hobby" many writers picked up around the time when all the national revivals were popping up around Europe and the renewed interest in trying to find old national myths. And that whole era marked with discoveries (and perhaps even more often, "discoveries") and renewed interest in national epics and stories (and not just among scholars, but exactly among the wide public) - ranging from real ones like the Niebelungenlied, through collected and admittedly modified ones like the Kalevala, to utter fakes presented as real things, like the Scottish Ossian or the Russian Slovo o pulku Igoreve (yes, I know it is still being debated, but I am with those that think that enough proofs have been made to show that it was fake).

I mean, did not Tolkien himself say that with his legendarium, he started with the ambition to write an "authentic" English myth? It is exactly the same kind of approach that the authors of the "fake myths" had, only admitted one. He had the advantage of having the distance of a hundred years from all that, but I can imagine how doing that would appeal to a writer with an interest in history and linguistics. Heck, it would appeal to one even now!

So Farmer Giles seems to me to be a by-product of the same "hobby". The "hobby" that many writers had had, well, since antiquity in fact (Journal of Dictys), but spiked again in recent past and could have been an inspiration to Tolkien, something he wanted to try. Obviously, Giles *is* framed as a joke, but that does not matter - it was an exercise utilising the same form, only not with a serious intent. But in technical terms it is no different from the fake manuscripts - an educated writer that knows something about a certain past era writes a completely imaginary story and plays with the ideas on how to connect it to existing places and other known myths.

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In regards to the Forward, when Tolkien references the "Little Kingdom" I believe the conjecture is that he was referring to Surrey or Frithwuld's Surrey, a 7th century sub-kingdom of Mercia. Let the anachronisms begin with Giles' blunderbuss.
With my very generic knowledge of the history of Britain with many gaps, I always wondered whether "Little Kingdom" referred to something "real" (as in, that there was actually something called that, by whomever). So I take it that there wasn't, but if you wanted to take it as "real", you could identify it with something?

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Tolkien's Foreward satirises scholarly concerns at the time over the origins of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. King Coel is non other than a reference to the children's nursery rhyme about Old King Coel, who was a merry old soul, who called for his pipe and his bowl and his fiddlers three. There had been much scholarly ado trying to discover which historical character is referred to in the nursery rhyme but scholars came up empty handed (or dry penned?) Sir Walter Scott even joined the speculation There were attempts to link Coel with Arthur's legends. So all in all this little satirical reference shows Tolkien's own interest in the legends and possibly the mythology of his little island, an interest which produced what we now know as The Book of Lost Tales, while providing, significantly, a satirical slight on the study of nursery rhymes not as art or story or entertainment but as historical content
.
This is basically in line of what I was thinking. And nice, even with my only second-hand experience with English nursery rhymes, I immediately thought that this was referrence to Old King Coel - I am glad this confirms it.

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Also, I'm a little saddened I only have the book in Finnish; while the translation is good, the story is so English that it seems already after the introduction that one is losing quite a bit by not reading it in the original. I'll cope, I guess!
Yes, there is no copy of English Farmer Giles in our house - I, on the other hand, am reading it in Czech translation. Nonetheless, I believe it is a quality one, and perhaps we are going to stumble upon something that will stand out differently in that way.

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Now that I think of it, it's rather fascinating how he often wrote - in a way - for scholars and children at the same time, which is not really a common combination.
Really? I actually disagree. Or, okay, maybe it is not *as* common, but I think there is a lot of books - and that is actually the best kind of literature in my opinion - that are written "for children", but have some hidden jokes in there if not necessarily for scholars, then for the parents. And often these can be pretty elaborate, up to the point of being rather "for scholars" than for any "average parents". I'm thinking you might find probably something like that in the Moomins. But at least the "inside jokes for parents" is certainly a thing that is present in a lot of things written for very little children (it is probably there for the relief of parents who would otherwise have to plough through some stupidity just because their child does).

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Originally Posted by Thinlómien View Post
Or how many others would bother to establish what language the story is written, and what they're telling us it was translated from? And the trope of the somewhat unreliable translator-narrator passing on an old story, obscuring the truth of what "really happened," is of course the second thing. It is very much like the whole narrative framing of the Red Book of Westmarch.
That is exactly what made me think about the "fabricated old epics" framework.

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Farmer Giles has never felt quite Middle-earthen to me, which makes him stand stand out from both Roverandom and The Hobbit, which are its nearest comparisons in his catalogue.
Interestingly, Giles to me somehow seemed fairly Middle-Earthy on first reading: maybe it was because of the dragon. But let's see if I get the same impression this time.

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Originally Posted by Rune Son of Bjarne View Post
I know nothing of latin, but I have taken an interest in the Eastern Roman Empire (don't be surprised if I start a thread drawing comparisons with Gondor) and so I recognise the Greek title of Basileus in the title of the king.

My guess is that it is used in accordance with Byzantine customs to mean emperor. It could also just mean king, but rex is already part of the title so it seems unlikely.

Anyways, I am mystified why a greek word appears in our story. I mean as far as I know it was never used in Latin...
I think Morthoron has already addressed that; personally I recall (but do not have a source at hand) Basileus used somewhere in some circumstances in the medieval Latin-speaking world too, maybe as the sort of mix-and-match, and exactly redundantly in the sense like this. Otherwise at least as far as I can speak for 1-3rd century Greek, basileus was simply a "ruler" there. For that matter, the world "tyrannus" also was not originally Latin (although that was being used), and it just sounds like adding more redundant titles that just make it sound like "how many times can we say that I am a ruler in different ways to hammer the point". But if you read the King's name and simply swap "basileus" with "ruler", it sounds perfectly normal.
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Old 04-29-2021, 02:40 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
The original meaning of "dux" was military leader (before it became attached to the aristocracy (duke in English, duc in French). So, King Arthur is referred to in some early texts as dux bellorum (war leader/general of battles). Given the pompous title Tolkien gives the king, I would consider dux rex to be "lord of all generals."
Sounds more likely than my interpretation, and I do like pompous and longwinded titles.

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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
As far as the Greek basileus appearing in Tolkien's story (and the dragon's name Chrysophylax is Greek as well), basileus was used in the Eastern regions of the Roman Empire in reference to the Emperor in Rome (Imperator). The use of the term basileus survived in the West up until Charlemagne, who was recognized as "basileus Rhomaíōn" by the Byzantines as the titular ruler of Rome and emperor of the West.
Now this seems off to me. Yes basileus was used in the greek speaking parts of the roman empire, but to my knowledge not used by the latin speakers. Surely the west used "Imperator"?

Also, it seems very un-byzantine to recognize anybody else as Roman Emperor. They were pragmatic, so they might not always object to other powers encroaching on their turf, if it suited the political situation. Anyways I am straying off topic and will only add that to my knowledge they only acknowledge Charlemagne as Emperor of the Franks.


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Originally Posted by Kuruharan View Post
I too had noticed this oddity.

In the notes in the 50th Anniversary Edition it says thusly:

I must admit I had never seen basileus as carrying that connotation before that footnote, and I don't think I have ever seen it again. I'm not sure where the editors got that reference from.
That is a peculiar connotation, I wish there was a footnote to the footnote explaining the source.


All the pompous titles and names, especially those of the petty king, has an air of Erasmus Montanus about it (a central play in Scandinavian theater).
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Old 04-29-2021, 03:10 AM   #22
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Does your book have the Pauline Baynes illustrations, Inzil? Those are such a wonderful complement to the story - and Tolkien really liked them. For those who remember her illustrations for the Narnia books, the style is similar. I find it has something medieval, but also something like comic book drawings. I love having the small pictures right where they belong in the text. And the black and white drawings make me want to colour them, though I wouldn't do it in the book...
In case anyone is looking for an edition of Farmer Giles of Ham, there is one that has more than just the Pauline Baynes illustrations: the 50th Anniversary edition, edited by Scull & Hammond. It includes the first manuscript version as well as notes for a planned sequel.

As an example of how much "tinkering" Tolkien did to the story, here is the beginning of that first manuscript version:

Quote:
THEN DADDY BEGAN A STORY, and this is what he said:
Once there was a giant, a fairly big giant: his walking-stick was like a tree, and his feet were very large. If he walked down the road he would have left holes in it; if he had trodden on our garden he would have squashed it altogether; if he had bumped into our house there would have been no house left. And he might easily have bumped into it, for his head was far above the roof of it and he seldom looked where his feet were going.
And to provide a real spoiler, here's the ending:

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'But who was the real hero of the this story, do you suppose?' said Daddy.
'I don't know.'
'The Grey Mare, of course, he said, and that ended it.
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Old 04-29-2021, 09:52 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
I think Morthoron has already addressed that; personally I recall (but do not have a source at hand) Basileus used somewhere in some circumstances in the medieval Latin-speaking world too, maybe as the sort of mix-and-match, and exactly redundantly in the sense like this. Otherwise at least as far as I can speak for 1-3rd century Greek, basileus was simply a "ruler" there. For that matter, the world "tyrannus" also was not originally Latin (although that was being used), and it just sounds like adding more redundant titles that just make it sound like "how many times can we say that I am a ruler in different ways to hammer the point". But if you read the King's name and simply swap "basileus" with "ruler", it sounds perfectly normal.
There is quite the rabbit hole you can disappear down on this topic...so here I go!

Basileus is not the original Greek word for king. The original word was "Anax," which while losing the status of a title, is still present in the Greek language and appears in such places as personal names.

"Basileus" in origin was a lower title subservient to an anax. The reasons why anax faded into dusty obscurity and basileus came to the fore are, at this far removed, lost to us. I've read speculation that "anax" had more of a sacerdotal association and "basileus", as it ultimately developed, was more secular in nature. There are also implications of what we could consider a feudal hierarchy at play where the anax was the high king and the basileus were autonomous rulers loosely subject to the anax. This is the political system at play in The Iliad. When the Bronze Age collapse occurred, there was no longer an anax but a host of petty basileus’ and that title came to dominate because it was so common.

I don't know if this potential sacred vs. secular dichotomy was what the editors were referring to in saying that "basileus" had the connotation of "administrator". It would be a pretty obscure reference if it was.

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Originally Posted by Rune Son of Bjarne View Post
Now this seems off to me. Yes basileus was used in the greek speaking parts of the roman empire, but to my knowledge not used by the latin speakers. Surely the west used "Imperator"?
It is a bit murky and there is a lot of what to us in the modern era is a frustrating non-standardization of usage. That being said, the "titles" if you will (which in itself is a bit murky and not a totally accurate description) were "Augustus" and "Caesar." At some point down the road after the end of the Roman Empire in the West "Augustus" completely lost its connotation of being a title, which it very much had in the time of what I will call the classic Roman Empire. In fact, it was the title "Augustus" that unambiguously identified the person of the emperor, not the title "Imperator." After the end of the Western Empire the word Augustus ultimately became what it is today; a personal name specifically associated with the person we now call "Augustus."

"Caesar" has experienced a similar phenomenon, although to a lesser degree. There is still some sense in the collective consciousness that Caesar was used as a title, but it is mostly associated as the name of Julius Caesar. More on “Caesar” below.

However, to ratchet up the levels of confusion "Imperator" was used, especially in an informal sense and "Imperator" as a title (for whatever reason) is the one that ultimately won out linguistically in the West. It was used in its connotation of "command - commander - command sphere or realm." In a way, from a pure definition standpoint, it is similar to the Arabic title “emir.”

My theory for why “Imperator” leading to “Emperor” became the utilized title in the West is that the preferred word order changed from Latin and "Imperator" won because it was the word that came first and was thus more prominent and "Augustus", reflecting its status as being a pretended nickname came later in the name and people lost the original importance of the word.

Of course, this is very much not the case in German as the word for emperor is “Kaiser” coming straight from “Caesar.” Same thing in Russian with “tsar.” I’d be interested to know if there is a similar practice in other Eastern European languages.

This is actually a topic of keen interest to me, so please forgive my digression on this.

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That is a peculiar connotation, I wish there was a footnote to the footnote explaining the source.
Indeed.
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Old 04-29-2021, 12:37 PM   #24
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Of course, this is very much not the case in German as the word for emperor is “Kaiser” coming straight from “Caesar.” Same thing in Russian with “tsar.” I’d be interested to know if there is a similar practice in other Eastern European languages.
I can speak a bit for Russian on this tangent perhaps, though I have no linguistic or historical background. The derivatives of "Caesar" can be seen in three forms: Tsar, Tsezar, and Kesar (and perhaps others that I have not thought of). Tsar came to mean "king", and is both a title and a common noun, same as "king" in English. Tsezar is the name of Julius Caesar, as well as the title of other Roman Emperors (and the salad). Kesar is more complicated and could mean either "tsar" or "Tsezar" depending on the context (minus the salad), but in some contexts it may be more appropriate to use one versus the other; I am not sure if there are actually any rules here, this is purely my observation. It is also more archaic and a little bit Biblical, but not exclusively. Then the German Kaiser is called kayzer - which is a title that is also distinct from all the rest, and this one has no overlap to my knowledge.

"Augustus" survives in the Russian adjective avgusteyshiy, meaning pertaining to the royal family (e.g. avgusteyshaya osoba = royal persona).

Imperator is, surprise, imperator and is equivalent to emperor.

The other royal persona (avgusteyshaya osoba ) that left quite a mark on European language development is Charlemagne, who I believe is credited with seeding his name all over Europe's languages (mostly in the form of Karl). In Russian it appears as korol, and means "king", same as "tsar", but is applied to non-Russian (perhaps even non-Slavic? not sure) kings. I know the word also appears in Western Slavic languages, but I will leave it to Legate maybe to talk on their behalf, he would do it much better than I.

What all this mess means in terms of Tolkien is that there is a lot more flexibility in titles - not to mention that my beloved translation also dug up konung from some proto-germanic depths specifically for the rulers of Rohan. But Aragorn, for instance, not being tied to any real-world dynasty, can be called tsar and korol interchangeably, and also knyaz (which is "prince" except that it's much more than "prince", it calls back to the time in history when Knyaz was the title of the biggest boss in your group of people).

But coming back to Farmer Giles with a question: wouldn't the root of baselius still echoed in Latin in some form, since it's via Latin that it gives words like basilisk to modern languages? Or am I getting the order of things wrong?
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Old 04-29-2021, 02:08 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan View Post
Basileus is not the original Greek word for king. The original word was "Anax," which while losing the status of a title, is still present in the Greek language and appears in such places as personal names.

The reasons why anax faded into dusty obscurity and basileus came to the fore are, at this far removed, lost to us. I've read speculation that "anax" had more of a sacerdotal association and "basileus", as it ultimately developed, was more secular in nature. There are also implications of what we could consider a feudal hierarchy at play where the anax was the high king and the basileus were autonomous rulers loosely subject to the anax. This is the political system at play in The Iliad. When the Bronze Age collapse occurred, there was no longer an anax but a host of petty basileus’ and that title came to dominate because it was so common.
But that is exactly what concerns us - if what you are saying is true, anax was out of the game a thousand years before the word had the chance to spread around Europe with the Roman Empire. I know that by the time of 1-3rd century, "basileus" was the common term in Greek, and - perhaps most importantly for its spread in subsequent centuries and potential use in the Middle Ages - it was used in the New Testament. That still does not say anything about whether or how it would get to the Western part of the Empire, but like I said - I think that if it was used in the Middle Ages, it could have been used as a "fancy extra title", using a "foreign word" in your list, perhaps in some "international" diplomatic meetings or somesuch.

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Originally Posted by Kuruharan View Post
Of course, this is very much not the case in German as the word for emperor is “Kaiser” coming straight from “Caesar.” Same thing in Russian with “tsar.” I’d be interested to know if there is a similar practice in other Eastern European languages.
Czech has "císař" as the word for "emperor", which is obviously derived from "Caesar" (and I think it is both influenced by Kaiser, as the Germans are immediate neighbours, but likely also some direct knowledge about Caesar). I would personally actually be interested in what do the Southern, Balkan Slavs have, because they would have been directly in contact with the Byzantium (or actually part of it), so I wonder whether their word for Emperor may be similar to Basileus rather than to Caesar/Kaiser/what-have-you.

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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
The other royal persona (avgusteyshaya osoba ) that left quite a mark on European language development is Charlemagne, who I believe is credited with seeding his name all over Europe's languages (mostly in the form of Karl). In Russian it appears as korol, and means "king", same as "tsar", but is applied to non-Russian (perhaps even non-Slavic? not sure) kings. I know the word also appears in Western Slavic languages, but I will leave it to Legate maybe to talk on their behalf, he would do it much better than I.
In Czech (and Polish, Slovak etc.) there is the word král (król, etc.) which means "king" and it comes exactly from Karl (i.e. Charlemagne). So yes (and I assume that's how it travelled to Russian too).

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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
But coming back to Farmer Giles with a question: wouldn't the root of baselius still echoed in Latin in some form, since it's via Latin that it gives words like basilisk to modern languages? Or am I getting the order of things wrong?
Basilisk specifically is a literal borrowing of a word, but yes, of course there are all these Greek-words-turned-Latin-and-later-(French-and-later-English-or-whichever-other-languages), but I think what others were trying to say was that Basileus, of all things, did not get actually transferred as is into wide use; however, it is true that there is for example the word basilica which definitely WAS used in Latin and DOES come from the same root (it was originally an adjective, meaning "royal", and later became stand-alone noun). So, I guess there is something.

Anyways, I hope to post soon something more about the progress of the story itself
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Old 04-29-2021, 09:29 PM   #26
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But Aragorn, for instance, not being tied to any real-world dynasty, can be called tsar and korol interchangeably, and also knyaz (which is "prince" except that it's much more than "prince", it calls back to the time in history when Knyaz was the title of the biggest boss in your group of people).
I subscribe to to the school of thought that says that translating knyaz as "prince" or "grand prince" is a piece of western snobbery which was intended to reduce the social and cultural standing of the Rus' and their medieval states. I believe the most appropriate translation of knyaz (especially in a medieval historical context) is, in fact, "king." Doubly so since the word ultimately derives from the same root as the word king. However, time and linguistic shifts solidified the translation as Grand Prince to the point that the Russian Tsars handed the title out with the explicit intention of it being understood as "Grand Prince", for example, the Grand Principality of Finland.

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But coming back to Farmer Giles
Oh yes...sputter…*ahem*…

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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
I think that if it was used in the Middle Ages, it could have been used as a "fancy extra title", using a "foreign word" in your list, perhaps in some "international" diplomatic meetings or somesuch.
Which brings us around to an important, and ironic, point...which Gildor might have made. For all the seeming physical and cultural isolation and parochialism of the Middle and Little Kingdoms, they retained evidences of wider experiences of the world.

Of course, the Latin itself is evidence of that.
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Old 04-30-2021, 04:00 AM   #27
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Boots The Giant Episode

A few observations about the first adventure...

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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
I like the way Tolkien seemingly reinforces a theme from The Hobbit (taking place in a world with "less noise and more green") with this:

Then we have Giles described as being mostly interested in being safe and comfortable, and the fact that he and Garm didn't pay much notice to anything outside the immediate area of Ham (shades of Bilbo Baggins?).
There is definitely the same archetypal setup. Giles definitely takes on a bit of "Bilbo Baggins character development", even though I agree with Kuru that as person, he is more similar to somebody else; I'm not sure if Gaffer Gamgee (absolutely see that dimension too), I am actually thinking Farmer Maggot. There is the same dichotomy of somebody who is both very much set in his own comfortable isolated spot but at the same time very sharp when it comes to analysing problems at hand. And of course, the most strikingly, there is the element of "get off of my field, you supernatural intruder!" Stand not between the farmer and his property (or, on his property).

Another side-remark: what is the deal with there being specific effort to remark that Giles has a ginger beard when he is being introduced? (However is it exactly phrased in the original? Because obviously it seems like a super-random remark that gives me the vibe that it is either just there to provide some artistic imbalance to the sentence, or does it have some other significance? Also because the way it's phrased in my translation makes it sound somewhat derogatory, but that may come with the peculiar cultural element that if you talk about people with that colour of hair using that particular word, it has a somewhat negative tone. But is that a reference to something in the English culture that I am not aware of?)

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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
I think Garm is endearingly annoying at times, but obviously very loyal to his master. I love the vocalizations he's given in the book, such as when he wakes Giles to warn of the giant, and gets a thrown bottle for his trouble:
He actually reminds me of Roverandom (and the other various dogs present in that story, particularly maybe the Moon Dog. Also, there seems to be some strange connection in Tolkien's works between dogs and moonbeams; chasing moonbeams. Is it just recycling the same element in two stories, or is it a trope that has some deeper significance?).

Garm is a little more "crude" than Roverandom, perhaps, but the similarity is there. If I exaggerated a little, I would say that all Tolkien's dogs could happily be the same character and it would not be a problem. So is that it? Does Tolkien have an "archetypal dog" figure?

That made me think: I am aware of his opinion on cats, but what about dogs? Did he have any close relationship with any dogs that we know of? The family didn't own a dog, right, or did they? (I actually only now just noticed that Pitchwife has already asked this question, and it hasn't been answered.) Did some of Tolkien's closest friends have one? In other words: is Tolkien's writing of dogs pure fabrication, or could it have been inspired by some specific dog(s) that he had had the chance to get to know more closely?

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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
I do love that Giles' dog is named Garm after the fierce and bloody guardian of Hel's Gate in Norse myth
And that is just as we are told that dogs did not have fancy names. Perhaps not by the standards of the Latin-centric "high culture". But I find it interesting that if we say that Garm is a "barbaric" name, then the cow already is much better - her name being Galathea, which points to the classical Greek mythology (and, in another of Tolkien's linguistic inside-jokes, means "milk-white". Of course you'd name a cow after something that has to do with milk. Now the next level question is, was Giles himself actually so educated that he did this on purpose? ).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Another, very reminiscent of the Shire quote about the rest of the world being there, even if they weren't aware of it (can't remember the exact words or location): "But the Wide World was there." Sounds just a bit ominous, doesn't it?!
There is a very similar build-up to The Hobbit in broad terms - this particular quote reminds me also of Gildor. *points to current signature* There is the same use of "Wilderness" as the Outside, and the Shire/Ham being the more civilised part but still different from the King's city that lies on the opposite end of the spectrum (in TH and LotR it would be all the Elven and human cities).

More strikingly, there is the same progression in The Hobbit and Giles with "upping the challenge" of Giants(trolls)->Dragons (->greedy individuals of royal bloodline).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
One of the characters that grew on me as I read and reread this story is Giles' wife Agatha. She's not mentioned very often, and according to Scull and Hammond, she was not part of the original story Tolkien told to his children, nor of the first manuscript. I will keep an eye out for the passages in which she appears to see if their is any significance to her addition to the story.

Incidentally, I haven't seen anyone cosplaying Queen Agatha - so I remedied that situation at the "Tolkien 2019" event in Birmingham two years ago...
I daresay that is certainly a commendable deed! I will also be curious to see what more there is about Agatha as the story continues. So far, I found it interesting how she is presented as a balance - much in the same vein as Giles - between the two types of the "hobbitish mentality" - the type of that would prefer her peace and quiet and thinks that a dog yelling about giants in the middle of the night is probably making up things (reminded me of the famous conversation about walking trees at the Green Dragon), but at the same time very much thinks that something should be done if the threat seems likely enough.

I have one more remark about the first adventure. So we have painstakingly analysed the "real historical period" of when this takes place, figured out that it goes maybe into around 7th century or somesuch, and then we have Giles using a muskette. Um...? Talk about "suspending disbelief", Mr. Tolkien!

And speaking of that, there is one little joke I enjoyed - now again, like I said, I have only a translation, so I would like to know how it goes in the original - there is the part where Tolkien supplies a quote from "four wise men" from, obviously, Oxford (in my translation it literally says Volský Brod, "Ox Ford", something that evokes the idea of some average muddy village and therefore fits the rural setting of the story while at the same time pointing to the famous university; but how does it go in the original? Is it something along the same lines?). And was this just a generic nod to Oxford as the centre of science, or was this perhaps even a specific referrence to him and some of his friends among the Inklings, a self-insert, if you will?
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Old 04-30-2021, 08:44 AM   #28
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Boots

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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
Another side-remark: what is the deal with there being specific effort to remark that Giles has a ginger beard when he is being introduced? (However is it exactly phrased in the original? Because obviously it seems like a super-random remark that gives me the vibe that it is either just there to provide some artistic imbalance to the sentence, or does it have some other significance? Also because the way it's phrased in my translation makes it sound somewhat derogatory, but that may come with the peculiar cultural element that if you talk about people with that colour of hair using that particular word, it has a somewhat negative tone. But is that a reference to something in the English culture that I am not aware of?)
I had never thought about that before.

My guess is that it is an additional personal identifier in case there was another Giles in town.
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Old 04-30-2021, 12:54 PM   #29
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I've enjoyed following these posts down the linguistic rabbit hole! Thanks to all of you who know the ancient languages for sharing your ideas! I must admit that I'm glad to get back to the story though...

Legate, your signature quote of Gildor's words is exactly what I was looking for, about the wide world! I also find your comparison of Tolkien's dogs interesting.

The similarity of the atmosphere of Farmer Giles and the Hobbit is very noticeable, as several have mentioned.

One thing I have already seen in Agatha is that she grounds Giles - she helps him to make the first decision to go after the giant. More later on...

Concerning the definition of blunderbuss: Scull and Hammond comment that it is taken verbatim from the Oxford English Dictionary. The 'Four Wise Clerks of Oxenford' apparently refers to the four editors of the Dictionary.

Have you remarked upon the use of saints' days to mark the time? I know that the scholastic year in England was divided up by saints' days with which the terms began - is that still the case?
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Old 04-30-2021, 01:47 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
With my very generic knowledge of the history of Britain with many gaps, I always wondered whether "Little Kingdom" referred to something "real" (as in, that there was actually something called that, by whomever). So I take it that there wasn't, but if you wanted to take it as "real", you could identify it with something?
I mentioned this in my very first post in this thread. The "Little Kingdom" Tolkien refers to is believed to be a real place: Frithwuld's Surrey, a 7th century sub-kingdom of Mercia.

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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
And that is just as we are told that dogs did not have fancy names. Perhaps not by the standards of the Latin-centric "high culture". But I find it interesting that if we say that Garm is a "barbaric" name, then the cow already is much better - her name being Galathea, which points to the classical Greek mythology (and, in another of Tolkien's linguistic inside-jokes, means "milk-white". Of course you'd name a cow after something that has to do with milk. Now the next level question is, was Giles himself actually so educated that he did this on purpose?
Well, considering Giles could not decipher anything but the most basic "uncial" letters, and had to have the Parson read everything to him, I would suggest "Galathea" was a name he heard somewhere in a story (like the tales of the great dragon slayer Bellomarius he had loved as a child). It's a Tolkien joke, so let's not ascribe any classical Graeco-Roman learning to our stolid farmer.
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Old 04-30-2021, 02:15 PM   #31
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The Blunderbuss and the Four Wise Clerks of Oxenford: Tolkien here quotes, verbatim, the Oxford English Dictionary definition. The 'four wise clerks' is a reference to the Dictionary's four editors-in-chief, Murray, Bradley, Craigie and Onions.

King Cole: Known from the nursery rhyme, yes, but Coel Hen also figures in Geoffrey of Monmouth's grand pseudo-history of pre-Saxon Britain, the Historia Regum Britanniae - the primary source for Arthurian legend (although there are a handful earlier and many later), which give point to T referencing Arthur in the same sentence. Geoffrey didn't invent him - he already existed in Welsh legend - but he made him the father of St Helena and thus the grandfather of the Emperor Constantine. The HRB also bequeathed literature such rulers as King Lear and Cymbeline.

Favorite Character: Chrysophylax. Tolkien's dragons are some of his best characters, full stop.
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Old 04-30-2021, 04:45 PM   #32
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Favorite Character: Chrysophylax. Tolkien's dragons are some of his best characters, full stop.
Hear, hear!
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Old 05-01-2021, 06:31 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Estelyn
The first pages introduce two of the main characters - Giles and Garm - as well as the antagonist of the first adventure. After a few pages, Agatha joins them. Considerably later, the villagers, the King and his knights join them.

Which characters do you enjoy most? How do you like the abundance of Latin names used? What opinion do you have of the talking dog? Do you enjoy the parodic humour?
As for the characters - so far Farmer Giles reminds me of Farmer Maggot, the same archetype of a no-nonsense, steadfast farmer who doesn't back down in the face of danger, being either very brave or very stupid - or perhaps a bit of both - in standing up to a magnificient foe. (I see Legate made this same point, so we are in agreement!)

About the humour - to be fair, I don't think I ever got it. I don't have the context for whatever Tolkien is making fun of, so to me, the story comes of either serious but odd, or frivolous without a bigger point to make. The element of parody is sadly largely lost on me - and I dare say for many other readers less versed in English literature and history than Tolkien himself (a majority of us, I suppose).

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Originally Posted by Rune
I think this scholarly approach is one of the reasons I still find Tolkien so fascinating. It is escapism, but it also speaks to the part of me that loves academia. Like Tolkien I prefer history, even if this history is imagined.
It certainly gives his work a lot more depth and a unique flair. And unlike with so many others of his ideas, not many later fantasy authors have tried to mimic it (or if yes, then rather lazily). The only other truly scholarly fantasy author I've come across is Susanna Clarke, whose novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has footnotes throughout, referencing an imaginary history of magic in England in a wonderfully dry, academic manner. I would certainly recommend the book to anyone who loves the scholarly side of Tolkien's writing, even though it's certainly not even trying to be of equal depth as Tolkien's Middle-Earth Legendarium. I think it is rather comparable to Farmer Giles indeed - it blends actual English history and mythology with made up stories, but it doesn't create a whole new world with its own history and historiography.

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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Which brings us around to an important, and ironic, point...which Gildor might have made. For all the seeming physical and cultural isolation and parochialism of the Middle and Little Kingdoms, they retained evidences of wider experiences of the world.
I think this might have been the most interesting point to come out of the grand linguistic debate, and I think it's a rather clever little jab from Tolkien.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate
I have one more remark about the first adventure. So we have painstakingly analysed the "real historical period" of when this takes place, figured out that it goes maybe into around 7th century or somesuch, and then we have Giles using a muskette. Um...? Talk about "suspending disbelief", Mr. Tolkien!
Yes, this confused me too. Certainly one of the humorous elements of the story that reveal it's tongue-in-cheek, but again, I feel like I lack the context to fully appreciate it. To be honest, sometimes reading Farmer Giles feels a little like reading someone else's inside joke. But I guess that's what it is, to a degree. (Even though, I guess you could say all writing is the author's "inside joke", but here it is perhaps more evident than usual.)
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Old 05-01-2021, 06:39 AM   #34
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Word choices here and there

In this reading, I'm fascinated by Tolkien's word choices:

Distinguished

"There was more time then, and folk were fewer, so that most men were distinguished."

Distinguished, here, has a delicious double meaning: first, as in having a reputation; second, as in differences being apparent.

It is this second meaning that could escape one's notice, and has escaped mine until this reading. And of course, during the times in which Tolkien sets his story, there was much to distinguish one character from another, as he proceeds to do, by occupation, skills, character, and attitude. Giles, the Parson, the Miller, Garm, the Smith, the King - each are clearly delineated from each other as shall be seen with further reading.

Memorable events

"There was plenty to talk about, for memorable events occurred very frequently. But at the moment when this tale begins nothing memorable had, in fact, happened in Ham for quite a long time."

This makes me laugh every time I come across it, each reading. The first sentence is tongue in cheek because it's both true and not true, it depends on what one means by 'memorable.' If you can remember it as a distinguishable event as compared to others, then it's memorable. But there are degrees of memorable, and what is about to happen is so memorable that all of those other memorable events pale by comparison. Which is why the story is being told about this event rather than those.

The Giant

"...he had very few friends, owing to his deafness and his stupidity, and the scarcity of giants."

This also makes me laugh every time. What an interesting set of reasons. Deafness and stupidity are fair enough reasons for having very few friends. The scarcity of giants says, without saying so, that giants tend not to be friends of anyone but other giants. Which makes even more sense if they're stupid, and perhaps deaf into the bargain.

Then you get to "One fine summer's day..." and I notice that Tolkien has taken three full pages to set the scene, after the Foreword.

Garm and the Giant

"He had a fancy for moonshine...."

Cracks me up. I do not know if Tolkien was aware of the American slang meaning of the word moonshine, so I don't know if this is what he was hinting at. Still, I find it hilarious to think of Garm finding a way to get light in the head.

"In five minutes he had done more damage than the royal fox hunt could have done in five days."

This is a particularly damning socio-political commentary, and is offered so off the cuff that it could be missed.
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Old 05-03-2021, 11:26 PM   #35
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Let's move on to the main adventure - enter Chrysophylax Dives! The thing that I noticed right away upon rereading this is the difference between expectation and reality of adventures. The idea of real (meaty) Dragon's Tail vs. (sweet) Mock Dragon's Tail - which one do they actually want?! And the knights being expected to do something - but their knowledge is 'inofficial' and their convenience is 'not early at all'. Besides, real fighting would interfere with the planned tournament!

Shades of the Hobbit again - "...adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"
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Old 05-04-2021, 09:54 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate
I have one more remark about the first adventure. So we have painstakingly analysed the "real historical period" of when this takes place, figured out that it goes maybe into around 7th century or somesuch, and then we have Giles using a muskette. Um...? Talk about "suspending disbelief", Mr. Tolkien!
Yes, this confused me too. Certainly one of the humorous elements of the story that reveal it's tongue-in-cheek, but again, I feel like I lack the context to fully appreciate it. To be honest, sometimes reading Farmer Giles feels a little like reading someone else's inside joke. But I guess that's what it is, to a degree. (Even though, I guess you could say all writing is the author's "inside joke", but here it is perhaps more evident than usual.)
I love the blunderbuss. I've always felt that Tolkien was poking fun at the likes of the King Arthur stories, which always seem to depict Arthur in full late-medieval plate armour, as if he had ridden out of Camelot and straight into the Hundred Years' War! St. George is depicted the same way (WW1 example), despite living at least a thousand years before it was invented.

So, says Tolkien, what's another half-millennium between friends? Give 'em all firearms too! I love it. XD

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate
Another side-remark: what is the deal with there being specific effort to remark that Giles has a ginger beard when he is being introduced?
Thank you for asking, because now I've looked this up. ^_^

Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmer Giles of Ham
In full his name was Ægidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo... I will in what follows give the man his name shortly, and in the vulgar form: he was Farmer Giles of Ham, and he had a red beard.
  • Ægidius - Late Latin name and origin of the English 'Giles'.
  • Ahenobarbus - Latin cognomen meaning 'red-beard' or 'copper-beard'.
  • Agricola - Latin for 'farmer'.
  • de Hammo - 'of Ham', I assume in Latin.

So Tolkien is here being 100% literal: 'farmer', 'Giles', 'of Ham', and 'he had a red beard' are all parts of the good farmer's name!

(I don't know what happened to the Julius. Perhaps a dragon ate it.)

hS
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Old 05-04-2021, 03:19 PM   #37
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A few observations about the first adventure...


There is definitely the same archetypal setup. Giles definitely takes on a bit of "Bilbo Baggins character development", even though I agree with Kuru that as person, he is more similar to somebody else; I'm not sure if Gaffer Gamgee (absolutely see that dimension too), I am actually thinking Farmer Maggot. There is the same dichotomy of somebody who is both very much set in his own comfortable isolated spot but at the same time very sharp when it comes to analysing problems at hand. And of course, the most strikingly, there is the element of "get off of my field, you supernatural intruder!" Stand not between the farmer and his property (or, on his property).
I don't get that vibe at all, but possibly that is because we don't know why Farmer Maggot developed into the character we meet in The Fellowship. Maggot is one of my favorite characters and seems exceedingly knowledgeable, which is not something I can say about Giles. Giles develops though, and to the better...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post

I have one more remark about the first adventure. So we have painstakingly analysed the "real historical period" of when this takes place, figured out that it goes maybe into around 7th century or somesuch, and then we have Giles using a muskette. Um...? Talk about "suspending disbelief", Mr. Tolkien!
Yup, exactly... I was stairing out into thin air for half a minute after reading that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thinlómien View Post
As for the characters - so far Farmer Giles reminds me of Farmer Maggot, the same archetype of a no-nonsense, steadfast farmer who doesn't back down in the face of danger, being either very brave or very stupid - or perhaps a bit of both - in standing up to a magnificient foe. (I see Legate made this same point, so we are in agreement!)
But where do you get the notion that Farmer Maggot is anything else than intelligent. Him standing his ground in the face of a hooded stranger? He seems a magnificent specimen of a hobbit to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thinlómien View Post
It certainly gives his work a lot more depth and a unique flair. And unlike with so many others of his ideas, not many later fantasy authors have tried to mimic it (or if yes, then rather lazily). The only other truly scholarly fantasy author I've come across is Susanna Clarke, whose novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has footnotes throughout, referencing an imaginary history of magic in England in a wonderfully dry, academic manner. I would certainly recommend the book to anyone who loves the scholarly side of Tolkien's writing, even though it's certainly not even trying to be of equal depth as Tolkien's Middle-Earth Legendarium. I think it is rather comparable to Farmer Giles indeed - it blends actual English history and mythology with made up stories, but it doesn't create a whole new world with its own history and historiography.
Recommendation noted, and book added to my wish-list.

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I love the blunderbuss. I've always felt that Tolkien was poking fun at the likes of the King Arthur stories, which always seem to depict Arthur in full late-medieval plate armour, as if he had ridden out of Camelot and straight into the Hundred Years' War! St. George is depicted the same way (WW1 example), despite living at least a thousand years before it was invented.

So, says Tolkien, what's another half-millennium between friends? Give 'em all firearms too! I love it. XD
It is funny the way vast differences in time can totally disappear in popular culture. I often wonder why people think it makes human-dinosaur interaction more realistic if the humans are from the stone-age. In the grand scheme of things they are not much closer in time to dinosaurs than us.
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Old 05-06-2021, 03:59 AM   #38
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Let's move on to the main adventure - enter Chrysophylax Dives! The thing that I noticed right away upon rereading this is the difference between expectation and reality of adventures. The idea of real (meaty) Dragon's Tail vs. (sweet) Mock Dragon's Tail - which one do they actually want?!
I have always thought that the Mock Dragon's Tail sounded like something I'd like to try. The real one, not so much.

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Shades of the Hobbit again - "...adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"
Yes! And I can't help but again noticing a million similarities with Hobbit/LotR in general.

There is also the part, when Garm informs Giles about the dragon, and Giles asks where did he see him, and Garm describes the area, Giles's reaction is the classic Hobbit reaction, in the vein of either Gaffer Gamgee about Bucklanders or Farmer Maggot about Bagenders (see, we again have the two people Giles was compared to before on this thread), "oh there? Well that explains, there have always been strange folk over there, nevermind". Despite it being only a couple of miles in reality, the "queer folk" argument, this is beyond our familiar village, is enough to convince Giles that it is normal to have a dragon prowling there. Or in other words: it hasn't breached our comfort zone yet; once it starts running across the places we all know, then it will become a problem.

You can clearly see from this that Giles sees (much like the Hobbits) the world divided into the "safe world" around his home and the "Outside". And no matter the actual geographical distances and/or other parameters, the "Outside" is the Outside and you could dump anything into it from Giants to Dragons to people who eat different type of things for breakfast.

***

Other similarities? I don't think I ever realised it before, but the parson actually bears some similarities to Gandalf. He is the one who recognises the magical item (sword) with an inscription and suspects that it is something long before everyone else, just like Gandalf can recognise not only the Troll-swords, but also The One Ring. He overall knows much more and seems to be somewhat manipulative, not unlike Gandalf in TH, in nudging Giles into the quest (but also in calculatingly letting the dragon run free so that the rest of the story can unfold).

The similarity between the dragons' respective dialogues and cunning eloquence in TH and Giles does not need to be even mentioned.

More recurring themes: what is it with Tolkien and swords with runes on them anyway? Is just the influence of the generic cultural background (Excalibur etc being such an important part of English mythology)?

And more interestingly, what is it with Tolkien and millers? He clearly has some beef with them. Sandymans in LotR, and the local miller here, clearly people of questionable motives and morality. If someone in the future stumbles upon an unpublished detective story by Tolkien, I guarantee you that the culprit is the miller. Can anyone more familiar with Tolkien's personal life confirm some real-life parallels? Did the Tolkiens have at some point an annoying miller for a neighbour?

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  • Ægidius - Late Latin name and origin of the English 'Giles'.
  • Ahenobarbus - Latin cognomen meaning 'red-beard' or 'copper-beard'.
  • Agricola - Latin for 'farmer'.
  • de Hammo - 'of Ham', I assume in Latin.

So Tolkien is here being 100% literal: 'farmer', 'Giles', 'of Ham', and 'he had a red beard' are all parts of the good farmer's name!

(I don't know what happened to the Julius. Perhaps a dragon ate it.)
Okay! But of course! It never occured to me to seek the answer in his name. Well done, now it makes perfect sense!

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It is funny the way vast differences in time can totally disappear in popular culture. I often wonder why people think it makes human-dinosaur interaction more realistic if the humans are from the stone-age. In the grand scheme of things they are not much closer in time to dinosaurs than us.
Indeed, it's exactly the same thing! Or the other famous examples like Cleopatra living closer to current time than to the building of the pyramids, or - since you mentioned dinosaurs - my favourite, tyrannosaurus being actually closer in time to humans than to... stegosaurus. (Yes, the popular illustrations have been lying to us.)
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Old 05-06-2021, 07:31 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
And more interestingly, what is it with Tolkien and millers? He clearly has some beef with them. Sandymans in LotR, and the local miller here, clearly people of questionable motives and morality. If someone in the future stumbles upon an unpublished detective story by Tolkien, I guarantee you that the culprit is the miller. Can anyone more familiar with Tolkien's personal life confirm some real-life parallels? Did the Tolkiens have at some point an annoying miller for a neighbour?
Tolkien is playing into a common medieval stereotype against millers. The miller was one of the most prosperous members of the average medieval community. He had a monopoly from the local lord to grind the grain and was a much resented figure. Millers in medieval popular culture were regarded as the epitome of dishonesty.
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Old 05-07-2021, 04:13 AM   #40
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In addition to that medieval stereotype we know that JRR Tolkien and his brother Hilary were afraid of the Miller and his son in Sarehole were they lived in their earlier childhood. And probably with some right, because we can imagine that they were catched trespassing on the property of the millers and any how a pond of a mill is fascinating and dangours for kids, so they seldom accept that. I think I have seen a picture of that Miller and his son standing in the yard of the mill in a book, probably the Tolkien Family Album or The Black and the Withe Ogre Country. And to be sure the named Withe Ogre is that Miller seen in the crocked mirror of a fantastic story written by jung Hilary Tolkien (sad I don't remember clearly who was suggested as being the Black Ogre, but he had the most beautiful flowers in his fields, so he might be a farmer).

And again we find a connection to The Hobbit: If you search for pictures of the Sarehole mill in Birmingham (yes its still there!) guess what it looks like => right: the mill in Hobbingen across the Water as painted by JRR Tolkien. Of course, not exactly but still: the red brick building with roof ridge parallel to the water, its sparse windows, and the high chimney.

Coming back for a moment to the red beard of Giles: Yes, it is part of his name, but that doesn't make it any less interesting, maybe even to the contrary since only exceptional characteristics will become part of your name. Tolkien does often speak about beards (the Dwarves and their wives, the Wizards, Theoden and even Círdan just to mention a view out of my head). But he does not often mention red hair, I don't think one of Dwarves in The Hobbit had red hair, so they come out with some strange colures like blue. And the 1 figure out of the legendarium I remember having a red beard is really exceptional in both having red hair and growing a beard early in his life: The father of Nerdanel, Feanor's wife.

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