Smith of Wootton Major
by J.R.R. Tolkien
“The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.”
As I previously declared in my Farmer Giles of Ham’s review, I want to present you a few books written by Mr Tolkien that may give you a more accurate knowledge of him and his works, giving you the chance to discover something new.
The second book I decided to review is Smith of Wootton Mayor, a brief but fascinating story that could be considered quite similar to Farmer Giles of Ham’s one.
One of the great characteristic of this book, as of others by Mr Tolkien, is that it can be read with different interpretations and intentions; a ten year old boy or girl may read it simply as a Fantasy story, set during a certain period of the English Middle Age, but adult readers, and young adult too, may discover in it metaphors and double meanings that make this story even more fascinating.
There are a few things I’d like to share with you, firstly I need to underline how pleasant it was to start reading this book discovering – by Mr Tolkien words – that he couldn’t accept any sort of introduction put directly before the beginning of a story.
The concept is that he thought that the reader had the right to start reading a story without any previous information or explanation made by any critics.
Each reader must try to understand the story and its message on his/her own, and if it is considered strictly necessary or interesting s/he may decide to find out further explanation once his/her reading is finished.
Secondly, he book is quite short but it has its own power to make you feel part of its story, and once finished I had the feeling of being awakened from a beautiful dream, and in my dream I was living next to the characters of the story in their enchanting world.
I noticed a few similarities between the magic world of Faery and Narnia’s one; like in Narnia, the characters do not have any perception of the world where they came from, and they are totally absorbed into this new one.
In addition, once away from Faery – like Narnia – they perceive a sort of lack, as if there’s something missing in their lives.
The protagonist of this story, the smith of Wootton Mayor can be considered as a metaphor for the role of the writer, and the star that he carries on his forehead represents his creativity, his imagination, in other words, his writing skills.
But it comes a time when, according to social changes that influence the way in which books are written, the writer understands his time is come to an end; s/he has to let other writers to write books because they can represent those changes s/he doesn’t feel has part of his/her being.
It may be considered as a declaration by Tolkien himself, as a sort of awareness of the status of his role as a writer.
Indeed, it is something that has always occurred in history; when you study literature at school, you learn it has a chronological sequence of writers and styles, and though it is not exactly like this, it can help you to understand.
For example, you studied a certain number of writer who belong to the XVI century, and when the Romantic period begins you had to study other different names of writers.
It simply means that each writer belongs to a particular group of writers because s/he shares certain ideas, and when, according to social, political, religious changes, the way in which reality is perceived and analysed changes, then the writers have to leave an opportunity to those who share those new ideas.
I do recommend this book, and I hope you will be enchanted by its story and its magical world.
My Italian edition has Pauline Baynes‘ illustrations.