Display Full Text
[page 2] a book review by Virginia Dabney <Smith of Wooton Major> Professor Tolkien's new story, _Smith of Wootton Major_, is of particular interest to Tolkien enthusiasts as a beautiful example of the Fairy-story, as he uses the term in his essay "On Fairy Stories". That is, it is a story about Faerie, or rather about a human's encounter with Faerie, and contalns those values which the fariy-story @fairy-story@ is peculiarly capable of providing. It may also be considered a story _about_ fairy-stories, as Smith's adventures in Faerie illustrate very well the rewards to be found in that realm. Faerie is a marvellous and beautiful land, though, as Professor Tolkien points out in both the essay and _Smith_, it is also full of perils and pitfalls for mortals. Smith has the privilege of exploring Faerie by virtue of the star of Faerie which he acquired as a child and wears on his brow, and which also protects him from most of the dangers of that perilous land. The reader is allowed to wander in Faerie with Smith, and to glimpse its joys and terrors. _Smith of Wootten Major_ provides the particular values of the fairy-story discussed in Professor Tolkien's essay, Fantasy, Escape, Recovery, and Consolation, just as Smith himself found these in Faerie. Of course in a short work such as _Smith_ it is impossible to create as detailed a Secondary World as that of _The Lord of the Rings_; however, _Smith_ certainly has that "inner consistency of reality" characteristic of Fantasy, a mark of a good sub-creation. This world, the picture of Faerie presented, satisfies the criterion for a successful fairy-story Professor Tolkien mentions: it "awakens _desire_, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably." Faerie also illustrates marvellously the value of recovery. Smith brings back with him the fresh, clear view of life which recovery provides. His exploration; of Faerie have made the more mundane sinde @side@ of his life more meaningful and beautiful as well. And surely we have as much need as Smith of escaping from the modern ordinary world to Faerie. Faerie also provides Smith with consolation, as this and other good fairy-stories do for us. A basic feature of consolation, and, as Professor Tolkien sees it, the highest function and true form of the fairy-story, is eucatastrophe. A large portion of _Smith_ is eucatastrophic in tone, in the sense that it is full of that piercing joy which is characteristic of eucatastrophe, and it is difficult to single out one scene as the eucatastrophic climax, but perhaps it occurs when Smith gives up the star and Alf reveals his true identity and the choice which is Smith's to make. Some people have pointed out certain correspondences between places or characters in _Smith of Wootten Major_ and in _The Lord of the Rings_, sigguesting, for example, that Faerie is "really" Eldamar, the Queen is Elbereth, or something similar. [page 3] Although these are interesting, and experience in Middle-earth may enhance our enjoyment of _Smith_, it seems more valid to say simply that they may both reflect the same concept in somewhat different ways, and to consider _Smith_ a sub-creation in its own right. In any case, Professor Tolkien has provided us with a superb example of the fairy-story, and permitted us, like Smith, to explore and experience the marvellous @marvelous@ and enchanted land of Faerie. _Smith of Wootten Major_ is available in hardback from Houghton-Mifflin, with delighful and approriate illustrations by Pualine Baynes. It also appeared in the December issue of _Redbook_.