Smith of Wootton Major

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Hardcover, 1974



Call number




Unwin (1974), Hardcover


After the blacksmith's son finds a magical star buried in a piece of cake, his life is completely changed.

User reviews

LibraryThing member paradoxosalpha
This slender novella was one of Tolkein's last works that he saw published during his lifetime. It is a cross-generational fable about creativity, fortune, and loss. It is very effective when read aloud; I had the pleasure of having it read to me by my Other Reader over the course of three
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Smith is unoriginal in the best possible way for a modern fairy-tale. I was reminded strongly of Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, but some of the episodes in Faery in the middle of the book exhibit the sort of psychedelic reverie that I associate more with the work of George MacDonald. Sure enough, the wikipedia article on Smith of Wootton Major gives Tolkein's story its origin in an attempt at a preface to MacDonald's "The Golden Key." Tracing the line of influence the other direction, I believe that Susanna Clarke must have read this book.

The Pauline Baynes illustrations are lovely, and really capture the spirit of the thing.
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LibraryThing member Moriquen
This is indeed a typical folktale. Something we aren't that familiar with these days. Filled with strange warnings and weird life lessons, always a little sad. Never the less I loved reading it.
LibraryThing member JohanJonsson
A mystical little tale of the relation between a small english medieval village and the land of the faeries. Most possibly meant as a tale for children to read slow, one chapter at a time, intended to spur the fantasy around the idea of a faery land.
LibraryThing member skwoodiwis
Charming. Over used word and really not appropriate here – but on the surface charming.
Actually the story is a dream. A sleep walk with bright moments of wonder. The smith was a quiet, young boy, whom no one turned to view. He did not stop people on the street but he received the star from
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His adventures were perilous but not extreme. His life saved by a birch and nothing he could do to repay.
That’s often how life is – we wander along and perish if no one lends a hand but often times out of nowhere help arrives.
The story was a dream, with language soft and open – at times a whisper and at times a soft laugh.
It was a wonderful story with an ending that continues. So nice to see the star move in the land no Faery.
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LibraryThing member charlottejones952
The story itself is only about 57 pages long in the edition I borrowed from the library so is a very quick read. It contains medieval style illustrations by Pauline Baynes. This is the first story by Tolkien that I have managed to read; I have tried to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy many times
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in the past, and have not been able to get into it, but this style seemed completely different to me.

There aren't that many characters in this short story, the main ones being Smith, Nokes and Alf. As the story is extremely short, there isn't a lot of character development but I think due to the fairytale style of the book, and the fact that it is such a quick read, this doesn't deduct from the plot at all. Most of the characters and very caricatured; Nokes is the typical disbelieving grumpy old man, Alf the mysterious outsider and Smith is the typical curious protagonist. I think that this adds to the fairytale style and also makes the story a lot easier to read.

This story follows a few of the archetypal features of a traditional fairytale; with the magical object, the ordinary hero, the mysterious stranger and a strange other-world. I think that as this is such a short story, the level of description of Faery wasn't very extensive which left a lot of the details to the reader's imagination.

The plot wasn't very complex at all but this is sometimes vital to such a short story as it lets the reader become interested in the story without needing too much introduction or background. I really like how Tolkien established things like the Great Cake as a tradition in this fictional world in such a way that made the whole thing very believable.

Overall, like I said at the beginning of this review, I found the writing style in this short story a lot easier to read and understand than the writing in some of Tolkien's other publications. The sentence structures were very varied in the most part but a lot of the time the pacing was quite quick, meaning that although the story was pushed along at a comfortable pace, the plot lacked descriptive language and background to the characters.

Overall, I would give this a 4 out of 5 as I found the story interesting and the writing style enjoyable to read, but I found myself wishing that there was just more to it; more descriptive language, more establishment of the traditions and the environment.
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LibraryThing member BenKline
A delightful fun JRR Tolkien piece of work. I went to the Hershey Public Library looking for a homebrew book, but they didn't have it, and browsing around I came across this, and having never even heard of it, I decided to give it a read.

It's a children's book and done really well, I will probably
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get it out again to read to my daughters once I'm done with the Narnia series. There's not a 'whole lot' to it, but it is about how to be respectful to others and to keep faith in the Faery kingdom, something I know my oldest will absolutely love.

For any JRR Tolkien fan (LTTR, Hobbit, etc.) it's definitely worth a pick up and read. It's all of 74 pages with numerous illustrations and big font, easily something to read for an hour or two in an afternoon.
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LibraryThing member quondame
A deceptively simple tale of a fairy touched man, how he became so, his wanderings into fairyland and encounters with fairies, and his life at home as a smith. Written in a detached somewhat wistful tone.


Original publication date


Physical description

160 p.; 8.66 inches


0007202474 / 9780007202478
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