Kevin's Watch Forum Index
 HomeHome   MemberlistMemberlist   RegisterRegister   SearchSearch   ProfileProfile   FAQFAQ   StatisticsStatistics  SudokuSudoku   Phoogle MapPhoogle Map 
 AlbumAlbum StoresStores   StoresItems Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Smith Of Wootton Major

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Kevin's Watch Forum Index -> The Library -> J.R.R. Tolkien Forum
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Cord Hurn
Servant Of The Band

MaleRanyhyn
Joined: 28 Oct 2013
Posts: 6409

Thanks: 1071
Thanked 85 Times in 80 Posts

Location: Alpine, Arizona, USA
8998 White Gold Dollars
Tokens
HP

User Items:
1 Plains of Ra1 Furls Fire1 Andelain


PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:17 pm    Post subject: Smith Of Wootton Major Reply with quote

I just finished a re-read of this Tolkien short story, and I liked the heartfelt reverence JRRT shows for the world of fantasy. Young Smith swallows the magical star hidden in the Great Cake baked for children every 24th winter in the village of Wootton Major, and becomes a repeat traveler in the land of Faery, and his travels have the benefit of adding beauty, charm, and endurance to his subsequent blacksmith work and to his relationships with his family and neighbors.

Quote:
The Feast had been in mid-winter, but it was now June, and the night was hardly dark at all. The boy got up before dawn, for he did not wish to sleep: it was his tenth birthday. He looked out of the window, and the world seemed quiet and expectant. A little breeze, cool and fragrant, stirred the waking trees. Then the dawn came, and far away he heard the dawn-song of the birds beginning, growing as it came towards him, until it rushed over him, filling all the land round the house, and passed on like a wave of music into the West, as the sun rose above the rim of the world.

"It reminds me of Faery," he heard himself say, "but in Faery the people sing, too." Then he began to sing, high and clear, in strange words that he seemed to know by heart; and in that moment the star fell out of his mouth and he caught it on his open hand. It was bright silver now, glistening in the sunlight; but it quivered and rose a little, as if it were about to fly away. Without thinking he clapped his hand to his head, and there the star stayed in the middle of his forehead, and he wore it for many years.

Few people in the village noticed it though it was not invisible to attentive eyes; but it became part of his face, and it did not usually shine at all. Some of its light passed into his eyes; and his voice, which had begun to grow beautiful as soon as the star came to him, became ever more beautiful as he grew up. People liked to hear him speak, even if it was no more than a "good morning."

He became well known in his country, not only in his own village but in many others round about, but in many others round about, for his good workmanship. His father was a smith, and he followed him in his craft and bettered it. Smithson he was called while his father was still alive, and then just Smith. For by that time he was the best smith between Far Easton and the Westwood, and he could make all kinds of things of iron in his smithy. Most of them, of course, were plain and useful, meant for daily needs: farm tools, carpenter's tools, kitchen tools and pots and pans, bars and bolts and hinges, pot-hooks, fire-dogs, and horse-shoes, and the like. They were strong and lasting, but they also had a grace about them, being shapely in their kinds, good to handle and to look at.

But some things, when he had time, he made for delight; and they were beautiful for he could work iron into wonderful forms that looked as light and delicate as a spray of leaves and blossom, but kept the stern strength of iron, or seemed even stronger. Few could pass by one of the gates or lattices that he made without stopping to admire it; no one could pass through it once it was shut. He sang when he was making things of this sort; and when Smith began to sing those nearby stopped their own work and came to the smithy to listen.


The star gives Smith the ability to envision and explore a fantasy world, and he values the ability because of how it enhances so many aspects of his own life. This attitude of Smith's stands in stark contrast to that of the village's Master Cook, Nokes, who considers matters concerning fantasy to be of great silliness.

Quote:
His chief notion was that it should be very sweet and rich; and he decided that it should be entirely covered in sugar-icing (at which Prentice [a skilled assistant of Nokes that takes matters of fantasy quite seriously] had a clever hand). "That will make it pretty and fairylike," he thought. Fairies and sweets were two of the very few notions he had about the tastes of children. Fairies he thought one grew out of; but of sweets he remained very fond. "Ah! fairylike," he said, "that gives me an idea"; and so it came into his head that he would stick a little doll on a pinnacle in the middle of the Cake, dressed all in white, with a little wand in her hand ending in a tinsel star and Fairy Queen written in pink icing round her feet.

But when he began preparing the materials for the cake-making he found that he had only dim memories of what should go inside a Great Cake; so he looked in some old books of recipes left behind by previous cooks. They puzzled him, even when he could make out their handwriting, for they mentioned many things that he had not heard of, and some that he had forgotten and now had no time to get; but he thought that he might try one or two of the spices that the books spoke of. He scratched his head and remembered an old black box with several different compartments in which the last Cook had once kept spices and other things for special cakes. He had not looked at it since he took over, but after a search he found it on a high shelf in a store-room.

He took it down and blew the dust off the lid; but when he opened it he found that very little of the spices was let, and they were dry and musty. But in one compartment in the corner he discovered a small star, hardly as big as one of our sixpences, black-looking as if it was made of silver but was tarnished. "That's funny!" he said as he held it up to the light.

"No, it isn't!" said a voice behind him , so suddenly that he jumped. It was the voice of Prentice, and he had never spoken to the Master in that tone before. Indeed he seldom spoke to Nokes at all unless he was spoken to first. Very right and proper in a youngster; he might be clever with icing but he had a lot to learn yet: that was Nokes's opinion.

"What do you mean, young fellow?" he said, not much pleased. "If it isn't funny what is it?"

"It is fay," said Prentice. "It comes from Faery."

Then the Cook laughed. "All right, all right," he said. "It means much the same, but call it that if you like. You'll grow up some day. Now you can get on with stoning the raisins. If you notice any funny fairy ones, tell me."

"What are you going to do with the star, Master?" said Prentice.

"Put it into the Cake, of course," said the Cook. "Just the thing, especially if it's fairy," he sniggered. "I daresay you've been to children's parties yourself, and not so long ago either, when little trinkets like this were stirred into the mixture, and little coins and what not. Anyway, we do that in this village: it amuses the children."

"But this isn't a trinket, Master, it's a fay-star," said Prentice.

"So you've said already," snapped the Cook. Very well, I'll tell the children. It'll make them laugh."

"I don't think it will, Master," said Prentice. "But it's the right thing to do, quite right."

"Who do you think you're talking to?" said Nokes.


Nokes thinks fantasy is only for children, has no idea what really goes into it, and envisions it only has to do with sweets, and so disdains it. Smith (and Prentice) sees matters of fantasy as having value deep inside themselves, as something worthy of serious consideration. Thus people who appreciate matters of fantasy are perceptive and appreciate matters greater than themselves, while people who disdain matters of fantasy are shortsighted and vain. That's what I get from this Tolkien short story, which is gracefully written, and seems allegorical (despite Tolkien saying he dislikes allegory).
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Phoogle Map
wayfriend
whilom witling

Male
Joined: 21 Apr 2004
Posts: 20378

Thanks: 11
Thanked 247 Times in 226 Posts

Location: In reality once again
50000 White Gold Dollars
Tokens
HP

User Items:
3 Member of Linden's Army


PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks. I have not read this, nor much of any of Tolkien's "other" works.

I could not have guessed that the story was so meaningful.
_________________
* I occasionally post things on KevinsWatch because I am a fan of Stephen R. Donaldson; this should not be considered as condonation of the white nationalist propaganda which is posted far too frequently on this website.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Cord Hurn
Servant Of The Band

MaleRanyhyn
Joined: 28 Oct 2013
Posts: 6409

Thanks: 1071
Thanked 85 Times in 80 Posts

Location: Alpine, Arizona, USA
8998 White Gold Dollars
Tokens
HP

User Items:
1 Plains of Ra1 Furls Fire1 Andelain


PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2021 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't read any of Tolkien's Middle Earth writings published after Unfinished Tales, because the details of those posthumous books contradict the way things have been set out in "The Lord Of The Rings", but I like a lot of Tolkien's non-Middle-Earth stuff, for sure. This Smith short story appeals to me, because it is like an appreciative prose work for all who love fantasy, and realize that it has its serious side, deserving of reverence and respect.


Quote:
When he [Smith] first began to walk far without a guide he thought he would discover the further bounds of the land [Faery]; but great mountains rose before him; and going by long ways round about them he came at last to a desolate shore. He stood beside the Sea of Windless Storm where the blue waves like snow-clad hills roll silently out of Unlight to the long strand [of shoreline], bearing the white ships that return from battles on the Dark Marches of which men know nothing. He saw a great ship cast high upon the land, and the waters fell back in foam without a sound. The eleven mariners were tall and terrible; their swords shone and their spears glinted and a piercing light was in their eyes. Suddenly they lifted up their voices in a song of triumph, and his heart was shaken with fear, and he fell upon his face, and they passed over him and went away into the echoing hills.


The feeling I get from passages like this is that people who disrespect the value of fantasy do so out of ignorance rather than insight, and Smith represents a lover of fantasy worlds who has deep respect for the value they hold to him, which he feels is deeper than he can ever know in this life.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Phoogle Map
Cord Hurn
Servant Of The Band

MaleRanyhyn
Joined: 28 Oct 2013
Posts: 6409

Thanks: 1071
Thanked 85 Times in 80 Posts

Location: Alpine, Arizona, USA
8998 White Gold Dollars
Tokens
HP

User Items:
1 Plains of Ra1 Furls Fire1 Andelain


PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2021 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"Goodbye, Master!" said Prentice, shutting the box with such a snap that the cook opened his eyes again. "Nokes," he said, "your knowledge is so great that I have only twice ventured to tell you anything. I told you that the star came from Faery; and I have told you that it went to the smith. You laughed at me. Now at parting I will tell you one thing more. Don't laugh again! You are a vain, old fraud, fat, idle, and sly. I did most of your work. Without thanks you learned all that you could from me--except respect for Faery, and a little courtesy. You have not even enough to bid me good day!"

"If it comes to courtesy," said Nokes, "I see none in calling your elders and betters by ill names. Take your Fairy, and your nonsense, somewhere else. Good day to you, if that's what you're waiting for. Now go along with you!" He flapped his hand mockingly. "If you've got one of your fairy friends hidden in the Kitchen, send him to me and I'll have a look at him. If he waves his little wand and makes me thin again, I'll think better of him, " he laughed.

"Would you spare a few moments for the King of Faery?" the other answered. To Nokes's dismay he grew taller as he spoke. He threw back his cloak. He was dressed like a Master Cook at a Feast, but his white garments shimmered and glinted, and on his forehead was a great jewel like a radiant star. His face was young but stern.

"Old man," he said, "you are at least not my elder. As to my better: you have often sneered at me behind my back. Do you challenge me now openly?" He stepped forward, and Nokes shrank from him, trembling. He tried to shout for help but found that he could hardly whisper.

"No, sir!" he croaked. "Don't do me a harm! I'm only a poor old man."

The King's face softened. "Alas, yes! You speak the truth. Do not be afraid! Be at ease! But will you not expect the King of Faery to do something for you before he leaves you? I grant you your wish. Farewell! Now go to sleep!"

He wrapped his cloak about him again and went away towards the Hall; but before he was out of sight the old cook's goggling eyes had shut and he was snoring.


Nokes is forced to temporarily acknowledge the power of Faery when he becomes offensive enough to its King to force a confrontation, but even when the King grants a wish Nokes will mock it when his back is turned. It doesn't seem that Tolkien thought much of the the judgement or constancy of people who cannot appreciate fansasy, mythology, and imagination.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Phoogle Map
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Kevin's Watch Forum Index -> The Library -> J.R.R. Tolkien Forum All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by Earthpower © Kevin's Watch