Saturday, July 3, 2010

Locus Focus - Faery and Wootton Major

Link up with Locus Focus at Shredded Cheddar and share a book's setting with others

It is impossible to think of Wootton Major without Faery, or Faery without Wootton Major in J.R.R. Tolkien's tale, Smith of Wootton Major; his finest tale (to this writer) outside of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion (yes, better than Leaf by Niggle).

Wootton Major is a village from "not very long ago for those with long memories, nor very far away for those with long legs." The village is known most of all for its cooking:

"It had a large Kitchen which belonged to the Village Council, and the Master Cook was an important person. The Cook's House and the Kitchen adjoined the Great Hall, the largest and oldest building in the place and the most beautiful. It was built of good stone and good oak and was well tended, though it was no longer painted or gilded as it had been once upon a time."
Now, a little bit from Faery:

"When he first began to walk far without a guide he thought he would discover the further bounds of the land; 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, 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 elven 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."
Faery and Wootton Major are completely distinct from each other, and yet they are interpenetrated; the Village being very much the dependent as it were, like the way the Shire is generally ignorant of literal Kings protecting its borders and keeping watch.

Smith is the one by whom the reader interpenetrates the two realms. And a fay-star is the key. Smith comes to receive it at the Twenty-four Feast. What all this means is a matter I would rather leave to the discovery of those who choose to read this deeply moving tale.

Whereas C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald often seize on the stunning aspects of Faery and the approaching of it, J.R.R. Tolkien is so replete with it, so deeply rooted in it, that the mere unfolding of the tale - simply yet fully written - blesses you, harrows you, with the reality of Faery; with the realization that myths are not lies.


Enbrethiliel said...


I just love settings that are so unspeakably beautiful that they go beyond "haunting" and into "harrowing." They are dangerous to pass through, even though they never do anyone any actual harm.

And there's always something magical about the overlapping of the fantastic (or the outright faerie) and the mundane! I think I'd be happy in either Faery or Wootton Major; both are so wonderful.

Paul Stilwell said...

The Perilous Realm! You get at what seems to have largely driven Tolkien in Smith of Wootton Major. How shall we say it? His antagonism towards the downgrading of Faerie into Fairy.

Paul Stilwell said...

Though of course the book is not merely some tract.

Enbrethiliel said...


I wonder what he would have to say about the downward spiral into the fairy of our age's Paranormal Romance and YA . . .

Belfry Bat said...

Aegidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo for me!!! And I'd do something thence, too, had I the tiny volume with me :P