Farmer Giles of Ham
was written in 1937 by J. R. R. Tolkien
. It is a comedic tale about the adventures of a rather plump farmer and his dog Garm, set in Mediaeval England
but parodying the traditional picture of dragon-slaying knights of that era. Tolkien’s love of wordplay is strongly evident, especially with regard to place names, and the story is much lighter in tone than some of his other works.
It was published in 1949 with illustrations by Pauline Baynes, which Tolkien famously said had “reduced [his] text to a commentary on her drawings”. This collaboration lead to a lifelong friendship between writer and illustrator.
This book contains examples of:
- Altum Videtur: Or in the vulgar, A Lotta Latin appears in the mira fascinora.
- Anachronism Stew: The story claims to take place "before Arthur or the Seven Kingdoms of the English" (which suggests, before c. 500 AD), but Giles wields a blunderbuss (a musket-like gun that wouldn't be invented until several centuries later), and the whole thing feels more like a generic mythic "past" than a specific time period.
- Bilingual Bonus: The blacksmith opines that Hilarius and Felix are "ominous names"—in truth, they mean "cheerful" and "happy" and are anything but ominous.
- The Blacksmith: ‘Sunny Sam’, a morose man who always predicts everything will fail and is only happy when his doomsayings come true. Is forced to devise a mail coat for Giles from leftover bits and pieces.
- Character Title
- Dragon Hoard: The cave of Chrysophylax Dives ("Gold-watcher the Rich") contains fantastical riches of all sorts. How he got all that stuff is never explained, nor does anyone ever ask.
- Empathic Weapon: Caudimordax
- Faeries Don’t Believe In Humans Either: A lot of younger dragons believe that knights are a myth. The older ones know better, although they admit that they are few and far, and not a danger anymore, which is true since the King and his Knights are pretty useless. The only person who can effectively deal with Chrysophylax the dragon is a fat, red-headed farmer who doesn't like trespassers—even if they are scaly and breathe fire.
- Howl of Sorrow: When Giles rides off to slay Chrysophylax, his dog Garm howled all night because he thought Giles would be killed.
- Ironic Echo: “Excuse me, were you looking for me?”. First said by Chrysophylax when he catches Giles off-guard, then by Giles in the reverse situation.
- Lemony Narrator
- Meaningful Name: Ahenobarbus ("Bronzebeard"), Chrysophylax ("Gold-keeper"), Garm (the monstrous dog of the dead in Norse Mythology)
- The Middle Ages: The Low Middle Ages, to be precise, but with little historical precision and a fair sprinkling of dragons, giants, and magic.
- Named Weapons: Caudimordax (‘Tailbiter’), Giles’ sword.
- Red-Headed Hero: Ægidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo.
- Resigned to the Call: Giles.
- Talking Animal: Garm and Chrysophylax
- The Tourney: One excuse the knights give.
- Weapon for Intimidation: Giles’ blunderbuss, until an accident when meeting a giant.