It may come as a surprise to hear that it took me until I was 40 to read Farmer Giles of Ham. I mean — Tolkien. Dragons. Tolkien and dragons. How did I miss this??
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m familiar with the same Tolkien I think a lot of us are – the gentle beauty and humour of The Hobbit, the grand, dramatic scale of The Lord of the Rings. I even attempted The Silmarillion at some stage, but that was entirely impenetrable to pre-teen me. To the point that I haven’t gone back to see if it’s any better as an adult. I think it was my first ever DNF, which is a little embarrassing.
Which is all to say that I’ve loved Tolkien for an awfully long time, and re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings far too many times to be healthy. But somehow I never got beyond them. And while I’d heard of Farmer Giles of Ham, I just never thought to pick it up.
Lovely people, do not make my mistake. Go and find this book immediately. My wonderful writer friend Jon recommended that I look for an edition illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and I will repeat that advice to you, because her drawings are impossibly perfect for the tale. They lend so much to it.
At its heart, it’s a children’s story about the perils of accidental heroism and problematic dogs, but it’s definitely one that can be read at any age. It’s sweet, and funny, and the adventure is quite wonderful. I adored it. Now watch on!
(And if you’re curious about Simon’s lovely blog regarding his most influential reads, you can find it here.)
How about you, lovely people? Are you a Tolkien fan? If so, what was your favourite book? And do you remember what the first book you couldn’t finish was? (Or is that just me being absurdly wracked with guilt…?)