''The Tolkien Reader'' is an anthology of works by J. R. R. Tolkien. It includes a variety of short stories, poems, a play and some non-fiction. It compiles material previously published as three separate shorter books (''Tree and Leaf, Farmer Giles of Ham,'' and ''The Adventures of Tom Bombadil''), together with one additional piece and introductory material. It was published in 1966 by Ballantine Books in the USA. Most of these works appeared in journals, magazines, or books years before the publication of ''The Tolkien Reader''. The earliest published pieces are the poems "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late" and "The Hoard", both of which were first published in 1923. They were reprinted together with a variety of other poems in the book''The Adventures of Tom Bombadil'' in 1962, and the entire book was included in ''The Tolkien Reader'' in 1966. The section titled ''Tree and Leaf'' is also a reprint. It was published as a book bearing the same name in 1964, and consists of material initially published in the 1940s. The book ''Farmer Giles of Ham'' was published in 1949, and unlike ''The Adventures of Tom Bombadil'' and ''Tree and Leaf'', it did not merge previously published material, although unpublished versions of the story had existed since the 1920s. "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son" was first printed in an academic journal in 1953. The “Publisher’s Note” and “Tolkien’s Magic Ring” are the only works in the book which Tolkien did not write. They are also the only parts of the book which were written in the same year that The Tolkien Reader was published.


J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the works contained within ''The Tolkien Reader'' in different contexts and for different purposes. ''The Adventures of Tom Bombadil'' began as a single poem, inspired by a Dutch doll belonging to Tolkien’s son, Michael. Tolkien wrote the poem as a form of entertainment for his children, but by 1934 it had been published in ''The Oxford Magazine.'' In October 1961, Tolkien's aunt Jane Neave encouraged him to put together a small book which would have "Tom Bombadil at the heart of it." Tolkien took her advice and a year later Allen & Unwin published ''The Adventures of Tom Bombadil''. It contains both older works, such as "Oliphaunt" (1927), and works written specifically for the book, such as "Tom Bombadil Goes Boating" (1662). The collection has connections to Tolkien’s trilogy ''The Lord of the Rings''. There are a few points in the trilogy where the main characters recite or sing the poems in ''The Adventures of Tom Bombadil''. Frodo sings “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late,” during his stay at The Prancing Pony in Bree, and Samwise recites “Oliphaunt” during a battle. The title character of the poems, Tom Bombadil, appears on several occasions in the series, one time being when he rescues Frodo from the Barrow-wights in ''The Fellowship of the Ring''. ''Farmer Giles of Ham'', a tale about a “semilegendary England,” grew out of Tolkien’s curiosity about the etymology of place-names, particularly the name “Worminghall.” Like ''The Adventures of Tom Bombadil'', it was originally a story which he told to his children, but which was later published. The year of publication was 1949, the same year that Tolkien finished ''The Lord of the Rings''. It is generally considered to be a light, comical read in which Tolkien “laughs good-humoredly at much that is taken most seriously by his epic.” Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon in Oxford at the time, and scholars assert that Tolkien wrote ''Farmer Giles of Ham'' as a mockery of the discipline of philology, which was his area of expertise. Other works, such as “On Fairy Stories” and “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son” were contributions to academia. Tolkien was a professor of English Language and Literature, and “On Fairy Stories” was initially a lecture, delivered in 1939 at the University of St. Andrews. “Leaf by Niggle,” first published in 1945, is a short story that Tolkien wrote to accompany “On Fairy Stories,” and which some have described as an autobiographical allegory. “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son” was a submission for the English Association’s ''Essays and Studies for 1953'', which Tolkien wrote while he was teaching at the University of Oxford sometime before 1945. Peter S. Beagle's five-part introduction "Tolkien's Magic Ring" serves as an accompaniment to works in ''The Tolkien Reader''. Beagle was familiar with Tolkien's writing, having previously collaborated with Chris Conkling on a screenplay for ''The Lord of the Rings''. In "Tolkien's Magic Ring", which was first published in ''Holiday Magazine'' in 1966, Beagle gives the reader a short summary of Tolkien's ''The Lord of the Rings'' trilogy.


Critical reception

"On Fairy-Stories" has received both praise and criticism from scholars. Tom Shippey describes the essay as “Tolkien’s least successful if most discussed piece of argumentative prose” and as coming “perilously close to whimsy”. J. Reilly proposes that the essay can be used as a guide for understanding Tolkien’s trilogy ''The Lord of the Rings''. He makes the case that “the genre and the meaning of the trilogy are to be found in his essay on fairy stories.” Another scholar, Tanya Caroline Wood, calls attention to the similarities between Tolkien’s “Of Fairy-Stories” and Sir Philip Sidney’s ''Defense of Poesy''. She qualifies both writers as “Renaissance Men,” based on her observation that both of their works demonstrate elements of Renaissance philosophy. “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son” has also received scholarly attention. Shippey praises the work, arguing that Tolkien’s interpretation of ''The Battle of Maldon'' is one of the few to correctly identify the poem's main message. In his essay “J.R.R. Tolkien and the True Hero,” George Clark writes about how works like “Homecoming” demonstrate Tolkien’s fascination with Anglo-Saxon literature. He points out what he believes to be an incongruence between Tolkien’s Catholic faith and his obsession with narratives that have “no explicitly Christian references”.


Radio adaptations of ''Farmer Giles of Ham'' and ''Leaf by Niggle'' were included in the BBC Radio 5 series ''Tales from a Perilous Realm''. The recording was released in 1993. These two works have also been made into theatrical dramatisations in Sweden and the Netherlands. In 2016, The Puppet State Theatre Company premiered a theatrical rendition of Leaf by Niggle, and they have performed the play several times since. 


Del Ray, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, released a second edition of ''The Tolkien Reader'' in 1986.

Similar collections

Among similar collections of Tolkien's minor works are ''Poems and Stories'' (Allen & Unwin 1980, illustrated by Pauline Baynes) and ''Tales from the Perilous Realm'' (HarperCollins 1997, without illustrations; revised edition illustrated by Alan Lee, 2008).


{{DEFAULTSORT:Tolkien Reader, The Category:Collections of works by J. R. R. Tolkien Category:1966 books Category:Fantasy anthologies Category:Ballantine Books books