Farmer Giles of Ham (written in 1947, published in 1949) is a short story written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The story describes a series of encounters between Farmer Giles and a wily Dragon named Chrysophylax. It is set in a fantasy Britain of long ago, which has mythical creatures, medieval knights, and primitive firearms. It is happily anachronistic, and is more of a folk-tale than the epics Tolkien is better known for. The book was originally illustrated by Pauline Baynes.
A second edition was published with commentary by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, and with Tolkien's original, shorter typescript. In 1997, the tale was included in the official publication Tales from the Perilous Realm, containing all five of Tolkien's short stories. In 2003, an audiobook of the story was released, narrated by actor Derek Jacobi.
"Farmer Giles of Ham" is sometimes published in an omnibus edition with "Smith of Wootton Major", another Tolkien novella with illustrations by Pauline Baynes.
Farmer Giles is a fat, red-bearded man enjoying a slow, unbusy life. One day a giant blunders on to his land, and Giles becomes a hero to nearby townspeople after driving the giant away with a blunderbuss. His reputation spreads far and wide across the kingdom, and he is rewarded by the King of the Middle Kingdom a sword named Caudimordax, or "Tailbiter", a powerful weapon against dragons.
The giant reports to its monstrous friends that there are no more knights, just stinging flies (actually scrap metal from Giles' blunderbuss), in the Middle Kingdom. This prompts a dragon, Chrysophylax Dives, to investigate the area and everyone turns to the accidental hero Farmer Giles to deal with it.
The story makes light of the great dragon-slaying traditions. The knights who are supposed to do the job are useless fops more intent on "precedence and etiquette" than on noticing huge dragon footprints littering the landscape. "Giles" is also an interesting commentary on how people react to danger. Heroes aren't simply called for, they are demanded and hapless farmers can be forced to be heroes.
The Latin names and references imply that Giles is a Briton, a late generation remnant of the old empire after the decline of the western authority of the Romans. All the Giles place-names are supposed to occur relatively close to Oxford, along the Thames or on the route from London to Oxford.
Among the jokes is a question put to "the four wise clerks of Oxenford"; Tolkien then quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary, on which he had worked. The phrase "wise clerk of Oxenford" is also a reference to Chaucer's Clerk.
Translations around the worldEdit
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Aragonese||Chil, o torrero de Ham|
|Basque||Giles, Hameko nekazaria|
|Catalan||Gil, el granger de Ham|
|Dutch||Boer Gilles van Ham|
|Finnish||Maamies ja lohikäärme|
|French||Le Fermier Gilles de Ham|
|Galician||O granxeiro Giles de Ham|
|Georgian||ფერმერი ჯაილზ ჰემელი|
|German||Bauer Giles von Ham|
|Greek||Γεωργός ο Γίλης απ' το Χαμ|
|Hungarian||A sonkádi Egyed gazda|
|Icelandic||Gvendur bóndi á Svínafelli|
|Italian||Il Cacciatore di Draghi|
|Norwegian||Eigil Bonde fra Heim|
|Polish||Gospodarz Giles z Ham|
|Portuguese||Mestre Gil de Ham|
|Russian||Фермер Джайлс из Хэма|
|Spanish||Egidio, el granjero de Ham|
|Swedish||Gillis Bonde från Ham|