Many may be forgiven for thinking that JRR Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, then after taking a breath The Lord of the Rings, and then called it a day. These two works are known in every corner of the world and overshadowed everything that Tolkien penned both before and after. It is easy to forget that the great Professor also wrote other delightful stories, not least Leaf by Niggle and the book that we are reviewing here, Farmer Giles of Ham.
This was not my first experience of Farmer Giles of Ham in the audio format as, many moons ago, I had a copy on tape with the unmistakable voice of Brian Blessed voicing the lead. Sadly, both tape and the means of playing it are no longer open to me so I downloaded another version, this time narrated by Fantasy Book Review favourite, Derek Jacobi.
Farmer Giles of Ham is full of wit and humour, set in the days when giants and dragons walked the earth. However, Giles did not look like a hero, he was fat and red-bearded and enjoyed a slow, comfortable life. Then one day a rather deaf and short-sighted giant blundered on to his land. More by luck than skill, Farmer Giles managed to scare him away. The people of the village cheered: Farmer Giles was a hero. His reputation spread far and wide across the kingdom. So it was natural that when the dragon Chrysophylax visited the area it was Farmer Giles who was expected to do battle with it!
This is a simple medieval fable of unexpected heroism told with great aplomb by Derek Jacobi. The farmer and the dragon may be those around whom the story unfolds but it is Giles’s cowardly dog Garm that steals the show with his wheedling ways and the touching devotion and pride he shows for his master.
Farmer Giles of Ham (unabridged) by J. R. R. Tolkien
Narrated by Derek Jacobi
Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited