Smith of Wootten Major is one of the minor works of JRR Tolkien, one of the great authors of the twentieth century. It was originally published as a stand-alone piece in 1967, but has since often been published alongside several of Tolkien’s other short works, including Farmer Giles of Ham and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.
Smith of Wootten Major is a relatively short work, comprising some 50 paperback pages (slightly longer than the average short story).
As a story, it is wholly unrelated to Tolkien’s works of Middle Earth (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion), but like most of Tolkien’s writings, dips its roots into mythology and the world of “Faery”.
Tolkien had a lifelong fascination with mythology and the “Fairy Tale”, and one of his most famous scholarly essays is the treatise “On Fairy Stories”, where he addressed the lasting appeal and process of creation in fairy stories.
The story centers around a town named Wootten Major, which is an English-style village in a forest. The village is a prosperous one, and the most important person in the village is the “Master Cook”.
The narrative takes up the tale just as the Master Cook deserts his position and a new, unqualified replacement is found.
The story itself takes place both in Wootten Major and inside Faery, which seems to lie both very near to the village (for those who know how to find it) and not to exist at all (for those who don’t).
It is primarily the story of a man named “Smith”, who is gifted with an enchanted “fay-star”. This star gives Smith many wonderful qualities, including the ability to travel into Faery itself.
The rest of the book concerns what he find there, and of Faery’s connection to Wootten Major itself. I will not go into more detail here and spoil the story for those who have not read it.
Smith of Wootten Major is really a wonderful story from a master writer who knows precisely how near (and far) Faery is from our villages and everyday lives.