A visit to Faery. Beware. It may touch your soul.
Unlike Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien famously labored over for decades, Smith came to him in a flash, and he dashed it off whole. It has a rough quality which betrays both that inspiration and that lack of refining. Nonetheless, it should entertain and enrich any reader who appreciate other Tolkien short stories, such as “Farmer Giles of Ham” or “Leaf by Niggle”.
An excellent companion for his essay “On Fairy Stories” from The Tolkien Reader, since Smith of Wootton Major just such a fairy story as the Professor discusses in that address.
It was only on the second or third reading that the wonder grew upon me. The first time through, I read it like any story–and thought of it as quick and crude. Subsequent readings, the Faery grows upon you.
After fifth reading, Smith still grabs me as (usually) only real fairy tales do. (make no mistake, Smith sprang fully realized from Tolkien’s imagination.) By comparison, most modern fantasy seems so contrived. Tolkien had a grasp for what really works.
Perhaps a better introduction to Tolkien than The Hobbit.
(Periodically, I will review lesser-known works by classic authors as a guide to readers wanting more.)