Title: Tales from the Perilous Realm
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Page Count/Review Word Count: 403
Tales from the Perilous Realm is a beautiful collection of some of Tolkien’s finest but most obscure works, illustrated (in my copy, at least) by Alan Lee. Lee also worked with the Tolkien estate on The Children of Húrin, which was edited by Tolkien’s youngest son Christopher, and I was impressed by that as well.
Here, five of Tolkien’s short stories are gathered together alongside an essay of his On Fairy-Stories – despite being an essay, it’s highly readable and a fascinating insight in to both the way that Tolkien’s mind worked and the secret history of the fairy tale. You’d be surprised at what is, and what isn’t, a fairy tale, for example.
In fact, this entire collection is very easy-to-read and surprisingly enlightening – I’ll admit that I struggled through The Lord of the Rings, and I often found it tedious when Tolkien went off on a tangent. Here, he’s lucid, entertaining and ready to please children and adults alike with his wonderful words.
In particular, be sure to check out Roverandom, the first story in the collection and possibly the finest. It tells you the story of an adventurous dog who’s magicked away on an adventure after biting the leg of a crochety old wizard – along the way, he meets the Man on the Moon and his dog, discovers an underwater kingdom where the wizard has been appointed ‘PAM‘ (Pacific-Atlantic Magician), and learns that ‘Rover’ is a pretty common name, for a dog.
Farmer Giles of Ham is also pretty epic, a story about a simple farmer who ends up battling giants and dragons to save his honour – it ends happily, and I’m pretty sure it contains a moral, although I’m not sure what that moral might be. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil follows, but it’s not as good as you might expect – it’s written in verse, and grows tedious after the first thirty pages.
Smith of Wootton Major and Leaf By Niggle round out the collection, and though they’re both strong stories, they’re not as strong as the others. Still, they’re the finishing touches on a killer arsenal that will make you fall in love with Tolkien all over again, a book that’s easily enjoyed by anyone, whether they’re a fantasy reader or not.