Beyond Bree

Nancy Martsch, editor

February, 2022

8 February 2022

In this issue: 2 articles, letters.


Ruth Lacon’s <span class="push-double"></span>​<span class="pull-double">“</span>The Old Grey Mare and Chrysophylax,” from the <span class="push-double"></span>​<span class="pull-double">“</span>2022 Beyond Bree Calendar”
The Old Grey Mare and Chrysophylax
 — Ruth Lacon
2022 Beyond Bree Calendar

The Old Grey Mare and Chrysophylax

Ruth Lacon, p. 1

Giles’s old grey mare is an interesting character with surprisingly deep roots. One influence may well be King Arthur’s mount, the mare Llamrei, in Culhwch and Olwen” in the Mabinogion. Thanks to Dimitra Fimis research, we know Tolkien owned facsimiles of some of the key texts as well as translations, so it’s highly likely he knew about this horse. As with much else in Culhwch,” Arthur’s choice of a plain mare instead of one of the magical animals the story abounds in may well be intended as a comic touch, which would fit beautifully with Farmer Giles and his mare.…

Farmer, Knight, King, and Saints: Giles, Gawain, and the church calendar

Dale Nelson, p. 2

I have just read, for perhaps the 10th time, Tolkien’s perfect story from 1949. I thought about perfect” and decided to go ahead and use the word. Really, how could Farmer Giles of Ham be bettered? The union of story and diction, and of illustration by Pauline Baynes, is completely satisfactory.1

Farmer Giles might casually be described as a mock epic or burlesque fairy tale. But these expressions would mislead someone who hasn’t read it. There’s satire aplenty in Farmer Giles, but it is not aimed at the genre of chivalric romance. It is aimed at perennial human foibles such as pomposity, shirking, fickleness, cunning, dishonesty, naïveté, boasting, conceit, etc. The frequent moments of satirical humor are handled in a mild and genial way, though, completely without spite and gall. The king is a target of satire, but Tolkien has no notion that kings as such are ridiculous, as perhaps, say, Mark Twain might have assumed. Tolkien doesn’t see the Middle Ages, knights, crowns, tournaments, etc. as inherently absurd. Tolkien’s story is free of the common attitude of unearned and often ignorant superiority towards the past. I predict that, if (may it never be so) a TV movie or film is made of this book, the adapters will get this wrong. They may just assume that the medieval elements are quaint and silly. They will miss the point. Tolkien’s mockery is understood aright when we feel it’s as much about people like ourselves as about people of long ago. Likewise, the storytelling has fun with scholarship, but it shows a real scholar having warmhearted fun about his life’s vocation of philologist.…


permalink 🔗︁
date recorded 📅2022-02-08
scribe 🖋worblehat