Episode 10
January 20, 2020

The Wheeler-Dealer Dragon!

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Important note: this episode was recorded before Amazon’s formal cast announcement and the death of Christopher Tolkien . We’ll definitely have much more to say on both in next month’s episode!

Jared, Oriana and Ned discuss Ned’s choice of topic: Tolkien’s short mock-medieval novella, Farmer Giles of Ham. Published in 1949, though mostly written off and on over the 1930s, it was Tolkien’s first creative publication after the release of The Hobbit, though appearing some years before The Lord of the Rings itself did. Set in a happily ahistorical and anachronistic jumble of an early medieval England, it tells the story of a not-very-heroic farmer, a conniving swindler of a dragon, a cowardly braggart of a dog and a whole lot of other amusing people and creatures. (But also a very practical mare.) It’s a goofy treat at best, also featuring the debut illustrations for Tolkien by the famed Pauline Baynes, but there’s some deeper waters as well. What were some of the thematic touches that tie together Farmer Giles with his other work, Middle-earth or otherwise? What was Baynes and Tolkien’s working and personal relationship like? Did Tolkien have something against millers in general? And who, exactly, was this little fillip of a creation even for?

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle.

The Witcher is a thing. Netflix will be glad to have your money.

The initial Variety report on Morfydd Clark’s casting as Galadriel (still not yet formally confirmed by Amazon as her role).

The Deadline report on Ema Horvath’s casting.

Variety’s report on Will Poulter exiting the series.

There are numerous ways to donate to assist communities impacted by the Australian bushfires. Two ones we’d like to single out are Fire Relief Fund for First Nation Communities and the WIRES Emergency Fund.

Numerous editions of Farmer Giles have been printed, individually or in anthologies. The 50th anniversary edition, edited by Wayne Hammond and Cristina Scull, reprints the original printing with Pauline Baynes’s illustrations as well as including numerous notes, drafts and more besides. Meantime, Alan Lee created illustrations for another printing of the story for the anthology collection Tales From the Perilous Realm.

I mean, we don’t need to explain Monty Python, big feet and the Holy Grail at this point, surely. (RIP Neil Innes, Sir Robin’s chief minstrel.)

Millers! They weren’t always loved.

Pauline Baynes was really a remarkable artist, and her work over the decades is some of the loveliest versions of Tolkien created. High recommendation: Bilbo’s Last Song.

Jafar was voiced by Jonathan Freeman, in case you were wondering!

Tolkien and anarchism is an interesting subject—the exact quote from the letter discussed is “My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs).”

What made a good medieval king? Here’s a modern take.

Sending medieval messages was involved regardless of whether a king signed with a blot or not.

Blackletter—you know the font, even if you never knew the name.

Unsurprisingly, someone’s created a recipe for dragon’s tail cake.

The BFI listing for the Freddie Jones version of Farmer Giles is kinda spare. As for the 1992 radio version with Brian Blessed, it’s out there!

The Redwall series is a fun delight—check it out if you haven’t! The animated version can be found on Prime and probably elsewhere too.

The John Howe book with Belegost and Nogrod illustrations is A Middle-earth Traveller.

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