Episode 22
January 12, 2021

Not Just Because I Like Cooking and Eating!

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Ned’s choice of topic: Smith of Wootton Major. A short non-Middle-Earth novella published in 1967 and illustrated by Pauline Baynes, Smith is a kind of a fairy tale literally about Faery, a realm which only certain people can visit. Smith, indeed a blacksmith from a sort-of medieval English town called Wootton Major, is one of those people, having received a magical silver star in his youth as part of a major ceremony based around the town’s Great Hall and its function as a place for fabulous feasts. But while Smith alternates his adult life between work, home and hearth and the visits to Faery he is able now to do, eventually there comes a time when he needs to face the necessary decision to surrender the star for a newer generation. Inspired by his unfinished preface about George MacDonald’s “The Golden Key,” Smith was the last work Tolkien published in his lifetime, a quietly entrancing story about artistry, time and the power of imagination. What do the many then-unpublished papers and background material about the story which emerged in later years say both about Smith itself and Tolkien’s work as a whole? What does the function of religion—or rather, how it is not directly portrayed in the story at all—have in both the story and in Tolkien’s argument for how it should be interpreted? What are the potential touchstones for his portrayal of the realm of Faery and the Elves who live there, who are in many ways very different from his Middle-earth Elves? And what makes the Master Cook Nokes such a satisfying antagonist—but not, as the story itself is at pains to note, an irredeemable villain?

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle, a lovely invocation of a key moment in the story.

Try a medieval goose recipe as you choose!

One of the many reports on the newly announced cast members for the Amazon production. TheOneRing.Net did a bunch of individual profiles but you’ll have to dig through a bit for those.

The Independent’s report on the apparent wrapping up of season 1.

Smith of Wootton Major! Again, if you want the fullest version of the story and its background, look for Verlyn Flieger’s edition.

More on George MacDonald, as well as the text of “The Golden Key.”

Our Farmer Giles of Ham episode.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is well worth your time. And once again, we’re all major LeGuin fans here.

The Spielberg film in question is Always.

Protestant work ethics, Catholic guilt complexes, they’re things!

We’ve mentioned the Kalevala before but just to link again.

Blackfriars in Oxford.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core is of course dated nonsense. But it’s there.

Tolkien and Lewis, we all know the story. But if you don’t.

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

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