Originally posted here.My final stop on the Tolkien Short Fiction Birthday Extravaganza was Smith of Wootton Major. This faerie tale (which is exactly what it is) is best if read in conjunction with the essay On Fairy Stories. It doesn't really matter what order you read them in, but if you read the story first, you might be tempted to go back and read it again once you're done with the essay...just so you can see that Tolkien hit every single note mentioned when he talks about the elements necessary for a good/real faerie tale.(Amy, this is one I think you'd like especially.)It is very short, to tell you much about it would spoil it for you and I only spoil things I think you shouldn't have to read, remember?In the manner of all good faerie stories, the prose is spare and the plot is swift. It doesn't take long for you to love some characters and shake your fist at others. There is a little surprise at the end that is both beautiful and wrenching at the same time. Every time I read it, something new strikes me as being particularly lovely or memorable. This time, it was this:He stood beside the Sea of Windless Storm where the blue waves like snow-clad hills roll silently out of Unlight to the long strand, bearing the white ships that return from battles on the Dark Marches of which men know nothing.