Thursday, April 3, 2008


So, today I was in the bookstore looking at the history magazines, and the headline "FARMER GILES VERSUS PETER RABBIT" caught my eye. The magazine in question, BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE (Vol. 9 no. 3), isn't one I've read before, and a quick glance showed that the article ("Myxomatosis and the Rabbit's Fight for Survival" by Peter Bartrip, pages 48-49) had nothing whatsoever to do with Tolkien or his characters but was instead a two-page account of a rabbit plague (myxomatosis) I'd only previously heard about through passing references in WATERSHIP DOWN. That made it all the more striking, to me, that they'd used the name of a Tolkien character in the attention-getting lead on the cover, especially since FARMER GILES OF HAM, while possibly the best of all Tolkien's 'minor' works, isn't exactly a household name the way, say, hobbits are. Or at least that was my impression; perhaps the Tolkien penetration of our culture goes not just wider but also deeper than I realized. Or perhaps, given the collaboratory evidence of FOYLE'S WAR, FGH might just be more popular in the UK than over here. If so, good to see it getting the attention it deserves.

current reading: THE EVOLUTION OF MIDDLE-EARTH by Eliz. Whittingham.

1 comment:

Trotter said...

In the UK the generic first-name that is nearly always used for farmers is Giles, so if a newspaper is describing a farmer he will nearly always call him 'Farmer Giles' and the same in TV programs or Films. Farmer Giles is also London Cockney rhyming slang for 'Piles' (Hemorrhoids).
In fact I am convinced that that is why Farmer Giles of Ham is called Giles, Tolkien borrowed from the same tradition.