319. Why James Herriot Is Awesome

In my early teens, I went through what I can only describe as a Tolkien phase. I obsessed over the reclusive author of The Lord of the Rings, devouring biographies, essays, poems, short stories, and even the good Professor’s noted treatise on Beowulf—my first foray into the confusing world of literary criticism. When I ran out of books about J.R.R. Tolkien, I began reading books about his colleague C.S. Lewis.

Yes, I was a strange child. This should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who now knows me as a strange adult.

(Fun fact: My obsession with tea, which was diminished slightly by my later obsession with coffee, began with my fascination with British authors. I also wanted to imitate Tolkien by drinking beer and smoking tobacco, but my parents disapproved.)

It wasn’t until my high school and college years that my literary horizons broadened far beyond Lewis and Tolkien. In those early years, however, there was one more author whose books I loved dearly—a storyteller whose world delighted me as much as any Narnia or Middle-earth. Although this author was British, like Lewis and Tolkien, he was no professor.

No, he was a veterinarian.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a man whose stories of men, women, and animals have charmed me for more than a decade.

I give you James Herriot, who penned enchanting tales of creatures great and small.

James Herriot on his farm, Yorkshire, Britain - 1995

James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the name James Herriot, was a veterinary surgeon who served farmers and residents in England’s Yorkshire Dales. He spent many years treating cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, cats, and dogs. Herriot was a vet in more ways than one: he served in England’s RAF (Royal Air Force) during World War II. His books are slightly fictionalized memoirs, full of real-life experiences tailored for dramatic effect.

The life of a vet may not seem interesting, but Herriot’s stories reveal a career of excitement and unpredictability. Have you ever seen a medical drama on television? Have you felt the tension of a tough case, the thrill of a clever cure, or the grief of a death the doctors couldn’t prevent? Imagine all that, but with animals instead of people, farms instead of hospitals, and wry optimism instead of cynical angst. I will always prefer James Herriot to Gregory House.

The animals in Herriot’s stories are often as interesting as the people, and the people are plenty interesting. Herriot’s boss (and eventual partner) Siegfried is eccentric, charismatic, short-tempered, and absent-minded. Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan is an unstoppable force of cheerful irresponsibility. Their clients, from tough-as-nails gaffers to delusional old ladies, are a fascinating bunch.

The stories themselves range from hilarious to heartbreaking. One day, Herriot holds back laughter as Siegfried cowers beneath the tyrannical bossiness of his secretary. Another day, Herriot holds back tears as a poverty-stricken man loses his dog to cancer. Add a burgeoning romance to the mix, one with enough humor to appease even a cynical reader like me, and Herriot’s stories become something truly special.

For someone with no background as an author—Herriot didn’t start writing until the age of fifty—his style is remarkably good. His books have a warmth and sincerity that practically shine through the pages.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, James Herriot is awesome.

288. Why Louisa May Alcott Is Awesome

And while we’re on the subject of Little Women, I should mention that Lousia May Alcott is a wonderful author… especially when she’s not trying to be.

I’ve read only two books by Alcott, and they’re very different. Little Women is her most enduring work: a fine novel with a heartwarming story and relatable characters. Her other book, a little-known memoir titled Hospital Sketches, is short, messy and bursting with unbridled charm and humor. Alcott is remembered for her characters, but she was also quite a character herself.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a lady who balanced humor with pathos and sense with sentiment.

I give you Louisa May Alcott, whose life and imagination were truly remarkable.

Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is a delightful novel, equal parts coming-of-age story and romance. In my (admittedly idiosyncratic) opinion, it feels like a pleasant mixture of Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice as its little women grow up, learn lessons, make their way in the world and find love. (Alcott’s ladies, unlike Austen’s, are rather likable.) All this wibbly-wobbly, icky-sticky sentimentalism is balanced by a refreshingly frank and sensible outlook. Every time the book comes close to being mushy, some wry witticism or unromantic plot point brings it back to earth.

As much as I like Little Women, I enjoy Hospital Sketches far more. It’s old-fashioned, unpolished and crammed with out-of-date language and obscure literary references. Needless to say, I love it.

Hospital Sketches is a memoir compiled from Alcott’s letters home during her time as a nurse during the American Civil War. Her novel Little Women is neatly structured and carefully worded. By contrast, Hospital Sketches gives the impression of being dashed off at high speed and in high spirits. It gives fascinating, often funny and sometimes touching glimpses of life amid the excitement and horror of war.

One of the things that strikes me most about Hospital Sketches is its relentless cheerfulness and optimism. Even the sadder parts of the book, which are very sad indeed, have a kind of poignant sweetness.

Both of Alcott’s books have a surprising balance of sense and sentimentality. Heaven knows I’m no feminist, but I admire the way Alcott brings together fiery emotion and cool pragmatism, especially in her memoir. She is even cheerful and sensible when breaking down in tears, crying, as she puts it, “in a very helpless but hearty way; for, as I seldom indulge in this moist luxury, I like to enjoy it with all my might, when I do.”

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, Louisa May Alcott is awesome.

269. Why P.G. Wodehouse Is Absolutely Spiffing

This is a post I have long wanted to write for this blog, but have always put off. It will be difficult to write. How to put into words my appreciation and respect for the greatest humorist in all of literature? In one feeble post, how can this blog do justice to perhaps the wittiest human being ever to have graced God’s green earth?

This day has been long delayed, but no longer. Today we remember the man whose wit and humor have made our world a better, brighter place. Today we remember P.G. Wodehouse.

Michael J. Nelson, the comedian made famous by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax, declared, “I adore P.G. Wodehouse, could read him every single day and not get tired of it.” He also said, Wodehouse is absolutely the gold standard. It’s almost unfair how good he was, how long he wrote, and how easy, generous and agreeable his prose is.”

Evelyn Waugh, the British author and journalist, said, “Mr. Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.”

Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, flatly stated, “Wodehouse is the greatest comic writer ever,” and left it at that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man whose gentle humor illuminated the twentieth century and still brightens our own dreary, postmodern age.

I give you P.G. Wodehouse, that overflowing fountain of goofy stories, witty jokes and shining optimism.

P.G. Wodehouse

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was a British humorist who wrote nearly one hundred books. (Yes, he was knighted for being hilarious. It was the least his country could do for him.)

Wodehouse’s stories mostly feature upper-class gentlemen in early twentieth-century Britain. These idle eccentrics get themselves into dreadful predicaments: accused of crimes, for example, or engaged by mistake to the wrong people. Escaping these frightful troubles takes luck, pluck and the occasional spot of brilliance.

There is a profound irony about Wodehouse’s writing: it’s fairly easy to criticize, yet all but impossible to call anything less than inspired. For example, his novels and stories are rather repetitive, yet never stale or tedious. Unlike many writers, Wodehouse has no particular masterpiece. His books are all masterpieces.

Wodehouse himself cheerfully acknowledged the repetitive nature of his books:

A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elijah [sic]; but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against [my latest novel]. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.

It must also be noted that Wodehouse’s work isn’t profound or meaningful. He doesn’t grapple with deep questions of morality or philosophy or faith in his books. He’s simply hilarious, and that’s all he ever needs to be. Wodehouse wrote fluff, but it was some of the best, cleverest, funniest fluff ever written.

Wodehouse mastered the English language and used it with cheerful abandon. Consider the following gem, in which Bertram “Bertie” Wooster drinks a spicy tonic to cure his hangover.

I loosed it down the hatch, and after undergoing the passing discomfort, unavoidable when you drink Jeeves’s patented morning revivers, of having the top of the skull fly up to the ceiling and the eyes shoot out of their sockets and rebound from the opposite wall like racquet balls, felt better. It would have been overstating it to say that even now Bertram was back again in mid-season form, but I had at least slid into the convalescent class and was equal to a spot of conversation. “Ha!” I said, retrieving the eyeballs and replacing them in position.

A final note about Wodehouse’s style: It’s very, very British, packed with colloquialisms, slang and misquoted fragments of Scripture, Shakespeare and other literary classics.

Here’s a typical Wodehouse exchange:

Bertie: Do you recall telling me once about someone who told somebody he could tell him something that would make him think a bit? Knitted socks and porcupines entered into it, I remember.

Jeeves: I think you may be referring to the ghost of the father of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, sir. Addressing his son, he said, “I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine.”

Bertie: That’s right. Locks, of course, not socks. Odd that he should have said porpentine when he meant porcupine. Slip of the tongue, no doubt, as so often happens with ghosts.

The speakers, by the way, are Wodehouse’s most famous duo: Jeeves and Wooster. Bertie Wooster is an idle, amiable and dimwitted gentleman. His good-natured innocence leads him into all kinds of social crises, from which only the brilliant schemes of Jeeves, his seemingly omniscient valet, can rescue him. It’s a wonderful yin-yang partnership, and it never fails to make me laugh.

This is the part in a Why [Insert Author Name] Is Awesome post at which I would recommend the author’s best books. In this post, I can’t. P.G. Wodehouse’s stuff is all superb. There would be no point in highlighting any of his books when they’re equally good. Just pick one of his novels at random, perhaps one starring Jeeves and Wooster, and you’ll be set.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, P.G. Wodehouse is awesome absolutely spiffing.

226. Why C.S. Lewis Is Awesome

On November 22, 1963—exactly fifty years ago—the world lost a very great man. His name was Clive Staples Lewis, but he preferred to be called Jack. He was an academic, poet, novelist, literary critic and lay theologian. He was also a close friend and associate of J.R.R. Tolkien, the renowned writer of fantasy.

Jack was not a saint, a prophet or even an author of literary masterpieces. No, Jack was something very different and equally wonderful: a genius of varied interests, remarkable talent, deep faith and gentle humor.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man to whom the world owes Narnia, Screwtape and a great deal of commonsense theology.

I give you C.S. Lewis, a man whom we shall never forget.

C.S. LewisRaised in a religious home, C.S. Lewis drifted into skepticism as a young man and became an atheist. It was with extreme reluctance that he returned to belief in God and eventually (with a little help from friends like Tolkien) devotion to Jesus Christ.

As an ex-atheist, Lewis devoted much thought to Christian apologetics—the rational defense of Christianity as an accurate worldview. He also dabbled in theology, penning books such as Mere Christianity and The Four Loves in which he discoursed upon faith, love and absolute morality.

Lewis’s faith blurred together with his prodigious imagination. His Narnia books wove together folklore and Greco-Roman mythology with a Christian worldview, and The Screwtape Letters explored Christian life from a diabolical point of view.

(I enjoyed The Screwtape Letters so much that I imitated them—badly—on this blog in the form of The Turnspike Emails, which I discontinued a long time ago. Forgive me, Jack.)

Lewis was—no pun intended—a jack of all trades. He dabbled in everything from theology to literary criticism to medieval studies. He wrote novels. He wrote essays. He wrote poems. The range and variety of his work is incredible.

One of Lewis’s greatest strengths was his gift for explaining things simply. Take the super-confusing concept of the Trinity: God as three persons, yet a single entity. Lewis gives the best explanation of the Trinity I have ever seen, read or heard… in three paragraphs. Three. (See Mere Christianity, Book IV, Chapter 2.)

Another example: For centuries, theologians have debated the exact relationship between faith and good works. Which is more important? By which does God save us? C.S. Lewis resolves the debate in two sentences: “Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is more necessary.”

C.S. Lewis is idolized by some and reviled by others. He certainly wasn’t infallible, but no one can dismiss his intelligence or creativity. Personally, I find his works on Christianity remarkably insightful. The Narnia books are pretty good, The Space Trilogy rivals Doctor Who for offbeat science fiction and Till We Have Faces is simply fantastic.

For anyone interested in the Christian faith, Mere Christianity is a thoughtful work for believers and skeptics alike. The Screwtape Letters is a really clever treatise on Christian life. For sophisticated readers, Till We Have Faces is a brilliant reimagining of an ancient Greek myth; for those with simpler literary tastes, the Narnia books are fun, easy reads.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, C.S. Lewis is awesome.

177. Why Dave Barry Is Awesome

This blog’s recent contest has been concluded, and the winners chosen at random from the Fez of Destiny have been notified. My thanks to everyone who participated!

Dave Barry was given a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for writing about boogers. With that, I think I can wrap up my explanation of why he is awesome.

All right, he wasn’t given a Pulitzer specifically for writing about boogers. It was for “his consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns.” By serious concerns, the people who administered the Pulitzer evidently meant exploding whales, owl regurgitation and yes, boogers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man respected for being snarky and immature in the most hilarious, brilliant, wonderful ways possible.

I give you Dave Barry, whose commentaries have never failed to make me smile.

Dave Barry

Dave Barry was a columnist for The Miami Herald and currently writes books. In his days as a columnist, he tackled such important issues as exploding livestock with quick wit and even quicker subject changes. Barry writes the way some people think, bouncing from one topic to the next like a mountain goat leaping from peak to peak.

Like James Thurber, the writer who claimed his sense of humor was “set in motion by the damp hand of melancholy,” Dave Barry has an unexpectedly bitter philosophy: “A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason.”

Fortunately, Barry’s writing is anything but philosophical. He points out the absurdities we overlook, such as silly government spending and cultural phenomena, and mocks the heck out of them.

Barry is the one from whom I picked up the bad habit of coining names for rock bands. To assist him in his endless efforts to invent band names, he uses the acronym WBAGNFARB: Would Be A Good Name For A Rock Band. Another common phrase, following a description of something truly ridiculous, is the straight-faced assertion: “I am not making this up.”

Besides humor columns, Dave Barry has written some fiction and a number of books on government, travel, history and other subjects. I disliked his novel, Big Trouble, but his nonfiction books—well, supposedly nonfiction books—are delightful.

Dave Barry informed me that Indiana, my state of residence, is called the Hoosier State because hoosier is the noise pigs make when they sneeze.

When Dave Barry visited Japan, his major objectives changed immediately from things like “try to determine attitude of average salaried worker toward government industrial policy” to “try to find food without suckers on it.”

Dave Barry gave this illuminating commentary on a fundamental right of Americans: “The Second Amendment states that, since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, you can buy high-powered guns via mail order and go out into the woods with your friends and absolutely vaporize some deer.”

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, Dave Barry is awesome.

154. Why G.K. Chesterton Is Awesome

Why is G.K. Chesterton awesome?

I can answer that question in one word, and that word is mooreeffoc.

I once mentioned that Chesterton pointed out how astonishing it is to see the word mooreeffoc in a shop window until one realizes one is looking at the words coffee room from the wrong side of the glass.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man whose books are remarkable for showing things from the wrong side of the glass and making even the most ordinary things extraordinary.

I give you Gilbert Keith Chesterton, whom George Bernard Shaw called “a man of colossal genius.”

G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton was also a man of colossal size. He once told Shaw, who was evidently a thin gentleman, “To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.” Shaw replied, “To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it.”

Fortunately, Chesterton’s imagination and sense of humor were no less impressive than his weight.

As I’ve pointed out, good literature is generally depressing. We live in a sad, dark, broken world. Chesterton didn’t deny it. His books acknowledge the darkness in the world, but they never take it lying down.

The heroes of Chesterton’s novels and stories struggle to find light in darkness and meaning in emptiness. One of my favorite sayings—one I quote in my novel, in fact—comes from Chesterton: “Always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?” Chesterton’s poets, priests and revolutionaries never lose their courage, hope or sense of humor.

Chesterton has a fantastic trick of setting up circumstances that seem bizarre or impossible, and then providing a staggeringly simple explanation. I can’t give examples without spoiling surprises, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Read nearly any Father Brown story and you’ll see what I mean.

The characters in Chesterton’s books occasionally do ridiculous things very seriously. They often know something the reader does not, and an action that seems absurd may turn out to be quite sensible when an explanation is given. The reactions of other characters to these sanely insane people is delightful.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Chesterton is his passion for paradoxes. In his books, the villain may turn out to be a good person. The detective might be the criminal, or the criminal might be an innocent man. Things are seldom what they seem.

Chesterton’s literary style is marvelous. Some readers may find his writing a little dense—he doesn’t hesitate to use words like conviviality and attenuated—but his novels manage to be both comfortably prosaic and vividly poetic.

No writer is perfect, and Chesterton has his weak points. While his dialogue is clever, it’s usually clever in exactly the same way from character to character. In one of his novels, there’s a chapter in which testimonies are given from unrelated people on several continents—a French innkeeper, a Russian stationmaster, an Asian monk and an American tavern-keeper—and they’re all meditatively poetic.

Chesterton also values ideas over perfect realism, and some of his stories are a bit unbelievable.

In the end, however, minor flaws like these are pardonable. Chesterton’s characters may sound too much like Chesterton, but he’s such an engaging writer that it hardly matters. Chesterton’s stories may not be strictly realistic, but they’re awfully good stories.

I occasionally listen to audiobooks on my iPod as I work overnight shifts at my job. About a week ago, I was listening to The Napoleon of Notting Hill, in which one of Chesterton’s characters is able, so to speak, to see everything from the wrong side of the glass.

In that character’s eyes, a fence is not a fence, but a row of iron spears guarding a house from intruders. A drugstore is not a drugstore, but an alchemist’s storeroom bursting with mysterious remedies and miraculous cures. A toyshop is not a toyshop, but an allegory of everything important in life: families, expressed by dolls; conflict, symbolized by tin soldiers; survival, represented by Noah’s Arks; work, embodied in building blocks; and more.

I finished the audiobook, put away my iPod and decided to take a break from my work. Sitting beside a window, I gazed out into the rainy night. A storefront across the street was lit by a lonely light bulb.

As I looked at it, the storefront was not a storefront. It was a defiant spark burning against the cold, wet night. It was an island of light in vast, empty ocean of darkness. It was a welcoming beacon for the wet, weary traveler.

I didn’t mean to be poetic. Chesterton had rubbed off on me. Quite by accident, I saw that storefront from the wrong side of the glass.

For someone who has never read anything by G.K. Chesterton, I recommend the Father Brown stories: particularly the early ones. Father Brown is my favorite fictional character—period. He’s generally taken for a well-intentioned but superstitious simpleton. Then, when dark mysteries baffle everyone, he humbly, almost apologetically, solves them.

Chesterton also wrote some excellent novels. I recommend The Man Who Was Thursday (which has a manly protagonist and needs to be made into a movie), a thriller bursting with intrigue, swordfights, conspiracies, high-speed chases and… theological allegory. I’ve read many books, and not one has kept me hooked quite like The Man Who Was Thursday.

For those who prefer their novels less metaphysical, The Club of Queer Trades is a lighter story about a man’s odd encounters with a club with one rule for membership: every member must make his living by inventing an entirely unique kind of work.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, G.K. Chesterton is awesome.

135. Why J.R.R. Tolkien Is Awesome

When I decided to start writing these Why [Insert Author Name] Is Awesome blog posts, I wasn’t sure with whom to begin. At first I considered G.K. Chesterton, and then James Herriot, and then P.G. Wodehouse.

In the end, of course, I realized there was only one author with whom to begin this exciting new series of posts. One author to rule them all.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the man who created a universe on the backs of letters and exam papers, writing in his study late at night when the world was asleep, reinventing mythology for the modern age—and doing it in his spare time.

I give you John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, my childhood hero and the father of the fantasy genre.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Of course, Tolkien didn’t invent fantasy. As I noted in my short, untidy and highly idiosyncratic history of the genre, its inventor was probably a Scottish minister named George MacDonald. Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of him. Not many people have. He may have invented the fantasy genre, but Tolkien was the man who made it famous.

Enough preamble. Let’s get down to business.

What makes Tolkien awesome?

The thing that amazes me most about Tolkien is that the world he created is vast—vaster than vast—vastly vast. Tolkien’s world, Middle-earth, is huge. Worlds like Narnia are tiny by comparison.


The history of Middle-earth, meticulously chronicled, spans tens of thousands of years. Its geography (which changes over the centuries) is recorded in maps. Tolkien created languages, cultures, genealogies and even legends—myths within his myth. I once read that Tolkien holds the record for creating the largest fictional universe ever devised by a single person.

Tolkien’s literary style is sometimes a bit ponderous, and many readers are discouraged by the slow pace of the early chapters of The Lord of the Rings, his masterpiece. It’s not a fast-paced, action-packed novel. It takes its time creating a world for its characters to inhabit, and patient readers are rewarded with a story made more powerful by its fullness.

Personally, I love Tolkien’s style. It’s not flashy or funny or avant-garde, but does a beautiful job of conveying images and experiences vividly.

Tolkien weaves many familiar images and archetypes into his world. Gandalf reminds us of Merlin. Rohan comes straight out of Beowulf. The elves and dwarves are borrowed from Norse mythology, and the Shire is unmistakably English. While Aragorn wears armor and wields a sword, Bilbo wears a waistcoat and wields an umbrella. These disparate elements somehow never clash.

Although many of Tolkien’s characters are superb, some lack depth and intricate characterization. With three or four exceptions, the fourteen dwarves in The Hobbit (the prequel to The Lord of the Rings) are so undeveloped that they blur together.

The villain, Sauron, isn’t really a character. Although he’s mentioned frequently, he never actually makes an appearance in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Sauron is more like a threat, an unseen presence haunting these stories like a shadow.

Gollum, by contrast, is developed brilliantly: a minor villain whose slow, faltering steps toward redemption make him a surprisingly compelling character. Gandalf, a wizard, is unforgettable: gruff, powerful, impatient and kind. Bilbo, a timid hobbit, demonstrates a unique sort of courage—not showy heroism, but a quiet, determined bravery built upon resourcefulness and common sense.

Tolkien's Characters

Even Tolkien’s dialogue is memorable. It lacks clever quips and one-liners, but succeeds on a much deeper level: it’s believable. Kings speak with grace and elegance. Samwise Gamgee, a gardener, talks with colloquial simplicity. Tolkien’s books are populated by an enormous range of characters, from ageless sages to degenerate monsters, and their dialogue is no less diverse.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Tolkien’s books is their moral strength. Tolkien never preaches. He doesn’t need to. Loyalty, courage, honesty and self-sacrifice shine throughout his stories. Without ever saying it, Tolkien makes one thing crystal clear: good is better than evil, and good wins.

For someone new to Tolkien, I recommend starting with The Hobbit. It’s a fine introduction to Tolkien’s world and literary style. The Hobbit is a simple story of adventure, like a fairy tale. The Lord of the Rings is more like a myth, featuring a more mature style and a much deeper story.

The Silmarillion, a history of Middle-earth published after Tolkien’s death, isn’t a particularly compelling book. I recommend it only to the most devoted of Tolkien’s readers. The Silmarillion reads like a history textbook: occasionally interesting, but seldom engaging.

For readers who are interested in Tolkien’s other works, Roverandom is a delightful book for children. Farmer Giles of Ham is a funny story about a farmer who tames a dragon, and Leaf by Niggle is a beautiful allegory of a struggling artist.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, J.R.R. Tolkien is awesome.