The Tolkien Reader is a compilation of short works by JRR Tolkien, first published in 1966.
The Tolkien Reader contains an introductory essay by Peter S. Beagle entitled “Tolkien’s Magic Ring”; a short play entitled “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son”; Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories”;his two short tales “Leaf by Niggle” and Farmer Giles of Ham; and the collection of sixteen poems known as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.
Most of these pieces had appeared in print before, save the Beagle essay and “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son”, but never in paperback form. This publication was meant to make JRR Tolkien’s secondary (ie., non Middle-earth related) stories available in paperback format.
“On Fairy-Stories” and “Leaf by Niggle”, an essay and a story that are somewhat interrelated, was first published in hardcover in 1964 as Tree and Leaf.
Farmer Giles of Ham was first published in 1949, but on a very limited print run, while Tolkien was still at work on his masterwork, The Lord of the Rings.
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is a collection of sixteen pieces of verse. It was first published in hardcover as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in 1962, with illustrations by Pauline Baynes.
Only two of the poems actually concern Tom Bombadil, and were written long before Tom’s unexpected appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring. The “Bombadil poems” were originally written and published in Oxford Magazine in 1934.
Tolkien short play, “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son” appeared for the first time in print in The Tolkien Reader. It is based upon the fragment of Anglo-Saxon poem known as The Battle of Maldon, which recounts a 991 battle between the English (led by Beorhtnoth, duke of Essex) and the Danes. The Danes won the battle because of a gracious gesture on the part of Beorhtnoth, and this small play examines the fatal error while exhorting its heroic spirit.