Nokes was chosen to be the new Master Cook of Wootton Major after Rider had retired. Nokes could cook (in a small way) but had not been chosen as Rider's apprentice. Instead Rider had chosen a young man named Alf who seemed too young and inexperienced to the villagers to succeed Rider as the Master Cook. Alf remained as the apprentice cook after Rider’s departure.
Nokes managed to cook adequately, in part because he watched Alf at his work. However, when the time came for the Feast of Good Children he worried about the Great Cake he would have to make. Eventually he (actually for the most part Alf) produced a Cake with a small white mountain topped with a tiny white figure, identified (as written in the frosting) as the "Fairy Queen". Within the cake were twenty-four trinkets and coins, plus what Nokes thought was a silver star. Actually it was a Fay-star but Nokes laughed at this notion. The only other thing notable about Nokes' Great Cake was that it was only large enough for one slice per child, parsimonious compared to Cakes of the past.
Nokes' great-grandson was Tim of Townsend, whom Smith Smithson chose to be the next person after himself to receive the Fay-star. Smith said that Tim was quite different from his great-grandfather, an opinion shared by Alf.
At the age of sixty Nokes retired, having grown fat and lazy. Near the end of his eighties Alf came by as Nokes was nodding in his chair after dinner. Nokes talked to Alf about the Fay-star that had disappeared from his Great Cake since he had been bothered about it all through the years. After making wrong guesses about who had swallowed the star, Alf told him that the smith’s son had done so, which Nokes did not believe. Instead he accused Alf of having nipped the star out before the Cake had been baked.
Alf then told the rude old man that he was a vain old fraud, fat, idle, and sly. Nokes bristled at Alf's reproof, and condescendingly said that if Alf had any fairy friends in his kitchen one should come and wave his little wand and make him thin again. Alf then revealed that he was the King of Faery. Trembling, Nokes begged Alf to not harm him. Alf then granted Nokes' wish to be thin and put him to sleep.
When he awoke, Nokes decided that he had had an awful dream. Fearing more such dreams Nokes hardly dared to eat and soon lost all his weight. His skin and clothes hung about him and the children called him old Rag-and-Bones. Due to his loss of weight Nokes lived a long time, just making his century.
|Smith Smithson||Nell Smithson||Sister|
|Ned Smithson||Nan Smithson||Tim of Townsend|
The short story of Smith of Wootton Major was conceived by Tolkien while trying to write an introduction to a book of George MacDonald. When Clyde S. Kilby asked Tolkien if the story refered to MacDonald, he denied it, but Kilby noticed that Old Nokes could represent the opinion Tolkien had of MacDonald: the character only cares of making the children happy with old recipes and a fairy queen made of sugar, ignoring the true meaning of the star within the cake or meeting the actual Fairy Queen.