I recently re-read two very long English fantasies: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Pullman's His Dark Materials. After careful consideration, I must declare that I prefer Pullman's book to Tolkien's.
Of course, Pullman and Tolkien were trying to do two very different things when writing their stories. Pullman was trying to re-imagine the Fall from a humanistic viewpoint. Tolkien was trying to "sub-create" a world as a backdrop to his invented languages, such as Klingon (oops, I meant Quenya ;-).
Thinking over all the Tolkien material I've read, I think the short story Farmer Giles of Ham is my favorite. At least, I needn't fear uttering "not another elf" when reading it.
Update (2/14): Tom Bombadil == Winnie the Pooh ?
technorati tags: pullman, tolkien