Mr. Bliss by J. R. R. Tolkien

Mr. Bliss by JRR Tolkien


GoodreadsMr. Bliss
Series: None
Age Category: Children’s
Source: Library
Published: 1982


Mr. Bliss, who lives in a tall house and wears tall hats, decides one day to trade in his bike for a motor car. Thus starts a series of adventures as he drives off to see his friends.

Star Divider


Originally written for Tolkien’s children, probably in the late 1920s or early 1930s, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Mr. Bliss is a short, humorous story about the titular character’s adventures in his new motor car. The quirky tale will delight and surprise fans of Tolkien, who have here more proof of his virtuosity as a writer. The sly humor is found not only in the mishaps of the protagonist, but also in the interplay between text and pictures; often the narrator will comment upon his own drawings for comedic effect. Fans of the Professor will not want to miss out on this lesser-known gem!

This volume presents a facsimile of Tolkien’s original manuscript–including his illustrations and handwritten text–alongside a more legible print version. Much of the charm lies in the manuscript as Tolkien wrote it, by hand. He comments upon the pictures, noting when he no longer felt like drawing the car, explaining that a character is missing because he left the room, and describing the emotions that lead to the facial expressions of the characters. I found myself laughing out loud several times at the sheer absurdity of it. Admittedly, however, the printed text is helpful and necessary; I could not always decipher Tolkien’s handwriting.

The story itself might surprise readers mostly familiar with Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. To me, the absurdity of the work is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland–which is not something I would say of any of Tolkien’s other children’s books. We have here a silly protagonist who owns a hybrid girabbit, then goes on a motor car escapade and meets (stuffed?) three bears who, of course, stand in the road and wave their arms. People and cabbages and bananas and bears all pile into the car, and more adventures are had. It’s all very silly. And funny! It’s not at all like Middle-Earth.

I found it quite easy to imagine Tolkien telling this delightful little tale to his children. It has that quality of being meant for sympathetic listeners who just want a good story and who don’t mind laughing at something ridiculous. There is something almost cozy about it, silly as it is. I found myself charmed, and I imagine many others will be, as well.

Read Briana’s review of Mr. Bliss.

4 stars

2 thoughts on “Mr. Bliss by J. R. R. Tolkien

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