Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.
Goodreads: Mr. Bliss
Mr. Bliss’s first outing in his new motor-car, shared with several friends, bears, dogs, and a donkey, though not the Girabbit, proves to be unconventional though not inexpensive.
Mr. Bliss is a delightful yet little-known story that Tolkien wrote for his children. It’s fairly straightforward as children’s stories go, following the misadventures of Mr. Bliss after he buys a new automobile and discovers it might be more trouble than it’s worth, so I can see why the tale isn’t generally mentioned among Tolkien’s bigger works. However, the story is amusing and a must-read for any Tolkien fan.
The published book is a facsimile edition, reproducing Tolkien’s illustrations and hand-lettered text on the right-hand pages, with typed-out text on the left. The illustrations are on the smallish side but still detailed and characteristically Tolkien. There are also some entertaining captions, such as when Tolkien notes that he’s tired of drawing the car in every scene so he simply left it out or when he comments that a character is missing from a certain scene because he rose from his chair to do something else. Normally I’m not a fan of authorial asides, but these come across as personal notes to the reader and are just in the right space between charming and funny.
The plot is wild and clips along at as a fast pace, as Mr. Bliss encounters an increasing number of troubles with his new car, running people over, picking people up, driving into walls, and so forth. I suppose it’s a bit of a story of its time, when automobiles were still kind of wild and new, but it doesn’t read as old or out of touch. Rather, it’s just hilarious and will still resonate with today’s readers. (As a side note, I half wonder if the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender reader Mr. Bliss because there’s a character here who keeps screaming “My cabbages!” and Mr. Bliss keeps as a pet a Girabbit, a cross between a giraffe and a rabbit.)
I’ve been meaning to read Mr. Bliss for years because it’s currently out of print in the US and can be a bit hard to find. I was excited to discover my local library actually has a copy (it never occurred to me to look before), and I highly recommend it to anyone else who can locate a copy.
- Beyond The Lord of the Rings: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Other Works
- Which Tolkien Book Should You Read Based on Your Hogwarts House?
- Which Tolkien Book Should You Read Next? (Flow Chart)