MR. BLISS by J. R. R. Tolkien


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Written about 50 years ago to amuse his own children--reportedly after Tolkien himself bought a motorcar--and produced in reverent facsimile with Tolkien's hand-lettered, illustrated text on each right-hand page, this is the excessively whimsical story of Mr. Bliss who decides, on a whim, to buy a motorcar. ""What color?"" asks Mr. Binks of Binks Motors, to which Mr. Bliss replies, ""Bright yellow, inside and out."" On his first ride out, to visit the Dorkinses, Mr. Bliss upsets Mrs. Knight with her donkey-cart piled with bananas and Mr. Day with his barrow-load of cabbages. So he takes them along, is prevented by the crush from reaching the brakes, and they all go flying over the Dorkinses' garden wall and into their picnic and soup pot. (The Dorkinses prove to be four fat brothers, the fattest of them named Fatty.) There are also three bears, met in the woods, who threaten to eat everyone up and do eat all the vegetables in sight, regardless of ownership, but end up accommodating the party overnight and eventually attending the wedding feast of Mr. Day and Mrs. Knight. Before this happy end there have been more frights and mishaps and misunderstandings, and Mr. Bliss's house has been stormed by Knight, Day, the bears, the Dorkinses, Mr. Binks, and the local policeman, all seeking payment of one sort or another. Mr. Bliss handles the onslaught by having his resident pet the long-necked Girabbit frighten them all away. ""Then they got up and went (you can see them on the last page) very quickly."" In another reference to a picture--of the company at dinner at the bears' house--Tolkien tells us ""Herbert [a Dorkins] is not in the picture. He swallowed a crumb the wrong way and is coughing in the scullery. He was sitting beyond Egbert next to Teddy."" (Sure enough, there's the empty chair.) The story is intermittently disarming but chiefly for Tolkien collectors or nostalgic enthusiasts of British whimsy.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin