Wouldn’t life be better if we could all live in the countryside? If we could all eat homemade food and drink beer every night? How about having the odd adventure? These are the questions Noble Smith wants us to answer in search of a better life in his book, ‘The Wisdom Of The Shire: A Short Guide To A Long And Happy Life’.
In this self-help guide/appreciation of Tolkien’s work, Smith sets out trying to identify the positive and life-affirming philosophies from ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ and how one might apply them to one’s life. For example, Hobbits love gardening and Smith believes a nice garden can make your existence that much more worthwhile. Clearly, Smith has never had to push my decrepit lawnmower around my backyard.
Eating well, having a nice home and getting rid of our own ‘personal Gollum’ are also areas which Smith believes will make our lives better. Smith also concurs with Tolkien’s own ‘I go to bed late and get up late, when possible’ habit. This, I suppose is fine if you don’t have a nine-to-five job, but instead author mock-spiritual guides to happiness for a living.
I’m afraid to say that my cynical side did emerge out of its Troll Cave when Smith began to talk about how the world had been ruined by the ‘banksters’ (he specifically calls out Goldman-Sachs) and our capitalist ways, right kids? The preachy tone grated with me and while drawing the parallels between the virtuousness of some of Tolkien’s world and living better is good fun, the book left me empty.
The Shire is an idyll created by Tolkien for a land that never existed. It is often aligned with a romanticised Anglo-Saxon Britain, but one that conveniently ignores the harshness of farming the land and surviving winters, attacks from other kingdoms or raiders. To suggest the ways of the Shire as a means of living one’s life is in itself a fantasy, the wisdom of Wonderland or Narnia. It’s nice to make-believe, but a little impractical in real life.
(pub: Hodder & Stoughton. 205 page small hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-444-75964-8
pub: Hodder & Stoughton. 205 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-444-75966-2)