While I am a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of Mr Bliss until recently. It’s a bit of an odd duck, really, and quite unlike most of Tolkien’s other works. It reminded me a bit of Rudyard Kipling crossed with Beatrix Potter.
The story follows the adventures of Mr. Bliss as he enjoys his new motor car, though perhaps “enjoys” is going too far. He is constantly crashing into other people and walls, as well as filling his car up with more and more people, and having to pay off everyone for the various accidents.
The story is completely nonsensical, which is one of its charms. Like many wonderful children’s stories from the early 1900s, Mr Bliss brims with imagination, wit, and charm. It ignores silly things like physics and logic. The characters are all larger than life, including the title character, who is enamored of very tall hats and rides his bicycle only downhill. He even keeps a girabbit as a pet in his garden.
The story was made all the more wonderful with highly entertaining narration by Derek Jacobi. After a wonderful experience of Smith of Wootton Major, this was the next one I enjoyed after I grabbed all the other Tolkien works narrated by Jacobi. He is an excellent narrator, and brings the story to life. I can imagine him sitting in an overstuffed chair by a fireplace, surrounded by eager and attentive young faces, as he wildly gestures as the story unfolds.
This audiobook version of Mr Bliss is only about 45 minutes long, so it’s a quick listen. I highly recommend it, too. If you love storytelling and nonsensical children’s books, you will love this story. I always have a big smile after listening to it. It leaves my soul as bright and sunshiney as Mr. Bliss’ motor car.
Release Date: September 1982 (UK, print), September 29, 2011 (audiobook)
Violence: 1 (brief, humorous, some peril)