Professor J.R.R. Tolkien invented and illustrated this book of Mr. Bliss’ adventures for his own children when they were young. The story is reproduced here exactly as he created it – hand-written with lots of detailed and uproarious coloured pictures.
It is a complete and highly imaginative tale of eccentricity. Mr. Bliss, a man notable for his immensely tall hats and for the girabbit in his garden, takes the whimsical decision to buy a motor car. But his first drive to visit friends quickly becomes a catalogue of disasters. Some of these could be blamed on Mr. Bliss’ style of driving, but even he could not anticipate being hi-jacked by three bears.
What happened next the reader, whether young or old, will want to discover for himself. Thankfully all ended well, and even the yellow motor car with red wheels (to which Mr. Bliss had taken an understandable and great dislike) came in useful at the end.
Originally published by Oxford University Press in 1937 (2nd ed. 1958, 3rd ed. 1969) and by Folcort Press in 1969, Norwood Editions in 1975, R.West in 1977 and Arden Library in 1978.
The essay is included in a lot of books, f.e. in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays.
Mr. Bliss is a very eccentric, very British children's story written by Professor Tolkien for his own children.
Imagine a children's picture book illustrated by Tolkien, creator of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, involving a man with tall hats and a bad driving record, and a very British feel, and you have MR BLISS.
It largely shows his distrust turned hatred of things mechanical that destroy the environment. But make no mistake: this is no propaganda track written to slam pollution, it is first and foremost a story for children, his children. It is basically a humourous exploration, beautifully illustrated, of what could go wrong with an unexperienced driver (namely Mr Bliss).
Easily the strangest character is a Girabbit, a type of animal invention that must be particular to British society, or even more localised to Tolkien's imagination, for I have never encountered him anywhere else; it has that feel of Britain, so it would not surprise me if it was British and not Tolkien's own invention.
However, all of his children's fiction, save The Hobbit, has the particular feel. It is a rabbit with a very long neck (hence the name Girabbit, combining Giraffe and Rabbit).
The story is that a man named Mr Bliss goes and buys a Motor Car. Thru the course of the story, he has several interactions with his neighbours and three bears. His acquisition of a motor car is quite disastrous, and momentarily devastating, and in the end Mr Bliss finds the motor-car unnecessarily troublesome, and has "taken a great dislike to it".
This attitude he expressed in the unpublished TALES AND SONGS OF BIMBLE BAY. According to Carpenter, his official biographer, Tolkien took a "charge `em and they scatter" method of driving, and was much more daring than was skillful. But here, it is expressed humourously. If any moral can be drawn from it, it is that motor cars are trouble. Afterward, Tolkien takes this attitude and develops it in a much more sophisticated and mature form in The Lord of the Rings.
But this story delights in being for children, and one notable word play is two characters, of which Mr Bliss had an accident with involving his motor car, go into business together, and they call it after their names, which is Day and Knight. It is this type of word play that makes Tolkien's children's fiction notable.
An interesting note about this story is that it was to be originally published back in 1937 or 1938, when The Hobbit had been accepted for publication. On the strength of it, Tolkien had submitted several other shorter works, including Farmer Giles, Roverandom, this, and the Quenta Silmarillion proper. Because of the illustrations it proved uneconomical to publish, and was set aside for years and years, a fate Roverandom would also share (sadly).
His illustrations are nicely done, showing Tolkien's skill as a (physically) visionary and not just a literary artist. His style is definitely all his own. Overall, a nicely down story for Children, written by the master of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien.