Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The World Would Be a Better Place Filled with 'Wisdom of the Shire'

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold,
it would be a merrier world.

- Thorin Oakenshield, "The Hobbit"

It is fair to say that J.R.R. Tolkien knew what was important.

While the above quote from "The Hobbit" wraps it into a succinct package, the book itself is a testament to all the things that are important in a life. And Tolkien doesn't whack you in the head with it or cram it down your throat. No, he simply tells a story and lets the reader decide.

I am enamored of "The Hobbit" for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the greatest is that I am much like a Hobbit in many ways: I love my garden, my books, my shire of Maine. Need I go on? To be honest, I think I might be a lot like Bilbo, ready for an adventure, although I do believe I have dealt with enough orcs to last a lifetime without venturing too far from home.

So let me tell you a little tale ...

I follow a number of Hobbity types on Twitter. It can make for a cozy gathering, out there in the cold land of the Internet.

At the end of November, as the world awaited the premiere of the second round of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, I saw a tweet from Pieter Collier,  aka @TolkienLibrary, announcing "The Wisdom of the Shire" contest.

I entered.

And promptly forgot about it.

The day before the movie debuted in North America, I got an email saying I had won. Yet there it sat, like an occupied Erebor, waiting. Waiting.

For 17 days it waited. The movie opened. Christmas came and went. A series of storms swept through my region, inundating us with snow and ice for days on end. I had more than enough to do than scan every email in my account. So when I finally sat down to clean out my inbox, that was when I saw it.

I had won a copy of "The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life" by Noble Smith.

"The Wisdom of the Shire"
along with their inspiration,
"The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings"
 A welcome flurry of emails ensued, first with Pieter and then with Noble (you can find him on Twitter @ShireWisdom) and before I knew it, the book was in the mail, winging its way on eagles.

U.S. Postal Service eagles, get it?

It arrived late last week, kindly signed by Noble himself (yes, I asked about his name, and yes, he answered me, and no, you must ask him yourself to gift you with such knowledge).

The kind inscription

I skimmed through it immediately, seeing lovely little footnotes that are a bit more noticeably placed, much like Hobbit feet are a tad more obvious. I even spotted a recipe I plan to try in the not-too-distant future.

Then I set it aside until I had a quiet moment before starting to read it in earnest yesterday.

I am not going to run through it. Oh, no, not this. My leather Hobbit bookmark from Weta is going to gradually advance through the pages, letting me savor the words, the ideas, the observations.

I can say that I love it, though. Noble is a conversationalist, writing with grace and honesty. I knew I wanted to have a chat with him as soon as I read this:

"You can create a snug 'Hobbit-hole' wherever you are .... Because the space which you inhabit is irrelevant compared to the power of your mind to project contentment. For me that contentment has always meant having a good book at hand, so that no matter where I was stuck physically, my mind was free to soar."

Yes, I think I know you, Mr. Noble Smith, fellow Hobbit. For now, I will settle for reading your book. But someday, I do want that chat.

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