The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life by Noble Smith is officially released in the US and UK today!
In The Wisdom of the Shire, author Noble Smith breaks down modern and everyday troubles from the perspective of the hobbits of J.R.R. Tolkien’s creation.
The foreword is written by Peter S. Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn and the introduction to The Lord of the Rings, who says, “The Wisdom of the Shire is an idea whose time has unquestionably come. I’d buy it like a shot, give copies away to deserving friends, and keep it by the bed for bad nights.” What follows are chapters that explore subjects like food and health, friendship, and courage, with clever titles like, “Eat Like a Brandybuck, Drink Like a Took,” “Love in the Third Age,” and “Bearing the Burden of Your Ring.”
While I can’t imagine anyone picking up this book who had no concept of a hobbit, a substantial knowledge of Tolkien and Middle-earth is not required. Each chapter is full of examples that can stand on their own, but coupled with a familiarity with the texts, your understanding can only grow. Having only read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings myself, I still felt entirely comfortable with any references to The Silmarillion or the Unfinished Tales because every example is used and explained for a specific purpose.
Be forewarned! If you want to embrace the lifestyle of a hobbit, you may have to give up the convenience of fast food and start buying food that is grown locally. Turn off the television and just get more sleep. Smith is unequivocal when it comes to describing many of our modern day habits as “orcish.” He is not condescending, but I found myself really confronted by the contradictions between the life I desire and my confirmed behaviors. If you truly want to live a life of tranquility, you might need to take a step back and look at your tendencies through a new filter.
There are ample annotations in this book, both clarifying and tangential. Unlike cumbersome back-of-the-book commentary or the sometimes awkward footnotes, Smith’s annotations are infused throughout the text. Some offer statistical and expositional facts from Middle-earth, others give insight into the life and times of author J.R.R. Tolkien, and some are just fun. My favorites are the comments that make me want to turn down the page corners; these highlight real-life hobbits, like Simon Dale of the Lammas Project, the inhabitants of Ashland, Oregon, and the owners of The Hobbit Pub in Southampton, England.
The Wisdom of the Shire is great to read all the way through, but would also be a perfect reference when you find yourself approaching “Your Own Personal Gollum” or when you want to “Sing Like A Hobbit.” If you need a quick reminder, you can always thumb to the end of the chapter where a short morsel of wisdom summarizes the hobbit attitude.
Previous readers of Tolkien may suddenly crave a re-read of their favorite passages (or favorite books!), and those who have never cracked the spine of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings might suddenly have the urge to curl up with one of the books after having read The Wisdom of the Shire.
About the author: Noble Smith is an award-winning playwright who has worked as a video game writer, a documentary film executive producer, and the media director of an international human rights foundation. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and children. Follow him on Twitter @ShireWisdom.