Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Book 42 of 2014: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien

I'm obviously a massive fan of Tolkien and I'm slowly collecting all of his books. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is one that I acquired several years ago and it's a collection of his poetry. It's funny because people don't normally associate Tolkien with poetry, yet when you read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit there's an awful lot of it.

It's a nice little mix of poetry which Tolkien wanted to put together for a relative of his. There is plenty which will be familiar to people who had read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but there are also lots which were new to me (on my first reading). It's got an opening which helps to suggest that, like his other Middle-earth books, these poems were collected by hobbits. The whole thing is illustrated by Pauline Baynes, Tolkien's favourite illustrator (she's the one who produced the image on the poster of Bilbo's Last Song).

I love that I can read this whole poetry book in less than an hour. It's not a long read and so it's one you can squeeze in on a weekend morning, perhaps when you're wanting something light before going on to a heavier read. If anything that's one of my only complaints with this little book, it is so little and I would love to have more of Tolkien's writing in it to make it a little longer.

Each time I read it I seem to find new favourites. On this read I couldn't help but fall in love with 'The Mewlips'. It's delightfully creepy:

Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and the gallowsweed,
You go to find the Mew-lips - and the Mewlips feed.
(Page 46)

Isn't that brilliant? That's just the last verse but it's my favourite bit of the poem. It needs to be read slow and quietly to get the full effect. I especially love the imagery of the penultimate line; the 'hanging trees' and 'gallowsweed' are obviously alluding to the gibbet.

It's added to by the picture by Pauline Baynes. There are images of bones in it, along with a foot and some creepy faces. That's not to say that the other pictures aren't fantastic. I love all of them. They're partially coloured which just adds a little something to them. I don't normally like partially coloured pictures, but it works well with the simple drawings by Baynes.

One other random thing about this book. It smells lovely. It's over fifty years old, which I'm sure is part of the reason. It's also got brilliantly thick pages, which means that despite its age and how thin the book is, it feels very sturdy.

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