Since he first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit more than 30 years ago, Bellingham author Noble Smith has had a soft spot for the story of Bilbo Baggins, a home-loving hobbit who must become brave in order to make a magical quest that will change his life. In his new book, The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life, Smith posits that if we could all be a little more hobbit-like, we’d be a whole lot happier.
Cascadia Weekly: Do you have to have read Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit to glean life lessons from The Wisdom of the Shire?
Noble Smith: If you haven’t read Tolkien you’re missing out on one of the great joys of literature. Go read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings and then come back and take a look at my book. Or at least see the movies.
CW: What was the catalyst for writing this book?
NS: Over a year ago, when I was driving home from an interview with Microsoft in heinous I-5 traffic, I had a freeway epiphany where I told myself I had to write this book. A year later The Wisdom of the Shire is being published into eight languages in more than 15 countries.
CW: Did you time it to come out around the same time as the movie, or was that just a lucky publishing move?
NS: Good timing—and an awesome agent.
CW: Why is Bilbo Baggins such a great character?
NS: I think it’s because he’s so human. He’s an everyman. He doesn’t start out brave at all. And he uses his wits, more than his miniscule might, to get himself and his friends out of trouble. In the end, it’s his sense of morality that saves the day.
CW: You’ve seen the movie. What did you think?
NS: I loved the movie. They did a terrific job developing the relationships between Bilbo and Gandalf and the Dwarves. The Hobbit is really about friendship, don’t you think?
CW: What do you want people to come away with after reading The Wisdom of the Shire?
NS: I want them to realize that they can do little things in their lives to make themselves happier: grow a garden, spend more time with friends, get more sleep, make your own music, be more cheerful, stop consuming so much. I also want them to stand up for what they believe is right—just like the Hobbits did.
CW: What are some of the themes found within the book that you’d like to call attention to?
NS: Hobbits are cheerful, kind, funny and generous (except when it comes to mushrooms!). They live in an egalitarian society and practice both sustainability and sufficiency. They have, what Tolkien called, “a close friendship with the earth.” They’re very brave when they have to be, but most of all they revere peace. These characters are great exemplars!
CW: How are you like Bilbo?
NS: I love good food and drink, sitting by the fire in a cozy house and reading and writing. And gardening. Every once in a while I have a big adventure. But I try to enjoy the little things in life.
CW: Do you have any readings coming up?
NS: My next reading isn’t until June, but if you follow me on Twitter I’ll be happy to arrange to meet you at Village Books to sign (and read) your copy of The Wisdom of the Shire.
For more details about the book, and to order it, go to http://www.shirewisdom.com
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