The Hobbit — a review by Rayner Unwin (10)

Rayner Unwin, who became J.R.R. Tolkien’s publisher, wrote this review of The Hobbit in 1936. He was 10 and served as a test reader for his father, publisher Stanley Unwin, who published the book. The older Unwin believed that children were the best judges of children’s books, and he paid young Rayner 1 shilling for each review. “Good money in those days,” Rayner Unwin later remarked.

30 Oct 1936

Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who lived in his hobbit-hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exiting time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they get to the lonely mountain; Smaug, the dragon who guards it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home — rich!

This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.


Header image by Erik Stein at Pixabay




Writing prompt: Homophones


Right or wrong?
Wrong or write?
Write or left?
I can’t tell anymore
I keep on walking
under the burning son
My sole’s on fire

(Zol H, 2019)

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning. For example: there, their and they’re, mail and male, right and write, sole and soul, dye and die, pair and pear.

Read also Henry Bladon’s Homophones, a grate story first published at 50-Words Stories.

Image by ThreeMilesPerHour from Pixabay

Dickens or Montmartre?


A time traveler’s dilemma: Great Expectations or a glass of absinthe?

Writing prompt: If you had a time machine that let you spend one hour in a different time, where would you go?

Text: Solveig Hansen

“Coming back in time, changing history, that’s cheating” (young Kirk to future Spock in Star Trek while preparing for transwarp beaming). At that time, Kirk of course didn’t know that he and his crew would do the same (well, at least they did in the original timeline) years later, when they traveled back to 1986 San Francisco (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) to find humpback whales, inventing transparent aluminum in the process, and bring the whales back to their own time to save the Earth.

The concept of time travel captures our imagination more than anything. We tend to forget that we already are time travelers, traveling into the future second by second. Still, it’s not every day you get an opportunity to travel to a different time period, even only for an hour. You might want to get a glimpse of what’s ahead of you or go back to relive an episode in your own life or witness a historic event.

If I were to travel into a time in the future, I would choose an Earth colony in space, there’s no question about that.

Most of all I would like to travel back in time and observe the events as they unfold, like a movie. There’s plenty to choose from:

– Falling of the Berlin Wall
– Woodstock
– The shores of Normandy on D-Day
– Titanic in her final hour
– The very first performance of Beethoven’s mighty 9th Symphony, with the deaf master himself on the stage
– Michelangelo at work in the Sistine Chapel
– And the list goes on…

We could even go back to year 33 AD to see what really happened, or be a fly on the wall at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD to see the making of dogmas. Or why not go all the way and watch the very first sunrays as they hit the newborn Earth?

In the end, we have to make do with what we have here and now. And since we already are time travelers, I thought I would find inspiration in the past to take with me as I write my way onwards. No inventing of transparent aluminum, no humpback whales, no tampering with the timeline, just one hour of pure creative input.

I’m torn between two choices:

I could visit Charles Dickens as he works on Great Expectations in his study at Gad’s Hill Place. “Good day to you, Sir,” I shall say. Maybe he’ll say, “Would you like a cup of tea, dear?” I would ask him about the characters in his books. Does he create a full bio for them before he starts the actual writing? Does he know the full story beforehand, or does the story reveal itself as he writes? I would ask him about the role of writers as voices of society vs. entertainers. Things like that. If I told him that I came from the future, would he ask whether he was still remembered? Do people still read my books?

Decision time: In the end, I choose the Paris bohemians at the turn of the 20th century and walk among the writers and artists in Montmartre for an hour. I know we tend to romanticize them, but we need a few rebels from time to time. There may have been destruction, but there was also creation. I raise my glass of absinthe to that.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The flight of the creative mind


“…my mind takes flight like a butterfly.”

On my list of films to re-watch is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French original: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon), based on the book by the same name, written by Jean-Dominique Bauby (1952–1997). He was the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine.

In this book, Bauby reminds us that whatever circumstances, the mind is free like a butterfly, even if the body is locked inside a diving bell. He would know better than most of us, his circumstances being as they were. A massive stroke left him with locked-in syndrome, physically paralyzed and only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. That’s how he dictated his memoirs, his “bedridden travel notes,” blink by blink, four hours a day for ten months. 200,000 blinks, an average of two minutes per word, 29 chapters, 130+ pages. He composed and memorized the text before each writing session: “In my head I churn over every sentence ten times, delete a word, add an adjective, and learn my text by heart, paragraph by paragraph.”

Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the book was published in France.

I love this snippet from the prologue:

“My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court. You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and adult ambitions.”

The creative force inside us is truly amazing. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is on the top 25 list of my favorite movies about writing.

Happy New Year 2019!

May the new year find you expressing yourself to the fullest, creating cities and streets and magic worlds full of life, and penning tales that touch hearts, leave a smile on the reader’s face, and even transform minds when harsh winds blow. Because words matter. Art matters.

From Day 24 in my Advent calendar:

Dec 24