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The Marvellous Land of Snergs (Dover Children's Classics)
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2001
The only reason, and it is indeed a sad reason, that this long forgotten novel has come back into print is because it has a (slight) connection with Tolkien, one of this century�s most popular writers. I say sad because it aptly displays how a fine writer of children stories can write a really good tale but remain obscure. Had Tolkien not read him, although it would have quite possibly change the course of modern literature because he would not think of the hobbits as halfings (well, he might, but he said this was their source) and create them as a viable race in Middle-earth.
As for the book itself? It is a fun, light read appropriate for children about ten or so. There is some violence in the end which may be rather frightening to young children, but nowadays they see worst on the television, and the violence is not real explicity. E. A. Wyke-Smith incorporates the Arthurian myth of the land across the river, which Tolkien did not like. Shame-facedly, my aquaintance with the Arthurian cycle lies much closer to dimly knowing as opposed to being an expert thereon.
One thing that marks this book is Wyke-Smith�s assimilation of various children�s traditions into a cohesiave whole. The Flying Dutchman, that mythical ghost ship, is here, and witches and an ogre are present as well. One interesting little facet are the children that are kept there (in a sort of schooling organization) are taken because they are superfluous children. I think it is for the regulation of superfluous children. I do not have my book with me, so I cannot say for sure. The most memorable character for was Golithos, an ogre who lived off poorly grown cabbage and was a �reformed� ogre. His struggle with his reformation proves quite humourous and, for me, is one of the best moments that children�s literature has to offer.
As for it�s relation to Tolkien, this publication will only be of interested to Tolkien scholars and fans, and probably only they will search this book out because of it�s influence on THE HOBBIT. It�s principle influence were the Snergs themselves, who were quite like Hobbits in height and social customs, although they do have a king. It�s a real shame that the only reason this book will be read is because of Tolkien, for it is a quite good children�s book in and of itself.
The question remains, however: how other many worthwhile pieces of literature have escaped the popular canon and sank into the dusty obscurities of time? Who knows how long this will survive. It may interest you to know that Homer wrote a third book which was a comedy and Aristotle wrote a book about comedy and both are now lost. Very tragic. Don't let it happen to this book, because it's a charmer.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2004
This is a delightful book I read as a child at my after-school babysitter's - and searched for over a 30 year period! I could never remember the title, nor author. But I recalled the jist of the tale and the cover illustration - a knight atop a horse, looking down and to his left at a child. Every town or city I lived in or visited, I would haunt the libraries and used book stores. And even though I had a rough description of a land for "superfluous" -as another reviewer said- children,and the adventures of two of them in another Land ..... no one knew of the book. They were always trying to get me to settle on "Water Babies" (?) or "Flying Dutchmen" - that last one was real close! I cruised through children's sections, card catalogs, dusty shelves and cartons - looking for some hint of a name to open my memories.
It wasn't until an unplanned pre-Xmas stop at Powell's City of Books in Portland (OR){a landmark behemoth of a bookstore - ya gotta see it to believe it!} one evening that I DID stumble across it ! And I HAD to buy it: published 1928, hardcover, stamped on the inside cover with "Withdrawn - Cedar Mill Community Library" - all 220pgs with George Morrow's great illustrations. I think I paid about $10. for it. There it was, here in my adopted Pacific NW just like the book that captivated my imagination and fancy so many years before-far away on the Northeast coast of New England. Of course I read it again! - and was just as delighted. And only then - in my "adult body" - did I see the similarities with Hobbits and the Like. As an 8 yr old I had never heard of Bilbo or Frodo. It would be another 9 years before I was lost in Middle Earth! And may I ever stay the child-at-heart, blissfully lost in those hobbit hills. Highly recommend this early literary treasure trove Tolkien and his kids loved. And the forerunner of all things Hobbit-ish.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2000
I received "The Marvellous Land of Snergs" as a gift and reluctantly read it. I postponed getting to the 'meat' of the story by reading the introduction, secretly hoping to be bored and providing an excuse to put it down. I was captured within minutes and couldn't wait to begin the adventure. The chapters are short and decoratively written providing the reader a minds view of the landscape and many personalities the main characters, Joe and Sylvia, encounter on their travels. Joe and Sylvia provided a link with traditional fiction that boosted my enthusiasm for devouring this book. A book I will read to my children!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2008
This is the book that JRR Tolkien used to read to his children, and it inspired him to create Hobbits. It's a wonderful story on its own! You can see where The Hobbit got it's inspiration, but The Wonderful Land Of Snergs is a completely different story.

It was published in 1928, and has a more modern vibe to it than I thought it would. For example, the ogre who used to eat children has gone vegetarian. The seaman's parrot swears in High Dutch. There's also quite a few double entendres for the adults. The Snergs help out the Ladies of the society that saves unwanted children and in return the Snergs benefit from "intercourse with fine ladies." Haha. I believe he MEANT "talking and just being around fine ladies." A knight errant has gone in search of dragons to fight, but can't find any. A miller tells him he knows where a dragon is, but it turns out to be the miller's wife. You get the idea. The kids will giggle, but the adults will get a little more out of it. Several of the words used in the book I had to look up, and I'm a fairly educated adult, so it's definitely a book for an adult to enjoy with children, along with a dictionary by the nightstand.

If you're a JRR Tolkien fan, then you'll definitely want to read this book. But even if you're not, this is a wonderful children's book on it's own, and deserves to be more widely read. If you're a Harry Potter fan, I think you would also enjoy this book. It's on the level of the first or second Harry Potter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2007
It is easy to see why this 1928 novel was a favorite with J. R. R. Tolkien's young children, and that the short-statured, big-hearted Snergs might well have been in the back of his mind when he created his Hobbits. But aside from that connection, this is a delightful children's book. The avuncular narrator keeps insisting there will be a sound moral to the story coming up eventually, but finally admits there isn't any, except perhaps to be wary of ogres who claim to have reformed. Along the way there is a journey through a magical landscape, the Flying Dutchman and his crew, a cunning witch who gets her come-uppance (as the not-so-reformed ogre gets his), old hostilities that are settled, a dunderhead Snerg who becomes a better and wiser peson, and a good deal of humor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2013
This is a really fun book for those who love a good old fashioned fairy story (at least one that doesn't take itself too seriously). This story shares some responsibility for inspiring J.R.R. Tolkien's creation of hobbits and their adventures. Tolkien said, "I should like to record my own love and my children's love of E. A. Wyke-Smith's "Marvellous Land of Snergs", at any rate of the snerg-element of that tale, and of Gorbo the gem of dunderheads, jewel of a companion in an escapade." The Snergs share some very key traits with hobbits: they are small of stature but big on loyalty, they love feasting and celebration, they are resourceful and trustworthy folks to have at your side in a tough scrape, and in this tale at least, like hobbits, there is adventure in underground tunnels and forests and run-ins with ogres. Also, the main Snerg character's name in this story, Gorbo, is reminiscent of Bilbo and Frodo of Tolkien's tales, though his character is more frequently like a hybrid of Pippin and Bilbo.

Spoiler Alert!

This story is a bit like Peter Pan meets The Hobbit meets The Princess Bride. It all takes place on a remote island (which is either a part of the cost of England or a near by island, perhaps a fictional Mann) where disparate elements all weave together to make a fun tale of adventure. In light of his critiques of C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia", one imagines that the disparate elements woven together was not one of the aspects of this story that Tolkien appreciated. There is a village for superfluous children, rescued from England and the families that love them not by women who supply the love and structure which their own home situations did not. This village is located in a bay which can be accessed by ship but apparently never left. The Flying Dutchman is anchored in the bay and Captain Vanderdecken and his men, while perpetually readying their ship for sea, have built a settlement on the beach and have settled into comfortable arrangements with Miss Watkyns, a sort of Mary Poppinsesque leader of the S.R.S.C. (Society for the Removal of Superfluous Children). The bay is surrounded by a forest inhabited by friendly bears and beyond that some ways is the land of the Snergs. These people are also friendly and trade labour and goods with the S.R.S.C. and Vanderdecken. Beyond the Snergs is the river and beyond that, a land full of danger and enemies...or so it is thought until the foolishness of two runaway children and a bumbling Snerg, Gorbo, ultimately proves that there is much about this land which is misunderstood.

The story starts a bit slowly for very young readers as there is some back ground and explanation given to set the stage. But once the story starts, there is much for that younger audience to appreciate: a young boy and girl and their puppy for protagonists, a lovable but bungling Snerg, Gorbo, who will do whatever it takes to protect those children, a witch, a (not quite) reformed ogre, knights, kings, castles, a beautiful princess, multiple feasts, an incorrigible jester, armies, dangerous escapes, etc. Throughout the story, there is much witty side commentary by the narrator which adds a level of pleasure to the parent who might be reading this tale to their children (the Bugs Bunny effect - appeals on a whole-nother level to the parents). The narrator promises throughout that the tale is working toward a worthy moral which will instruct its readers in wisdom. Here's a great quote from near the end which is an example of the commentary that in places elicited a chortle from this father and caused his children to look askance:
"It occurs to me here that there is some difficulty in proving a really useful moral from this tale, although I have almost boastfully referred to it as coming in due course for the instruction of my younger readers. For however reprehensible the children were in their disobedience and irresponsibility it cannot be denied that the general results of their conduct were beneficial. They were instrumental in bringing a swift finish to two persons who constituted a serious menace to the public. They had brought about the establishment of friendly relations between two countries, and removed doubts that had existed for centuries. Lastly, they had returned magnificently dressed and bearing expensive gifts. So perhaps the only definite moral that can be deduced is, if you by any chance meet an ogre who claims to be reformed, pretend to believe him until you have got a gun and then blow his head off at the first opportunity."

Just good fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tolkien cited "The Marvellous Land of Snergs" as a delightful children's book and many claim it influenced his writing of the Hobbit. Snergs is a fun book, but, unlike The Hobbit, it is definitively a book for kids. The main protagonists are two runaway kids, Sylvia and Joe, who find a bumbling Snerg named Gorbo. Gorbo has been cited by some as an inspiration for Bilbo. The rest of the story follows their attempts to escape a "reformed" ogre and evil witch. It's a fun story, but the narrator constantly interrupts in order to address child readers directly and make sure their sensibilities aren't hurt, which comes across as jarring for adult readers. Nonetheless, it probably represents the best attempt at "world building" before the Hobbit came along. Hopefully, the interest from Tolkien scholars will give this book a second life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
I loved this book, and I'm far from beeig a child (I'm 59!) I would read it to my children, if I had some.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2013
We got this book after my husband read "The Annotated Hobbit" and discovered Tolkein had read this book to his own children. We have thoroughly enjoyed our read aloud time and purchased copies for friends!
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on July 10, 2010
The book came very quickly and was very reasonable I would order more books again. Being a huge Tolkien fan I was really looking forward to reading material Tolkien would have been influenced by.
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