The Marvellous Land of Snergs

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The Marvellous Land of Snergs cover

The Marvellous Land of Snergs is a children's fantasy, written by Edward Wyke Smith and published in 1927. It was illustrated by the Punch cartoonist George Morrow. It is noted as an inspiration source for Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Plot summary[edit]

The Marvellous Land of Snergs is set on a fictional island somewhere on Earth, but difficult to reach. On the island is a colony of children (rescued from neglect by the redoubtable Miss Watkyns), the crew of the Flying Dutchman, and the Snergs, a race of short, thick-set, helpful people. Unfortunately Golithos, a reformed (but relapsing) ogre, and Mother Meldrum, a wicked witch, also live there. Also in the forest across the river there are tigers, brown bears, European dragons, ghouls, and unicorns. When Sylvia and Joe run away for a big adventure their lives are in deadly peril when they fall into the clutches of these two characters. Gorbo the Snerg and Baldry the court jester come to the rescue.

Snergs and Hobbits[edit]

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, is known to have read The Marvellous Land of Snergs to his children. He 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." [1]

The similarities between the races of snergs and hobbits have led to speculation that the book was a major inspiration.[2] They are similar in their physical descriptions, their love of communal feasting, and their names, particularly Gorbo and Bilbo. In all the books there are also journeys through dangerous forests and underground caverns.


A recent review describes the book as "a classic fairy tale written in traditional style but with great gusto, whimsy and a surprising freshness."[3] The review in The Tolkien Collector notes the points of similarity with Peter Pan – a remote island populated by disparate groups – and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – a haphazard plot and fantastic creatures. It criticizes the inconsistencies in the island story and the stylistic flaws which come from an over-awareness of the child audience, but considers that "Wyke-Smith transcends such superficial, dreamlike stories by creating a true fairy story, along the lines that were later elucidated by Tolkien".[4]