First published in 1955, Katharine Briggs’ story about the hobgoblin whose charge it is to protect and influence the unloving Puritan family who come to live at Widford Manor after the Civil War is a classic of English children’s writing.
Hobberdy Dick ’s benign works in favour of the characters carry the story from sadness to delight; but it is his character as ancient guardian that holds the reader. For the true conclusion is that sanctioned by fairy lore: the offer of mortal cloth for Dick to wear which will bring him eternal release from servitude.
All these strands are intertwined with wonderful ease. Katharine Briggs’s absorption in ‘the personnel of fairyland’ confers a naturalness to the supernatural goings-on, while the precise attention she gives to its setting reinforces this. Much of her youth had been spent in Scotland, but in 1939 she had bought a house in Burford and her love of the Cotswolds, with their green roads, their barrows, and their standing stones bring accuracy and, above all, warmth to her portrayal of both landscape and people.
Faber Editorial Director Walter Donohue writes:
Forget Tolkein - Katharine Briggs is the real deal. She was the head of the British Folklore Society for 40 years. Both she and Tolkein were obsessed with British folklore - elves, fairies, and especially hobgoblins. Tolkein wrote The Hobbit while Briggs wrote Hobberdy Dick .
Hobberdy Dick is a fantasy novel set during the English Civil War when the old supernatural world of magic was being beseiged by the rationalism of the Roundheads. Hobberdy Dick is a hobbit who lives in the hearth of an old country house and who longs to shuffle off his attachment to this world and be released into the ether.
The plot concerns a couple whose love is threatened by the brutality of war. Hobberdy Dick comes to their rescue and as a reward is granted the release that he longs for - it's similar to the way that Prospero releases Ariel at the end of
In fact, Briggs is closer to Shakespeare than to Tolkien, whose work is sentimental and clogged with fake mystifying mythologies. Whereas Briggs' work is deeply English and filled with the wonders and delights of the spirits animating the woodlands that Shakespeare celebrated in A Midsummer Night's Dream .
Hobberdy Dick is the authentic voice of English folklore.