JRR Tolkien is known world wide as a literary master, particularly famed for his tales of middle-earth: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Sillmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.
Tolkien spent much of his youth involved in learning languages – Latin, French, German, Greek, Middle English, Old English, Old Norse, Gothic, Modern & Medieval Welsh, Finnish, Spanish & Italian, along with a working knowledge of Russian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch & Lombardic. It was this love of words, lingustics and philology, that inspired Tolkien to write tales for young and old.
But it was poetry that first caught his imagination. Although Tolkien famously disliked Shakespeare – saying that ‘disbelief had not so much to be suspended as hanged, drawn, and quartered’ – he would have been exposed the the great bard every year in his schooling. At that time his plays were studied in greater intensity and detail than today, with the students learning great passages by heart. Tolkien’s experience with the great poets – Tennyson, Byron, Wordsworth, Keats and Coleridge – would undoubtably have fueled his love of language and led him to explore the world of poetry, saga, and myth even further.
At the age of twenty one Tolkien encounted the lines in Crist (an Old English Poem) by Cynewulf:
Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended
As he was to write later – ‘there was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English.’
In 1914, a year after that encounter, Tolkien wrote his first poem about Earendel and during the following two years began to combine the theme of Earendil with an invented language, based on Finnish, which was to become Quenya. He began to write poetry in this language.
Ai lintulinda Lasselanta
Pilingeve suyer nalla ganta
Kuluvi ya karnevalinar
V’ematte singi Eldamar.
Language comes first and foremost in the creation of Middle-Earth, it is ‘the foundation…the name comes first and the story follows.’
There are a number of websites that collect together Tolkien’s Poems from Middle-Earth, and quite a few books too. This collection differs from those only in its presentation. Just as the languages of Middle-Earth define its races, so too each race’s poems offer an insight into their cultures.
The poems are collected, then, not by book but by race. Each race will eventually have its own tab, with all the poems that Tolkien wrote for those people contained within. On each page all the poems of that race will be provided, with hyperlinks to each poem at the top of the page for easy access. The book reference next to the title of each poem runs thus: name of book, chapter, page. The books I have used are listed below along with the common coding.
There are a couple of notes:
The Elves’ poems are split within their page into Mirkwood, Lorien, and Imladris (or Rivendell).
Gollum’s poems (and riddles) are contained within the ‘Hobbits’ page – as he is more closely related to Hobbits than any of the other races.
The Men, like the Elves, have been split into location – Rohan, Gondor, and the Men of Dale – but the poems from the time of Beren and of Beleriand are in a fourth section within the page, since they are from the race of Men before the realms of Gondor, Arnor, and Rohan even existed.
Book References and Coding
All books are, naturally, by JRR Tolkien, and the rights belong to the Tolkien estate.
(TH) The Hobbit – Collins Modern Classic. 1998 paperback edition.
(FOTR) The Fellowship of the Ring
(TTT) The Two Towers
(ROTK) The Return of the King
(TS) The Sillmarillion – HarperCollins. 1998 hardback edition.
(UT) Unfinished Tales – HarperCollins. 1998 paperback edition.
An example of the coding:
Far over the Misty Mountains (TH, 1, 27)
Meaning: The Hobbit, Chapter One, Page Twenty-Seven.
If you have any comments, complaints, or suggestions, please feel free to contact me via my contact page.