Two poems by J.R.R. Tolkien, famous for the fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, have been discovered in a school magazine from 1936.
Tolkien expert Wayne Hammond initiated the discovery after uncovering a note which stated that two poems by the renowned author and scholar had been published in a local newspaper, named by Tolkien as the Abingdon Chronicle. After narrowing down the time of publication to when Tolkien was an Anglo-Saxon Professor at nearby Oxford University, Hammond then researched local press. Through this research, Hammond then realised the note pointed most probably to the poems’ location being in a school newspaper, that of Our Lady’s School in Abingdon.
Current headteacher of Our Lady’s School, Stephen Oliver, initially could not find the correct edition of the newspaper: the 1936 ‘Annual’ of Our Lady’s School. He referred Hammond to the archive of the Sisters of Mercy, who previously ran the school. However, Oliver then came across a copy of the ‘Annual’ by chance when preparing for a school event.
Printed a year before the publication of the prestigious children’s novel The Hobbit, the poems discovered offer a new insight into the author’s mind and works. ‘The Shadow Man’, the first of the poems uncovered is an early version of a poem Tolkien later went on to publish in the collection The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, which is reported to have a sinister and atmospheric air.
“There is also a distinct possibility that Tolkien is making reference to Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon myths and tales”
The second poem, ‘Noel’, was reported by Oliver to The Guardian to be a “beautiful and unusual take on the Christmas story”, with a focus on the character of Mary, which in the headmaster’s opinion is a possible reason why Tolkien wrote such a poem for Our Lady’s in particular. From extracts of the poem available; “The hall was dark without song or light,/The fires were fallen dead”, and mentions of a “lord of snows”, there is also a distinct possibility that Tolkien, like in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, is making reference to Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon myths and tales in these poems.
Our Lady’s School hopes to be able to exhibit the poems as part of an event showing off its history. The discovery of these two poems adds to the growing list of recently uncovered Tolkien works, which includes a retelling of the Finnish The Story of Kullervo, published in 2015. With such discoveries being consistently made, Tolkien scholars and fans will undoubtedly hope more examples of the father of fantasy literature’s work will be found in the future.
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