Two Rare J.R.R. Tolkien Poems Found In 1936 School Magazine

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien is well known for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fantasy tales, but now two poems – written by the author in 1936 – have come to light. The poems are believed to have been written by Tolkien while he was working at Oxford University as a professor of Anglo-Saxon from 1925 to 1945.

It was by chance that a U.S. Tolkien scholar named Wayne Hammond discovered the two poems after he contacted the head teacher of Our Lady’s School in Abingdon in Oxfordshire, England.

Hammond had reportedly got a tip from a note written by the author, in which he mentioned having written the poems for the “Abingdon Chronicle.” He got in touch with Stephen Oliver, the head teacher at the school in order to get the chance to research the two poems.

Reportedly, at first the school was unable to find a copy of the school magazine and told Hammond to contact the Sisters of Mercy who had first started the school.

However, Oliver said that while the school was preparing for an event for former pupils of the school, they uncovered their own copy of the magazine and saw the two poems Hammond was looking for. He said how excited he was at the discovery.

“My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming. I am a great Tolkien fan and was thrilled to discover the connection with the school.”

According to the New York Times, one of the poems is titled “The Shadow Man,” and refers to “a man who dwelt alone/beneath the moon in shadow.” The second is a Christmas poem dubbed “Noel” which mentions the “lord of snows,” and begins with the words, “Grim was the world and grey last night/The moon and stars were fled.”

According to Oliver, “Noel” is a “beautiful and unusual take on the Christmas story, set in a wintry landscape.”

He said the focus of the poem is on Mary, and that this may be why Tolkien wrote the poem for the school magazine, “given that we are dedicated to Our Lady.”

Oliver went on to say that “The Shadow Man” is also a very beautiful story. Reportedly the poem is about two people who find each other and from then on cast only one shadow. He said it “feels like a poem about marriage.”

“The Shadow Man is incomplete until a woman comes to him and relieves his loneliness.”

Tolkien experts believe “The Shadow Man” was intended to be an earlier version of Tolkien’s Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Bombadil is a character who also features in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Oliver told The Catholic Herald, “We intend to make the poems the centerpiece of an exhibition on the rich history of our school, which also has fascinating links with Florence Nightingale.”

There is an ongoing search by Tolkien scholars and enthusiasts for works by the fantasy writer that might not yet have been recorded. According to the International Business Times, back in August 2015 Harper Collins published Tolkien’s retelling of The Story of Kullervo, a Finnish poem found in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

The two, newly uncovered poems, written by J.R.R. Tolkien for the school magazine, can be seen in their entirety on a Tumblr post.

In other news relating to J.R.R. Tolkien, the Inquisitr reported the writer would have turned 124 years of age recently, if he had still been with us. Tolkien was reportedly born in South Africa on January 3, 1892, and many scholars and followers of the fantasy writer celebrated the event of his 124th birthday.

[Photo 1967 image of J.R.R. Tolkien by AP Photo – 1916 photo via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain]