J.R.R. Tolkien is responsible for some of the most magical fantasy stories ever put on page. From his celebrated The Lord of the Rings trilogy to The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s influence and legacy as a writer can not be denied.
However, if his published work isn’t enough for you, two previously unseen poems from the author have been unearthed in a 1936 school magazine.
Apparently written while Tolkien was teaching Anglo-Saxon literature at Oxford University (and before his first novel The Hobbit was published), the poems were discovered in the annual of Our Lady’s School in Oxfordshire after Tolkein scholar Wayne Hammond found a reference made to them in a note from the author.
The first poem, The Shadow Man, looks to be an earlier draft of a poem Tolkien later published in 1962 collection The Adventures of Tom Bombadil according to The Guardian, and speaks of “a man who dwelt alone / beneath the moon in shadow”, who “sat as long as lasting stone, / and yet he had no shadow”. When “a lady clad in grey” arrives, he wakes, and “clasped her fast, both flesh and bone; / and they were clad in shadow”.
The Shadow Man appears to be set in the world of Middle Earth, as Tom Bombadil himself was a character in The Lord of the Rings (though he does not appear in the films).
“The hall was dark without song or light, / The fires were fallen dead,” the poem describes, also mentioning “the lord of snows”, whose “mantle long and pale / Upon the bitter blast was spread / And hung o’er hill and dale.”
Our Lady’s headteacher, Stephen Oliver said: “Noel is a beautiful and unusual take on the Christmas story, set in a wintry landscape. The focus is on Mary, which may be why Tolkien wrote the poem for the school magazine, given that we are dedicated to Our Lady.
“The Shadow Man is also a very beautiful story, about two people finding each other and thereafter casting only one shadow – it feels like a poem about marriage. The Shadow Man is incomplete until a woman comes to him and relieves his loneliness.”
We can almost hear Peter Jackson contact his agent…