Launched in 2003 Tolkien Reading Day event has sparked interest in reading and reading groups across several nations and ages, from primary schoolchildren to university students and library users of all ages. 25th March has significance to Tolkien’s readers, as it is the day of the Downfall of Sauron at the conclusion of the ‘War of the Ring’ in The Lord of the Rings.
According to the Tolkien Society, the theme this year is ‘Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction.
Interesting topic for this year’s Tolkien Day seeing as poetry and songs make up such a huge part of Tolkien’s fiction: The Lord of the Rings (review #1, #2, #3) alone is filled with both folk songs and ancient hymns, and all of the recently published, incomplete poems with his take on Beowulf and King Arthur shows just how steeped in old poems Tolkien really worked from. It’s quite informative reading these titles (see author tag) even as it can be frustrating that they are incomplete! He really loved old tales and mythologies, as he expressed in his essay about The Kalevala (review; and which I found myself nodding in agreement), and his love of these tales really shows in the poems he produced in his own works.
Oh, and if writing poetry and songs isn’t enough, he also writes them in the Elvish languages that he created, Sindarin and Quenya! I’m always in awe that he did this, it adds further depth and richness to the world and the story he created. One of my favourite poems from LOTR:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
o menel palan-diriel,
le nallon sí di’nguruthos!
A tiro nin, Fanuilos!
(O Elbereth Starkindler,
white-glittering, slanting down sparkling like a jewel,
the glory of the starry host!
Having gazed far away
from the tree-woven lands of Middle-earth,
to thee, Everwhite, I will sing,
on this side of the Sea, here on this side of the Ocean!
O Elbereth Starkindler,
from heaven gazing afar,
to thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death!
O look towards me, Everwhite!)
Oh, and for fun, here’s an audio of Tolkien reciting “Namarie” sung by Galadriel in LOTR:
I suppose one can go on and on talkin about the poems and songs that Tolkien wrote about, as well as those old mythologies that he loved so much and attempted to re-write in his own perspective and grasp of language. And I guess that’s the root of it: not just his love of mythology and old stories but his deep grasp of language. It really reflects in his works (see: his version of Beowulf (review) compared to the version accesible to most).
What do you think of poetry and songs in Tolkien’s fiction? How will you be celebrating Tolkien Reading Day? I’m not entirely sure how I’ll be celebrating today; I’ve been wanting to re-read LOTR for some time now but with all the books on my TBR queue and some other books on my re-read queue I haven’t quite wiggled around some time to re-read LOTR. Maybe later this year? In the meantime, maybe I’ll re-read Bilbo’s Last Song, a song Tolkien wrote on Bilbo’s voyage to the Grey Havens and off to the West. Seems like the perfect way to celebrate this year’s theme 🙂