50

Due to the number of songs in The Lord of the Rings, I have recently been wondering if Tolkien had any musical training and if any "official" music was written (by him or anyone else on his behalf) to accompany the verses of these songs?

  • 3
    So far no one has mentioned the famous Ballad of Bilbo Baggins sung by Leonard Nimoy. Wasn't this found among Tolkien's manuscripts after he died? ;) – RobertF Dec 1 '14 at 21:03
  • They should have cast Leonard Nimroy as Elros in the movies – xdhmoore Jan 21 '17 at 8:27
  • Does it count that they may all be sung to the tune of Gillian's Island? – Broklynite Apr 1 '17 at 7:28
41

Donald Swann's settings of a number of Tolkien's songs, "The Road Goes Ever On", were written with Tolkien's approval and input. I think they're probably about as close to "official" as you can hope for.

  • 2
    And Tolkien wrote one tune himself – MadTux May 3 '13 at 14:29
  • Tolkien has also been audio recorded reading LotR, including song bits. He has his own characteristic sense of rhythm and cadence, it's nt scoring per se, but may give some sense of how he intends the songs. – Lexible Dec 21 '18 at 17:43
22

He has been recorded singing some of the songs, see for example here. Two albums were released on vinyl, I was lucky enough to have a friend whose mother owned them.

See also this YouTube video of the Tolkien singing 'Troll Sat Alone On His Seat Of Stone'.

Edit: Reading Tolkien's Beowulf and the accompanying commentary by Christopher Tolkien, it turns out that Tolkien wrote a lay in (modern) English based on the Beowulf epic, and CT recalls it being sung to him at a young age. The words are included in that volume--in fact two versions of the lay--but I doubt that music has been preserved.

21

No, Tolkien himself conceded he had "little musical knowledge" in Letter 260:

I have little musical knowledge. Though I come of a musical family, owing to defects of education and opportunity as an orphan, such music as was in me was submerged (until I married a musician), or transformed into linguistic terms. Music gives me great pleasure and sometimes inspiration, but I remain in the position in reverse of one who likes to read or hear poetry but knows little of its technique or tradition, or of linguistic structure.

8

Tolkien, with whom I corresponded in the nineteen sixties wrote music for one song, published in the Flanders and Swann volume, but was not musically trained. However, as an author and academic he had a keen sense of rhythm, melody and meaning, so his song words and poems lend themselves very well to music. When producing a twelve episode radio play of The Hobbit in 1967 for KRRC-FM (radio Reed College, Portland, Oregon) I created music for each of the poems that were presented as songs. These were recorded and included in the show, and later re-recorded in a studio in LA. I still have the tapes and am planning to rerecord and release them some time later this year.

  • 3
    Welcome to the site. These are big claims and I would feel better about them if you had external references proving them. Paranoia in the Internet age is just knowing reality on a finer scale. – Sardathrion Feb 28 '13 at 11:39
  • 6
    For what it's worth (not much) this site mentions that a Dan Rubin worked on a radio adaptation of The Hobbit in the 60s. As does this. – BoBTFish Jan 23 '14 at 16:34
  • An edit suggester claimed to be the same person and added this: "This is all true. Those who attended Reed at the time can confirm that they listened to our episodes which were broadcast every Sunday for most of a year. I have a letter from Tolkien safely in storage. I have recently recorded one of the songs Which will be released soon on the third album by the band Atlantic Union on Blue Island Records." – Molag Bal Dec 1 '16 at 20:35
  • 2
    Lack of faith on this site is, well, a bit disconcerting. I did indeed produce a 12-episode radio play of The Hobbit while I was a student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 1966-67, and those who were students at the time heard it weekly on KRRC-FM where I was a radio host. Indeed I do have a letter from Tolkien (he wrote back to me, at the time) and the theme song from the series, which I later recorded in LA for an album of the music that was never released, is now available online at www.atlanticunion.ca in a version recently released. Have more trust, folks. Not everything you read on – Dan Rubin Apr 1 '17 at 2:47
2

When Donald Swan made the book "The Road Goes Ever On", Tolkien did in fact write one song himself, Namarie. The melody is based on Gregorian tunes.

1

I would like readers of J. R. R. Tolkien to consider the possibility that he knew many traditional songs, and had at least some of those melodies in mind when he wrote his poems/songs. Two examples follow:

Samwise Gamgee’s song about the troll eating a shinbone in the first book of the trilogy exactly matches the form and feel of “fox went out on a chilly night.”

Bilbo’s “The road goes ever on“ can be sung to “over the hills and far away,“ which also matches the spirit and feel of this song.

Tolkien’s immersion in ancient Norse which presumably includes knowledge of the ballad traditions and songs of that culture as well.

  • 2
    You seem to be opining about tunes and asking for a discussion. This is a Q&A site, not a typical discussion forum. I suggest taking the tour to get a better understanding of the site's mechanics. It will also earn you your first badge. (When you don't have any badges, it's obvious you haven't taken the tour.) – Meat Trademark Dec 21 '18 at 15:58
  • 1
    I've edited out your last sentence, asking for others to posts cases where they believe existing tunes fit Tolkien's poetry/lyrics. Without that, I believe this is an acceptable answer. If you feel it damages your answer too much, you can roll it back. – RDFozz Dec 21 '18 at 20:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.