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I know that some people find it impossible to read through the songs/poems in LOTR text and just skip them.

Are there any sort of statistics on what percentage of readers do this?

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    42 – Xantec May 10 '11 at 22:40
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    Just remember what Samuel Clemons said: "There are three types of lies. There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics." – Jeff May 11 '11 at 12:54
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    Unfathomable. I say anyone's who's read LOTR and didn't read Sam's Rhyme of the Troll has not read the story at all! – Robert Cartaino May 11 '11 at 14:29
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    If only I'd skippped Tom Effing Bombadil as well. – Christi May 12 '11 at 0:15
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    One of the things that I love most about LOTR is that it is, in spirit, as much about the journey as the destination. I think that's lost a bit in Jackson's movies; that is also why I can't imagine not reading the poems and songs along with the narrative. – Matt Peterson Jul 11 '11 at 21:39
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Okay, so I am answering this like five years late, but I did find something that might have what you want:
http://www.councilofelrond.com/pollsarchive/?poll_page=13
This is an archive of past surveys on the site, and the last one on this page is "Which part of the LotR books do you skip most often?" (emphasis mine)

Which part of the LotR books do you skip most often?
Nothing, I read every last letter (44%, 1,856 Votes)
All those poems and songs (21%, 907 Votes)
Everything with Tom Bombadil in it (9%, 387 Votes)
The Hobbit stuff in FotR (8%, 318 Votes)
Other (6%, 250 Votes)
The Council of Elrond, of course (3%, 140 Votes)
Treebeard, because the Ents are so slow and boring (3%, 137 Votes)
I haven't read the books at all (3%, 106 Votes)
Shelob, she freaks me out (1%, 62 Votes)
All the battles in Return of the King (2%, 57 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,220, Start date: March 30, 2005

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  • +1 for unearthment! It should be noted that the real percentage, as applied to this question, is probably higher. It seems in this poll, you could only give one answer, so some people who answered that they most frequently skipped Tom Bombadil probably also skip quite a few songs and poems, for instance. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 18 '15 at 8:55
  • Amazing find! Thanks! – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 18 '15 at 20:25
  • "All the battles in Return of the King" - that must be all the same people who only read the love stuff in "War and Peace"? :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 18 '15 at 20:26
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So far as I am aware, there are no stats for this. Indeed, it's unlikely that there could be stats for this, given that the books have been read for several decades by uncounted people. Any statistical survey would have to be done today (or already underway) and would represent only the modern society, not the prior generation of readers.

I would expect that those who DO skip the songs and poems have a harder time with the books - if you skim books as dense and intricate as the LotR series, you WILL miss things, and the songs and poems give some relatively important background information.

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  • I'm fine if the stats are localized to current readership as opposed to all-time. Now I know what my next question will be, thanks! – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 11 '11 at 14:10
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    Skipped pretty much every song and poem. If I missed stuff as a result, I can't say I feel short-changed by the experience. I like poetry in general, but Tolkien's in particular is a triumph of form over talent. – Christi May 12 '11 at 0:17
  • for non-native speakers, Tolkien's poetry is very often far from enjoyable experience despite his prose being quite readable – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 12 '11 at 14:05
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    @DVK: For non-native speakers, the poetry is almost inevitably not an enjoyable experience – if they read a translated edition! I first read the german version and hated the poems, but I really like many of the originals. Which is insofar remarkable as even those are mostly translations from Westron, if not Quenya. So, perhaps Tolkien isn't such a bad poet, he just isn't that much better as a translator than his colleagues... – leftaroundabout Aug 16 '13 at 20:26
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    At the very least the Hobbit walking songs ("The road goes ever on and on") should NOT be skipped. These evolve throughout the book, and if you skip them you'll miss the full impact of the very important themes of old age, passing-on and death, and also of why the last chapter is one of the saddest things ever written. – user8719 Aug 8 '14 at 8:01
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Surveys based on anecdotal accounts are probably not going to be that reliable (and I don't know of any that have been done).

However, this sort of data could in principle be collected by e-book readers like the Kindle.

I am not entirely sure that I am comfortable with giving Amazon and Sony reams of data about how long people spend in which part of the text, however. I would rather remain ignorant about how much people skip such passages. But I suspect that the commercial pressures to gather data about reading habits will eventually be too great. So you should, potentially, have your answer in a decade or two.

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