The novels The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien both contain a number of songs, mostly sung by Hobbits, with fully fleshed out lyrics. A few of these songs even made it into the Peter Jackson movie trilogies, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

However, as far as I can tell, the actual notes and music to each song never appeared in any of the original books.

Did the production crew for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies make up their own music for these songs? Or was there some reference in a book, letter or transcript to how the songs should be sung?

I'm looking for an answer specific to the movies. This answer to a similar question shows that there was someone writing scores for the songs other than Tolkien, but not whether or not they were used in the movies.

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    The same is true of the book "The Hobbit" and the subsequent Peter Jackson movie trilogy The Hobbit. Jun 8, 2015 at 13:36
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    @DrRDizzle I was thinking of focusing on just one series, but if they're the same, I'll add the Hobbit trilogy too.
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 8, 2015 at 13:56
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    Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/21376/… Jun 8, 2015 at 14:13
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    I'd say it's a dupe. The gist of this question is: did Tolkien put the words to a tune, or did Howard Shore make up his own. Jun 8, 2015 at 14:42
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    @TravisChristian Not quite - the answers in that question don't explain what the movies used as reference - though it does explain that Tolkein didn't write it himself, and offers an 'official' source, I still don't know if the movies used that source, or made up their own.
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 8, 2015 at 14:44

1 Answer 1


Ziff-Davis' gaming news website IGN.com conducted an interview with Howard Shore, the composer of the scores for both trilogies, in 2003 in which this very question was asked. IGN concludes that

while the books admittedly provided the initial inspiration, coupled with Jackson's vision, Shore really didn't have any kind of musical source, other than the descriptions contained in the texts and the historical music of European culture some thousands of years ago.

Shore himself stated, when asked what his inspiration was,

"The inspiration of the book ... and Peter and Fran Walsh [screenwriter]'s take on the book. That was the inspiration to me. Richard Taylor from WETA Workshop and Alan Lee [Set Decoration]. Those were the great sources."

In other words, it appears that there was no direct musical instruction for any of the songs; Shore used his own judgment as a composer, in collaboration with Peter Jackson, the script writers, and the set decorators.

(Note: The set decorators and the script writers were consulted in particular because, in addition to the songs, there were particular leitmotifs for many of the characters and props appearing in the movie. But again, there was no actual direction in terms of musical notation that can be traced back to Tolkien himself.)

  • Does that include the songs already written into the book, such as "The Road Goes On" and other Hobbit songs?
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 8, 2015 at 20:04
  • Apparently so. Shore didn't mention any inspiration for these in terms of musical notation that can be traced back directly to Tolkien; and it appears that Donald Swann's music, the only musical settings I can find that were directly overseen by Tolkien himself, were not used - all settings were by Shore, and apparently (as I read the interview) original compositions. Jun 8, 2015 at 20:07
  • I would imagine that the only real help he got from the books, aside from the lyrics, of course, was the description Tolkien gave of what instruments were used in Middle-earth - horns, flutes, viols, fiddles, and harps are all mentioned. Add to that the sounds of the languages in the books, and the idea that this is a magical, mystical world, and you have the basic foundation of the score.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 8, 2015 at 20:49
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    @Wad Cheber - You've finally managed to come up with something worse than the LOTR movies: the idea of having the musical score done by a rock group :-(
    – jamesqf
    Jun 8, 2015 at 23:55
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    @jamesqf - says the guy who clearly hasn't seen Flash Gordon, or heard the infinitely brilliant soundtrack by Queen. FLASH! AH-AH! SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE!
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 9, 2015 at 0:00

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