Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Shadow Man

So, thanks to Janice, Magister, Jessica, Shelly, and Ed for sending me the links to various articles announcing the discovery of two new J. R. R. Tolkien poems:

We already knew about "The Shadow Man", since it's an earlier draft of the poem "Shadow-Bride" appearing in THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL (1962, poem #13), but I'd completely forgotten that Wayne & Christina had succeeded in tracking it down and reprinted the earlier text in their expanded/annotated edition of ATB a few years ago (2014; cf. p.235-239).

This rediscovery is of particular interest to me because I'd been one of those who'd searched for the elusive 'Abingdon Chronicle'. During my first trip to England (July-August 1981) I'd managed to track down "Firiel", the original version of ATB#16: "The Last Ship", thanks to information Doug Anderson had shared with we. It was a memorable experience visiting the convent whose nuns had printed it back in 1934 and who, after a pleasant meeting with the whole community, provided me with a photocopy,* which I was able to share with Tom Shippey in time for him to include it in the first edition of his THE ROAD TO MIDDLE-EARTH, which came out the next year.

But I had no such luck with THE ABINGDON CHRONICLE, despite my even calling up the elderly former editor of a local newspaper from that era -- the NORTH BERKS HERALD I think it was called -- who assured me that nothing of the sort had ever appeared in his paper. I remember he was bemused that anyone wd go to such lengths when it was only Tolkien, saying that he himself was a Sir Walter Scott man.

So, given that Tolkien's fans have known about "Shadow-Bride" for decades, and Tolkien scholars have known about "The Shadow Man" for quite a long time now, and actually been able to read it for the past year and a half or so, the bigger news here is the second poem: NOEL.  So far as I know this had been completely unknown -- at least, this is the first I've ever heard about it. We do have some (minor) Christmas poetry included among the FATHER CHRISTMAS LETTERS, but I don't think this one is among them. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy to read to compare with: while the whole text (I assume) was printed in the original announcement of the rediscovery, I see it's now vanished from the online article. Let that be a lesson to me: when I find important material on-line I shd copy it right away because sometimes it goes away suddenly.

Of course the biggest take-away from this is not the two poems themselves but the fact that the discovery of two Tolkien poems is headline news, not just for the OXFORD MAIL and CATHOLIC HERALD  but for national newspapers such as THE GUARDIAN. This was not the case when Tolkien published ATB back in '62, and it's just another example of his newfound major-author status.

--John R.

*one of the sisters told me she'd been taught by Tolkien, having attended his lectures in the early 1960s. She said he was a terrible lecturer.

UPDATE (M.Febr.22nd)
Here's a nice little audio clip in which Professor Dimitri Fimi discusses the discovery on BBC Radio Wales: Enjoy!


Anders Stenström said...

As per this moment, both poems are still cached here: .

Anders Stenström said...

Oh no . . . new attempt:

John D. Rateliff said...

On Feb 20, 2016, at 6:28 PM, Wayne & Christina wrote:

Wayne & Christina has left a new comment on your post "The Shadow Man":

We wrote about both poems in our blog in 2013:

Wayne & Christina