Tolkien’s Songs

As I have been reading The Lord of the Rings, I have noticed that Tolkien scatters many songs through out the novel.  It is fair to say that one whose music abilities far exceeds mine might be able to turn the words into a tune; however, I just can’t see how it is possible.  The only thing I am able to get from the lyrics is a sense of what the character is feeling, and this does heighten the imagery in certain scenes.  Actually getting an understanding of what Frodo or Sam is feeling, as they set out on their quest, through songs is a very unique way of expressing imagery, but does Tolkien need to put the whole song in the book?  I have read many pages where the song seemingly goes on forever.  If I could change one thing about Tolkien I would not get rid of the songs, but rather I would simply shorten each song so that the reader gets a little bit of lyrics. When Tolkien does insert a smaller song I feel more compelled to try and enjoy it for example, when the four hobbits run into Tom Bombadil in the Old Forrest.  Most of the all of the songs are all short and rhyme.  I am able to feel out the personality and the ambiguity of Bombadil’s personality in the small passages of lyrics.  I think it helps that the tune is rhymes because I am able to put some sort of musical flow into the words; it is more interesting to read.  I am reading a book about and epic quest not the lyrics to songs, so as a rule of thumb I would only put in very small portions of a song. 

Also, if Tolkien is going to put in such long songs, I wish that he would describe the manner in which the beat or melody of the song goes.  I beleive that it would give the reader a deeper understanding of the imagrey and setting of the scene.  Until then Culthir will have to deal with pages full of songs when all that Tolkien has to do is write something like, “Then, Frodo burst into a song about his happy memories at the shire.  It was obvious to all the hobbits that they had jumped into a darker world than their bright shire.  There was no turning back”.



One thought on “Tolkien’s Songs”

  1. The only poem or song that I truly enjoyed was “the one ring” poem. I think the songs and ballads contribute to the world building aspect of the fictional space. However, I agree in that the story could move forward effectively without the added verse.

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