I’m doing something a little special this month. It’s National Poetry Month in the U.S., so this month I’m sharing four of my favorite poems and what I like about them.
While Tolkien is more known for his prose, it can be easy to forget that he was a poet as well. Of all the poems and songs he included in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the inscription on the One Ring is probably more recognizable than “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold” – or “Misty Mountains” if you’ve watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – but this one is a bit more whimsical while the “Ring Verse” is much darker. Since I’m feeling whimsical, we’re going with “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold.”
What do I like about this poem?
The thing that I like about Tolkien’s poems in general is that they make Arda and Middle Earth that much richer and more immersible. Yes, there is a lot of history to the world, but there is also culture. In the case of the dwarves, “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold showcases a lot of that culture. We can see that they value gems and precious metals not for their worth but for their beauty. Indirectly, we also see that much of the dwarves’ historical record-keeping is through song.
What does academia say about this poem?
“Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold” does a pretty good job of setting the tone for the rest of The Hobbit. The dwarves’ song awakens something Tookish in Bilbo, and he gets excited abut the idea of going on an adventure until he remembers that part of that adventure involves stealing from a potentially living dragon. The poem also tells why this quest is so important to Thorin and his company. They were happily living their lives when Smaug came, killed their kin, and stole their lovingly crafted treasures and home, and through this son, Bilbo came to empathize with the dwarves.
What does this poem mean to me?
Just like it did for Bilbo, this poem also awakened something Tookish in me. The Hobbit was one of my favorite bedtime stories as a little kid, and I remember always being excited when I got to this part of the first chapter. Just as Bilbo’s adventurous side was awoken, so was mine; I wanted to scale mountains with a group of dwarves, battle orcs, and slay (or tame) a dragon too! The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were crucial in my development as a person, and this poem is a part of the reason why.