R.I.P J.R.R.T.

There is The Bard, and then there is The Professor.

Today 47 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien sailed into the West.  We hope that on the Blessed Shore, he is raising a glass today with his son Christopher, looking back at their handiwork, hopefully satisfied with the gift they have given to us who remain behind on the Hither Shore.

JRR and Christopher

Requiescat in Pace, Professor.

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Featured Image by Alan Lee, above painting by Donato Giancola.

Poesie: Tolkien’s Little Princess Mee

Little Princess Mee is a Hobbit poem that was among those written in the margins of the Red Book of Westmarch.

Little Princess Mee

Little Princess Mee
Lovely was she
As in elven-song is told:
She had pearls in hair
All threaded fair;
Of gossamer shot with gold
Was her kerchief made,
And a silver braid
Of stars above her throat.
Of moth-web light
All moonlit-white
She wore a woven coat,
And round her kirtle
Was bound a girdle
Sewn with diamond dew.

She walked by day
Under mantle grey
And hood of clouded blue;
But she went by night
All glittering bright
Under the starlit sky,
And her slippers frail
Of fishes’ mail
Flashed as she went by
To her dancing-pool,
And on mirror cool
Of windless water played.
As a mist of light
In whirling flight
A glint like glass she made
Wherever her feet
Of silver fleet
Flicked the dancing-floor.

She looked on high
To the roofless sky
And she looked to the shadowy shore;
Then round she went,
And her eyes she bent
And saw beneath her go
A Princess Shee
As fair as Mee:
They were dancing toe to toe!

Shee was as light
As Mee, and as bright;
But Shee was, strange to tell,
Hanging down
With starry crown
Into a bottomless well!
Her gleaming eyes
In great surprise
Looked upon to the eyes of Mee:
A marvellous thing,
Head-down to swing
Above a starry sea!

Only their feet
Could ever meet;
For where the ways might lie
To find a land
Where they do not stand
But hang down in the sky
No one could tell
Nor learn in spell
In all the elven-lore.

So still on her own
An elf alone
Dancing as before
With pearls in hair
And kirtle fair
And slippers frail
Of fishes’ mail went Mee:
Of fishes’ mail
And slippers frail
And kirtle fair
With pearls in hair went Shee!

J.R.R. Tolkien

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Illustrations by Alan Lee; taken from “Tales from the Perilous Realm”

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Reconstructing

Here’s a more scholarly way of expressing how (and why) Tolkien saw himself as a discoverer of legends rather than an inventor of stories.

But Tolkien also thought – and this takes us back to the roots of his inventions – that philology could take you back even beyond the ancient texts it studied.  He believed that it was possible sometimes to feel one’s way back from words as they survived in later periods to concepts which had long since vanished, but which had surely existed, or else the word would not exist.  (…) However fanciful Tolkien’s creation of Middle-Earth was, he did not think he was ENTIRELY making it up.  He was ‘reconstructing’, he was harmonizing contradictions in his source-texts, sometimes he was supplying entirely new concepts (like hobbits), but he was also reaching back to an imaginative world which he believed had once really existed, at least in a collective imagination: and for this he had  very great deal of admittedly scattered evidence.

~ Tom Shippey: J.R.R. Tolkien.  Author of the Century.

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