Two poems by JRR Tolkien have been discovered in a 1936 copy of an annual at Our Lady's School, Abingdon.

The poems were printed a year before Tolkien's first literary sensation The Hobbit was published. 
The poems were printed a year before Tolkien's first literary sensation The Hobbit was published

By Matt Pickles

Two poems by author JRR Tolkien have been discovered in a 1936 copy of an Oxfordshire school's annual. It is believed that he came to know Our Lady’s School in Abingdon while a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford.

Dr Stuart Lee, a Tolkien expert at the English Faculty, explained their significance: 'Tolkien is mainly known as a prose writer through his novels but these two poems are additions to a growing area of scholarship around his verse.'

J R R Tolkien in Merton College gardens, c1973 The two poems are called The Shadow Man and Noel, the latter of which is a Christmas poem. 'Of the poems Noel is a clear celebration of his Christianity/Catholicism,' explains Dr Lee. 'It shows the transformation of dark to light with the coming of Christ.

'It is still a very Tolkien poem though with archaic, classical imagery (sword/sheath, o’er … dale).

'The Shadow Man is more interesting in some ways as it is like some of his other poems. It suggests a folk-tale origin, but is elusive in its exact provenance, and also quite dark and sinister.' It is an earlier version of a poem that was eventually published in 1962 in Tolkien's Adventures of Tom Bombadil collection.

A year later in 1937, Tolkien's first literary success The Hobbit was published. Dr Lee says The Shadow Man remind him of the poems contained in the Middle Earth books.'Tolkien wrote a few poems like this which almost feel like the type of poem someone would recite in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings,' he says.

His association with Our Lady's School is also interesting, says Dr Lee, because it shows a prominent professor at Oxford taking the time to visit and support a school.'It shows how generous Tolkien was,' says Dr Lee. 'He is noted as doing a lot of talks for local schools, and this is yet another example (albeit early) of Oxford’s outreach approach!'

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Images © Shutterstock, Our Lady's School, Abingdon