Two unknown JRR Tolkien poems discovered inside 1936 school magazine

Our Lady's Abingdon school magazine from 1936. Picture: SWNS
Our Lady's Abingdon school magazine from 1936. Picture: SWNS
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Two poems by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien pre-dating his most famous works have been found in an Oxfordshire Catholic school annual dating back to 1936.

The world-renowned fantasy novelist, famed for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, had two works, 
entitled “Noel” – a Christmas poem – and “The Shadow Man” published in an annual at Our Lady’s Abingdon school while he was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at prestigious Oxford University.

It is understood that Tolkien got to know the school during his time as professor at the university. The two poems were subsequently published, one year before the release of the literary phenomenon that was The Hobbit.

The Shadow Man is an earlier version of a poem eventually published in 1962 in Tolkien’s The Adventures of Tom Bombadil collection.

The existence of the poems came to light when US Tolkien scholar Wayne G Hammond contacted the school in Abingdon, after reading notes made by Tolkien himself which made reference to the poems.

Tolkien wrote that two of his poems had previously appeared in a magazine he called The Abingdon Chronicle, which was later found to be the 1936 annual of Our Lady’s School, then run by the Sisters of Mercy.

School head Stephen Oliver said: “At first we couldn’t find the 1936 edition and referred Mr Hammond to the archives of the Sisters of Mercy in 
London.

“Then, while preparing for an event for former pupils of the school, we uncovered our own copy and I saw the two poems Mr Hammond had been looking for.

“My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming. I am a great Tolkien fan and was thrilled to discover the connection with the school.”