JRR Tolkien poems in school magazine reveal early version of Lord of the Rings character

Previously unseen works found by a headteacher as he leafed through copies of Our Lady’s Abingdon’s magazine

JRR Tolkien, pictured in his study at Merton College, Oxford, in 1955
JRR Tolkien, pictured in his study at Merton College, Oxford, in 1955

Two forgotten poems by JRR Tolkien have been found in an old school magazine, with one revealing an early version of a Lord of the Rings character.

The previously unseen works were found by headteacher Stephen Oliver as he leafed through copies of Our Lady’s Abingdon’s magazine. They were printed in the 1936 edition with one called The Shadow Man apparently an earlier version of Tolkien’s Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

The mysterious character helps Frodo on his journey in The Fellowship of the Ring, published in 1954. The magazine, from the historic Catholic school in Oxfordshire, also featured a festive poem called Noel. Both were written when Tolkien lived in nearby Oxford and was writing his epic trilogy.

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Mr Oliver was prompted to delve into the school archives after an American Tolkien scholar, Wayne Hammond, had seen a list of his poetry which mentioned the school.

Mr Oliver said: “While preparing for an event for former pupils of the school, we uncovered our own copy and I saw the 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. As a writer myself, I feel privileged to have been part of the discovery of these lost works.”

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