Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.
Early in Tolkien’s career, he published a whimsical fairy poem. It was quite popular at the time, although he eventually came to distance himself from it, as one does with early writing. In the time before his graceful warrior elves were introduced, he portrayed happy little creatures, the elves of fairy tales. He titled the short piece with words that conjure very different images in his well-known books: “Goblin Feet.” Here is the first stanza:
I am off down the road
Where the fairy lanterns glowed
And the little pretty flitter-mice are flying
A slender band of gray
It runs creepily away
And the hedges and the grasses are a-sighing.
The air is full of wings,
And of blundery beetle-things
That warn you with their whirring and their humming.
O! I hear the tiny horns
Of enchanted leprechauns
And the padded feet of many gnomes a-coming!
O! the lights! O! the gleams! O! the little twinkly sounds!
O! the rustle of their noiseless little robes!
O! the echo of their feet – of their happy little feet!
O! the swinging lamps in the starlit globes.
Tolkien seems to have written the poem for his fiancee, Edith Bratt. And while he may have come to regret it, this poem has always been my favorite of his verses. I do like The Lord of the Rings, of course, and I’ve read Roverandom and portions of The Silmarillion. But “Goblin Feet” is my earliest memory of Tolkien’s writing.
His writing, not of him. I was born knowing about Tolkien. My older sisters were a little obsessed with LOTR. They had movie calendars and all the soundtracks and beautifully matched trilogies. So I knew about Tolkien. But I wasn’t allowed to see the movies (my parents were quite concerned about the violence) and too young to read the books. I tried to join the obsession though. I memorized the track listings from hearing the soundtrack too many times. And I kept all the loose sheets from my sister’s page-a-day calendar. Even now, broody Aragorn graces my wall, reminding me of 2003, which is, now that I think about it, a really long time ago.
So I knew about Tolkien. And when I discovered “Goblin Feet” in my Favorite Poems: Old and New, I was astonished. This was Tolkien just for me. This was Tolkien of the scary orcs and too-old-for-me bloodshed writing about dancing and fairies and everything that warmed my small girl heart. This was Tolkien in a length and lilt that I could memorize and impress adults with. This was Tolkien I could dance and skip and imagine to.
I’m sad–not surprised, but sad–that Tolkien eventually disowned this poem. “Goblin Feet” is the perfect amount of whimsy and earnest awe for small children. And for adults. We could all use more whimsy in our lives. Even today, 10+ years later, this poem reminds me of the little girl who was so yearningly serious and daringly whimsical. She might have been idealized and suppressed over time, hidden by “maturing” and “responsibility,” but I hope she never stops looking for fairies.
About the Author
Lyse was born into a family of Tolkien enthusiasts and proudly displays LOTR art on her mantelpiece. When she’s not doing adulty things, she reads YA & blogs about whatever enters her mind. Follow her blog at https://lyseofllyr.blog/ or follow her on Twitter for hardcore fangirling.