Tolkien scholar Wayne Hammond has tracked down two long-lost poems in the 1936 annual of Our Lady’s School in Oxfordshire.
Hammond made the discovery when he found a note written by Tolkien, in which the author mentioned that he had published two poems in a magazine called the “Abingdon Chronicle”. Hammond made the connection with Our Lady’s School and contacted the headteacher, Stephen Oliver. But Oliver was initially unable to locate the 1936 annual, and passed Hammond on to the archives of the Sisters of Mercy, who had founded the school in 1860.
“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,” said Oliver.”My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming. I am a great Tolkien fan and was thrilled to discover the connection with the school.”
“Both poems are very atmospheric and imbued with an air of mystery. I was very moved when I first read them,” said Oliver.
“Noel is a beautiful and unusual take on the Christmas story, set in a wintry landscape. The focus is on Mary, which may be why Tolkien wrote the poem for the school magazine, given that we are dedicated to Our Lady. The Shadow Man is also a very beautiful story, about two people finding each other and thereafter casting only one shadow – it feels like a poem about marriage. The Shadow Man is incomplete until a woman comes to him and relieves his loneliness.”
Tolkien is thought to have formed a connection with the school while he was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University from 1925 to 1945. Our lady is now planning to show the poems at an exhibition about its history.