Happy Birthday J.R.R. Tolkien

Today is the inimitable J.R.R.Tolkien’s birthday, and to celebrate I’ve chosen a fun favorite of his poems from the Lord of the Rings series. This one appears in Volume 1 The Fellowship of the Ring, in the chapter entitled “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony.” This is the chapter in which the Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin take shelter in an inn recommended by Tom Bombadil, and meet the mysterious Ranger named Strider.

If you’ve relied on the movie version, this won’t be familiar to you. The plot was shortened for the movie, so the scene in the movie where Frodo and friends are singing is actually before they leave Hobbiton. Sadly, the first couple verses were repurposed by the moviemakers and sung by the dwarves in an appallingly cringey scene in Rivendell in movie adaptation of The Hobbit “An Unexpected Journey.” Anyway, you really need to read the book. 🙂

There is an Inn, a Merry Old Inn by J. R. R. Tolkien

There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.

The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he saws his bow
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
now sawing in the middle.

The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there’s good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
and laughs until he chokes.

They also keep a hornéd cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.

And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there’s a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.

The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
‘The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master’s been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun’ll be rising soon!’

So the cat on the fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
‘It’s after three!’ he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and a pang the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.

The round Moon rolled behind the hill,
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!

I realize that there are more erudite, insightful and inspirational quotes to be had from the great bard J.R.R. Tolkien, but this one is likely underrepresented, besides which it is beloved in our family! Our daughter memorized it, and we often sang along with a wonderful musical version by The Tolkien Ensemble which is linked below. Hey! Why not sing along!

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