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Two ‘lost’ Tolkien poems found at school in Abingdon

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Two previously undiscovered poems by the Catholic author JRR Tolkien have been found at a school in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

Stephen Oliver, the principal of Our Lady’s, Abingdon, found the poems when looking through a copy of an old school magazine, originally published in 1936.

One of the poems, The Shadow Man, is an earlier version of a poem that The Lord of the Rings’ author eventually published in 1962 in his collection Adventures of Tom Bombadil. The other, Noel, is a Christmas poem, celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Oliver found the poems after being contacted by the American Tolkien scholar, Wayne G Hammond. From a note made by Tolkien himself when making a list of his poetry, Hammond knew that Tolkien had published two poems in a magazine he called The Abingdon Chronicle.

Further research revealed this to be the 1936 ‘annual’ of Our Lady’s School, at that time run by the Sisters of Mercy. Hammond contacted the school, which then began a hunt for the poems.

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

“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.”

It is thought that Tolkien, a devout Catholic, got to know Our Lady’s School while living at Northmoor Road in Oxford, when he was the university’s Professor of Anglo-Saxon. It was during his time at Oxford that he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

“We intend to make the poems the centre piece of an exhibition on the rich history of our school, which also has fascinating links with Florence Nightingale,” said Oliver.

“As a writer myself, I feel privileged to have been part of the discovery of these lost works.”