The poem was recently discovered and highlights Tolkien’s deep Catholic faith.
Fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, has very few published works that explicitly reference his Catholic faith.
Tolkien commented on his popular series, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” However, the presence of his Catholic faith in his published stories was primarily subtle, something underneath the surface that acted as a firm foundation.
This is why it was surprising for Tolkien scholar Wayne Hammond to discover a poem that was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was originally published in the 1936 annual of Our Lady’s School in Oxfordshire and simply entitled, “Noel.”
According to Our Lady’s headteacher Stephen Oliver in an interview for The Guardian, “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.”
Here is an excerpt from the poem by Tolkien, which serves as a perfect meditation for the Christmas season (The entire poem can be accessed on this website).
Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.
Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.