Friday, July 22, 2016

Poem: The Mewlips by JRR Tolkien

I've been re-reading The Hobbit, preparatory to tackling The Lord of the Rings. And this is rather a special occasion for me. I have, of course, read both books more times than I can count. Eventually, I found that I had read them so much that I had begun to remember everything about them. So I decided to take ten years off.

I'm now whittling slowly through The Hobbit, enjoying it terrifically and recording my thoughts for posterity on Twitter - click this link to see them, or follow the hashtag #JRRTandMe. It's been huge fun, because having let the book "rest" for ten years means I've come back to it with a fresh perspective.

For example, the other night, while enjoying the famous "Riddles in the Dark" chapter, I thought I spotted some imaginative kinship between Gollum and the Mewlips from an obscure Tolkien poem collected in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil...

The Mewlips
by JRR Tolkien

The shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.

You sink into the slime, who dare
To knock upon their door,
While down the grinning gargoyles stare
And noisome waters pour.

Beside the rotting river-strand
The drooping willows weep,
And gloomily the gorcrows stand
Croaking in their sleep.

Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool's borders without wind or tide,
Moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide.

The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.

Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;
Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish-flap-flip,
As they sidle to the door.

They peep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they've finished, in a sack
Your bones they take to keep.

Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and the gallows-weed,
You go to find the Mewlips--and the Mewlips feed.

Cheerful, isn't it?! I must say I've never liked it myself, but revisiting it, it does seem rather an early template for something like Gollum. What do you think?


Andrew of the House of Lacey said...

Yea, verily. I would say that this poem sounds most Gollumish. It seems that Tolkien has a lot of ideas in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil that come out in other places.

Gorcrows! Oh, that is splendidly sinister!

Joseph J said...

Its not his best poetry, that's for sure, but I'm not complaining since its clearly an early conceptualization of one of the most iconic characters in 20th century literature (iconic especially since Andy Serkis' performance).

I don't have Twitter but I've been enjoying following your tweets online. Can I hope that they are forerunners of a blog post? Also, I can't say I placed you as a metalhead, although I suppose the Celtic/world symphonic fantasy-flair fits!

Suzannah said...

Andrew - yes, I also love "the marsh of Tode"! And like you say, there's a lot in TOM BOMBADIL that foreshadow other stuff in Tolkien's works, which is what makes it so much fun.

By the way, thank you SO MUCH for the amazing review. *blush*

Joseph - Good to know I'm not the only one getting Gollum vibes from this :D. I have of course already reviewed THE HOBBIT but I think that I'll have to post some short summation of some kind when I'm done this time.

LOL - no! I'm not a metalhead. Usually. Leah is, however, by way of being one of my tribe, and I've been loving her most recent album.

Andrew of the House of Lacey said...

My pleasure, Suzannah. Thanks SO MUCH for writing it!


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