It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that this poem is part of The Lord of The Rings, as in, it’s actually in the book. I had heard “Not all those who wander are lost” about a million times before and I wanted to know where it came from. I dived into the internet and ended up at my own bookshelf where I have the LOTR trilogy lying, unread, unfortunately.
It made me wonder if a lot of people know that “Not all those who wander are lost” is a line from a poem, from a book. Sometimes it looks like it has taken on a life of its own and become something different, which really intrigues me. People tattoo it on their body and I’m not saying that they HAVE to know where it comes from, I just wonder if they do. I’m curious.
Also, I do appreciate poetry in fiction. It’s not something I come across very often but the few times that I have, I really liked it. It has to be done right, of course. If it adds nothing to the story or the scene, it’s better to leave it be.
Do you know of any books that have poems in them? Let me know because I would love to check them out!
About the poem:
The poem appears twice in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings. It appears first in Chapter Ten, “Strider”, in Gandalf’s letter to Frodo Baggins in Bree, although when Frodo reads it he does not realize that Strider (Aragorn) is the subject of the verse.
The verse is repeated by Bilbo at the Council of Elrond. He whispers to Frodo that he wrote it many years before, when Aragorn first revealed who he was.
In Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings for film, the poem appears in The Return of the King, when Arwen recites the last four lines of the poem as her father Elrond prepares to reforge the shards of Narsil for Aragorn. In the 1981 BBC radio dramatisation, the entire poem is heard in its original context, the letter left at Bree by Gandalf.
The way appearance displays reality in our world is largely inverted in Middle-earth with respect to the subject matter of the poem. The first line is a variant and rearrangement of the proverb “All that glitters is not gold”, known primarily from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, resulting in a proposition bearing a completely different meaning: Aragorn is vastly more important than he looks. The second line emphasizes the importance of the Rangers, suspiciously viewed as wanderers or vagabonds by those the Rangers actually protect from evil. Lines three and four emphasize the endurance of Aragorn’s royal lineage, while five and six emphasizes its renewal. They can also be seen to represent a spark of hope during a time of despair and danger. Line seven refers to the sword Narsil. Line eight foreshadows the crownless Aragorn’s accession to the throne of both the kingless Gondor and the vanished Arnor.