Harman Patil (Editor)

The Road Goes Ever On (song)

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"The Road Goes Ever On" is a title that encompasses several walking songs that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote for his Middle-earth legendarium. Within the stories, the original song was composed by Bilbo Baggins and recorded in The Hobbit. Different versions of it also appear in The Lord of the Rings, along with some similar walking songs.


In The Hobbit

The original version of the song is recited by Bilbo in chapter 19 of The Hobbit, at the end of his journey back to the Shire. Coming to the top of a rise he sees his home in the distance, and stops and says the following:

Roads go ever ever on, Over rock and under tree, By caves where never sun has shone, By streams that never find the sea; Over snow by winter sown, And through the merry flowers of June, Over grass and over stone, And under mountains in the moon. Roads go ever ever on Under cloud and under star, Yet feet that wandering have gone Turn at last to home afar. Eyes that fire and sword have seen And horror in the halls of stone Look at last on meadows green And trees and hills they long have known.

In The Lord of the Rings

There are three versions of "The Road Goes Ever On" in the novel The Lord of the Rings.

The first is in The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 1. The song is sung by Bilbo when he leaves the Shire. He has given up the One Ring, leaving it for Frodo to deal with, and is setting off to visit Rivendell, so that he may finish writing his book.

The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.

The second version appears in Book One, Chapter 3. It is identical except for changing the word "eager" to "weary" in the fifth line. It is spoken aloud, slowly, by Frodo, as he and his companions arrive at a familiar road - the Stock Road - on their journey to leave the Shire.

The third version appears in The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6. It is spoken by Bilbo in Rivendell after the hobbits have returned from their journey. Bilbo is now an old, sleepy hobbit, who murmurs the verse and then falls asleep.

The Road goes ever on and on Out from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, Let others follow it who can! Let them a journey new begin, But I at last with weary feet Will turn towards the lighted inn, My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Earlier, when leaving the Shire, Frodo tells the other hobbits Bilbo's thoughts on 'The Road': "He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'".

In The Lord of the Rings films

This song is heard multiple times in The Lord of the Rings films. The first time it is heard, the song is sung and hummed by Gandalf as he approaches Frodo and is just barely distinguishable. Also when Bilbo makes his way off in attempt to finish his book, he sings a verse of the song. The later occurrences of this song are based on those in the books.

Other walking songs

Similar changes in mood and words are seen in two versions of another walking song that uses the same metre and is also found in The Lord of the Rings.

The first version, in the chapter 'Three is Company', is sung by the hobbits when they are walking through The Shire, just before they meet a company of elves. Three stanzas are given in the text, with the first stanza starting "Upon the hearth the fire is red...". The following extract is from the second stanza of the song.

Still round the corner there may wait A new road or a secret gate, And though we pass them by today, Tomorrow we may come this way And take the hidden paths that run Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

It is this part of the song that is reprised with different words later in the book. This new version is sung softly by Frodo as he and Sam walk in the Shire a few years after they have returned, and as Frodo prepares to meet Elrond and others and journey to the Grey Havens to take ship into the West.

Still round the corner there may wait A new road or a secret gate, And though I oft have passed them by, A day will come at last when I Shall take the hidden paths that run West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

The final line of the verse is a variant on the phrase "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", which is used in fairy-stories and similar tales to refer to another world that is fantastically difficult to reach — in this case Aman, which can only be reached by the Straight Road. An example of the use of this phrase is East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a fairy-story found in The Blue Fairy Book, a collection compiled by Andrew Lang.

Musical arrangements

The words of these songs have been set to music several times:

  • This song and several others were set to music by Donald Swann as part of the book and recording The Road Goes Ever On, named for this song.
  • A musical version of some sections of this song can be heard in the 1977 animated movie version of The Hobbit. While a full song was written for the film and can be heard on the soundtrack and story LP and is titled Roads, it was not heard in the film. The melody was later used in the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King and on the The Return of the King soundtrack and story LP.
  • The song can be heard in the 1981 BBC radio version, sung by Bilbo (John Le Mesurier) to a tune by Stephen Oliver.
  • A musical version of some sections of this song can be heard in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, composed by Howard Shore. It is sung by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in the opening scene, and also by Bilbo (Ian Holm) as he leaves Bag End. Gandalf's singing can be heard on the track Bag End on The Complete Recordings and Bilbo's on Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe
  • The Tolkien Ensemble has set music the song, titled The Old Walking Song, The Road sung by Peter Hall (musician) on their album An Evening in Rivendell and different versions titled just The Old Walking Song sung by Nick Keir and Peter Hall respectively on their Complete Songs & Poems compilation album, as part of the now completed project of setting all poems in The Lord of the Rings to music. The other walking songs, titled A Walking Song, have also been set to music by The Tolkien Ensemble.
  • The stage musical based on the novel includes a song, "The Road Goes On" - the lyrics of which are loosely based on this poem.
  • Large parts were included in Billy Boyd's "The Last Goodbye" on the soundtrack of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
  • American composer Gwyneth Walker was commissioned by the UC Berkeley Alumni Chorus to compose a setting of poem in 2006.
  • Each of these settings is unrelated to the other musically.

  • At the end of the 1991 Inspector Morse episode, "Who Killed Harry Field?", John Thaw as Inspector Morse, recites two lines of the poem.
  • References

    The Road Goes Ever On (song) Wikipedia

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