The Tolkien Pathfinder

The following post is the final entry in a series by Music Library intern Dan Hunt discussing the musical influences on the works of fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien.


Since the publication of “The Hobbit” in 1937, the world of Middle-earth continues to captivate readers of all ages. J.R.R. Tolkien’s books have surprisingly transcended literary achievement in such a way that even those who haven’t read his books are familiar with “The Lord of the Rings” through film and other related media. The popularity and impact of these fantasy stories has resulted in a number of literary analyses that have uncovered Tolkien’s broad influences. Linguists, historians, theologians, and biologists have examined Middle-earth as closely as an actual ancient civilization and found academic merit in doing so. It became a point of interest for me to continue this trend from a new perspective; music.

When setting out to study the musical aspects of Middle-earth, there was a concern that this topic had already been discussed ad nauseam. However, with the exception of Verlyn Flieger’s “Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien’s Mythology,” which frames the story of the “Ainulindale” chapter of “The Silmarillion” as a metaphor for Tolkien’s unfinished work, almost nobody has written a focused study connecting the fictional music traditions of Middle-earth to the cultures of our world. This was both reassuring and unnerving; while this topic of interest would make for a great internship experience, there were no established studies to look to for direction. Though six blog posts were created during the fall semester, I believe there is still much to discuss.  

Therefore, the following sources have been compiled for future research related to world music and Middle-earth music. While these sources are by no means definitive, they might assist other scholars in examining Tolkien’s fictional world from a previously underexplored perspective. Section descriptions have been provided to break down research topics and in cases where materials are available in the Stony Brook University catalog, call numbers have been provided as well as database locations. 

-Dan Hunt

Stony Brook University Blog Series:

The posts displayed below were created to highlight some of the material in the Stony Brook University library catalog. Additionally, the posts were framed as a hybrid literary-historical-musical analysis of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium.

J.R.R. Tolkien Books:

These are publications that were written by J.R.R. Tolkien during his lifetime as well as posthumous releases that were edited by his son Christopher and other scholars. Also included are translations and essays that Tolkien wrote on various European myths, literature, and folklore that informed his fantasy writing. 

  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1937.
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics. London. Oxford University Press. 1937. MAIN PR1585 .T6
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. New York. Houghton Mifflin. 1954.
    • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Two Towers. New York. Houghton Mifflin. 1954.
    • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Return of the King. Boston and New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1955. MAIN PR6039.032 L6 1967
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Tolkien Reader. New York. Ballantine Books. 1966.
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Silmarillion, ed. Christopher Tolkien. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1977. MAIN PR6039.O32 S5
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Father Christmas Letters. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1979. MAIN PR6039 .O32 F38 1979
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. Unfinished Tales of Numenor & Middle Earth, ed. Christopher Tolkien. New York and Boston. Mariner and Houghton Mifflin. 1980. MAIN PR6039.O32 U5 1980
  • Carpenter, Humphrey. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1981. MAIN PR6039.O32 Z48 1981
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. Mr. Bliss. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1983. The Book of Lost Tales
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Book of Lost Tales, ed. Christoper Tolkien. London and Boston. Allen & Unwin. 1983-1984. MAIN PR6039.O32 B6 1983
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun. ed. Christopher Tolkien. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2009
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fall of Arthur. ed. Christopher Tolkien. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2013
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary: Together with Sellic Spell. ed. Christopher Tolkien. Boston and New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien: On Fairy Stories. ed. Verlyn Flieger. Harper Collins. 2014.
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Story of Kullervo, ed. Verlyn Flieger. Boston and New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2016

Middle-earth Related Resources:

These are publications that either adapt the stories of “Middle-earth,” or examine a particular aspect of the fictional universe and its author. J.R.R. Tolkien did not create these works, rather, they were created by scholars, fans, and filmmakers.

  • Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1977. MAIN PR6039.O32 Z62 1977
  • Whittingham, Elizabeth A. The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-earth. Jefferson. McFarland & Co. 2008. MAIN PR6039 .O32 Z8955 2008
  • Snyder, Christopher. The Making of Middle-Earth: A New Look Inside the World of J.R.R. Tolkien. New York. Sterling. 2013.
  • Day, David. Tolkien: A Dictionary. San Diego. Thunder Bay Press. 2013.
  • Judd, Walter S., & Judd, Graham A. Flora of Middle-earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium. New York. Oxford University Press. 2017.
  • Rankin & Bass Animated Films
    • Rankin Jr., Arthur & Bass, Jules, dir. The Hobbit. 1977 ; (Warner Home Videos). DVD.
    • Children’s Classics Audiobook. “The Hobbit – 1977 Rankin/Bass – Complete Original Soundtrack Record (LP).” YouTube. January 22, 2019. Video, 1:16:19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU_t6wEvGf4&t=646s 
    • Rankin Jr., Arthur & Bass, Jules, dir. The Return of the King. 1980 ; (Warner Home Videos). DVD.
  • Bakshi, Ralph, dir. The Lord of the Rings. 1978 ; (Warner Home Videos). DVD
  • Jackson, Peter, dir. The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring/ The Two Towers/ The Return of the King). 2012 ; (Warner Brothers). Blu-Ray/DVD/ VHS. Videotape Collection Vid Cas 5236; Videotape Collection DVD 3741; Videotape Collection DVD 3742
  • Jackson, Peter, dir. The Hobbit: Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended Edition). 2015 ; (Warner Brothers). Blu-Ray/DVD. Videotape Collection DVD 3810; Videotape Collection DVD 3934
  • MiddleofMiddleEarth1. “The Lord of the Rings ‘national geographic’ -Beyond the Movie.” YouTube. April 4, 2014. Video, 52:54. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OXCwkLuUF0&t=2278s

Tolkien Inspired Musical Works:

These resources are comprised of musical pieces that were inspired by and make reference to J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy books. This section is by no means definitive; rather it lists some of the more obvious examples of recorded music that pays homage to “Middle-earth.”

  • The Road Goes Ever On
    • Swann, Donald. The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1967. MUS M1621.4 .S947 R62 1967
    • Wade Center. “The Road Goes Ever On: Donald Swann’s Song Cycle with Poetry by J.R.R. Tolkien.” September 27, 2017. Video, 1:09:35. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvFWMHuDg_Q&t=1227s 
  • Nimoy, Leonard. The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. 1967. Track 8 on The Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy. Dot Records.Vinyl LP.
  • Led Zeppelin
    • Led Zeppelin. Ramble On. 1969. Track 7 on Led Zeppelin II. Atlantic. CD
    • Led Zeppelin. Battle of Evermore. 1971. Track 3 on Untitled (Led Zeppelin IV). Atlantic. CD. Audio CD CD 2763/72
  • Rush
    • Rush. Rivendell. 1975. Track 7 on Fly By Night. Mercury Records. Vinyl LP.
    • Rush. The Necromancer. 1975. Track 4 on Caress of Steel. Mercury Records. Vinyl LP.
  • Rosenman, Leonard. J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’: Original Soundtrack. 2015. Fantasy. Vinyl LP.
  • Enya. Lothlorien. 1991. Track 9 on Shepherd Moons. Reprise. CD.
  • Howard Shore
    • Various Artists. The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy Soundtrack. By Howard Shore. 2003. Warner Brothers. CD.
    • Shore, Howard. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Soundtrack. 2012. Watertower Music. CD.
    • Shore, Howard. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Soundtrack. 2013. Watertower Music. CD.
    • Shore, Howard. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Soundtrack. 2014. Universal. CD. 
  • Sallinen, Aulis. Symphonies Nos. 1 and 7 / Chorali / A Solemn Overture—Symphony No. 7, Op. 71, The Dreams of Gandalf.2002. CPO Streaming from: Naxos Database
  • Johan de Meij

Mythological Resources:

These resources are made up of European folk stories, mythologies, religious traditions, music, and other artistic creations that Tolkien studied and ultimately inspired him to create his fictional universe. Also included are commentary and criticism of these works.

  • ed. Rice, Timothy; ed. Porter, ed. James; Goertzen, Chris. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Volume 8: Europe. New York and London. Garland Publishing Inc. 2000. Music Online: The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music
  • The Kalevala
    • Borg, Selma. 1880. “The Music of Finland [Kalevala Song Relating the Legend of the Ancient Bard Wainemöinen and His Kantele, the Finnish National Instrument. National Predisposition of the Finns toward Music. Their Bards’ Singular Gift for Improvisation. Oral Transmission of Poetry into the Earliest Form of Music. Exquisite Folk-Songs, Including ‘Tuos Un Mum Kultani;’ Characteristic Qualities. Origin of the Kantele in the Austro-Hungarian Zither. A Number of Meritorious Modern Composers, in Particular Songs by Carl Collan. Re-Assertion of Native Art Tendencies Following Political Union with Sweden. Finnish Opera in Helsinki, in the Native Tongue. Destruction of the Manuscript Compositions of Filip von Schanta in the Great Fire of 1863; Survival of His Exquisite Fragment, the Overture to Kullervo].” The Musical Herald I (5): 99. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.stonybrook.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rip&AN=MHE000251&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
    • Lonnrot, Elias. The Kalevala: The Land of the Heroes. translated by W.F. Kirby and Michael Branch. London and Dover. Atlone Press. 1985. MAIN PH324.E5 K5 1985
    • Palkki, Joshua. The Influence of The Kalevala on Contemporary Finnish Choral Music. The Choral Journal 54, no. 4 (2013): 34-43. https://www-jstor-org.proxy.library.stonybrook.edu/stable/23646123?seq=2#metadata_info_tab_contents
  • Jean Sibelius
    • Gould, Morton. Finlandia: Music of Sibelius by Jean Sibelius. 1963. New York. RCA Victor. Vinyl LP. Audio 9604
    • Foss, Lukas. Four legends from “The Kalevala,” op. 22 by Jean Sibelius. 1968. New York. Nonesuch. Vinyl LP. Audio 5760
    • Sibelius, Jean. Kullervo und seine Schwester : für Sopran- und Bariton solo, Männerchor und Orchester = Kullervo and his sister : for soprano- and baritone solo, male chorus and orchestra : op. 7 Nr. 3. Wiesbaden. Breitkopf & Hartel. (n.d.) MUS m M1002.S56 op.7 no.3 1980z
    • Sibelius, Jean. Complete works = Sämtliche Werke. Helsinki and Wiesbaden. Breitkopf & Hartel. 1998. Monuments M3.S57
    • ed. Goss, Glenda Dawn. The Sibelius Companion. Westport. Greenport Press. 1996. MUS ML410.S54 S53 1996
    • Goss, Glenda Dawn. A Backdrop for Young Sibelius: The Intellectual Genesis of the Kullervo Symphony. 19th-Century Music 27, no. 1 (2003): 48-73. doi:10.1525/ncm.2003.27.1.48.
    • Makela, Tomi. Jean Sibelius. Translated by Steven Lindberg. Woodbridge and Rochester. Boydell Press. 2011. MUS ML410.S54 M3513 2011
  • Kajanus, Robert. Finnish Rhapsody, Op. 5 / Sinfonietta, Op. 16 / Kullervo. 2004. BIS. Streaming from: Naxos Music Library
  • Salinen, Aulis. Kullervo: Opera in Two Acts. 1992. Helsinki. Ondine. CD.  Audio CD CD 1392/4
  • Rautavaara, Einojuhani. The Myth of the Sampo. 1995. Helsinki. Ondine. CD. Audio CD CD 4574
  • The Prose Edda/The Poetic Edda/Heimskringla
    • Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson: Tales from Norse Mythology. Translated by Jean Isobel Young. Berkeley. University of California Press. 1954. MAIN PT7313.E5 Y6 1954a
    • The Poetic Edda. ed. and translated by Lee M. Hollander. Austin. University of Texas Press. 1962. MAIN PT7234.E5 H6 1962
    • Sturluson, Snorri. Heimskringla: The Norse King Saga. Translated by Samuel Laing. London and New York. J.M Dent & E.P Dutton. 1930. MAIN PT7277.E5 L3 1930
  • Magnusson, Eirikr. Volsunga Saga: The Story of the Volsungs and the Niblungs: With Certain songs from the Elder Edda. Translated by William Morris. London and New York. Longmans, Green. 1901. SPEC OVERSIZE x PR5081 .V6 1901
  • The Song of the Nibelungs: A Verse Translation From the Middle High German Nibelungenlied. Translated by Frank Glessner Ryder. Detroit. Wayne State University Press. 1962. MAIN PT1579.A3 A6 1962
  • Nastrom, Britt-Mari. Magical Music on Old Norse Literature. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, Vol. 16. 1996.
  • Brown, Nancy Marie. Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths. New York. Palgrave Macmillan. 2012.
  • Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture. Rimur. Library of Congress. 2019. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017701903/
  • Jon Leifs
    • Leifs, Jon. Edda, Part I: The Creation of the World. 2007. BIS. Steaming from: Naxos Music Library.
    • Leifs, Jon. Edda, Part II: The Lives Of The Gods. 2019. BIS Streaming from Naxos Music Library.
  • Sequentia. Edda: Myths of Medieval Iceland. 1999. New York. BMG Distribution. CD. Audio CD CD 9096.
  • Steindor Andersen. “Rimur,” Svarfdaela Saga. 2019. http://svarfdaelasaga.com/rimur/
  • Wagner, Richard. Der Ring Des Nibelungen. 1997. London. Decca. 14 Audio Discs. Audio CD CD 8773/86
  • Heaney Seamus. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York and London. W.W. Norton & Co. 2001. MAIN PR1583 .H43 2000
  • The Red Fairy Book. Edited by Andrew Lang. Illustrations by Grace Dalles Clarke. New York. Random House. 1961. Children’s Collection OVERSIZE x Child Lit TRFB 1961
  • Sanders, Ernest H. English Music of the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries. Monaco. Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre. 1979. Monuments M2 .P652 v.14
  • Henry Watson Music Library. List of Glees, Madrigals, Part-Songs, etc., in the Henry Watson Music Library. Compiled by J.A. Cartledge. New York. B. Franklin. 1970. MUS ML136 .M2 H32 no.4 1970
Gisele Schierhorst

Gisele Schierhorst

Head of Music Library at Stony Brook University Libraries
Gisele is the Head of the Music Library. She is the liaison to Music, Africana Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology.
email: gisele.schierhorst@stonybrook.edu
Gisele Schierhorst

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