May 12, 2022

How did they translate poetry and songs from books to movies?

All the Lord of the Rings enthusiasts who have read JRR Tolkien’s books may agree that the lyrics are full of a rich wealth of poetry and songs that add beautiful meaning and layers to the story. It’s definitely a difficult task to translate them as text in the movies, but Peter Jackson and Howard Shore, along with the musical accompaniment and orchestra, did a fantastic job.

There are many different types of poetry and songs in the book, from sad to joyful, from prophetic to reminiscent. One of the strongest themes of the trilogy are the songs of mourning and loss, including the lament that the elves sing to Gandalf in Lothlorien, after his fall from the bridge of Khazad-Dum, a song that Aragorn and Legolas sing with sorrow to the death of Boromir at the hands of the Uruk-hai, during the Fellowship of the Ring, and a mourning for the death of King Theoden and the other brave soldiers who died in the Battle of Pelennor Fields, as well as the song that Eowyn, who sacrificed so much for Middle-earth, sings for his cousin Theodred as ‘he is thrown into the burial mounds of Rohan in the Two towers.


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In opposition to this, there is a plethora of fun and cheerful songs that appear throughout all three books, like the Fireside Tunes in Tom Bombadil’s House, which weren’t made into the movies, The Drunk Songs of Merry and Pippin, the youngest members of the community, at the Green Dragon Inn, and Treebeard’s poems in Fangorn Forest. These poems and songs show the light folk nature of Tolkien’s writing and emphasize the importance of breaking the darkness and tension with comedy and good humor.

Crowned aragorn

Among all of these wonderful songs and poems in the books, there are 3 songs in particular, and one prophecy, that stand out the most in film adaptations. The first is Pippin’s song “Edge Of Night”, which is sung for Denethor the Steward of Gondor in its vast halls. This is one of the most powerful scenes in the trilogy, in which Pippin’s beautiful spellbinding melody is superimposed on the juxtaposition of Denethor in all its great richness, chewing on juicy tomatoes and breaking the bones of a roast chicken, while his son Faramir and the other brave men who follow him die in Osgilith on the orders of the steward. Billy Boyd, the actor who plays Pippin, invented the melody himself and sang the lyrics in such a pure and painful way that it really created the emotion of the stage for the audience. The lyrics of the song are taken from a poem titled ‘A Walking Song’ in the third chapter of the Fellowship of the Ring “Three is the company”.

Another incredibly recognizable song that was composed and sung by an actor who played one of the main characters is Aragorn’s song on his coronation. Using words from the chapter “The Steward and the King” in which Aragorn receives the crown and pronounces the words of his ancestors “The Oath of Elendil”. Fran Walsh helped write the words which Viggo Mortensen then sang in his own melody and cadence. The song has great meaning for his character as it is his way of living up to his Numenorian blood, and of proving that the lineage of Isildur is in fact not broken and that there is still some way to go. great kings, with great strength, in the world of Men.

Shortly after this scene, as the brotherhood separates from their homes. Sam reunites with Bill The Pony, Merry and Pippin each find their place in the county, but Frodo discovers that he can no longer settle back into his life in Middle-earth. He decides to take the last ship to the Eternal Lands, the elves’ last resting place, and to say goodbye to the friends who have accompanied him on his journey. The emotional scene is arguably accompanied by the most famous song from the movies: “Into The West”.

Sung by Annie Lennox and written by Fran Walsh, the song’s lyrics are one of sadness and letting go, but also of hope, and promises of a better world that awaits beyond the White Shores. The words are influenced by Legolas’ lamentations in a chapter titled “The Fields of Cormallen” in which he says lines like “White seagulls cry” and “Gray ship, gray ship, do you hear them calling”. These lines were particularly addressed to Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson at the time, as a dear friend of theirs, a talented young director by the name of Cameron Duncan, who worked with them on some of the the Lord of the Rings together, was losing their battle with cancer at the time. The song became their tribute to him at his funeral.

leave middle earth

And then, of course, there is one last poem that needs to be mentioned. It forms a prophecy that details much of the book’s foundational strength and gives faith to all who fight against the evil Lord Sauron in the dark days of the War of the Ring. He appears in the film adaptation in Arwen’s words, as she convinces her father Elrond of Rivendell to reforge Aragorn Narsil’s sword. The words “From ashes a fire will awaken, a light from darkness will spring; The blade that was shattered will be renewed, the uncrowned king will detail the power and courage of the Hobbits on their journey, new hope once darkness is vanquished, and the return of the rightful king to Gondor, who will restore the world to peace. and prosperity for all creatures of Middle-earth.

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