Were there Hobbits at the Nativity? 

It is no secret in the Bryden household that J.R.R. Tolkien (of the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillion fame) is my favorite author. While I am not an avid reader, I couldn’t put his books down once I started – with the possible exception of the Silmarillion (IYKYK). When the Lord of the Rings movies were released in the early 2000s I was gripped by excitement. It coincided with me moving to Virginia from the suburbs of London and, given Tolkien’s British heritage, it made me especially excited. What was even better, was that my soon-to-be wife (I didn’t know this at the time) was equally engaged. 

Tolkien was a devout Catholic and even once commented that the “Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” In 1936, he released a poem dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was entitled Noel. The poem was published in an annual publication by Our Lady’s School in Oxfordshire, England. 

Noel is certainly a different take on the Christmas story we all know. The setting, for example, is a wintry landscape – a far cry from a stable in the Judaean town of Bethlehem. And, while the Hobbits were not cited as being present at the birth of Christ (either in the poem or anywhere else), you can feel the influence of Tolkien’s novels as he describes the “mountains’ teeth”. 

I won’t break down the poem into its component parts or write a book study, but I did want to share Noel with you so that you can read and interpret it as you wish. Spoiler alert: the last verse may fill you with warmth and joy. 

I hope you have a warm and blessed Christmas. 

Noel, by J.R.R. Tolkien 

Grim was the world and grey last night: 
The moon and stars were fled, 
The hall was dark without song or light, 
The fires were fallen dead. 
The wind in the trees was like to the sea, 
And over the mountains’ teeth 
It whistled bitter-cold and free, 
As a sword leapt from its sheath. 
The lord of snows upreared his head; 
His mantle long and pale 
Upon the bitter blast was spread 
And hung o’er hill and dale. 
The world was blind, 
the boughs were bent, 
All ways and paths were wild: 
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent, 
And here was born a Child. 
The ancient dome of heaven sheer 
Was pricked with distant light; 
A star came shining white and clear 
Alone above the night. 
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth 
One voice on a sudden sang: 
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth 
Together at midnight rang. 
Mary sang in this world below: 
They heard her song arise 
O’er mist and over mountain snow 
To the walls of Paradise, 
And the tongue of many bells was stirred 
in Heaven’s towers to ring 
When the voice of mortal maid was heard, 
That was mother of Heaven’s King. 
Glad is the world and fair this night 
With stars about its head, 
And the hall is filled with laughter and light, 
And fires are burning red. 
The bells of Paradise now ring 
With bells of Christendom, 
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing 
That God on earth is come. 

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