"I feel as if I was inside a song"The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

The Presence of Music in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Songs and Poems set to Music

The Lord of the Rings Musical, Now and for Always, LotR M, Track 12, 4:49.
Music: Lassi Logrén; Lyrics: Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus

Thinking of the individual journeys of the characters in The Lord of the Rings and their changes over the course of the book, Samwise Gamgee stands out. Appearing to be little more than Frodo’s gardener and possibly his sidekick-to-be at the beginning of the book, at the end of the narrative his relationship with Frodo has made him far more than that. Of the interactions between the characters in the novel, Sam’s and Frodo’s relationship is the most interesting: Frodo, of a much higher social standing than his friend, nevertheless accepts him as a true friend without looking down on him. Sam never falters in his loyalty to Frodo and is instrumental in helping Frodo achieve his goal. The underlying concept of friendship and loyalty, their value on the journey and the dissolution of social differences to the point where only these two values remain are very evident in the book. Tolkien’s decision to record the journey of Frodo and Sam (and of course of Gollum) in one continuous narrative strand instead of interweaving it with the actions of the rest of the fellowship only adds to this.

The motion picture trilogy lays much focus on the relationship between the two Hobbits, using a significant amount of screen time to show their interactions and makes their scenes not only some of the most memorable, but also emotional corner points of the movies: We just need to think of Sam helping Frodo the last few steps at Mount Doom: “I can't carry it for you... but I can carry you!”. The medium of film with its presence of pre-fabricated images directly addressing the reader manages to convey such scenes very efficiently by slowing down the actual time and focussing on this particular moment.

Musical theatre again in this respect has a number of unique possibilities because it allows for live interaction between characters and due to the presence of the actors on the stage can address the audience directly. As such it comes as no surprise that The Lord of the Rings stage show devotes a complete musical number just to show the friendship between Frodo and Sam. In addition, the number also serves as basis for a song about the duality between Sméagol/Gollum and links him with his Hobbit heritage (see 4.2.3).

The song, called Now and for Always, is a duet between Frodo and Sam sung on their way to Mordor. It builds on the premise from the book of Sam wondering whether or not maybe people would make songs and tales about “Frodo and the Ring”. The song begins from an underscore drone and is accompanied by guitar mainly, with strings providing chordal pads and an accordion paying interludes as well as harmony notes from the second verse on. The text speaks of what a song about their adventure could be about and is a very “down to earth” Hobbit song. The first verse, sung by Sam (0:38), serves as a characterisation of Hobbits in general:

Sing me a story of heroes of the Shire
Muddling through, brave and true
Stubborn as bindweed and tough as old brier
Never too showy or grand
Year after year they persevere
Now and for always
Harfoots who planted, and Stoor folk who ploughed
Bred to endure, slow but sure
Fallohide blood in your veins makes you proud
Sturdy and steady they stand
True to their aim to stay the same
Now and for always

(LotR M, Track 12).

After the chorus (1:52), which is sung in unison by Sam and Frodo after the first verse, the second verse deals with the events of the stage show.

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transcription (second verse + chorus): Now and for Always, LotR M, Track 12, from 2:03.

transcription (second verse + chorus): Now and for Always, LotR M, Track 12, from 2:03.

In the second chorus (2:29), the hobbits sing in two-part harmony with Sam providing the harmony part above the lead in a manner similar to The Road Goes On (see 4.1.2). After a brief interlude, Sam falls asleep and Frodo sings a third verse about Sam and the importance of their friendship (3:26):

Sing me a tale of the bravest of them all
Comrade and guide, at my side
Stouthearted Sam who wouldn't let me fall
Holding my life in his hand
True to the end, no finer friend
Now and for always

(LotR M, Track 12).

This verse represents the underlying theme of friendship the stage show is based on. Without the two Hobbits working together, the Ring would not have been destroyed. Gollum/Sméagol playing his sad part in the events only adds to this: His Hobbit side was at least strong enough to not murder the Hobbits in their sleep, even though the eventually lost the battle with the Ring – as did Frodo. Now and for Always in a way represents the significance of the book as a tale of courage and friendship, which proves that sometimes the Good indeed will win.