Tolkien Gateway

The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late

The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late is a Hobbit poem composed by Bilbo Baggins.

Contents

[edit] History

The poem was composed by Bilbo Baggins sometime before T.A. 3001.

In T.A. 3018, in The Prancing Pony at Bree, Frodo jumped on a table and recited "a ridiculous song" invented by Bilbo.[1]

In the Fourth Age a similarly-titled poem was written in the Red Book, The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon, which however was inspired by Gondorian lore.

[edit] Form

The poem is in thirteen ballad-like five-line stanzas, introducing each element in turn: "the Man in the Moon" himself, the ostler's "tipsy cat that plays a five-stringed fiddle", the little dog, the "hornéd cow".

[edit] The Poem

There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
One night to drink his fill.

The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he runs his bow,
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
Now sawing in the middle.

The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there's good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
and laughs until he chokes.

They also keep a hornéd cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.

And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there's a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.

The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced,
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat;
'The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master's been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!'

So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:'
'It's after three!' he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While the horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with a spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and a long the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.

The round Moon rolled behind the hill,
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes:
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!

[edit] Portrayals in adaptations

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

Frodo sings an abridged version of the song at the Prancing Pony before falling off the table and accidentally slipping on the Ring for the first time, causing him to disappear and startle the patrons.

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

Frodo sings the song in Bree. Speeding up at every line, he becomes nigh unintelligible near the end.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Frodo sings an abridged version at the Prancing Pony. The line fragment "And there they brew a beer so brown" was changed to "And there they made a stew so brown", presumably to censor references to alcohol.


2006: The Lord of the Rings (musical):

The hobbits sing a version at the Prancing Pony. The lyrics are quite different.

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

In the Extended Edition of the film, Bofur sings an abridged version in Rivendell while the Company dines with the Elves, and the other Dwarves join in.

[edit] Other media

A musical version of this poem was recorded by the Tolkien Ensemble on their album An Evening in Rivendell.

[edit] Inspiration

The poem is a revision of Tolkien's earlier poem The Cat and the Fiddle which expands upon the traditional English nursery rhyme.

The full title of this version is given in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.[2]

According to Tom Shippey and Thomas Honneger, the poem attempts to retroactively add depth to the anonymous nonsensical nursery rhyme; the "surviving" rhyme could be imagined as an artifact of that larger surviving rhyme from the Third Age.[3][4]

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late"
  3. Tom Shippey (1982), The Road to Middle-Earth (Third ed.), HarperCollins, pp. 41–42.
  4. Thomas Honneger (2005) "The Man in the Moon: Structural Depth in Tolkien", Root and Branch: Approaches Toward Understanding Tolkien (2nd ed.), Walking Tree Publishers, pp. 9-58