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February 4, 2004

Two Tolkien Songs
Chris Seeman

My reviewer’s pen has been very busy these past three years, struggling to keep up with the legion of musicians bent on riding the wave of Tolkien enthusiasm occasioned by the movies. Now that the floodwaters are finally beginning to subside, I thought it would be fitting to review a pair of tunes which are in some sense a reflection of (or upon) the wave itself. Both songs appear on CD recordings of live concerts performed by the artists in question, and both emerge from the “folk” camp – albeit from very different ends of the spectrum.

The first song, “Waiting for Frodo,” is a light-hearted ditty by veteran Canadian filkers Urban Tapestry. This is in fact UT’s second Tolkien-related piece, the first being a non-parodic song entitled “Lady of the Wood” (released on their 1997 _Myths and Urban Legends_ CD). Anyway, “Waiting for Frodo” is all about the anticipation and hype surrounding the films, told from the vantage point of the expectant fan:

Peter Jackson won’t let us down
But how does he expect us to survive this agonizing countdown?
I’m just a typical avid Tolkien fan, or maybe not but I was here when everything began, so please, appease, don’t tease...

Surely, something we all can identify with. Good clean filk for the whole family, complete with the obligatory jab at the Burger King goblet set!

A more sobering response is to be found in “The Golden Ring,” a meditation on the Ring as a metaphor of the potential for evil that lurks within all humanity (prompted, according to the artist, by her dismay at the marketing of One Ring replicas for all to wear). The bard in question is west coast-born Heather Alexander, a multi-talented folk instrumentalist and vocalist with strong Celtic musical roots.

While it is certainly a “message” song, Alexander’s calm, understated delivery of the lyrics prevents it from coming across as heavy-handed moralizing:

For it's easy to be careless,
Easy not to think
Easy just to vanish in a blink,
Denouncing your reality
Such a simple thing
A harmless habit, much as putting on
A golden ring

Tolkien, of course, was resistant to allegorical interpretations of his work, but he went on to clarify that this dictum pertained only to his intention as author – not the “application” of the story by its readers. In the aftermath of this cacophony of sound that is called Tolkien-inspired music, the quiet simplicity and unselfconscious clarity of “The Golden Ring” is a welcome moment of what Tolkien in _On Fairy-stories_ called “Recovery,” returning to what really matters after the bedazzlement of Faerie, or the silver screen…

“Waiting for Frodo” is available on _Sushi and High Tea_ (CD 2003) [Dodeka Records] and can be purchased at

“The Golden Ring” is available on _Festival Wind_ (CD 2003) [Sea Fire Productions] and can be purchased at

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