Monday 13 December 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas

We recently had a resurgence of the classic Christmas thread: how best to create a Tolkien version of the Twelve Days of Christmas carol. Personally I am of the opinion that one should try to make both the numbers and the items fit something from Tolkien's texts — five golden rings simply doesn't work because there were no five Rings anywhere. To make it more challenging, I further hold that one should attempt to keep not just the metre of the original, but also the patterns of rhymes and alliterations. Having made it that challenging, it is inevitable that I cannot myself live up to this standard, but I will nonetheless impose my best effort on anyone reading this ;-)

  1. On the first day of Christmas, the Valar gave to me
    A Good King from the Great Sea
  2. Two fallen lamps
  3. Three Elf-kins
  4. Four Free Peoples
  5. Five Istari
  6. Six Dwarf mothers
  7. Seven Stones a-seeing
  8. Eight fellows fleeing
  9. Nine Wraiths a-raiding
  10. Ten Noldor knighting
  11. Eleven Houses housing
  12. Twelve guards a-guarding
Unfortunately I cannot find a good word to replace ‘Christmas’ — neither ‘Yule’, ‘Lithe’ or any other word that I can come up with fits the metre.

Since the Tolkien references for these are, perhaps, not equally obvious to everyone, I follow with a brief explanation of what each line refers to:
  1. May refer to either Elendil or Elessar — a good king from the people of Númenor that came out of the Great Sea, Belegaer.
  2. The Two Lamps, Iluin and Ormal, that Aulë raised, Varda filled and Manwë hallowed for the spring of Arda
  3. The Vanyar, the Noldor and the Sindar
  4. From the long list of the Ents (before the addition of Hobbits): Elves, Dwarves, Ents and Men
  5. The five Wizards
  6. According to the legend Durin, the eldest of the Dwarven Fathers was not put to sleep without a spouse, whereas each of the other six Dwarven Fathers were put to sleep each with his proper spouse.
  7. The Seven Palantíri mentioned in the rhyme of lore Gandalf quotes as he is riding with Pippin from Dol Baran
  8. The eight members of the Fellowship of the Ring that fled Moria
  9. Fairly obvious, I suppose — the nine Ringwraiths 
  10. The ten companions, Felagund's most faithful knights, that went with Finrod Felagund to help Beren (and who died in Sauron's captivity without giving away the secrets of the their king). ‘Knighting’ is here meant as the proper activities of a knight rather than to the elevation to knighthood by a ruler
  11. The Eleven Houses of Gondolin that housed its population
  12. The guards, ‘knights both of Rohan and Gondor’, that guarded the bed of state of Théoden King in the Hall of the Tower before the throne of Gondor after the Battle of the Pelennor.
Please do try to come up with something better — whether for a single word, a line or more.

Here's some references to the threads in the Tolkien newsgroups
2010 version: Google Groups: Twelve days of Christmas -- again
2008 version: Google Groups: 12 Days of Christmas revisited
2003-4 version: Google Groups: 12 days of Christmas (Galadriel gave to me)

There was also an effort in the Harry Potter newsgroups a few years back (as I count these things!) that Igenlode has kindly archived at

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