Bilbo's Last Song
"Bilbo's Last Song" is a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was given by Tolkien as a gift to his secretary Joy Hill in 1966. Although it was never published in the author's lifetime, it has been published in text form and with music several times since Tolkien's death in 1973.
Placement in Tolkien's fiction
The poem is sung by Bilbo Baggins at the Grey Havens, as he is about to leave Middle-earth forever. Chronologically this places it at the very end of The Return of the King, the last book of The Lord of the Rings, although it was written later than the books and was never included in them.
J.R.R. Tolkien gave this poem to Joy Hill as a gift in 1966. It was first published on a poster containing illustrations by Pauline Baynes in 1974, the year after Tolkien's death.
In 1990 the text was published in book form, reillustrated by Baynes.
Sometime after Tolkien's death, Joy Hill showed the poem to Donald Swann, who liked the poem so much that he set it to music and included it in the second edition of The Road Goes Ever On in 1978. This version was recorded and released on a CD that accompanied the third edition of The Road Goes Ever On in 1993.
The song, sung in 1978 by composer Donald Swann with his own piano accompaniment, was later added to a Compact Disc made available with the song cycle, "The Road Goes Ever On".
Another musical setting was included in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (1981), with music by Stephen Oliver. The first verse is chanted by John Le Mesurier as Bilbo, the second omitted, and the third sung by a boy soprano. (All three verses are sung on the soundtrack recording.)
The song was also recorded by The Hobbitons (to Stephen Oliver's melody) on their recording, J.R.R. Tolkien's Songs from Middle-earth.
There is no direct reference to the song in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). The film's distributor, New Line Cinema, was not licensed to use the poem as it is a separate work from The Lord of the Rings and Christopher Tolkien, son of the author and his literary executor, refused to license it as he steadfastly refused to have anything to do with the movies. The movie's closing credits are accompanied by the original song "Into the West", sung by Annie Lennox, meant to have similar emotional resonance. In addition, composer Howard Shore wrote an original composition for choir and orchestra called "Bilbo's Song", which can be heard at the end of the Extended Edition DVD Fan Credits. (The song, "Bilbo's Song", heard in the movie, is an Elvish translation of the song identified in the "Lord of the Ring's" song index as "Bilbo's Song". It is, in fact, the walking song that starts "I Sit Beside the Fire and Think".)