The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien


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  • Updated 8 April 2011
  • Updates planned: 2

Man in the Moon

The wayward lunar occupant

A figure of Hobbit legend or folklore, and the main character of two poems, The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late (which appears in The Lord of the Rings) and The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon, both of which tell of their title character descending to Earth and suffering a series of mishaps and misadventures.

It would be natural to imagine the Man in the Moon as representing a folk memory among the Hobbits: a rustic imagining of Tilion, the Maia known as the steersman of the Moon, who was known in legend for his waywardness. In fact, the Man in the Moon predates Tilion in Tolkien's legendarium. The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon was written by Tolkien as early as 1915 (before even The Lost Tales were begun); it describes the Man in the Moon as having silver hair and beard, and visiting Norwich1 in Norfolk, England. In the very early tales that followed, the character was explained as an Elf, foolishly stowing away on the newly created Moon. This Elf does not appear in further retellings, and if later references to the Man in the Moon are anything more than mere fancy, they probably are intended to suggest the proverbial waywardness of Tilion.



The choice of Norwich was not accidental. Just as The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late connects to its own nursery rhyme, the reference to Norwich relates to this traditional verse:

"The Man in the Moon came down too soon,
and asked his way to Norwich,
He went by the south and burnt his mouth
By supping on cold plum porridge."

Tolkien's poem tells his full version of the tale of the unfortunate Man in the Moon, stretching these four lines out into twelve stanzas to create a long imaginary source for the brief verse above. Both poems, The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late and The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon, appear in the collection The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

See also...

The Moon

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