In addition to Tolkien's literature, he also wrote poetry which was reflected in some of his writings. This poem is sung by Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings. It stands for a lot more than what it portrays at first glance. The poem first looks like a rambling with a few words that rhyme coming from an angry troll who's hungry. In actuality, Tolkien is talking about the circle of life and possession. To explain, the troll mentions that he is gnawing on a bone from a deceased "uncle". We're not sure if it is his own uncle, or the bone of a human, but what we do know is it no longer belongs to who it was once on. Tolkien is making this comparison to life and death in that when we die, our body is no longer ours to do with what we please. We're put in the ground and from that point on we're only left to decay and other organisms benefit off of our deceased corpses.
Song About Old Troll
Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by.
Done by! Gum by!
In a cave in the hills he dwelt alone,
And meat was hard to come by.
Up came Tom with his big boots on.
Said he to Troll: "Pray, what is yon?
For it looks like the shin o' my nuncle Tim,
As should be a-lyin' in graveyard.
This many a year has Tim been gone,
And I thought he were lyin' in graveyard."
"My lad," said Troll, "this bone I stole.
But what be bones that lie in a hole?
Thy nuncle was dead as a lump o' lead,
Afore I found his shinbone.
He can spare a share for a poor old troll,
For he don't need his shinbone."
Said Tom: "I don't see why the likes o' thee
Without axin' leave should go makin' free
With the shank or the shin o' my father's kin;
So hand the old bone over!
Though dead he be, it belongs to he;
So hand the old bone over!"
"For a couple o' pins," says Troll, and grins,
"I'll eat thee too, and gnaw thy shins.
A bit o' fresh meat will go down sweet!
I'll try my teeth on thee now.*
Hee now! See now!
I'm tired o' gnawing old bones and skins;
I've a mind to dine on thee now."
*[as read by Tolkien on the tape:]
Thee'll be a nice change from thine nuncle.
I'm tired of gnawing old bones and skins;
Thee'll be a nice change from thine nuncle."
But just as he thought his dinner was caught,
He found his hands had hold of naught.
Before he could mind, Tom slipped behind
And gave him the boot to larn him.
Warn him! Darn him!
A bump o' the boot on the seat, Tom thought,
Would be the way to larn him.
But harder than stone is the flesh and bone
Of a troll that sits in the hills alone.
As well set your boot to the mountain's root,
For the seat of a troll don't feel it.
Peel it! Heal it!
Old Troll laughed, when he heard Tom groan,
And he knew his toes could feel it.
Tom's leg is game, since home he came,
And his bootless foot is lasting lame;
But Troll don't care, and he's still there
With the bone he boned from it's owner.
Troll's old seat is still the same,
And the bone he boned from it's owner!