All that is gold does not glitter
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"All That is Gold Does Not Glitter" is a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. It alludes to an integral part of the plot, and describes Aragorn, son of Arathorn. The poem reads:
- All that is gold does not glitter,
- Not all those who wander are lost;
- The old that is strong does not wither,
- Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
- From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
- A light from the shadows shall spring;
- Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
- The crownless again shall be king.
The poem appears twice in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings. It appears first in Chapter Ten, "Strider", in Gandalf's letter to Frodo Baggins in Bree, although when Frodo reads it he does not realize that Strider (Aragorn) is the subject of the verse.
In Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings for film, the poem appears in The Return of the King, when Arwen recites the last four lines of the poem as her father Elrond prepares to reforge the shards of Narsil for Aragorn. In the 1981 BBC radio dramatisation, the entire poem is heard in its original context, the letter left at Bree by Gandalf.
The way appearance displays reality in our world is largely inverted in Middle-earth with respect to the subject matter of the poem. The first line is a variant and rearrangement of the proverb "All that glitters is not gold", known primarily from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, resulting in a proposition bearing a completely different meaning: Aragorn is vastly more important than he looks. The second line emphasizes the importance of the Rangers, suspiciously viewed as wanderers or vagabonds by those the Rangers actually protect from evil. Lines three and four emphasize the endurance of Aragorn's royal lineage, while five and six emphasizes its renewal. They can also be seen to represent a spark of hope during a time of despair and danger. Line seven refers to the sword Narsil. Line eight foreshadows the crownless Aragorn's accession to the throne of both the kingless Gondor and the vanished Arnor.
Older editions of The Lord of the Rings indexed the poem as "The Riddle of Strider". From the 50th anniversary edition of 2005 on, the new, enlarged index by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull list it as "All that is gold does not glitter".
The early versions of the poem are recorded in The Treason of Isengard, part of The History of Middle-earth book series by Christopher Tolkien. The first draft of the poem, which at that stage of composition was the only content of Gandalf's letter, reads:
- All that is gold does not glitter;
- all that is long does not last;
- All that is old does not wither;
- not all that is over is past.
The second quatrain was added during the following revision:
- Not all that have fallen are vanquished;
- a king may yet be without crown,
- A blade that was broken be brandished;
- and towers that were strong may fall down.
The lines were changed in stages, with many experimental forms rejected. Christopher Tolkien also suggested that "the Sword that was Broken [Narsil] actually emerged from the verse 'All that is gold does not glitter': on this view, in [the last version cited above] the words a king may yet be without crown, A blade that was broken be brandished were no more than a further exemplification of the general moral."
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "Strider", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond".
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1989), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Treason of Isengard, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 50, ISBN 0-395-51562-9
- The Treason of Isengard, p. 80.
- The Treason of Isengard, p. 137.