The Road Goes Ever On (song)

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"The Road Goes Ever On" is a title that encompasses several walking songs that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote for his Middle-earth legendarium. Within the stories, the original song was composed by Bilbo Baggins and recorded in The Hobbit. Different versions of it also appear in The Lord of the Rings, along with some similar walking songs.

The walking song gives its name to the 1967 song-cycle The Road Goes Ever On, where it appears as the first in the list.

Versions of this song[edit]

In The Hobbit[edit]

The original version of the song is recited by Bilbo in chapter 19 of The Hobbit, at the end of his journey back to the Shire. Coming to the top of a rise he sees his home in the distance, and stops and says the following:[T 1]

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

In The Lord of the Rings[edit]

There are three versions of "The Road Goes Ever On" in the novel The Lord of the Rings.

1) The first is in The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 1. The song is sung by Bilbo when he leaves the Shire. He has given up the One Ring, leaving it for Frodo to deal with, and is setting off to visit Rivendell, so that he may finish writing his book.[T 2]

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

2) The second version appears in Book One, Chapter 3. It is identical except for changing the word "eager" to "weary" in the fifth line. It is spoken aloud, slowly, by Frodo, as he and his companions arrive at a familiar road - the Stock Road - on their journey to leave the Shire.[T 3]

3) The third version appears in The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6. It is spoken by Bilbo in Rivendell after the hobbits have returned from their journey. Bilbo is now an old, sleepy hobbit, who murmurs the verse and then falls asleep.[T 4]

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Earlier, when leaving the Shire, Frodo tells the other hobbits Bilbo's thoughts on 'The Road': "He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'". Based on Bilbo's description here and his experiences, the Road consisted of the Hill Road, the Bywater Road, the Great East Road across Eriador, the High Pass over the Misty Mountains and the Elf-path through Mirkwood.

The critic Tom Shippey contrasts the versions of the Old Walking Song sung by Bilbo and Frodo. Bilbo follows the "Road ... with eager feet", hoping to reach the peace of Rivendell, to retire and take his ease; whereas Frodo sings "with weary feet", hoping somehow to reach Mordor bearing the Ring, and to try to destroy it in the Cracks of Doom: very different destinations and errands.[1]

In The Lord of the Rings films[edit]

This song is heard multiple times in The Lord of the Rings films. The first time it is heard, the song is sung and hummed by Gandalf as he approaches Frodo and is just barely discernable. Also when Bilbo makes his way off in attempt to finish his book, he sings a verse of the song. The later occurrences of this song are based on those in the books.[T 5]

Other walking songs[edit]

Similar changes in mood and words are seen in two versions of another walking song that uses the same metre and is also found in The Lord of the Rings.

The first version, in the chapter 'Three is Company', is sung by the hobbits when they are walking through The Shire, just before they meet a company of elves. Three stanzas are given in the text, with the first stanza starting "Upon the hearth the fire is red...". The following extract is from the second stanza of the song.[T 6]

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

It is this part of the song that is reprised with different words later in the book. This new version is sung softly by Frodo as he and Sam walk in the Shire a few years after they have returned, and as Frodo prepares to meet Elrond and others and journey to the Grey Havens to take ship into the West.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

The final line of the verse is a variant on the phrase "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", which is used in fairy-stories and similar tales to refer to another world that is fantastically difficult to reach — in this case Aman, which can only be reached by the Straight Road. An example of the use of this phrase is in the fairy tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon".

Musical arrangements[edit]

The title song and several others were set to music by Donald Swann as part of the book and recording The Road Goes Ever On, named for this song.[2]

The entire song cycle has been set to music in 1984 by the composer Johan de Meij; another setting of the cycle is by the American composer Craig Russell, in 1995.[3]

Other settings include:

Literary adaptations[edit]

See also[edit]


This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Chapter 19
  2. ^ The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Book 1, chapter 1.
  3. ^ The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Book One, Chapter 3.
  4. ^ The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Book VI, Chapter 6.
  5. ^ The Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Film by Peter Jackson
  6. ^ The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Chapter "Three is Company".


  1. ^ Shippey, Tom (1982). The Road to Middle-Earth. Grafton (HarperCollins). p. 168. ISBN 0261102753.
  2. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R.; Swann, Donald I. (1968). The Road Goes Ever On. George Allen & Unwin.
  3. ^ Buja, Maureen (16 January 2019). "The Inspiration of Imagination – Frodo & Bilbo". Interlude. Archived from the original on 13 January 2020.
  4. ^ The Tolkien Ensemble (1997). An Evening in Rivendell (CD). Classico.
  5. ^ "Gwyneth Walker | The Road Goes Ever On". Gwyneth Walker. 2006. Archived from the original on 12 February 2018.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Chris (15 May 2017). "A Review of Morse Episode, 'Who Killed Harry Field?'. Plus the Art, Music and Literary References". Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour.