Treasure Island

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

(3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973 / Orange Free State)

All Woods Must Fail

O! Wanderers in the shadowed land
Despair not! For though dark they stand,
All woods there be must end at last,
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Oxford University Press HarperCollins Houghton Mifflin   Christopher Tolkien

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's Other Poems

  • All That is Gold Does Not Glit
  • I Sit and Think
  • One Ring
  • Journey's End
  • Cat
  • Gil-galad
  • All Ye Joyful

Comments about this poem (All Woods Must Fail by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien )

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  • Sylva Portoian (2/22/2010 3:16:00 AM)

    All woods must fail,
    I understood in a different way-
    That everyone will die,
    No one forever can stay! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Sara S (11/27/2009 1:32:00 PM)

    micheal hockenbarger- don; t know about the allegory stuff but this poem was not 'uttered by an elf leaving middle earth' it was said by frodo in the Old Forest. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Sheaffer (4/24/2009 9:30:00 AM)

    In Tolkien's own words:

    'Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
    An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex, and attempts to define the process are at best guesses from evidence that is inadequate and ambiguous.'

    You confuse applicability with allegory. Please stop doing that. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Sheaffer (4/23/2009 7:48:00 PM)

    Michael Hockenbarger:
    You have a gross misunderstanding of the definition of an allegory.

    It is true that Tolkien is not an allegorical writer. He said so himself. But it aggravates me that so many people have misinterpreted this statement. So many people like you make uneducated comments like this, bashing those who claim to find some bit of symbolism or meaning in Tolkien’s work.
    From, an allegory is:
    “1. A figurative sentence or discourse, in which the principal subject is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances. The real subject is thus kept out of view, and we are left to collect the intentions of the writer or speaker by the resemblance of the secondary to the primary subject.”

    Allegories employ multiple metaphors or symbols that each correlate a particular part in another well-know piece of literature, historical event, person, etc.

    For an example, read Animal Farm by George Orwell. Individually, the characters represent different historical figures. Collectively they are an allegory for the Socialist Revolution in Russia under the Stalin regime.

    For an example of something that is NOT allegory, read Crime and Punishment. The character Sonia is a Christ-figure. However, the novel is NOT allegorical of the Bible or anything else. It just happens to have a symbol in it. Just because a piece of work employs, metaphors, symbols, or has real-life relevance, it is NOT AN ALLEGORY! ! !

    This poem by Tolkien has significance within the context of his work. It also happens to have pertinence in our world. Each of us are the wanderers. The “woods” in this poem, as I interpret it, represent all the troubles and darkness in life. He calls them “a shadowed land.” The underlying message is that in the end, all our troubles will pass away and all the horrors of life must come to an end. Nothing is as bad as it seems, don’t take your troubles too seriously because things will get better. I take this from where he says “Despair not! ”

    There are obviously many interpretations for any give poem, some literal, some more intuitive such as mine.

    So basically, Tolkien’s work CAN be applied to our life. THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT ALLEGORY! Stop spreading this lie. (Report) Reply

  • Qalame-Tire Misterres of Death Nat. Norville (5/1/2008 8:27:00 AM)

    This poem is true because so many woods do fail. It does not matter that the poem came from one of Tolkien's works. It might have been written in a fictional world but can be used in this world in this time frame. It is a lovely peace of work. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Hockenbarger (8/28/2007 10:50:00 AM)

    You dig too deep. Poem uttered by an elf when leaving Middle Earth. Tolkien was not an allegorical writer. He wrote fiction to be exactly that: Fiction. (Report) Reply Updates

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