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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit One: Introducing Tolkien and His Worlds


"Thomas the Rhymer"
A Scottish Ballad

True Thomas lay on Huntly bank;
A wonder he spied with his eye;
For there he saw a lady bright,
Come riding down by the Elder Tree.

Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,
Her mantle of the velvet fine,
And hung upon her horse's mane
Were fifty silver bells and nine.

True Thomas he pulled off his cap,
And bowed him low down to his knee:
"All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
Thy like on earth I never did see."

"O no, O no, Thomas," she said,
"That name does not belong to me;
I am the queen of fair Elfland,
And I have come to visit thee.

"Harp and carp, Thomas," she said,
"Harp and carp, along with me,
And if you dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your body I will be!"

"Though I be well, or full of woe,
That fate it never shall daunt me,"
Soon he has kissed her rosy lips,
All underneath the Elder Tree.

"Now you must go with me," she said,
"True Thomas, you must go with me,
And you must serve me seven years,
Well or woe though it may chance to be."

She mounted on her milk-white steed,
And she took True Thomas up behind,
And whenever her bridle rang,
The steed ran swifter than the wind.

O they rode on, and farther on,
The steed ran swifter than the wind,
Until they reached a desert wide,
And living land was left behind.

"Get down, get down, now, True Thomas,
And lean your head upon my knee;
Abide and rest a little space,
And I will show you wonders three.

"O do you see that narrow, narrow road,
So thick beset with thorn and briar?
That is the path of righteousness,
Though after it but few enquire.

"Do you see yonder broad broad road,
That lies across the lovely lawn?
That is the path of wickedness,
Though some call it the road to heaven.

"And do you see yon bonny bonny road,
That winds about the fern hillside?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where you and I this night must ride.

"But, Thomas, you must hold your tongue,
Whatever you may hear or see,
If you speak a word in Elfin land,
You'll never get back to your own country."

O they rode on, and farther on,
And they waded through rivers above the knee,
And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But they heard the roaring of the sea.

It was dark dark night, there was no starlight,
And they waded through red blood to the knee;
For all the blood that's shed on earth
Runs through the springs of that country.

Soon they came to a garden green,
And she pulled an apple from a tree:
"Take this for thy wages, True Thomas,
For it gives the tongue that can never lie."

"My tongue is my own," True Thomas said,
"No goodly gift would you give me,"
"Now hold thy peace," the lady said,
"For as I say, so must it be."

He has gotten a coat of the finest cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were gone and past
True Thomas on earth was never seen.

(adapted from The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by F. J. Child; original text in the public domain)

Unit One Content

Comments for Teachers
Key Terms
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