All that is gold does not glitter
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"All That is Gold Does Not Glitter" (alternatively known as "The Riddle of Strider" or "Song of Aragorn") is a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien for his epic fantasy fiction novel The Lord of the Rings. It alludes to an integral part of the plot that describes Aragorn, a key protagonist.
- 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.
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 realise 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 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 emphasises the importance of the Rangers, suspiciously viewed as wanderers or vagabonds by those the Rangers actually protect from evil. Lines three and four emphasise the endurance of Aragorn's royal lineage, while five and six emphasises 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".
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' in the version cited above. On this view, 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 Riddle of Strider" from The Fellowship of the Ring (in the chapters '"Strider" and "The Council of Elrond")". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
- 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.