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The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late

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The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late is the imagined original ditty that has survived to 'our time' in the form of the simplified nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle". The supposed original was invented (by back formation) by J.R.R. Tolkien. The title of this version is given in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

In the Inn at Bree, Frodo jumps on a table and recites "a ridiculous song" invented by Bilbo.[1] "Here it is in full," said Tolkien. "Only a few words of it are now, as a rule, remembered."

There follows the tale, in thirteen ballad-like five-line stanzas, introducing each element in turn: "the Man in the Moon" himself, the ostler's "tipsy cat/that plays a five-stringed fiddle", the little dog, the "hornéd cow

as proud as any queen.
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
And dance upon the green."

and "O! the rows of silver dishes/ and the store of silver spoons."

At the climactic moment

"With a ping and a pang the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon."

Note that the cow is able to jump over the Moon with ease because the Man in the Moon has temporarily brought it down to Earth.

Part of Tolkien's brilliance in establishing the epic mood is his ability to introduce a version of a familiar saying and give the reader a sense of hearing the old proverb afresh, as if spoken for the first time, in the heat of the moment.

Complete PoemEdit

There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
One night to drink his fill.
The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he runs his bow,
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
Now sawing in the middle.
The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there's good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
And laughs until he chokes.
They also keep a hornéd cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.
And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there's a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.
The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced,
and the little dog chased his tail.
The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.
Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
'The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master's been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!'
So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
'It's after three!' he said.
They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.
Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.
With a ping and a pong the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.
The round Moon rolled behind the hill
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!

Portrayal in adaptationsEdit

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Bofur sings a revised version of this song whilst eating in Rivendell. The song's lyrics are as follows:

“There's an inn, there's an inn, there's a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.
The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he saws his bow
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
now sawing in the middle.
So the cat on the fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
‘It’s after three!’ he said.

ReferencesEdit

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony"

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