The opening line of The Hobbit firmly belongs to the treasury of best-known book openers in literature. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. This short sentence invites readers into a whole new world full of interesting places, charismatic characters and glorious deeds. Both in the world of Middle-earth and outside it this very hobbit-hole becomes the starting point of dangerous journeys and exciting adventures. So what exactly is this dwelling of a hobbit?
As the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings made their ways to the publishers in their respective time, Tolkien faced an unexpected problem. All of the instances of Dwarves or dwarvish and elvish or elven were corrected to Dwarfs, dwarfish, elfish and elfin to coincide with the standard dictionary spelling. Tolkien had a lot of issues with those corrections, and in the present reflection I am going to look into the example of Dwarves.
Those who read Tolkien deeply and wish to discover more about his Legendarium could have noticed the word Gnomes in the early versions of the tales that the Professor used to refer to the Elves known as the Noldor. Later, though, he abandoned the term opting only for the Quenya word Noldor instead. This change has a history.
The world of Arda is full of fascinating characters and creatures not found in other tales or mythologies or, in any case, not in the same form J. R. R. Tolkien envisioned them in his books. Owing to a well-developed system of languages, it was possible for the Professor to use precise words in his invented tongues, for example in Quenya or Sindarin, to name those characters whose identities it was not always possible to render accurately in English. In a letter Tolkien mused that he was “under the difficulty of finding English names for mythological creatures with other names”. He did it so as not to shower his readers with “a string of Elvish names”, but some interpretations were false, according to Tolkien himself. One of the most interesting examples of this is Istari or the Wizards.
Language creation was one of the greatest interests that J. R. R. Tolkien had in his life. The Professor’s stories were closely connected with his invented tongues which were an integral and vital part of the whole mythology of Arda. There are a lot of various aspects to look at Tolkien’s language creation from, so to begin with the exploration of this amazing manifestation of his creativity, I am going to look into what makes Tolkien’s languages resemble those we speak in our world.
Very few readers are left unimpressed when they, together with Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, lose their way in the fog on the Barrow-downs and become trapped in the mound by the Barrow-wights. These creatures are horrible and horrifying, and appear even more so as we do not fully understand what they are exactly. So, what are these wights and where do they come from?
There are many creatures in Tolkien’s Legendarium that come across as uncanny and downright scary. The Nazgûl definitely belong to this category. Also known as the Ringwraiths, they send panic and fear before them, and this name — Ringwraiths — has hidden clues to their nature.
J. R. R. Tolkien was a great lover of words. It showed both — in his extensive vocabulary and talent to choose words with great precision to make his texts come alive with various shades of lexical meanings. One of the most special traits of Tolkien’s writing was a mastery usage of archaic style. A particularly interesting example of obsolete vocabulary can be found in The Hobbit.
What is language for a people? The most obvious answer is that it is a means of communication. But what if we look deeper and examine other properties of language rather than communication alone?