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Old 01-23-2012, 06:24 PM   #1
Galadriel55
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Gems of Long Lake (new discoveries)

Has there been a time when you felt that you've just discovered a beautiful new detail in Tolkien's works? One that makes them just that much more meaningful, even if "that much" is just a play on words or a bit of plot the reader has to put together by him/herself?


I have just recently discovered that Derne, as in Dernhelm, means to hide. That's a small insight into linguistics. Eowyn indeed remains hidden while she keeps her pseudonym. I was terribly proud of myself for getting this tidbit of information until I realised that this is probably no surprise to most other Downers, but who knows?


This is a place to share all those realisations and facts, big or little, and learn a few cool facts others have discovered!

So have you ever taken a dive into JRRT's books and came out with a new gem in hand?
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:30 AM   #2
Guinevere
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Thank you for this interesting detail! I, for one, didn't know the meaning of "Dernhelm", but I'm not at all surprised. There must be many more such words which I'm sure Squatter knows about.

Btw, I recently discovered that there existed an Anglo-Saxon name Ælfstan meaning "Elfstone" . So the Elvish "Elessar" wasn't just made up but had an existing Anglo-Saxon origin, just as "Elendil" is equivalent to "Ælfwine" = Elf-Friend.
Tolkien apparently loved to invent possible explanations for such names.

Tolkien himself gives some explanations like the one about the ethymology of Smaug, in a letter from 1938:
Quote:
The dragon bears as name – a pseudonym – the past tense of the primitive Germanic verb Smugan, to squeeze through a hole: a low philological jest.
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Last edited by Guinevere; 01-24-2012 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 01-24-2012, 03:32 PM   #3
Galadriel55
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That's really interesting!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinevere View Post
Tolkien apparently loved to invent possible explanations for such names.
Apparently so!

Smaug's case is neat; if children could read TH in English and also know past tenses of German verbs I'm sure they would laugh.
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Old 02-27-2012, 09:19 PM   #4
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I have been thinking about the Ent/Entwife song, and decided that it was written at the earliest toward the end of the SA, not before. The reason is that during the peace and plenty the wind is in the West (what I interpret as the West - the Valar - having the latest "word" in the pages of history, ie the evil doers are at bay for a time); however, at the end, the "wind is in the deadly East", implying that Sauron's assault from Mordor has begun.

Before the song, Treebeard says that "when the Darkness came in the North, the Entwives crossed the Great River, and made new gardens..." This is the beginning of the final separation of Ents and Entwives (whose opinions differed for a while before it); after this point they met less and less often. IE, they separated when Morgoth was in power - the First Age. "After the Darkness was overthrown the land of the Entwives blossomed richly". And "in the time of the war between Sauron and the Men of the Sea" (possibly Tar Minastir or Ar Pharazon's time, but it more likely refers to the Last Alliance) Treebeard came to the Brown Lands to visit Fimbrethil, but the Entwives were gone.

The song clearly talks about this occasion: "West" and "East" are not merely symbolic representations of good and evil, they are actually, literally, historically there.

The "wind in the West" refers to the beginning of the SA, when the Ents and Entwives continued their FA separation and their refusal to live in the other's preferred environment. And "in the East" is the rise of Sauron and the height of his power, just before his downfall leading to the TA.

Therefore this song must have been written either at the end of the SA or in the first half -ish of the TA, since Elves traveled up and down the Anduin at those times, and enough for Treebeard to learn the song from them.


And the song's story (the Ents searching too late) repeats during the War of the Ring - they start "searching" (ie inquiring) again, and also during Sauron's power, when the situation is now-or-never.

So I don't actually see the point of this "discovery" other than that the song was written between the War of the Last Alliance and the wane of Elves, and that it's an actual event, not just poetic symbolism. But I think it's supercool.


( at myself - what kind of hopeless geek thinks it's a supercool discovery to figure out that an obscure-ish song was written in a certain time period? Or would even bother going through the process of adding 2+2 when Tolkien clearly writes 4?)
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Old 03-05-2016, 09:50 PM   #5
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The other day I had one of these moments when something dawns on you and you feel incredibly stupid.

Near my university campus there is a street called Earl Street, which I sometimes walk down on my way home. This time, when I was turning on it, I happened to look at the sign and wonder how the word "earl" could be mispronounced (which probably tells a lot about me ). After fiddling with potential pronunciations for a bit, I realized it is probably related to the word Eorl! Voila:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Online Etymology Dictionary
Earl: Old English eorl "brave man, warrior, leader, chief" (contrasted with ceorl "churl"), from Proto-Germanic *erlaz, which is of uncertain origin. In Anglo-Saxon poetry, "a warrior, a brave man;" in later Old English, "nobleman," especially a Danish under-king (equivalent of cognate Old Norse jarl), then one of the viceroys under the Danish dynasty in England. After 1066 adopted as the equivalent of Latin comes (see count (n.))
I recall reading somewhere on the Downs about Ceorl's name's origin, but I can't believe I was that slow about eorl. Admittedly, first time I read about Eorl the Young was when I couldn't string a full sentence in proper English, and I guess the two words never overlapped in my mind. But still, it took me way longer than is probably needed to figure this out!

Going on to see the full entry for ceorl, I discovered that it might also be related to the Russian word for king (korol'), but apparently there is much debate about that among the philologists of google.ru. They don't believe that Charles the Great deserves that much credit for spreading the sound combination all over Europe.



Another similar discovery I made a while back is that the Thains are really thanes. All my life I mispronounced "Thain", saying it like it's two syllables. And at this point I really don't have an excuse, because I was familiar with the word thane before I read LOTR in English.
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Old 03-06-2016, 02:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
I recall reading somewhere on the Downs about Ceorl's name's origin, but I can't believe I was that slow about eorl. Admittedly, first time I read about Eorl the Young was when I couldn't string a full sentence in proper English, and I guess the two words never overlapped in my mind. But still, it took me way longer than is probably needed to figure this out!

Going on to see the full entry for ceorl, I discovered that it might also be related to the Russian word for king (korol'), but apparently there is much debate about that among the philologists of google.ru. They don't believe that Charles the Great deserves that much credit for spreading the sound combination all over Europe.

Another similar discovery I made a while back is that the Thains are really thanes. All my life I mispronounced "Thain", saying it like it's two syllables. And at this point I really don't have an excuse, because I was familiar with the word thane before I read LOTR in English.
Now eorl have no excuse when it comtes to thegns such as mispronouncing wyrds every now and thane. But churly, I am sieur we can count on you.
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Old 03-06-2016, 10:04 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
Now eorl have no excuse when it comtes to thegns such as mispronouncing wyrds every now and thane. But churly, I am sieur we can count on you.
I dame as much.
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Old 06-15-2016, 03:19 PM   #8
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Sting Uncooked dwarves

The 'gem' I uncovered when I read The Hobbit the first few times, and which still makes me laugh, is the sentence in Chapter 2, after Tom the troll saw Balin the dwarf, and gave 'an awful howl'. The reason for this howl was given in that sentence: 'Trolls simply detest the very sight of dwarves (uncooked)'.
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Old 06-30-2016, 10:26 PM   #9
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At this point I cannot even begin to count the number of things that make me go "Hmmmm!" within Tolkien's works.

When I studied with Joseph Campbell in the Early-1980s, Campbell was only tangentially aware of Tolkien's works, and did not pay much attention to them. But I did, and when I began to explore Anglo-Saxon and Norse Myth, it caused me to suddenly discover hidden things everywhere in the names of things.

And when I began to explore Christianity, its origins, heresies, philosophies, and theologies I began to uncover even more surprises within Tolkien's works. Such as the Manichean Influences of the Two Trees of Valinor, and Good/Evil, Light/Dark. Or that Gandalf/Olorin was himself a "Spirit of Fire" (like the Maia Arien, who became the Sun), such as those Morgoth corrupted to become Balrogs/Valaraukir. And thus the fight between Gandalf and the Balrog was really Gandalf fighting his Spiritual Sibling (if Gandalf had been corrupted by Morgoth, he himself would have become a Balrog).

But it was not until I read Tom Shippey's The Road to Middle-earth that I realized that seemingly innocent words could also contain a lot of meaning. Things like the word choices Tolkien uses to describe things...

Like the Orcs, Haradrim, or Easterlings using "Bent" swords. Why did Tolkien use the word "Bent" and not "Curved?" It turns out the reason is both philological, and philosophical/theological (having to do with a concept called Physiognomy). Bent has an Anglo-Saxon/Old English/Germanic root (Beonet - Binse), whereas Curved has a Latin root (Curvus - Curvare).

So not only was Tolkien using a word that had an explicit Saxon/Goth/Germanic origin, but he was also stating that the swords were "Corrupted" (note that when Tolkien uses a Capitalization, the word is IMPORTANT!!! and carries with it a grave significance) and "Evil." This has to do with the philosophical concept of Physiognomy. Physiognomy is from the Greek "Physios"(body) and "Gnomon" (to know). Physiognomy is thus "If you know the body, then you know the soul." Or: Things look as they seem. So a beautiful, or "fair" thing should both "seem" to be fair, and will be Good rather than Evil (of course... Tolkien does invert this with a few characters, most obviously Morgoth and Sauron, who could appear Fair, yet remain Evil - note that in both cases those who were attuned to looking beyond appearances could easily see the reality of both despite their appearances. And, on the opposite side, we have Gimli, or, indeed, any Dwarf, who is supposed to be rather "ugly" appearing, when compared to an Elf, yet who is "Good")... Thus... The choice of words Tolkien uses can often carry more information than just their meaning.

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