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Old 03-03-2003, 05:03 PM   #1
Shy Hobbit
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Question Leeches?

In Return of the King, at the part where Eowyn is believed to be dead, a soldier (I forget the characters name and don't have a book handy) asks them something like "Don't you have leeches?"

I don't understand that at all. Can someone help me out?
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Old 03-03-2003, 05:07 PM   #2
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Sting

Leeches is a archaic word for physician actually.

So the prince was simply asking if there was a doctor around.

[ March 03, 2003: Message edited by: Beren87 ]
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Old 03-03-2003, 05:16 PM   #3
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Yes, and leechcraft (also mentioned) is the practice of medicine.
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Old 03-03-2003, 05:26 PM   #4
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Sting

I wasn't aware that leech was a term for doctor, but I thought that it was said because in the middle ages, leeches were used in the practice of medicine and is still used for some treatments today.
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Old 03-03-2003, 05:31 PM   #5
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Sting

That's true, but considering the quote was

Quote:
Are there no leeches among you?
Then I would take it to be the archaic meaning.
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Old 03-03-2003, 05:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
... in the middle ages, leeches were used in the practice of medicine and is still used for some treatments today.
Quite correct. In medieval times, leeches were used as a form of medical treatment. I believe (though I am no expert) that this is linked with the belief that the body was made up of four kinds of humour (or fluid), which were believed to influence a person's health. So, an excess of one type of humour was thought to cause disease and it was believed that a person could be healed by applying leeches to the body to draw out the excessive humour. It is because of this practice that doctors became known as "leeches", although I would imagine that the reference in the book is to the treatment rather than the practitioner.

Incidentallly, it is true that leeches are still used in medical treatment today [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img] - although I think that there is now more of a scientific basis for it.

Edit: Actually, having now seen the quote, I agree with Beren87 - the reference seems to be to the practitioner, not the practice.

[ March 03, 2003: Message edited by: The Saucepan Man ]
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Old 03-03-2003, 06:44 PM   #7
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Funny, Saucepan, Did you attain you knowledge from a PBS special a while back on "Red Gold"? Probably not, but it is a very interesting doccumentary on the importance of blood through the ages.

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Old 03-04-2003, 09:04 AM   #8
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Sting

Thanks, all. It makes alot more sense now. I didn't see how leeches would help determine whether or not a person is dead or alive, but when used in terms of referring to a doctor, it's perfectly clear.
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Old 09-25-2006, 05:23 AM   #9
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Pipe Better late than never

The English term derives from the Old English word lce, hence lcedom ('treatment, cure') and lcecrft (the practice of medicine). For the sake of comparison, one of the Old English words for the body was līc, whence derives the modern English word 'litch'. The similarity of the words for a physician and a leech (not to mention the association of the two) led to their being confused in Middle English, hence the confusing double meaning of the archaic English term.
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Old 09-25-2006, 05:26 AM   #10
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Well, as far as I know, leeches would have been used to drain the blood from her broken arm. So I dont think an archaic meaning was intended.
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Old 09-25-2006, 06:07 AM   #11
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Interesting stuff!

I always assume that the modern term 'leech' or 'to leech' as in to scrounge or extract too much money out of someone came from the creature the 'leech' as it sucks blood. However, medieval doctors were also known as 'quacks' as they often peddled less than useful 'cures' - maybe the term 'leech' as in someone who extracts too much money from people could also come from the other meaning?
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Old 09-25-2006, 06:22 AM   #12
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I guess the quote comes from the movie, not the book? I can't say that I remember it. But speaking of language and leeches, the leech used in medicine (in swedish called "blood-leech") is named Hirudo medicinalis in latin, a proof of its use to cure.

Nowadays, it's use in medicine is mainly in surgery, to improve a venous conguestion when a transplant is performed for example.

That was some unuseful facts. If the question was "Are there no leeches among you?", it seems as if it was the doctors the soldier was asking for. I can't imagine that there were any worms in the armies of Men!
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Old 09-25-2006, 06:24 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ninja91
Well, as far as I know, leeches would have been used to drain the blood from her broken arm. So I dont think an archaic meaning was intended.
Leeches, as pointed out above, were primarily used to bleed patients, but not to relieve internal pressures. They were used to correct imbalances of the humours, which are entirely mythical complaints. Nobody would have thought of using a leech on Eowyn's broken arm.

Tolkien uses 'leech' and 'leechcraft' to mean 'physician' and 'medical practice' respectively at a number of points in LotR, notably in Theoden's words to Grima on casting him out of Edoras. As I mentioned above, the words for the parasitic swamp-dwelling invertebrate and a doctor were once completely separate, but merged before the modern English period. Tolkien's use of the older term is probably a reflection of his preference for 'real' English words: those which had derived from Old English. 'Doctor' and 'medicine' are borrowed terms.

To the best of my knowledge, the verb 'to leech' doesn't refer to doctors at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dictionary.com
leech (1)  /litʃ/
noun
1. any bloodsucking or carnivorous aquatic or terrestrial worm of the class Hirudinea, certain freshwater species of which were formerly much used in medicine for bloodletting.
2. a person who clings to another for personal gain, esp. without giving anything in return, and usually with the implication or effect of exhausting the other's resources; parasite.
3. Archaic. an instrument used for drawing blood.
verb (used with object)
4. to apply leeches to, so as to bleed.
5. to cling to and feed upon or drain, as a leech: His relatives leeched him until his entire fortune was exhausted.
6. Archaic. to cure; heal.
verb (used without object)
7. to hang on to a person in the manner of a leech: She leeched on to him for dear life.

[Origin: bef. 900; ME leche, OE lce; r. (by confusion with leech (2)) ME liche, OE lȳce; c. MD lieke; akin to OE lūcan to pull out, MHG liechen to pull]

Related forms
leechlike, adjective

Synonyms: bloodsucker; extortioner; sponger.

leech2  /litʃ/
noun Archaic.
a physician.

[Origin: bef. 1150; ME leche, OE lce; c. OS lāki, OHG lāhhi, Goth lēkeis; akin to ON lknir]
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Old 09-25-2006, 09:49 AM   #14
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Continuing what Squatter already cited

Quote:
Originally Posted by dictionary.com
Main Entry: leechcraft
Pronunciation: 'lEch-"kraft
Function: noun
: the art of healing : medical knowledge and skill

Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, 2002 Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary - Cite This Source
leechcraft

\Leech"craft`\ (-kr[.a]ft`), n. The art of healing; skill of a physician. [Archaic] --Chaucer.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
On-line Medical Dictionary - Cite This Source
leechcraft

leechcraft: in CancerWEB's On-line Medical Dictionary
Emphasis mine
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Old 09-25-2006, 10:08 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gothmog
I guess the quote comes from the movie, not the book? I can't say that I remember it.
No I believe it is the book.

Quote:
"Men of Rohan!" [Prince Imrahil] cried. "Are there no leeches among you? She is hurt, to the death maybe, but I deem that she let lives.
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Old 09-25-2006, 12:33 PM   #16
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Well, you are right, they are supposed to bleed patients, Squatter. Because she had a broken arm, didnt they need to bleed it? (it swells because of blood, not all pressure)
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Old 09-25-2006, 02:42 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mormegil
No I believe it is the book.
Yes, now I found it... If it's of any interest, it's translated as "srhelare" in my swedish LotR, and that means something like doctor, although it's an older word...
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Old 09-25-2006, 04:58 PM   #18
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I found it quite intresting. . . a weird word, but it makes sence.

"Wound healer" if I am not mistaken. . .
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Old 09-26-2006, 03:37 AM   #19
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Pipe Further thoughts

ninja91, the fact that we now know something to be an appropriate leechdom doesn't mean that it was common practice in medieval medicine.

It occurs to me that if Imrahil wanted leeches (the aquatic bloodsuckers), it seems a very odd way to ask for them to say: "Men of Rohan! Are there no leeches among you?" That would imply that some of the Men of Rohan were slimy invertebrates, which is at least impolitic. Besides, Imrahil knows better than to think that slapping on a few leeches would revive someone who is 'hurt, to the death maybe'.

I've had a few more thoughts on this since yesterday, which I hope may prove useful.

I think I was probably going too far to ascribe to Tolkien a preference for words derived from Old English. In this narrative context, speaking to the Men of Rohan, it would be more natural to use a Rohirric word for a physician. Since that language is represented by slightly modernised Old English in LotR, 'leech' and 'leechcraft' are the best words to use. There is also a certain amount of semantic politics going on here, since the more usual modern English terms are derived from Latin and carry overwhelmingly scientific overtones that are not compatible with the sort of society that Tolkien was depicting.

In English and Welsh (O'Donnell lecture, University of Oxford, 21 October 1955) Tolkien said:

Quote:
In Welsh there is not as a rule the discrepancy that there is so often in English between words of this sort [more long-winded and bookish words] and the words of full aesthetic life, the flesh and bone of the language. Welsh annealladwy, dideimladrwydd, amhechadurus, atgyfodiad, and the like are far more Welsh, not only as being analysable, but in style, than incomprehensible, insensibility, impeccable, or resurrection are English.
In other words, the division between scientific or cultivated language and that of everyday speech that is so evident in English is far less pronounced in Welsh. This was not always the case: a thousand years ago, English had its own words for (to pick examples at random) conjugation and medicine, but centuries of preference for Latin and Greek learning and French culture have driven a wedge between elevated and everyday speech; a separation which Tolkien clearly found distasteful. For the above reasons, I think it almost inevitable that he would choose to use a very old and yet perfectly sound word to stand in for physician, which has followed a contorted path into English from Greek, via Latin and Old French.
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Old 09-26-2006, 09:07 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rune Son of Bjarne
I found it quite intresting. . . a weird word, but it makes sence.

"Wound healer" if I am not mistaken. . .
Correct, Rune, that would be an exact translation.. I almost expected the word "helbrgdsgrare" wich is an even more obscure term sometimes used swedish. But we can discuss scandinavian language some other time Now back to the original discussion...

But if people aren't convinced by Squatter's proof and linguistic parallels, maybe a look into the different translations in different countries can shed some light to what the word is supposed to be? At least according to the translaters.
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