[09.055] you cannot count friends that are all packed up in barrels.
[06.051] ‘What shall we do, what shall we do!’ he cried. ‘Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!’ he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say ‘out of the frying-pan into the fire’ in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.
Richard Blackwelder collected some of his favorite wise sayings in “Tolkien Phraseology”, a booklet companion to his thesaurus. In honor of his method, I will share a few tidbits I found as I meandered this path.
[05.008] Hobbits are not quite like ordinary people; … they have a fund of wisdom and wise sayings that men have mostly never heard or have forgotten long ago.
Blackwelder, Richard E. Tolkien Phraseology: A Companion to A Tolkien Thesaurus Tolkien Archives Fund, Marquette University, 1990. Print.
Well, gosh. I observed but not out loud that “gl-” does have a lot to do with visual imagery – glimpse, glimmer, glitter.
This week among other things I am upgrading several concordance entries from “brief” (tagged just so) to having some kind of commentary. I ran up against “gloat”, looked it up a bit pro forma, and lo and behold, “gloat” does not mean what I thought it meant. It is a visual imagery word.
Today I am doing a mini-lesson on the “gl-” words! In a couple of hours, you should be able to follow this “gl-” tag to see what we can see! Please note that I explored these words this morning in reverse alphabetical order, so to follow my stream of thought you should begin with “glum” and work your way to “glade” in the tag list. “Glimpse”, “glimmer”, and “gleam” I had done way back in May, not thinking of this little exploration.
Douglas Anderson notes in his annotation to The Hobbit that the dwarf names come (directly or by rhyming with something direct) from the Old Norse poem “Voluspá”, part of the Poetic Edda. Anderson includes the relevant passage from the poem and short discussion.
My own theory on why Tolkien chose these names is quite simple: when one is telling the children an exciting story, one uses the first names to spring into mind, like Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. So much the better if they rhyme. Ask my kids sometime about the adventures of Mrs. Oliphaunt, a royal elephant in India, and her friends Niobe, Marissa, and Louise. Backward alphabet to the rescue.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Annotated Hobbit. Revised and expanded edition annotated by Douglas A. Anderson. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston. Print.
I had the great pleasure of talking with Tech Support about the graph I shared on July 10th:
Tech Support made a few interpretations –
- Clearly Bilbo’s native language of Westron is perfectly suited to hobbit life and has many specific words relevant to the Shire and the hosting of tea-parties that English simply can’t translate and hyphenated words must do to cover the inadequacy.
- British English is plenty concerned with hunger and sogginess and dimness, so the Mirkwood scene was directly translatable into common English words.
- He hazards a guess that Westron is agglutinative, that it is a more parochial and conservative language than a language that has reached the “modern” stage.
Shout-out to Mark Rosenfelder whose Language Construction Kit moved Tech Support from actively resisting the conventions of grammar (as nine-year-olds are wont to do) to giving Mama grammar lessons so she can do her thesis work.