Manny's Reviews > The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
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May 10, 09

Read in January, 1966

I love the feeling of connectedness you get when you've wondered about something for a long time, and finally discover the answer. I had a great example of that yesterday. As I said in my review of The Lord of the Rings, for me Tolkien is all about language. I must have read The Hobbit when I was about 8, and even at that age I was fascinated by his made-up names. They sort of made sense, but not quite.

Then, when I was 21, I learned Swedish, and suddenly there were many things in Middle Earth that came into focus! Of course, the Wargs get their name from the Swedish varg, wolf. And "Beorn" is like björn, bear.

But I never figured out why Bilbo was teasing the spiders in Mirkwood by calling them "attercop". Now I know. It's an archaic English word related to the modern Norwegian word for spider, edderkopp. The Swedish word, spindel, comes from a different root. I've thought about that for over 40 years. See how much fun it is to acquire a new language?
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Robert I'm fascinated by philology but not equiped to pursue it. :-(


Tatiana Okay, so what about Tomnoddy? Of course, that's insulting to anyone. =)

I was amazed when I started learning Sindarin that almost all the names for things are just literal translations of their English names (or vice-versa, I mean). So like Aglarond means glittering cave, Legolas means Greenleaf, etc. I thought that was cool.

Also, I think all the words in the speech of the Eorlingas are actual Old English words, so we know a lot of those words now just from reading the LotR trilogy a gazillion times.

I remember being shocked when realizing a lot of the Fremen words from Dune are actually Arabic. It's nice to accidentally learn something from the real world too when you get involved in fiction. =)


Manny Tatiana wrote: "I remember being shocked when realizing a lot of the Fremen words from Dune are actually Arabic."

Tatiana: if you haven't already done so, you might want to take a look at my review of Dune, where I expand on this theme.




message 4: by Trice (last edited May 10, 2010 07:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Trice lol -- that question (origin of 'attercop') randomly popped into my head 2 days ago at which point I got distracted by daily life - thank you for answering it for me!

I love his personal history with languages, as well as what he does with them in his writing


Joel More fun language trivia - in the earlier editions, Tolkien referred to the High Wood Elves as "gnomes" because of the derivation from the Greek "gnosis," but changed because obviously what comes to mind is garish garden decorations.




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