Manny's Reviews > The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
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Dec 06, 2008

really liked it
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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If you want to know what I think of Peter Jackson's three Hobbit movies, look here, here and here.
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Reading Progress

01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-43 of 43) (43 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


message 5: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j 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.




Srikumar Krishna Iyer Totally agree with you... A new language learnt will take us to a new horizon & open many doors, which weren't visible(accessible?) earlier...
Thanks for sharing ur feeling.....


Neil Manny did you first read Tolkien's books in English?


Manny Neil wrote: "Manny did you first read Tolkien's books in English?"

Absolutely. In fact I have never read them in any other language.


Neil Manny wrote: "Neil wrote: "Manny did you first read Tolkien's books in English?"

Absolutely. In fact I have never read them in any other language."


What hooked me was the epic use of archaic language he uses throughout his works, I wonder if they would translate well, maybe they would with another Germanic language, I only speak English, though I've often wondered about it


Manny I must look at a French translation! Now I have to know too :)


Neil Manny wrote: "I must look at a French translation! Now I have to know too :)"

Yay, post your findings:)


Manny Start by looking here.


Robert I find it no fun at all to acquire a new language; I just find it impossible. I think it would be immense fun to have acquired a new language, though. E.g. English...


bileys little stupid kindle you're right about that Robert. I have a Japanese teacher who randomly starts speaking in japanese and im just like ...
the hell?


Robert Bails_Williams wrote: "you're right about that Robert. I have a Japanese teacher who randomly starts speaking in japanese and im just like ...
the hell?"


Is your Japanese teacher Japanese?


bileys little stupid kindle sorry Robert, she isn't. also isnt that racist but still, i dont really care


message 17: by Tatiana (last edited Mar 17, 2015 08:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tatiana I've started reading El Hobbit (in Spanish) and it's giving me a whole new feeling for the story. It's all new to me again, in some way. Of course it's much slower going for me, since my Spanish is only so-so (I've been studying it on duolingo for about 7 months now) and part of it may have to do with just how much more you notice when you read slower. But part of it is the language itself, which is making the story fresh for me again. It's pretty awesome! After El Hobbit, I plan to read the whole Señor de los Anillos trilogy.


Manny Hey, I'm learning Spanish too! Though I decided to read Persépolis instead, which is also working pretty well.

I seriously considered El Hobbit... actually got as far as taking it down from the shelf at the bookstore and leafing through it before putting it back. An impressive near-coincidence!


Cecily Manny wrote: "An impressive near-coincidence!"

And on such things entire mumbo-jombo belief systems are built...


Manny As Lea Thompson says in Howard the Duck, everything happens for a purpose!


Cecily I'm sceptical.


Manny What?!

Look, if Howard hadn't been fetched from the Duck Planet by Dr Jenning's laser spectroscope, no one would have been there to save Earth from the Dark Overlord. I know you'll say it's just a story, but things like that happen all the time... it's really more a parable. How much proof do you need?


Cecily Manny wrote: "How much proof do you need?"

You're persuasive, of course, but I think I need to talk to the Duck.


message 24: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy I thought everything happened for a porpoise. I've given up trying to assimilate.


Manny Cecily, you must have been born from a really hard-boiled egg.


bileys little stupid kindle what is this about eggs and ducks?


Manny Bails_Williams wrote: "what is this about eggs and ducks?"

Bails, you have to see Howard the Duck . It's a masterpiece of bad taste. Or if you're in a hurry, save time by just checking out the ten most disturbing moments...


Cecily Bails_Williams wrote: "what is this about eggs and ducks?"

Which came first?


Robert Cecily wrote: "Bails_Williams wrote: "what is this about eggs and ducks?"

Which came first?"


Eggs.


bileys little stupid kindle ok thanks manny. Will look it up on YouTube today.


Miquel Reina I think that is my favourite book of all time! ;)


message 32: by Nate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nate Yeah, I think I read somewhere that Tolkien based a lot of his languages on Norwegian. But you have a lot of patience to wait 40 years for an answer! I pretty much only thought of the question as I was reading your review.


message 33: by Manny (last edited Apr 26, 2017 10:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny He clearly uses Norwegian/Swedish/Old Norse/Old English for the Westron tongue and the language of the Rohirrim. The language of the Sindarin is equally clearly based on Welsh. Quenya is supposed to be based on Finnish, but that's less obvious to me (perhaps because I know very little Finnish). Looking at the Wikipedia entry for Khuzdul, the language of the Dwarves, I see it's vaguely based on Hebrew.


Thomas Ray Tolkien said his interest in the stories was mainly linguistic.

The Sackville-Bagginses were the Bagginses' nemeses. Tolkien had a colleague, Sackville-West. I wonder whether Tolkien hated him, or whether naming the bad guys after him was good-natured.


Robert Manny wrote: "He clearly uses Norwegian/Swedish/Old Norse/Old English for the Westron tongue and the language of the Rohirrim. The language of the Sindarin is equally clearly based on Welsh. Quenya is supposed t..."

On Quenya and Finnish see:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Review and comments.


Manny The more I get to know about the linguistic aspects, the more impressed I become.

Today's discovery: he even invented a basic sign language (!) for the Dwarves. I do hope that some Deaf Tolkien-geek has taken the trouble to elaborate this. I would love to be able to sign "By Durin's beard!" or "There is a balrog in the West Hall".


Robert Manny wrote: "The more I get to know about the linguistic aspects, the more impressed I become.

Today's discovery: he even invented a basic sign language (!) for the Dwarves. I do hope that some Deaf Tolkien-g..."


"You shall not pass!"


Manny On thinking about it, there must be a full two-handed version and a reduced one-handed version suitable for a Dwarf holding a hammer or an axe.


Robert Manny wrote: "On thinking about it, there must be a full two-handed version and a reduced one-handed version suitable for a Dwarf holding a hammer or an axe."

You'd definitely want a single sign for "Balrog!" Having to spell it out would potentially cost lives.


Manny Yup, I think that's clear. And it would need to be a one-handed sign too.


message 41: by Nate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nate Manny wrote: "On thinking about it, there must be a full two-handed version and a reduced one-handed version suitable for a Dwarf holding a hammer or an axe."

According to https://dwarves-of-the-lonely-mountai... ,
"It is hindered if both hands are not free for use....But it is flexible enough that if a gesture normally requires two hands, a one-handed approximation is usually clear enough in context to be read correctly."

I've actually thought about making up something like this (a sign language so subtle no one knows you're using it) before, so it's pretty cool that Tolkien already has! Do you know if he actually made up the entire language, or just the concept of it?


Manny With anyone else, I'd be sure they'd just made up the concept and left it at that. With Tolkien, I'd say 50/50 that there's a series of unpublished A4 notebooks with hand diagrams, syntax wittily combining elements from Old Irish Sign Language and borrowings from Langue de Signes Française, and everything painstakingly adapted for short, stocky signers with beards and axes.


Robert Manny wrote: "With anyone else, I'd be sure they'd just made up the concept and left it at that. With Tolkien, I'd say 50/50 that there's a series of unpublished A4 notebooks with hand diagrams, syntax wittily c..."

Probably scribbled on the back of a bunch of Oxford exam scripts...


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