A common word — and I would say vital to the imagery of this tale! Along with Blacken and Blackness and Dark, I am spotting some very cool patterns. How about you?

I acknowledge the terrible, hurtful problems with associating “blackness” with spiritual or ethical void. Let the conversation continue. And may I recommend a great book?

Oh, my sweet goodness! This word has the most beautiful entry I’ve ever seen in the OED!!!

Of the darkest colour possible, that of soot, coal, the sky on a moonless night in open country,

“black, adj. and n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2021, Accessed 2 December 2021.

• 1.007 and immense black boots.
• 2.086 So they got a great black pot,
• 4.019 Clap! Snap! the black crack!
• 5.127 Though he was only a black shadow
• 6.045 and over the black tops of those growing lower down
• 6.066 black in the moonlight,
• 6.078 fat melts, and bones black
• 6.082 and down they came like huge black shadows.
• 6.085 a red twinkle on the black floor;
• 6.087 moonlit spikes of rock sticking out of black shadows.
• 7.022 sometimes he is a huge black bear,
• 7.027 on their deep black bodies
• 7.034 Standing near was a huge man with a thick black beard
• 7.038 with his bushy black eyebrows.
• 7.093 he put Beorn’s big black chair
• 7.102 there black and dark lay boulders stark
• 7.12 till he dreamed a dream of hundreds of black bears
• 7.126 black and strong
• 7.134 or waiting for them like a black
• 7.151 won’t need me to tell you tales of that black sorcerer.
• 8.003 There were black squirrels
• 8.005 so black that you really could see nothing.
• 8.006 and black moths,
• 8.006 black as a top-hat,
• 8.008 and it was black,
• 8.021 and with a piece of stick fended off the little black boat
• 8.042 they were a dark dark velvety black
• 8.043 He looked at the ‘black emperors’
• 8.072 in black smokes.
• 8.076 and his sword-blade was stained black.
• 8.081 when he noticed a place of dense black shadow ahead of him,
• 8.081 black even for that forest,
• 8.129 as evening wore to black night;
• 11.008 and again a black
• 11.021 over the wide lands to the black wall of Mirkwood,
• 11.03 nearly coal black,
• 12.007 in a pale sky barred with black
• 12.029 and black rock-shadows danced.
• 13.008 In fact so black was it
• 13.023 when a black shape swooped at him,
• 14.002 for the breeze was from the black East
• 14.014 with leaping shadows of dense black at their feet.
• 14.022 Black arrow!
• 14.023 The black arrow sped straight from the string,
• 14.028 his black hair hung wet over his face
• 16.007 The sky was black
• 17.04 A black cloud hurried over the sky.
• 17.048 black with a hurrying multitude.
• 17.048 black and red,
• 17.05 The rocks were stained black with goblin blood.
• 17.053 They had only stemmed the first onslaught of the black tide.
• 19.036 in black


This sound-play word has a bursting, sudden feel to it, and I rather love that it’s in the song the goblins sang about the snapping shut of the black crack…

• 1.100 till Bilbo shut his mouth tight with a snap.
• 4.017 The crack closed with a snap,
• 4.019 Clap! Snap! the black crack!
• 4.022 The walls echoed to the clap, snap!
• 5.130 his hands snapped on thin air,
• 6.028 just as it snapped to.
• 6.058 A wolf snapped at his cloak as he swung up,
• 6.064 biting and snapping
• 8.022 looking at the snapped painter that was still dangling from it.
• 8.093 snapping its cords,
• 8.103 nippers and spinners snapping,
• 11.037 Snap!
• 12.074 he snapped.
• 12.100 and it closed with a snap
• 14.013 and snapped


It’s time to separate out this very lovely sound from similar ones in our text. Reduplicatives are very simply sounds which have been duplicated for sonorous effect. I call my dog “Sgiob-Sgiob” when I suddenly need two syllables to make a minor-third calling sound. We hear it a lot used with children learning to speak, as well.

The roll-roll-roll repetition here both suits the syllables to the beat of the work song and to mimic the sound of the action described thereby.

• 09.049 roll-roll-rolling down the hole!

Ha! Ha!

A natural exclamation which OED tells us is present in most modern Romance and all Germanic languages. As “Ha!”, it was not present in Old English, but “Ha! Ha!” was.

• 3.015 ha! ha!
• 3.016 ha! ha!
• 3.017 ha! ha!
• 12.066 Ha! Ha! You admit the ‘us” laughed Smaug.

A burst of song like laughter in the trees

[03.013] “Hmmm! it smells like elves!” thought Bilbo, and he looked up at the stars. They were burning bright and blue. Just then there came a burst of song like laughter in the trees:

[03.014] O! What are you doing,
And where are you going?
Your ponies need shoeing!
The river is flowing!
O! tra-la-la-lally
here down in the valley!

[03.015] O! What are you seeking,
And where are you making?
The faggots are reeking,
The bannocks are baking!
O! tril-lil-lil-lolly
the valley is jolly,
ha! ha!

[03.016] O! Where are you going
With beards all a-wagging?
No knowing, no knowing
What brings Mister Baggins
And Balin and Dwalin
down into the valley
in June
ha! ha!

[03.017] O! Will you be staying,
Or will you be flying?
Your ponies are straying!
The daylight is dying!
To fly would be folly,
To stay would be jolly
And listen and hark
Till the end of the dark
to our tune
ha! ha!


I am fascinated! To think of how the sounds of communication mattered to Tolkien… but look!

And to my Word Fans who have noticed the squall, flurry, whirlwind, or gust of words in the last two days, tomorrow morning we get a treat toward which I have been rushing!

• 3.017 to our tune
• 13.034 in tune.


Oooooh, the ends of worms!

• 1.001 filled with the ends of worms
• 1.003 in the end.
• 1.005 and there they remained to the end of their days.
• 1.013 By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.
• 1.092 Gandalf struck a blue light on the end of his magic staff,
• 2.019 To the end of his days
• 2.025 before you get to the journey’s end.
• 2.034 They decided in the end
• 2.079 all on fire at one end;
• 2.079 and Bert got that end
• 2.080 And so the fight ended.
• 2.086 In the end they decided to mince them fine
• 2.107 and made an end of them.
• 3.010 but they seemed no nearer to the end of the search
• 3.017 Till the end of the dark
• 3.033 if we ever get to the end of it.
• 4.001 and led nowhere or to bad ends;
• 4.008 The end of their argument was
• 4.012 and by its light they explored the cave from end to end.
• 4.012 and by its light they explored the cave from end to end.
• 4.013 At one end there was room for the ponies;
• 4.024 and dragged them to the far end of the cavern
• 4.024 with little Bilbo tugging at the end of the row.
• 4.038 at the end of the line,
• 5.009 The tunnel seemed to have no end.
• 5.012 so there their road ended
• 5.014 and at the end of his way
• 5.038 Ends life, kills laughter.
• 5.074 but he did not feel at all sure how the game was going to end,
• 6.020 ended Bilbo;
• 6.080 That would have been the end of him,
• 6.088 The flight ended only just
• 6.100 So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountains.
• 7.007 till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!’
• 7.009 in at the end of this tale
• 7.010 and near the end of the stony ford.
• 7.066 or it will be supper-time before it is ended.’
• 7.093 while at the far end
• 7.117 ended Gandalf, and he sat a long while silent.
• 7.128 the dragon was waiting at the end.
• 7.130 was overgrown and disused at the eastern end
• 7.142 Think of the treasure at the end,
• 8.004 and it seemed to offer even less hope of any ending.
• 8.017 and on the end of the longest
• 8.040 Is there no end
• 8.042 In the end he poked his head
• 8.043 he could see no end to the trees
• 8.050 without any great hope of ever getting to the end
• 8.057 In the end,
• 8.080 In the end he made
• 8.091 I’ll soon put an end to that,’
• 8.108 But there were still five dwarves hanging at the end of the branch
• 8.109 Bilbo immediately went to the end
• 8.116 In the end Bilbo could think of no plan
• 9.003 and at the far end were gates before the mouth of a huge cave
• 9.017 in the end,
• 9.035 In the end,
• 9.037 as they could not easily be opened at the end without a deal of noise,
• 9.061 and was walled at the eastern end
• 9.063 for now we are drawing near the end of the eastward journey
• 9.063 in the end by his wet footsteps
• 10.001 The trees ended.
• 10.003 and little used end
• 10.004 in the end by the only road that was any good.
• 10.006 but it was so long that its northerly end,
• 10.006 At the southern end
• 10.014 for hours on end –
• 10.030 at the lower end
• 10.041 they will all come to a bad end,
• 10.041 in the end.
• 10.042 At the end of a fortnight
• 11.001 At the end of the third day,
• 11.004 They knew that they were drawing near to the end of their journey,
• 11.004 and that it might be a very horrible end.
• 11.005 which ended
• 11.008 but they went on beyond the end of the southern spur,
• 11.012 They were at the end of their journey,
• 11.012 from the end of their quest.
• 11.014 but at its inner end a flat wall rose up that
• 11.027 in the end.
• 12.007 to some distant end
• 12.012 and you can picture him coming to the end of the tunnel,
• 12.030 That’ll be the end of our poor beasts!’
• 12.054 I came from the end of a bag,
• 12.062 You’ll come to a bad end,
• 12.070 and to keep his end up,
• 12.071 and a nasty end.
• 12.079 but his mistake at the end shook him into better sense.
• 12.090 was more likely to end
• 12.091 and you can trust him to guess where the other end of the tunnel is.
• 12.092 Why has not Smaug blocked the lower end,
• 13.002 But they found that the upper end of the tunnel
• 13.003 This is the end.
• 13.005 when I knew there was a dragon at the other end,
• 13.015 just where he had left them at the end of the tunnel.
• 13.016 in the end,
• 13.039 what the end of it all would be.
• 13.046 at the further end,
• 14.002 at the far end of the lake,
• 14.008 and the northern end of the lake turned golden.
• 14.024 And that was the end of Smaug and Esgaroth,
• 14.044 at the end of the lake
• 16.045 Things are drawing towards the end now,
• 17.037 in the end it must come to unhappy blows.’
• 17.048 round the spur’s end
• 17.060 some last blast of magic before the end.
• 17.061 and all the rest come to a bad end;
• 18.018 if it must end so;
• 18.037 In the end he would only take two small chests,
• 18.043 and round its northern end
• 18.054 and even dragons have their ending!’
• 19.028 As all things come to an end,
• 19.037 and in the end to save time Bilbo had to buy back
• 19.040 he remained very happy to the end of his days,
• 19.044 The old Master had come to a bad end.


It turns out that the “t” in “listen” is a muddling up error from the verb “list, to be pleasing.” It doesn’t belong there. Bless.

• 2.108 listening to the trolls making plans for roasting them
• 3.017 And listen and hark
• 3.031 and not much to listen to;
• 5.010 when he listened hard,
• 5.112 and gurgling sound horrible to listen to.
• 6.004 He stopped and listened.
• 6.063 This was dreadful talk to listen to,
• 6.064 listening to their growling
• 6.094 As Bilbo listened to the talk of Gandalf
• 7.095 The dwarves listened
• 8.001 and listened.
• 8.071 and listening for a while,
• 9.019 listening to the talk of the king’s servants,
• 10.003 As he listened to the talk of the raftmen
• 12.082 listening to all
• 12.083 I believe he is listening,
• 12.090 All the while they talked the thrush listened,
• 12.098 he was only half listening to them.
• 13.008 and listened,
• 13.042 listening
• 15.004 as if to listen;
• 15.004 and again he listened.
• 15.018 and listen to the raven’s news.
• 15.020 If you will listen to my counsel,
• 16.047 without listening to the old dwarf’s thanks
• 17.001 asking whether Thorin would now listen to another embassy,
• 17.016 and listen first to what he has to say!’
• 19.005 and listen,