Bilbo

I had meant to leave the names alone for now, the words which Tolkien invented for the work, as that is the prerogative of every author.  Tolkien’s particularly gifted and fantastically expert touch with onomastics also means that the names he invented have been discussed and studied by folks far more scholarly than I am, and I wish to focus on more humble words.

Then this shot across my bows in the course of my professional life:

 A popular skill game in the 18th century it features a wooden ball cup game and the more challenging aspect of catching the hole in the ball on the end of the stick. Once you have mastered the bilbo any number of amazing possibilities may be opened to you.

Jas. Townsend & Son (op. cit) is a high-quality, well-researched company purveying toys, clothing, and other oddments to 18th-century American colonial re-enactors.

Update from the OED: Bilbo is a way of spelling a sword of “Bilbao”, Spain, compare Toledo or Damascus blades, and “Bilbo” was often the name of such a sword, especially as worn by a swashbuckler, or the swashbuckler himself who bears one.  For attestation we are given the phrase “bilbo’s the word” thusly: “1693   W. Congreve Old Batchelour iii. i. 24   Bilbo’s the Word, and Slaughter will ensue.”  It is also, in meaning two, an iron bar (possibly also of Bilbao steel) to which many sliding ankle shackles may be attached.

Aside from the fact that Tolkien read absolutely everything ever and probably knew the Congreve quote, we are certain that he encountered this word because Shakespeare used it and I’m certain that every syllable of Shakespeare passed in front of Tolkien’s eyes. “1602   Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor iii. v. 102   Crammed like a good bilbo, in the circomference Of a pack, Hilt to point.”

Prisoner and bold adventurer and rural, parochial amusement.  My admiration cannot be adequately expressed; my eyes are growing misty as I type.  Links to scholarly papers on this word will be welcome in the Comments.

The name “Bilbo” or the possessive “Bilbo’s” appears 555 times in the text of The Hobbit.

“bilbo, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 3 June 2015.

“bilbo, n.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 3 June 2015.

Townsend, Jas. & Son, Inc. “Bilbo” Catalogue 35. Web.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s