It is possible that I got into this entire business because of my curiosity about the word “grim”.  It’s an uncommon word.  It’s a humble, one-syllable word.  It evokes in me a sense of the color grey although I find only one close pairing of those words: 09.053 shadow grey and grim!  I wondered who was described as grim, and had a vague sense that it was related in Tolkien’s usage to kingship.  Here’s our little table of who and what are described as grim in The Hobbit.

  • The Misty Mountains:  01.082 Far over the misty mountains grim
  • Thror and Thrain:  01.124 They looked very grim but they said very little.
  • Gandalf:  01.132 and grimly,
  • Mirkwood:  08.078 The forest was grim
  • Thranduil: 09.006 and though he looked grimly at them,
  • Shadow: 09.053 Stoops in shadow grey and grim!
  • The Lonely Mountain: 11.001
  • Balin: 11.007
  • Bilbo: 12.008
  • Bard:
    • 14.006 said another with a grim voice.
    • 14.009 But the grim-voiced fellow ran hotfoot to the Master.
    • 14.013 if it had not been for the grim-voiced man
    • 14.018 grim-voiced
    • 14.018 and grim-faced,
    • 15.020 he is a grim man but true.
    • 15.046 and grim of face,
    • 15.049 and grimly spoken;
    • 16.032 asked Bard grimly.
  • Thorin:
    • 15.059 So grim had Thorin become,
    • 17.019 said Thorin grimly.
  • Dain’s troops
    • 16.005 Though they are a grim folk,
    • 16.031 and has at least five hundred grim dwarves with him –
    • 17.031 and their faces were grim.
  • Some men of Beorn’s line: 18.051 and some were grim men

Not all the grim folk are kings, but all the kings are grim.

Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that it’s an Old English word meaning fierce and severe, adding the connotation of ‘gloomy’ in the 12th century.  Its Proto-Indo-European root may be related to “thunder”, and I’ve certainly known more than one person of grim countenance to be described in stormy terms.

Harper, Douglas. “Grim”.  Online Etymology Dictionary. Web.

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s