This beautiful word is a Tolkien back-formation from a rare spelling of the obsolete verb “whither”: to make a blustering sound or rage about in the manner of the wind. “Be-whither” – surround with confusing sounds and rush of energy – becomes “bewuthered”. Magnificent! Thanks to Alert Reader Grace who pointed out “Wuthering Heights” to the good of this entry!
“Bewuther” comes just as Gandalf raps on Bilbo’s door in Chapter 1 to introduce the last dwarves and incidentally obscure the mark he had made previously on that door.
[01.048] Bilbo rushed along the passage, very angry, and altogether bewildered and bewuthered – this was the most awkward Wednesday he ever remembered.
Not only are we just getting to know our prosaic little protagonist, but he’s having an awkward Wednesday. We’re thoroughly in the Children’s Story mode where things are more funny than scary. Tolkien plays with the sounds of the words because he’s telling the story out loud. He has invented a word which we absolutely understand as much because of its form as its context. “Be-” suggests that the feeling of bewutherment is an intense one. The W sound alliterates with “bewildered”, allowing us to assume that “wuthering” has as much to do with being lost as “wildering”.
- 01.048 and bewuthered –
“ˈwhither, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 9 May 2015.