Just to round out the charts which support my current thoughts about the spoken word. We are speaking here of Trolls (2.043), Wargs (6.060 and 6.070), Beorn to the ponies (7.092), probably Westron (12.015), Thrushes (12.084), Roäc speaking Westron (15.014), and Dain’s herald-messengers, presumably in Westron in a high register, closer to the language mentioned in 12.015 (17.033).

• 2.043 not to mention their language,
• 6.060 in the dreadful language of the Wargs.
• 6.070 in their horrible language,
• 7.092 in a queer language
• 12.015 since Men changed the language that they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful.
• 12.084 of understanding their language,
• 15.014 for he used ordinary language and not bird-speech
• 17.033 and rather old-fashioned language of such occasions,


My goodness, will you look at this! “Speak” only toddles along and then picks up at Chapter 10!

• 1.089 Let Thorin speak!’
• 1.122 not to speak of the most marvellous
• 1.141 not to speak of getting inside the door?
• 2.028 Then they came to lands where people spoke strangely,
• 2.084 who thought it was Bert that had spoken.
• 2.106 William never spoke
• 4.003 they had spoken gaily of the passage of the mountains,
• 5.018 (who always spoke to himself through never having anyone else to speak to).
• 5.018 (who always spoke to himself through never having anyone else to speak to).
• 6.06 He spoke to them
• 6.082 to whom Gandalf had now spoken.
• 7.018 The Somebody I spoke of –
• 7.095 They spoke most of gold
• 8.133 with the old quarrel I have spoken of.
• 9.031 Gandalf spoke true,
• 10.007 he heard the elves speak of
• 10.011 not to speak of a greater allowance of air.
• 10.025 who return at last to our own as spoken of old.
• 10.033 I speak to the Master
• 10.033 spoken of old.
• 10.038 and spoke confidently of the sudden death of the dragon
• 10.039 and even after that his speeches at banquets were limited to
• 10.042 So he spoke to the Master
• 10.044 spoken of old.
• 11.004 and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished.
• 11.015 they spoke fragments of broken spells of opening,
• 11.019 They spoke low
• 12.001 until at last Thorin spoke:
• 12.044 Then Smaug spoke.
• 12.064 But plucking up courage he spoke again.
• 13.001 and little they spoke.
• 13.002 Thorin spoke:
• 13.033 They spoke aloud,
• 13.034 but he spoke of it yet to no one.
• 13.041 You speak the truth!’
• 13.064 The bridge that Balin had spoken of
• 14.033 and spoke very loud
• 14.036 At length he spoke again:
• 14.038 Men spoke of the recompense for all their harm
• 15.005 but I cannot follow the speech of such birds,
• 15.02 I have spoken.’
• 15.048 Is not that a matter of which we may speak?
• 15.048 I would speak for him
• 15.049 and grimly spoken;
• 15.053 and if you would speak with me again,
• 15.056 we speak unto Thorin Thrain’s son Oakenshield,
• 16.001 and now Thorin spoke
• 16.003 All the same he did not speak of it,
• 16.024 and then you will let me speak to your chiefs
• 17.009 No one spoke for a long while.
• 17.019 and spoke over the wall.
• 18.007 What voice is it that speaks among the stones?’
• 19.005 Gandalf it was who spoke,


All this time and I have not done the word “word”? Goodness! Why that huge gap between chapters 1 and 10? Let’s look at some other “word” words as well to see what’s going on.

• 1.028 without a word of explanation?
• 1.097 if I have overheard words that you were saying.
• 10.027 and let us have no more words,
• 11.020 remembering Bilbo’s words long ago at the unexpected party
• 12.015 There are no words left to express his staggerment,
• 12.024 Roused by these words
• 12.047 even though he did not believe a word of it.
• 12.089 who have had words with the likes of Smaug.
• 12.095 The talk turned to the dragon’s wicked words
• 13.027 though the only word they could catch was ‘help!’
• 14.034 The result of his words was
• 14.034 and bitter words were shouted from many sides;
• 14.035 Why waste words
• 14.035 He thought of the Master’s words,
• 14.036 This is no time for angry words, Master,
• 14.036 though after a while I may think again of your words
• 15.015 for word has gone out that Smaug is dead!’
• 15.017 and we may trust his words.
• 15.049 Now these were fair words
• 15.054 We will give you time to repent your words.
• 16.003 Bilbo heard these words
• 17.014 he shouted at a loss for words,
• 17.018 in word than
• 17.035 so after angry words the dwarf-messengers retired
• 18.017 and I would take back my words
• 18.035 I should wish that the words of Thorin,
• 18.039 but words stuck
• 19.006 for he overheard the words of the wizard to Elrond.
• 19.024 and the words of a year ago –
• 3.025 Also he would have liked to have a few private words
• 3.038 Thorin pondered these words.
• 5.041 in the usual words.
• 6.014 in spite of Gandalf’s words,
• 7.016 because carrock is his word for it.
• 7.022 and in the name of all wonder don’t mention the word furrier
• 7.022 nor rug, cape, tippet, muff, nor any other such unfortunate word!
• 7.123 You must forgive my not taking your word.
• 7.123 you would take the word of no one that you did not know
• 7.128 But their spirits sank at his grave words,
• 7.153 But he could not resist the temptation to have the last word.
• 8.072 in the middle of a word.
• 8.081 but he could make out many of the words that they said.
• 8.133 and also he was determined that no word of gold or jewels
• 8.142 and would not say another word.
• 9.013 and to have a word with the chief of the dwarves.
• 9.015 nor before Thorin gave the word.
• 9.031 Upon my word!’


We already have Mountain-root, yet here is the humble component. Four of these seven refer to the roots of mountains rather than trees (and none to simple grass). I am fascinated.

• 3.010 Bilbo’s pony began to stumble over roots
• 5.012 down at the very roots of the mountain.
• 5.026 What has roots as nobody sees,
• 8.030 his hands slipping off the slimy roots at the edge,
• 9.059 and there for a while they stuck against some hidden root.
• 12.012 right at the Mountain’s root.
• 12.096 beneath the roots of the Mountain,


Another word that is missing during the war! All sorts of people live there…

• 1.007 hung down below his waist,
• 3.008 and they looked down surprised to see trees below them
• 3.011 They saw a valley far below.
• 4.002 laid out behind them far below.
• 4.003 “The summer is getting on down below,”
• 4.005 where they smashed among the trees far below,
• 4.021 Below, my lad!
• 4.032 when we invited these creatures to come below;
• 5.01 drops drip-drip-dripping from an unseen roof into the water below;
• 6.004 and there were dells below the level of the path overhung with bushes
• 6.04 and started other pieces below them slithering
• 6.04 and below them seemed on the move,
• 6.041 from the deeper darker forests of the valleys below.
• 6.041 and the pine-roots far below.
• 6.059 with wolves all round below waiting for you,
• 6.064 with wolves all round on the ground below.
• 6.067 a tiny spot far far below.
• 6.067 a mile below even
• 6.084 Now far below the goblins
• 6.085 Soon the light of the burning was faint below,
• 6.094 across the plains below.
• 7.005 and below them were trees that looked like oaks
• 7.151 and see the Long Marshes lying below you,
• 8.042 He could hear the dwarves shouting up at him from far below,
• 8.043 who were now simply stamping with impatience down below,
• 8.043 there was no food to go back to down below.
• 8.044 in the gloom below when he got there.
• 8.105 a good way below.
• 9.05 and was pushed over into the cold water some feet below.
• 9.05 thudding on top of ones below,
• 9.052 so as to let out the barrels as soon as they were all afloat below.
• 11.014 and were gazing down on to their own camp below.
• 11.014 could not be seen from below
• 11.016 beside them on to sharp rocks below;
• 11.017 hauling up what they needed from below with their ropes.
• 11.017 in the guard below,
• 11.028 some were exercising the ponies down below,
• 12.007 in the blackness below.
• 12.074 and below
• 12.096 in the hall below:
• 12.098 for any whisper of a movement from far below.
• 12.101 over the cliff into the valley below.
• 13.001 They would almost have welcomed sounds from below
• 13.008 not a sound stirred below.
• 18.003 in the rocks below.
• 18.021 could come at last to the help of the battle below.
• 19.01 Below it many elves were singing loud

What the goblins began to sing, or croak

Hooray! We have another one complete! To my surprise, while we have some reduplication (“ho, ho!” “work, work!” “pound, pound”), we do not have a refrain other than “my lad”. The notion that goblin vocabulary has so many different words (for violent acts and sounds, sure, but such variety!) suggests to us that the goblin dialect is not a pidgin, not a less-than vocabulary of a not-really-sentient race. And that makes me shudder.

[04.019] Clap! Snap! the black crack!
Grip, grab! Pinch, nab!
And down down to Goblin-town
You go, my lad!
[04.020] Clash, crash! Crush, smash!
Hammer and tongs! Knocker and gongs!
Pound, pound, far underground!
Ho, ho! my lad!
[04.021] Swish, smack! Whip crack!
Batter and beat! Yammer and bleat!
Work, work! Nor dare to shirk,
While Goblins quaff, and Goblins laugh,
Round and round far underground
Below, my lad!


Oh, friends.

This word goes away during the war, and rightly so. But it comes back. It comes back and, I believe significantly, it is one of three anchor concepts in the very last line.

‘Thank goodness!’ said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.


Gratitude, laughter and hospitality. I’m going to repeat what I said when we were discussing food words. I believe that Tolkien expressed what he knew about the effects of combat through Bilbo’s experience — and that the end of that tale is hope.

• 1.004 and laugh deep fruity laughs
• 1.004 and laugh deep fruity laughs
• 1.023 and laughing long but quietly.
• 1.048 and laughing.
• 2.032 and laughed most.
• 3.018 So they laughed
• 3.018 they would only laugh all the more if you told them so.
• 3.018 and laugh at them,
• 4.017 and laughed
• 4.021 While Goblins quaff, and Goblins laugh,
• 4.023 They all laughed
• 6.024 What did I tell you?’ said Gandalf laughing.
• 6.031 he laughed.
• 6.032 All the others laughed too.
• 6.052 You would have laughed
• 6.071 and laughed.
• 7.035 He laughed a great rolling laugh,
• 7.035 He laughed a great rolling laugh,
• 7.069 and burst into a chuckling laugh:
• 7.121 and laughed:
• 7.122 and set them all laughing with his funny stories;
• 7.149 he laughed.
• 8.058 and laughing merrily.
• 8.090 The others laughed.
• 8.106 I am afraid Bilbo actually laughed
• 9.024 laughed the chief of the guards.
• 9.025 and laugh merrily.
• 9.026 and laughing to himself for a while
• 9.039 A number of elves came laughing
• 9.044 and still less at being laughed at.
• 9.051 and have been laughing at him;
• 10.018 and laughed at the greybeards and gammers who said
• 10.018 and laughing by a fire
• 12.066 Ha! Ha! You admit the ‘us” laughed Smaug.
• 12.067 and Smaug laughed aloud.
• 12.069 or were they laughing
• 12.071 Then Smaug really did laugh –
• 12.080 Never laugh at live dragons,
• 13.038 How they would laugh on the Hill at home!
• 13.058 Come, come!’ said Thorin laughing –
• 17.036 Fools!’ laughed Bard,
• 18.043 and he laughed
• 19.048 said Bilbo laughing,


Friends, I could read and read the history and etymology of “Work” in the OED for days. It’s intricate, rich, adventurous, and Very Early Old English. If you’re looking for delicious holiday break reading, I strongly suggest reading the entry for “work” in the OED. The participle “Wrought” is concordanced elsewhere as well, because in those halcyon days I thought I would get to the end of the uncommon words and be finished with the project. Ha!

• 1.075 They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
• 1.123 Indeed they hardly know a good bit of work from a bad,
• 2.049 warming to his new work as he lifted it carefully out,
• 3.033 or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing,
• 4.021 Work, work! Nor dare to shirk,
• 4.021 Work, work! Nor dare to shirk,
• 4.025 and slaves that have to work till they die
• 4.025 and also not working with their own hands more than they could help;
• 5.076 working
• 6.014 but everyone said it was a very clever bit of work.
• 6.028 and worked up the best magic he could
• 6.061 especially to get food or slaves to work for them.
• 7.023 They work for him
• 8.111 the other dwarves were working at the rest of the captives,
• 8.133 His people neither mined nor worked metals or jewels,
• 9.023 I shall be hard at work tonight
• 9.047 Get on with the work!’
• 11.014 and upright as masons’ work,
• 11.019 Mining work,
• 12.013 gold wrought
• 12.035 that is warrior’s work,
• 12.063 and your job is to do all the dangerous work
• 12.096 for it was wrought of pure silver
• 13.037 wrought for some young elf-prince long ago.
• 13.048 still showing the fragments of old carven work within,
• 14.036 There is work to do.
• 15.026 and at such work the dwarves were still very skilled.
• 15.027 As they worked
• 15.027 So while the others went on with their work,
• 18.033 wrought and unwrought,


Old, old word from the 800s, attested in a psalter, all kinds of Germanic.

• 2.045 beats me –
• 4.021 Batter and beat! Yammer and bleat!
• 4.034 “Slash them! Beat them! Bite them! Gnash them!
• 4.041 The goblins just called it Beater,
• 4.048 “Biter and Beater!” they shrieked;
• 5.055 And beats high mountain down.
• 6.072 and beat,
• 6.072 and beat
• 6.082 the dark rush of their beating wings smote them to the floor
• 8.075 He beat the creature off with his hands –
• 8.115 the spiders were beaten off,
• 11.015 They beat on it,
• 12.017 His heart was beating
• 12.029 beating his great wings
• 14.011 beneath the awful beating of his wings.
• 17.059 were being slowly beaten down.
• 19.020 as the rain beat into his face.


It’s a word of obscure origin — with an original meaning of flapping violently with wings — and a great parallel word “swip”, to hit.

• 4.005 and the wind whipped the rain
• 4.021 Swish, smack! Whip crack!
• 4.022 for now the goblins took out whips
• 4.022 and whipped them with a swish, smack!,
• 4.023 and nearest to the whips)
• 4.023 and cracked their whips behind.