Forest compounds

Tolkien uses nine “forest-” compound words, of which three are attested in OED – forest-floor, forest-path, and forest-road.

OED has  61 “forest-” compound words, by the way:

forest fire
forest marble
forest pathology
forest red gum
forest reserve
forest shrew
forest stream

“forest, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, Accessed 13 September 2017.

Elf compounds

In comparing the hyphenated words, I have reached the elf compounds.  OED attests all of the words below.  Only “elf-fire” and “elf-friend” overlap with the elf compounds of The Hobbit!

I am particularly intrigued by words of elven persons.  OED has the compound with folk, girl, kingdom, lady, queen, and woman, while The Hobbit has guard, host, king, lord, maiden, and prince.

Now… you know me, Word Fans.  I dug a little deeper.  “Elven” is a noun, obviously, meaning a female elf, like fox/fixin and monk/minchin.  In its second meaning, however, it is a combining appositive or attributive form:

 2. Comb. (referring to a kind of imaginary being in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien).

and Elf-king is attested therein.

To be thorough, “elvish” is the OED’s adjective for elf, also spelled “elfish”.  Not “elven”.  That’s pure JRRT.

elf-fire – found in The Hobbit
elf-friend – found in The Hobbit

“elf, n.1.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, Accessed 13 September 2017.

“elf-lock, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, Accessed 13 September

“ˈelf-shoot, v.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, Accessed 13 September 2017.

“ˈelf-shot, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, Accessed 13 September 2017.

“ˈelven, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, Accessed 13 September 2017.

“elvish, adj.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, Accessed 13 September 2017.

Ordinal Directions

We have no cases of “northeast” or that lot, but look at our capitalizations!

  • 07.130 and then bore to the north-west.
  • 10.002 Its nearest neighbours to the North-East
  • 11.003 They made north-west,
  • 13.053 at the South-West corner of the Mountain.’
  • 16.004 coming from the North-East.
  • 17.046 rolling away to the South-East;

Cardinal Directions

In order to wrestle properly with the hyphenated directions like North-east, I feel it necessary to first document our four cardinal directions in the work.  The directions are usually capitalized. I have emboldened those cases in which they are not – many of those instances are a direction of movement, we might substitute “northward”, but several are not.  They do cluster interestingly in Chapters 7 and 11.

  • 01.097 to the East of East
  • 01.105 You see that rune on the West side,
  • 01.114 We thought of going East,
  • 01.115 if I know anything about the roads East,’
  • 01.116 through the great cliff at the South of the Mountain,
  • 01.122 our family was driven out of the far North,
  • 01.122 who lived to the South,
  • 01.122 and the toy market of Dale was the wonder of the North.
  • 01.123 in the North in those days,
  • 01.123 with the dwarves flying south or getting killed,
  • 01.123 and came south.
  • 01.123 a noise like a hurricane coming from the North,
  • 01.140 Well, I should say that you ought to go East
  • 02.030 and mountains in the north.
  • 02.117 and jogged along again on the path towards the East.
  • 03.003 in the East
  • 03.007 to find the Last Homely House west of the Mountains.
  • 03.032 in the North.
  • 03.032 and heroes of the North for ancestors,
  • 03.035 very old swords of the High Elves of the West,
  • 04.002 in the West,04.004 when storms come up from East
  • 04.004 and West
  • 04.031 who live on the East side
  • 06.034 we are too far to the North,
  • 06.062 bold men had of late been making their way back into it from the South,
  • 07.011 Indeed we are now a good deal further east
  • 07.012 You are still some miles north of the path
  • 07.022 and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North.
  • 07.043 we were coming out of the Lands over West into these countries –
  • 07.045 It faced south
  • 07.055 away east beyond Mirkwood,’ put in Gandalf,
  • 07.055 that lies to the south of your country,
  • 07.094 in the West
  • 07.094 that lay outstretched far to North
  • 07.094 and South a day’s ride before them,
  • 07.094 barring their way to the East,
  • 07.100 The wind went on from West to East;
  • 07.100 The wind went on from West to East;
  • 07.117 except from the west over the river,
  • 07.117 on the east side of the Misty Mountains,
  • 07.130 at the east of his fenced lands
  • 07.130 they turned north
  • 07.130 to the south of his land.
  • 07.130 that joined the great river miles south of the Carrock.
  • 07.130 been far to the south of the Lonely Mountain,
  • 07.130 North of the Carrock
  • 07.130 for at a place a few days’ ride due north of the Carrock
  • 07.131 for a hundred miles north of the Carrock
  • 07.131 they will cross the river to the south
  • 07.131 Still you are safer going north,
  • 07.132 The sun had only just turned west when they started,
  • 07.133 in the East
  • 07.142 some pressing business away south;
  • 07.151 two hundred miles or so out of your way north,
  • 07.151 and twice that south.
  • 07.151 in the North
  • 07.151 in the South,
  • 07.151 high in the East,
  • 07.153 and rode down into the West.
  • 08.032 going by to the north of the path,
  • 08.131 They differed from the High Elves of the West,
  • 08.131 in the West.
  • 09.011 and in the lands to the East.
  • 09.018 and joined the Forest River some way further to the east,
  • 09.018 in the South,
  • 09.053 South away! and South away!
  • 09.061 and tubs away to the north bank,
  • 10.003 as the roads out of the East towards Mirkwood vanished
  • 10.003 that flowed east;
  • 10.003 in the North
  • 10.006 with another sweep towards the East
  • 10.007 that came up the great river from the South
  • 10.007 in the North was rich
  • 10.009 Soon men would come up from the South
  • 10.023 and Mr. Baggins who has travelled with us out of the West.’
  • 10.045 and off they went north up the lake
  • 11.006 to spy out the land to the South
  • 11.013 in the South
  • 11.013 Two of these here thrust forward west
  • 11.014 which turned north across the face of the Mountain.
  • 11.021 and stare away west through the opening,
  • 11.028 or out west through the narrow opening.
  • 11.029 As the sun turned west
  • 12.029 when Smaug came hurtling from the North,
  • 12.102 towards the west of the Mountain,
  • 12.104 and went away south
  • 13.024 Which is East, South, North, or West?’
  • 13.055 The river loops suddenly east
  • 13.065 and saw the wintry sun going downwards to the West.
  • 13.066 but backed to the North by a rocky face
  • 13.066 From that door there was a wide view East
  • 13.066 and South
  • 13.066 and West.
  • 13.071 They looked West
  • 13.071 and East there was nothing,
  • 13.071 and in the South there was no sign of the dragon,
  • 14.002 for the breeze was from the black East
  • 14.002 the Running River came down from the North.
  • 14.005 It is long since he went North.
  • 14.025 and drove it off to the West to scatter
  • 14.036 and go North with any that will follow me.’
  • 14.038 with which to buy rich things from the South;
  • 14.040 the news had passed west
  • 14.044 north to the Mountain.
  • 15.001 Their companies came flying from the South;
  • 15.014 in the South –
  • 15.015 and to Dale from South
  • 15.015 and East
  • 15.015 and West,
  • 15.021 in the mountains of the North,
  • 15.021 both west from here
  • 15.021 and east,
  • 15.028 and sent them back riderless to the South.
  • 15.029 away south
  • 15.033 That day the camp was moved to the east of the river,
  • 16.026 in the West
  • 17.031 The next day the wind shifted west,
  • 17.040 it came from the North,
  • 17.041 Bolg of the North is coming,
  • 17.044 for they resolved now to win the dominion of the North.
  • 17.044 and beneath the great mountain Gundabad of the North,
  • 17.044 in time of storm unawares upon the South.
  • 17.044 and came thus at last on a sudden from the North
  • 17.045 that struck south
  • 17.045 and east.
  • 17.048 to gain a view to the North.
  • 17.062 and a red sunset slashed the West.
  • 17.064 from all the eyries of the North.
  • 18.019 child of the kindly West.
  • 18.024 and such as fled south or west
  • 18.024 that three parts of the goblin warriors of the North
  • 18.043 to the north of the place where the Forest River ran out.
  • 19.006 in the south of Mirkwood.
  • 19.007 The North will be freed
  • 19.019 in the West before them,
  • 19.043 and from South and West,


I dedicate the entry for this common word to Professor Verlyn Flieger, in honor of her gracious inspiration to all scholars.  It’s a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, all of long lineage from Old English to Old Norse, but the OED says, ultimately, “of unknown origin”.

I am particularly enchanted by the use of the word in 07.022 – “In the name of all wonder…”  In Gandalf’s mind, at least, “all wonder” fits nicely into a phrase where we might call upon deity.

  • 01.017 Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties,
  • 01.046 and wondered what had happened,
  • 01.046 while he was wondering
  • 01.058 and was beginning to wonder
  • 01.122 and the toy market of Dale was the wonder of the North.
  • 01.125 I have often wondered about my father’s
  • 02.054 and wondering how to make owl-noises
  • 02.072 who was wondering where
  • 03.020 Most astonishing wonderful!
  • 03.036 I wonder?” said Thorin
  • 05.001 he wondered if he had;
  • 05.008 and recover wonderfully from falls
  • 05.013 but he was wondering a lot about Bilbo,
  • 05.084 very wonderful.
  • 05.105 I wonder?’ he said to himself,
  • 05.119 and wonder.
  • 06.003 He wondered whether he ought not,
  • 06.006 and wondering
  • 06.024 and the hobbit wondered if he guessed
  • 06.087 and wondered if he could hold on any longer.
  • 06.090 He wondered what other nonsense he had been saying,
  • 06.092 He had just strength to wonder
  • 07.022 and in the name of all wonder don’t mention the word furrier
  • 07.046 wondering what their names could be,
  • 07.093 for the convenience of the wonderful animals
  • 07.107 Bilbo wondered what it was,
  • 07.113 waited on by Beorn’s wonderful animals,
  • 07.122 nor did they have to wonder long where he had been or why he was so nice to them,
  • 08.041 All the time he was wondering whether there were spiders
  • 08.078 and he stood a long while wondering
  • 08.125 Indeed they really expected him to think of some wonderful plan for helping them,
  • 08.129 They wondered what evil fate had befallen him,
  • 08.145 he began to wonder what had become of his unfortunate friends.
  • 09.021 and wondered if it could be used for the escape of his friends,
  • 09.044 Small wonder if I fall asleep from weariness!’
  • 09.045 Small wonder,’
  • 09.051 He wondered what on earth would happen to them without him;
  • 09.057 Bilbo wondered what the dwarves were feeling
  • 09.058 and he wondered if he would die of it before the luck turned,
  • 10.036 The Wood-elves themselves began to wonder greatly
  • 10.043 and he wondered if Thorin was
  • 11.031 wondering what on earth was the matter;
  • 12.015 in the days when all the world was wonderful.
  • 12.020 and wondered why he had never blocked it up.
  • 12.068 He had never bothered to wonder
  • 12.076 and wonderful, indeed,’
  • 12.096 They wondered
  • 13.013 Now I wonder what on earth
  • 13.039 and he began to wonder nervously
  • 13.056 I wonder how many breakfasts,
  • 13.071 and wondered;
  • 14.020 in wonder
  • 15.049 yet he had an eye for many another wonderful thing
  • 16.003 wondering what would happen,
  • 16.036 whose eyes were used to things of wonder and beauty,
  • 16.040 The Elvenking looked at Bilbo with a new wonder.
  • 16.040 But I wonder if Thorin Oakenshield will see it so.
  • 16.046 and wondered anxiously
  • 17.003 Wondering,
  • 17.010 But wonder overcame him
  • 17.065 Many wondering eyes looked up,
  • 18.002 Now I wonder what has happened?’
  • 18.014 I began to wonder if even your luck would see you through!
  • 19.037 it was a great deal more than a nine days’ wonder.

“wonder, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017. Web. 5 September 2017.


This very common word has joined the concordance in honor of its unusual use in the apple-barrel song of Chapter 9:

[09.049] Roll – roll – roll – roll,

roll-roll-rolling down the hole!

In the top line, the words “roll” are separated by spaces and hyphens, a repetitive phrase; but my goodness!  roll-roll-rolling has no spaces!  It is one word, and the OED assures us that the reduplicative is “a word form created by reduplication”.  I think that such a reduplicative even qualifies “roll-roll-rolling” as a vocable and sound play.

  • 01.066 Send them down the hall to roll!
  • 01.066 Send them down the hall to roll!
  • 02.070  and rolling nearly into the fire
  • 04.004  and go rolling
  • 04.036  and rolling
  • 04.043  – for dwarves can roll along at a tremendous pace,
  • 04.051  and the hobbit rolled off his shoulders into the blackness,
  • 06.040  rolled away from their feet;
  • 06.040  and rolling;
  • 06.065  and unless they rolled over quick they were soon all
  • 06.065  Very soon all about the glade wolves were rolling over
  • 07.035  He laughed a great rolling laugh,
  • 07.093  in rolling round drum-shaped sections of logs,
  • 07.094  Beorn in his deep rolling voice told tales
  • 07.099 and like a tide it roared and rolled;
  • 07.108  and had rolled down with a bump from the platform on to the floor.
  • 08.104  and rolled off the branch dead.
  • 08.108  that he just rolled off the branch
  • 09.048  they answered rolling the barrels to the opening.
  • 09.049  Roll – roll – roll – roll,
  • 09.049 roll-roll-rolling down the hole!
  • 09.054  was being rolled to the doors!
  • 09.055  the barrel rolled round
  • 09.059  roll off again
  • 09.060  a round-bellied pony that was always thinking of rolling on the grass.
  • 10.034  and it rolled loud
  • 12.076  The dragon rolled over.
  • 13.008  and rolled headlong into the hall!
  • 14.033  in the roll of the benefactors of our town;
  • 16.047  in turn rolled himself up
  • 17.040  Winter thunder on a wild wind rolled roaring up
  • 17.046  rolling away to the South-East;


“reduplicative, n. and adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017. Web. 5 September 2017.