Everybody Wins!!

This is the graph under consideration:


The Tolkien Professor has observed that Bilbo’s big crossroads are finding the ring, killing the spider, and going down the tunnel toward the dragon.  Each scene includes making an active choice to move forward in the dark.

[05.007]  ‘Go back? ‘ he thought.  ‘No good at all!  Go sideways?  Impossible!  Go forward?  Only thing to do!  On we go!’

Clearly these three choice points show up in our graph plus two more peaks – the end of Chapter 1 right before he runs out his front door without a pocket handkerchief, and the end of Chapter 17 (here we have run up against my unsteady hand copying the graph from Lexos in a flawed manner so that the chapter lines I drew don’t quite match up).  The words at that peak point are [17.062] “he had seen a sight that made his heart leap, dark shapes small yet majestic against the distant glow.”  Also, the Chapter 8 spider-killing peak extends into Chapter 9 and, although the Chapter 6 peak is overshadowed by the Chapter 5, there is one almost as large as the Chapter 12 and deserves mention!

Big thanks to Comfort & Food Guessers Kris, DMae, SonofSaradoc, Marie, Molly, SLMcAdie!

And Well Done Adventure & Challenge Guessers Dr Dmitra Fimi, Mattclen2, Repton, Tom Hillman, Galiodoc, Tom, SonofSaradoc!

And Shout-Out to Plot-Driven Guessers TriGirlJ, Tiberius, Ronan, Tom Hillman, Logan, Moxie, SonofSaradoc!

And the Winner is Kaypendragon!  The name “Bilbo” makes this graph!

Are you fascinated, too?  I hope that like me, you’re inspired to sift through the ends of Chapter 1 and ends of Chapter 17 as well as Barrels Out of Bond to see how they are related to Bilbo’s three big crossroads, or if we have a larger category here.  Do these six sections define the character even as his name identifies him?

Olsen, Corey. Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Annotated Hobbit.  Revised and expanded edition annotated by Douglas A. Anderson. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston. Print.

A Most Fascinating Graph – and a Little Contest

Quick, Word Fans, without thinking too hard, name the scenes wherein Bilbo makes his greatest personal growth – makes his famous choices!  My picks are –

  • Chapter 5, Riddles in the Dark, when going forward is the only thing to do, his hand comes upon a ring, and he survives by his wits against a very disturbing adversary
  • Chapter 8, Flies and Spiders, when he draws and names his little sword and rescues his friends from spiders
  • Chapter 9, Barrels Out of Bond, when he plans and enacts a daring escape for himself and thirteen dwarves
  • Chapter 12, Inside Information, when he matches wits with a dragon!!
  • Chapter 16, A Thief in the Night, when he has wrestled his ethics into their proper order and saves his friend Thorin by betraying him

Well, I was noodling around with Lexos, as you do, and plugging in different words to see if they made a pretty pattern.  My picks up above do not quite match this new graph, but four out of six ain’t badBilbo

Here’s the contest: Of what one word in The Hobbit does this graph represent the frequency?

Update 2015.07.08 – this is the graph of the word “Bilbo” – congratulations KayPendragon!  I’ve added the word to the legend of the graph

The first correct answerer in the comments section will receive a custom made minisock – suitable for decorating holiday trees – in your choice of the scarlet-and-gold of the Signum University Eagles or the purple-and-silver of the Mythgard Institute Dragons.

A Few Special Words

We tagged a few other categories of words as we went along.  Remembering that while the Concordance has all 1534 uncommon words entered, I have only had chance to thoroughly examine and make special notes on the 300 which were the most interesting to me and seemed the most likely to be “archaic” or a “gem” or to fit the other ideas I was curious about.  In fact, if you search on the tag “brief”, you will find those words for which I only made a plain concordance entry.

Meanwhile, those special other tags.  There are not many of them, so I concatenated them all onto one graphic for us:

Special Words

The few blue words are tagged “British” – from Scottish, Irish, and Cumbrian.  The green graph shows us the words from outside the most frequent hundred thousand words in the Project Gutenberg corpus, tagged 100K.   I also had a few thoroughly subjective tags.  The red graph shows us words I tagged “funny” (and a few which the OED calls “jocular”), and I’ve been told that my sense of humour is flawed.  For example, I think the word “quoits” sounds funny and that “burglar” is funny for being anti-heroic.  The few delightful plum words are my personal favorites with the “gem” tag (yes, the lovely Cumbrian word “carrock” is also one of my gems). They are the words which I discovered had multiple meanings and nuanced connotations which all contribute to Tolkien’s elegant storycraft.


“Glower” in its Scottish regional meaning means simply to stare intently, sometimes with an air of surprise.  In its second meaning, and this is how I’ve always understood it, to glower is to stare angrily (or if one is the weather, to have an appearance of darkness or gloominess).

The etymology of the word is obscure, bless it, and may have to do with the second meaning of the verb “glow” which is to stare.  Or it could be from “glore” which is to stare fixedly in its second meaning (first meaning, to shine.  Now a whole new exploration of words that means both to emit light and to perceive it presents itself).  “Glore” is related to “glare” and probably is related to the Old Icelandic “glóra” – to gleam and glare as the eyes of a cat!  Aha! and cat eyes seem to give light as they reflect it as well as to see all.  We may have it!

If the peaks of the mountains glowered against the sunset – my goodness.  Those mountains are west of them, the Misty Mountains which they have just left behind.  Are they glowing, limned with sunset light?  Are they dark?  Are they anthropomorphically expressing anger, as Caradhras will in a later novel?  All these things together?

“Glower” has just been upgraded to a gem word!

  • 07.132 and the peaks of the mountains glowered against the sunset

“glore, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glower, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.


Etymologically, this word in its first definition comes from “glass”  and is to cover with a glaze or with glass, specifically

To cover … with a vitreous substance which is fixed by fusion

In the second meaning, “glaze” is to stare, and comes from “glare” which seems to derive from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German phrase for “grey-eyed”.  Note to self – follow up with grey eyed characters.

So – the eyes stare fixedly as the vitreous fluid boils and fixes in death.  Oh, wow.  This image will never be the same for me.  Adding the gem tag!

  • 06.078 till beards blaze, and eyes glaze;

“glare, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glaze, v.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glaze, v.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.


From the rare word “rud” meaning “red”, ruddy carries a goodly number of connotations which play together in this passage:

[12.013] and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light.

“Ruddy” has to do with blushing from shame and anger, robust good health, reddish skin, heat, vigour, the reddish glow of fire, and aridity which causes flora to wither – the power, malice, and desolation of Smaug.

  • 12.013 in the ruddy light.

“ruddy, adj., n., and adv.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 1 June 2015.


The Cumbrian word “carrec” = “rock”.  Cumbrian was spoken between 500 and 1000 CE north and a bit east of Wales and is closely related to Welsh.  Elements of the Cumbric language can be found place names and family names, which we know Tolkien loved to study.

Word fans, like any good scholar I use Wikipedia only as a place to get the right keywords for deeper searches (or to answer simple everyday questions like “what is earwax?”).  Today, I am stumped for further sources and must give you what I have until a later day – a day when my Cumbric language and cultural history skills have a boost.  Comments with leads and clues are very welcome, and I will be carefully sifting my Philology class notes.

Here’s what we know:  Carrock Fell is a high ground in the lake district of Britain.  This fell is unusually rocky, geologically distinct from neighboring landmarks, topped by the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, and was climbed by Charles Dickens.

Castle Carrock is a village about five miles away which hosts the Music on the Mar festival and boasts a newly re-opened pub.  The village newsletter is available on the web, and I know what destination vacation has been added to my bucket list!

I have added the tag “British” to this word meaning British-not-English and wish a good morning to the kind folk of Castle Carrock.

  • 07.012 the Carrock I believe he calls it.
  • 07.015 And why is it called the Carrock?’
  • 07.016 He called it the Carrock,
  • 07.016 because carrock is his word for it.
  • 07.016 He calls things like that carrocks,
  • 07.016 and this one is the Carrock
  • 07.023 on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon
  • 07.089 and of how they had all been brought to the Carrock,
  • 07.117 I followed these as far as the Carrock.
  • 07.117 to get from this bank to the Carrock by the ford,
  • 07.130 that joined the great river miles south of the Carrock.
  • 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
  • 07.142 when we landed on the Carrock,’

“Castle Carrock Cumbrian Village.” N.p., n.d. Web.

“Carrock Fell.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 June 2015.


Genius.  A giant tom-cat.  A dragon.  The most dangerous creature in the world.  With one word, we see the absolute confidence of the dragon, the completely athletic competence and grace.  With the same word, the father takes a tiny bit of the sting of fear out of the tale.  Yet we hear the rumble of the furnace.

  • 12.011 mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring.


“Frizzle” in meaning one has to do with curling hair in tiny curls.  In meaning two, it has to do with cooking with an accompanying sputtering noise.  Bilbo’s hair after meeting Smaug?  Both!

  • 12.081 it had all been singed and frizzled

“frizzle, v.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 29 May 2015.

“frizzle, v.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 29 May 2015.


A live coal or ember.  Tolkien spelled it here as “glede”, a Middle English form of the word and also a dialectical word for a kite – a bird of prey.  Was he helping our imaginations to picture the coals and embers flying everywhere with deadly result?

  • 14.024 to sparks and gledes.

“glede | gled, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 20 May 2015.

“gleed, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 20 May 2015.