This sound-play word has a bursting, sudden feel to it, and I rather love that it’s in the song the goblins sang about the snapping shut of the black crack…

• 1.100 till Bilbo shut his mouth tight with a snap.
• 4.017 The crack closed with a snap,
• 4.019 Clap! Snap! the black crack!
• 4.022 The walls echoed to the clap, snap!
• 5.130 his hands snapped on thin air,
• 6.028 just as it snapped to.
• 6.058 A wolf snapped at his cloak as he swung up,
• 6.064 biting and snapping
• 8.022 looking at the snapped painter that was still dangling from it.
• 8.093 snapping its cords,
• 8.103 nippers and spinners snapping,
• 11.037 Snap!
• 12.074 he snapped.
• 12.100 and it closed with a snap
• 14.013 and snapped


It’s time to separate out this very lovely sound from similar ones in our text. Reduplicatives are very simply sounds which have been duplicated for sonorous effect. I call my dog “Sgiob-Sgiob” when I suddenly need two syllables to make a minor-third calling sound. We hear it a lot used with children learning to speak, as well.

The roll-roll-roll repetition here both suits the syllables to the beat of the work song and to mimic the sound of the action described thereby.

• 09.049 roll-roll-rolling down the hole!


We have found one of the words used only once in The Hobbit!

• 1.066 Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;

This calls for an OED moment, and we are not disappointed:

But the sense of the word has evidently received onomatopoeic modification, from its suggestiveness of a dull abruptly-checked blow or thud, and of the action producing this: compare thump

“dump, v.1.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2019, Accessed 3 September 2019.

Yes, indeed, we can add this to the sound-play words! I might add that the noun meanings of “dump” include a kind of music that makes you feel down in the dumps.


The OED tells us that it’s probably an imitative word, so hooray! We are adding a common sound-play word to our beautiful word-hoard!

• 1.064 Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
• 4.005 where they smashed among the trees far below,
• 4.020 Clash, crash! Crush, smash!
• 4.022 and the crush, smash!
• 12.091 and if we are smashed with it the better he will like it.’
• 12.101 smashing wall
• 13.002 I think I would rather be smashed by Smaug
• 13.057 since the dragon smashed the magic door,
• 14.001 when he smashed the door
• 14.015 and smashed down.
• 15.003 when Smaug smashed the mountain-side,

“smash, v.1.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2019, Accessed 19 August 2019.


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.


“Crack” carries many different meanings in this work.  As I scan for food words past the thrush chapter, I can’t resist adding this sound word to our concordance.  Remember to separate sound-meanings of the words from crevice-meanings in your work.  I apologize – I seem to have been behyphenated.

  • 01.064 Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
  • 01.123 and cracking
  • 04.002 and the crack of stone.
  • 04.014 He dreamed that a crack
  • 04.015 A crack had opened at the back of the cave,
  • 04.016 and carried through the crack,
  • 04.017 The crack closed with a snap,
  • 04.019 Clap! Snap! the black crack!
  • 04.021 Swish, smack! Whip crack!
  • 04.023 and cracked their whips behind.
  • 05.129 he only just missed cracking his skull
  • 05.146 through the crack.
  • 06.022 which was only open a crack,
  • 06.028 he had nipped inside the crack,
  • 06.040 in a fearful confusion of slipping, rattling, cracking slabs
  • 06.052 like old gentlemen gone cracked
  • 06.078 till hair smells and skins crack,
  • 06.079 the lower branches cracked.
  • 07.067 a crack at the back of the cave opened;
  • 07.075 – and slipped inside the crack
  • 11.014 like a dark crack
  • 11.030 At that very moment he heard a sharp crack
  • 11.030 Crack!
  • 11.030 Crack!
  • 11.030 Crack!
  • 11.032 There was a loud crack.
  • 11.038 Long straight cracks appeared
  • 12.029 in through the crack they had left
  • 12.031 until dawn came pale through the crack of the door.
  • 12.101 the walls cracked


I’ve broken my search for food words just because I thought to myself why on earth didn’t I cover “ring” before with words like chance and fortune?  This one will be worth graphing with Lexos in the near future.

“Ring” the circular metal adornment comes from German roots having to do with roundness.  “Ring” the sonorous verb and accompanying sound word are a completely separate word from German roots with its own lovely history (in some places a weak verb, in others strong – ring, rang, rung).  The Careful Scholar will, of course, separate the jewelry from the sound when analyzing “ring” in the work.

  • 01.010 and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke
  • 01.025 there came a tremendous ring on the front-door bell,
  • 01.029 when there came another even louder ring at the bell.
  • 01.037 when loud came a ring at the bell again,
  • 01.037 and then another ring.
  • 01.047 Not a ring,
  • 01.123 and never enjoy a brass ring of it.
  • 04.013 and blew smoke rings,
  • 05.002 what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel.
  • 05.002 He put the ring
  • 05.062 There he found the ring he had picked up
  • 05.084 He had a ring,
  • 05.084 a golden ring,
  • 05.084 a precious ring.
  • 05.086 He wanted it because it was a ring of power,
  • 05.086 and if you slipped that ring on your finger,
  • 05.087 when such rings were still at large
  • 05.105 The ring felt very cold
  • 05.119 It seemed that the ring he had
  • 05.119 was a magic ring:
  • 05.122 and he had lost his ring.
  • 05.137 or a last trick of the ring
  • 05.138 and there was the ring still,
  • 05.149 They could not find Bilbo with the ring on,
  • 06.003 now he had the magic ring,
  • 06.005 He had still got the ring on,
  • 06.013 and slipping off the ring.
  • 06.015 and said nothing whatever about the ring;
  • 06.019 except about the finding of the ring
  • 06.050 Even magic rings are not much use against wolves –
  • 06.060 This glade in the ring of trees
  • 06.067 and looked down upon the ring of the Wargs,
  • 06.069 down, down towards the ring of the wolves
  • 06.072 Soon they had a ring of smoke
  • 06.072 a ring which they kept from spreading outwards;
  • 06.072 Outside the ring of dancing warriors with spears
  • 07.116 this is a splendid place for smoke rings!’
  • 07.116 he was so busy sending smoke rings
  • 08.058 and sitting on sawn rings of the felled trees
  • 08.059 and scrambled forwards into the ring
  • 08.063 Before he had time to slip on his ring,
  • 08.080 also Bilbo had slipped on his ring before he started.
  • 08.081 and ring or no ring
  • 08.081 and ring or no ring
  • 08.109 He had taken off his ring when he rescued Fili
  • 08.116 except to let the dwarves into the secret of his ring.
  • 08.118 He suddenly slipped on his ring,
  • 08.119 and burst through the ring.
  • 08.124 that they had come to the edge of a ring
  • 08.125 and the finding of the ring interested them so much
  • 08.125 with the ring
  • 08.125 and a magic ring –
  • 09.002 who popped on his ring
  • 09.011 never daring to take off his ring,
  • 09.017 One invisible ring was a very fine thing,
  • 09.026 in spite of his ring,
  • 09.063 Of course helped by his magic ring he got on very well at first,
  • 11.026 Since he has got an invisible ring,
  • 12.008 Then the hobbit slipped on his ring,
  • 12.040 I have got my ring
  • 12.044 and blessed the luck of his ring.
  • 12.096 of dwarf-linked rings
  • 13.008 Bilbo slipped on his ring
  • 13.008 ring or no ring.
  • 13.008 ring or no ring.
  • 13.035 clad in a coat of gold-plated rings,
  • 16.016 Bilbo put on his ring,
  • 16.020 and he slipped off his ring,
  • 17.049 Actually I may say he put on his ring early
  • 17.049 A magic ring of that sort is not a complete protection
  • 17.059 and they were forced into a great ring,
  • 18.008 Then Bilbo remembered his ring!
  • 18.009 hurriedly taking off the ring.
  • 18.023 and broke like a clap of thunder through the ring.
  • 19.039 His magic ring he kept a great secret,
  • 19.041 when there was a ring at the door.

“ring, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 4 July 2016.

“ring, v.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 4 July 2016.


We begin in paragraph 01.001.  Please notice that “eats” in 05.028 is a sound-play use, “We eats it”, with Gollum adding an S where it’s not usually heard.

  • 01.001 with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat:
  • 01.051 for the late-comers to eat
  • 01.060 The dwarves ate
  • 01.060 and ate,
  • 01.123 to eat,
  • 02.032 He had eaten most,
  • 02.046 just to be et by you and Bert.
  • 02.046 You’ve et a village
  • 02.081 and eat them later –
  • 02.116 and looked fit to eat,
  • 03.001 and their horses had more to eat than they had;
  • 03.028 “Mind Bilbo doesn’t eat all the cakes!”
  • 04.024 For goblins eat horses
  • 05.022 whether he was good to eat,
  • 05.028 we eats it,
  • 05.029 that could save him from being eaten.
  • 05.031 the idea of eating was rather on his mind.
  • 05.034 who was still thinking uncomfortably about eating.
  • 05.047 and have not the danger of being eaten to disturb your thinking.
  • 06.039 for something to eat;
  • 06.039 and he ate three wild strawberries that he found on its bank,
  • 06.056 He’ll be eaten if we don’t do something,’
  • 06.068 for they did not eat such creatures)
  • 06.074 fry them, boil them and eat them hot?
  • 06.088 with next to nothing to eat,
  • 06.094 Bilbo was not going to be eaten after all.
  • 07.023 He does not eat them;
  • 07.023 neither does he hunt or eat wild animals.
  • 07.024 and then Bilbo felt so hungry that he would have eaten acorns,
  • 07.060 Killed, eaten, gone home?’
  • 07.090 Let’s have something to eat!’
  • 07.094 All the time they ate,
  • 07.112 moving off to find something to eat as quick as he could.
  • 07.116 he had eaten two whole loaves
  • 07.121 Not eaten up by Wargs or goblins or wicked bears yet I see’ ;
  • 07.126 and they were good to eat,
  • 07.126 will be wholesome to eat or to drink.
  • 07.129 Soon after midday they ate with Beorn for the last time,
  • 08.036 there was practically nothing left to eat or to drink.
  • 08.046 That night they ate their very last scraps
  • 08.048 When he heard that there was nothing to eat,
  • 08.048 and I could not count or describe the things there were to eat
  • 08.057 all the good things that were being eaten,
  • 08.058 they were eating
  • 08.083 Aye, they’ll make fine eating,
  • 08.104 to see which was the juiciest to eat.
  • 08.110 We will eat you
  • 08.125 if there had been anything to eat.
  • 09.061 in which it had eaten out a wide bay.
  • 10.014 I could eat anything
  • 12.060 Let me tell you I ate six ponies last night
  • 12.060 and eat all the others before long.
  • 12.062 that I can eat a dwarf-ridden pony
  • 12.072 and I have eaten his people like a wolf among sheep,
  • 13.001 Little they ate
  • 13.010 and then eat me,
  • 15.058 You may eat that,
  • 18.048 and eaten much of your bread.

Sound Play: So What?

We observed previously that the sound words are fairly steady through the work with two peaks:

2015.07.09 Sound Only Graph

Chapter 9 Barrels Out Of Bond is full of grumbling, snoring, slapstick bumbling about, and sneezing – here are the thirty nine culprits which form that little peak: trotting clang bumped clank clink snored trotting bumped grunted racket thumped grumbling grumbling snoring bumping grumbled grumbled bump ho plump splash bump smacking thudding splash spluttering bumping creak bump dripping drippings sneezes snivel racket sneeze sneeze sneezed creaked grumbled.

Early on I entertained the idea that poetry was an indicator of high register.  Ahem.  One rousing chorus of [01.064] “Chip the glasses and crack the plates!” soon cured me of that, although I maintain that once Thorin declares himself, the register of the poetry rises, even including the reprise of Tra-la-la-lally.  I thought, “How can I measure poetical words within the prose?”  It’s too easy to cherry-pick one’s examples without a strict criterion, so I thought of onomatopoeia – poetry words that could be identified objectively.  Lucky for us, the OED marks words that are onomatopoetic – including echoic and imitative words – so I let those awesome editors make the human-yet-objective identifications for me.

Sound-play words became my measurement of poesy, and I abandoned all pretense of calling these words “high” register immediately, and of marking them either “low” or “high” very shortly after that.

In the end, it’s Chapter 5 which uses sound play words like the instruments of the London Symphony Orchestra.  After all, the chapter is not titled “Riddles in the Well Lit Parlour with Plenty of Visual Images”.

The exciting news for us is that we can measure exactly what Tolkien changed between his two editions of Chapter 5, and we know exactly why he made those changes.  We’ve proven that the new paragraphs were full of uncommon words, we’ve proven that those new paragraphs were full of sound words.  I believe we can conclude positively that the sounds of stagnant water and deep-throated swallowing and Gollum words and a preponderance of initial-S words are Tolkien’s specific instruments for creating the tone of decay and corruption which emanates from The Ring.  I would be excited to carry this idea forward to examine the ring-influenced portions of The Lord of the Rings.

So what?  So we have a tool – a robust and valid tool – for seeking the influence of the Ring, of corruption, of evil in Tolkien’s work at a subtler level.  It’s right there, encoded in the sounds of the words, waiting for us to discover.

footnote: alert Word Fans who hang on every graph will realize that this is a new version of the Sound graph made since the decision to count the names Gollum and Roäc and Carc as sound play words.  The scale goes up to 0.03 now to contain that Chapter 5 peak and even the Chapter 9 peak looks rather puny in comparison. For comparison, the overall uncommon words graph scale reaches to 0.070.  See the posts tagged 1937 to see with smaller windows even stronger influence of sound on Chapter 5.