There is so much to learn about this beautiful word – a noun, a verb, and spelled with equal currency and correctness as “highth”. I learn with delight that my mother’s way of saying and writing it – “heighth” – is a lingering touch of the 17th century. I say it that way in my head, though I’ve adapted to the more acceptable spelling. Ahhh, words.

“height | highth, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2020, http://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/85484. Accessed 22 June 2020.

Five times out of twelve in the work, the word means “that high place right over there”.

• 01.004 about half our height,
• 01.079 The pines were roaring on the height,
• 06.086 At the best of times heights made Bilbo giddy.
• 07.005 even from their great height,
• 08.132 a river ran out of the heights of the forest
• 11.005 in a height called Ravenhill.
• 12.007 at the height of their wealth
• 14.013 the dragon’s wrath blazed to its height,
• 15.010 This very height was once named Ravenhill,
• 17.031 The dwarves are exceedingly strong for their height,
• 17.048 climbed to the height of the Eastern shoulder
• 17.052 when a cry rang out on the heights above.


I’m including “hear”, “hears”, “heard”, and “unheard”. Word Fans, does “unheard” seem appropriate to you? Such decisions comprise the art that I have found necessary in this project.

• 01.004 which they can hear a mile off.
• 01.006 If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him,
• 01.006 If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him,
• 01.006 and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear,
• 01.006 and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear,
• 01.078 Was sung unheard by men or elves.
• 01.081 The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
• 01.083 and hear the pine-trees
• 01.095 This is what he heard,
• 01.120 and didn’t you hear our song?
• 01.123 The first we heard of it was
• 01.137 Hear, hear!’ said Bilbo,
• 01.137 Hear, hear!’ said Bilbo,
• 01.138 Hear what?’
• 01.138 Hear what I have got to say!’
• 01.143 he could hear Thorin still humming to himself
• 02.028 and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before.
• 02.038 They have seldom even heard of the king round here,
• 02.048 Of the various burglarious proceedings he had heard of
• 02.072 The dwarves had heard noises from a distance,
• 02.080 not daring to move for fear they should hear him.
• 02.108 They had to hear Bilbo’s account
• 03.011 They could hear the voice of hurrying water
• 03.034 or one or two of the songs that they heard
• 03.037 I have heard that there are still forgotten treasures of old
• 04.005 They could hear the giants guffawing
• 04.012 it was good to hear the wind
• 04.013 but Gandalf would not hear of it.
• 04.025 because of the war which you have heard mentioned,
• 04.043 they began to hear goblin noises
• 04.044 so that do what they could the dwarves heard the cries
• 04.044 Soon they could hear even the flap of the goblin feet,
• 04.050 nor even Gandalf heard them coming.
• 05.001 He could hear nothing,
• 05.008 that men have mostly never heard or have forgotten long ago.
• 05.009 and still he heard no sound of anything
• 05.010 and he could hear,
• 05.034 Fortunately he had once heard something rather like this before,
• 05.038 Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
• 05.039 Bilbo had heard that sort of thing before;
• 05.056 and ogres he had ever heard told of
• 05.089 Bilbo thought he had heard the last of him.
• 05.090 Suddenly he heard a screech.
• 05.091 Bilbo heard him crying.
• 05.105 he heard the hiss loud behind him,
• 05.119 He had heard of such things,
• 05.132 then they’ll have heard his shrieking
• 06.003 when he heard voices.
• 06.020 because I heard him talking to himself.
• 06.025 Bilbo had not heard it.
• 06.028 As soon as Gandalf had heard Bilbo’s yell
• 06.041 and the last faint crashes could be heard
• 06.046 that he could hear the dwarves’ breathing
• 06.049 All of a sudden they heard a howl away down hill,
• 06.050 To hear it out
• 06.061 I will tell you what Gandalf heard,
• 06.066 I hear wolves’ voices!
• 06.067 and hear the howling
• 06.073 He could hear the goblins
• 06.089 No you don’t!’ he heard Dori answering,
• 06.097 in a weak little voice that nobody heard.
• 07.019 when they heard the wizard talking like this to Bilbo.
• 07.023 and I heard him growl
• 07.038 Never heard of him,’
• 07.039 I have heard of you,
• 07.039 if you have not heard of me;
• 07.039 but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast
• 07.076 That’s the first time I’ve heard eight called a dozen.
• 07.080 That’s the first time I’ve heard one from ten leave fourteen.
• 07.082 when he heard of the hobbit’s reappearance
• 07.090 The best I have heard for a long while.
• 07.093 was heard,
• 07.096 it seemed to Bilbo that he heard a sound
• 07.113 and heard nothing since the night before,
• 07.120 and he heard the same scraping, scuffling,
• 07.126 for I have heard that it carries enchantment
• 07.130 while the forest-road itself, he had heard,
• 07.153 They heard his voice come faintly:
• 08.029 but they heard the sound of hooves quickly falter
• 08.032 it seemed they could hear the noise
• 08.038 At times they heard disquieting laughter.
• 08.042 He could hear the dwarves shouting up at him from far below,
• 08.048 When he heard that there was nothing to eat,
• 08.062 and they heard the voices
• 08.080 That is why the spiders neither saw nor heard him coming.
• 08.094 and also to let the dwarves hear his voice.
• 08.130 had passed over him unheard.
• 09.003 Nor did they hear or feel him trotting along
• 09.014 when he heard Bilbo’s little voice
• 09.022 Then Bilbo heard the king’s butler
• 09.025 When he heard this
• 09.055 he could hear the elves still singing
• 09.056 He heard the creak of the water-gate being hauled up,
• 10.006 the noise of the falls could be heard
• 10.007 he heard the elves speak of
• 10.018 and did not hear the noise x of the unpacking of the dwarves
• 10.040 I have never heard what happened
• 11.027 Bilbo heard this –
• 11.030 At that very moment he heard a sharp crack
• 12.008 hear the rustle of the whispering voices of the others just outside.
• 12.015 Bilbo had heard tell
• 12.017 we’ll hear no more of that.’
• 12.022 The dwarves heard
• 12.028 A whirring noise was heard.
• 12.031 they could hear the roar of the flying dragon grow
• 12.043 and he won’t hear me.
• 12.043 He had forgotten or had never heard about
• 12.045 I hear your breath.
• 12.066 I am pleased to hear
• 12.089 or so I have always heard,’
• 12.092 or we should have heard him.’
• 12.095 Bilbo wished he had never heard them,
• 12.101 they heard the roar
• 13.016 when they heard his voice;
• 13.027 Faintly the dwarves heard his small cries,
• 13.070 Hear, hear!’ cried Bilbo,
• 13.070 Hear, hear!’ cried Bilbo,
• 14.001 to hear news of Smaug,
• 14.020 and of all that it had heard.
• 14.034 were now heard as loudly crying that the dwarves
• 14.040 Beorn had heard it
• 14.041 That will be the last we shall hear
• 15.001 they had not heard or seen any sign of danger.
• 15.009 You must have heard the ugly names
• 15.025 cried the dwarves as if they had not heard him;
• 15.026 As you have heard some of the events already,
• 15.027 they heard that three of their ponies had escaped
• 16.003 Bilbo heard these words
• 16.029 You have not heard of Dain
• 16.031 of which you have no doubt heard.
• 16.034 Let us hear it!’
• 16.045 There is news brewing that even the ravens have not heard.
• 17.002 said Thorin when he heard.
• 17.002 and I will hear,’
• 17.031 when a cry was heard
• 17.061 I have heard songs of many battles,
• 17.065 If the elves could not see him they could hear him.
• 18.010 that your voice was last heard
• 19.001 Bilbo heard the elves still singing
• 19.005 to hear the tale of their adventures.


Sing, sang, sung – there’s nothing like a good old strong verb to start my Monday correctly. Friends, there’s a parallel to be made with Methodist hymns in the last handful of examples – I leave this exercise to the Reader.

I did simultaneously search for “unsung” just in case.

• 01.063 But the dwarves only started to sing:
• 01.072 and then another began to sing as they played,
• 01.072 deep-throated singing of the dwarves
• 01.078 Was sung unheard by men or elves.
• 01.083 As they sang
• 01.084 and the singing had stopped,
• 02.027 and they told stories or sang songs
• 02.028 and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before.
• 02.029 with the kettle just beginning to sing!”
• 03.001 They did not sing or tell stories that day,
• 03.004 and of the kettle singing.
• 03.018 and sang
• 03.024 and sing with us,
• 03.025 Elvish singing is not a thing to miss,
• 03.026 and they sang a merry song as the party went across.
• 03.033 or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing,
• 03.049 and sing upon the midsummer’s eve.
• 04.002 and they did not dare to sing or talk too loud,
• 04.018 The goblins began to sing, or croak,
• 05.006 of which so many songs had sung;
• 06.075 Sing, sing little birds!
• 06.075 Sing, sing little birds!
• 06.075 Why don’t you sing?’
• 06.076 and they went on singing.
• 07.084 and sang songs making fun of us.
• 07.097 and presently they began to sing.
• 07.097 and their singing went on for a long while:
• 07.120 and while the dwarves were still singing songs
• 07.132 and to sing again
• 07.134 Birds began to sing less.
• 08.038 Sometimes there was singing
• 08.038 and the singing was beautiful,
• 08.048 and there was a merry singing,
• 08.070 And hark to the singing
• 08.071 and many were singing.
• 08.094 then dancing among the trees he began to sing a song
• 08.095 This is what he sang:
• 08.098 As he sang he threw some more stones
• 08.102 and went off singing.
• 08.119 and singing suddenly stopped.
• 09.005 and the elf-guards sang as they marched along the twisting,
• 09.039 and singing snatches of song.
• 09.050 So they sang as first one barrel
• 09.052 began to sing a song round the river-door.
• 09.055 he could hear the elves still singing
• 10.008 though some still sang old songs
• 10.008 Some sang too that Thror
• 10.034 Some began to sing snatches of old songs
• 10.036 So they sang,
• 10.037 and sang songs all day,
• 10.045 People sang on the quays
• 11.004 at the singing of old songs by the lake
• 11.019 and never called or sang,
• 12.015 and sing of dragon-hoards before,
• 14.016 the old songs of mirth to come had been sung
• 14.034 and some of those who had before sung the old songs loudest,
• 15.004 and sang;
• 15.004 and again he sang,
• 15.035 and was much like the song they had sung long before
• 18.043 and sang
• 19.001 Bilbo heard the elves still singing
• 19.002 And elves are yet singing
• 19.010 Below it many elves were singing loud
• 19.011 Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together!
• 19.011 Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together!
• 19.013 Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!


This compound word is simply the imperative phrase “fare well” treated as one word.  The OED classes it as poetical, so I will add our poetry tag to it.  It’s a lovely, high-sounding word for formal leavetakings.

  • 03.050 Now they rode away amid songs of farewell
  • 07.002 The dwarves were crying farewells
  • 07.007 Farewell!’ they cried,
  • 07.012 farewell wherever you fare!’
  • 07.129 and bidding him many farewells they rode off
  • 07.146 Now Gandalf too said farewell.
  • 10.045 and his councillors bade them farewell
  • 16.046 and then he said farewell to the elves
  • 17.027 Farewell!’
  • 17.029 in the meanwhile farewell!’
  • 18.017 ‘Farewell, good thief,’
  • 18.018 ‘Farewell, King under the Mountain!’
  • 18.019 Farewell!’ (Thorin to Bilbo)
  • 18.038 ‘Farewell, Balin!’
  • 18.038 and farewell, Dwalin;
  • 18.038 and farewell Dori, Nori, Ori,
  • 18.038 Farewell Thorin Oakenshield!
  • 18.044 Farewell! O Elvenking!’
  • 18.045 Farewell! O Gandalf!’
  • 18.049 Farewell!’ (Thranduil to Bilbo)
  • 19.018 he said farewell to Elrond,

“farewell, int., n. (and adj.), and adv.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 11 May 2015.


Poetry in The Hobbit is definitely front-loaded, 12 of 17 come before the beginning of Chapter 10.  Hmmm.  My expectations about higher register after 10.020 did not predict that, because I immediately associate “poetry” with “high register”.  Let’s examine them more closely:

01.063: Chip the Glasses
01.072: Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold
01.142: Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold (reprise)
03.014: Tra-la-la-lally
04.019: Clap! Snap! the black crack!
05.026 through 05.063: Riddles
06.074: A Horrible Song
07.099: The Dwarves’ Wind Song
08.096: Attercop!
08.100: Lazy Lob and crazy Cob
09.049: Wood-Elves’ Barrel Rolling Song
09.053: Song round the River-Door
10.035: Snatches of Old Songs
15.036: Music to Soften Thorin’s Mood
19.002: Tra-la-la-lally Refrain
19.011: A Song Loud and Clear on the Banks of the Stream
19.029: Roads Go Ever On and On

I would submit that poetry in chapter ten and after is all heroic, nostalgic, high-register poetry except for the 19.002 Tra-la-la-lally refrain.  But what about the Tra-la-la-lally refrain?  Is it, in fact, as silly and light as we observed the earlier, 3.014 Tra-la-la-lally?  I suggest that it is not.  Our singers go nowhere near “Tra-la” in their song until after the dragon is withered and his splendour is humbled.  We get rusted swords, perished thrones, and trusted strength betrayed.  Only then do we hear that grass is still growing, that nature can be in its proper order, and the weary traveler is welcomed back to The Last Homely House.

The 19.002 Tra-la-la-lally Refrain heals.  It is the closing parenthesis on Bilbo’s experience of war, an invitation to encapsulate the pain and fear and reach a landmark in his return to wholeness.  “Stand down, little fellow who has gone to war.  The world you knew is shifting back into its place, wider of margin and more precious for its cost.”  I place this poem firmly in “high purpose” although the familiar words of the refrain may be of silly register.