What’s Going On in Chapter Eight?

I’m beginning to dive into Mirkwood, Word Fans. We all know that something special is going on in Chapter 8, but what? Yes, it’s true, I awakened at 4am because I am excited to get going! Ready for some spicy numbers?

Chapter 8 has

  • 10,301 words
  • 1,789 distinct words
  • 954 of which are used only once. My goodness. 53%. Now, that’s actually not statistically different from the 42% unique-to-total ratio of the whole work, it’s only one comparison, and we don’t know how widely the other chapters vary. But it is absolutely mathematically accurate to say “My goodness.”

Introducing a new tag this morning: “eight”, meaning “let’s talk about Chapter XIII, shall we? I’ll put the kettle on.”

Some Numbers to Warm Us on an Early Mud Season Evening

While I promise that I’m not beginning big project on apostrophes, I thought that my Word Fans would like to know that there are 3006 of them in The Hobbit.

I find 96,134 words in the work, 6320 distinct words, and 2707 of these occur only once. I am ready to bet that a 42% distinct word count is … unusual.

For examples of words used only once which are not already in our concordance – therefore are common – here’s the challenge I shall accept for the letter A. (AROUND!!! Wow!)

  • accomplished
  • active
  • advantage
  • affect
  • affection
  • afford
  • aground
  • alliances
  • amount
  • ample
  • anyhow
  • apologetically
  • appealed
  • appointed
  • appreciatively
  • around
  • array
  • arts
  • assembled
  • attend
  • aye

Hyphenated Words of the Landscape

I’ve spent a good deal of yesterday and today assigning functions to the 407 hyphenated words.  I’ve also beaten myself up a bit for not preserving the inflected forms of the words on my spreadsheet and went back to re-capture that information.  Then there was that little capitalization inconsistency problem.  I know, I could have asked Tech Support to make the script I was using case-insensitive, but I hate to bother them too many times per week.  On the Big Plus side, I discovered ConvertCase.net for all your Latin alphabet capitalization needs!

Sorry, I’m nattering.

In the course of labeling the functions of words, I found a big old whack of natural landscape descriptions, “bee-pastures”, “fir-trees”, and similar.  Let’s look at the graph!


Do you like it?  Descriptions in early Chapter 2, as Bilbo is leaving his home territory; very few descriptions in the dark of the goblins’ and Gollum’s caverns until the side-passages and similar formations on Bilbo’s way out; a steep peak for the “pine-needles”, “forest-gloom”,  “forest-silence”, and “sea-sighing”, all of paragraph 6.045, as we leapt out of the “frying-pan”.

Landscape words taper off as we see Bilbo at a loss for words to describe Mirkwood, then suddenly, Smaug discovers the theft of the cup!  We take the dragon’s perspective as he shakes the mountain-roots, exits the mountain-palace, settles on the mountain-top, licks the mountain-sides with flame, and leaves rock-shadows dancing in paragraphs [12.021] through [12.032].   Finally, during the battle-scenes of Chapter 17, there is no looking about at the landscape: that pleasure can only resume in Chapter 18, The Return Journey.

JRRT’s Original Hyphenated Words

Good morning, Word Fans.  I hope it doesn’t intrude on your peace over the next three days, but the blog is going into overdrive to fulfill its other primary role as my lab notebook.  Please practice good self-care: if you need to, unsubscribe until Sunday afternoon, when things should return to normal.

Just over half of the hyphenated words in The Hobbit are perfectly ordinary English words, per the OED.  Some of them may have no hyphen  in the preferred spelling, some may have a space instead of a hyphen between the elements, but the hyphenated forms are found at least in the example sentences of the OED.

The other part of the hyphenated words have received the JRRT tag.   Of these, some are given by OED specifically as creations of Tolkien, such as “elf-king“!  Others are credited to Tolkien for introducing the hyphenated form, for example “riddle-game”.  Some, like “raven-messenger” are in the OED just so, but Tolkien has used them with a completely new meaning, earning the tag.  The majority, including Middle-earth specific names like “Foe-Hammer” as well but many more plain words such as “thunder-battle” are simply not found in OED at all.

In what pattern did Tolkien use these inventions?  Is there anything to be discerned from the map of them?


Fascinating.  OK, I’m going to compare it to yesterday’s graph of all hyphenated words:

HyphenGraph.010As the Tolkien Professor would say, “What do we see?”  Here’s a clue we can use to compare the charts: Lexos makes the chart fit the space, even if the height of the red line is on a different scale from chart to chart.  Since the JRRT words number just under half of the total hyphenated words, know that the scale is doubled.  In other words, the “pretty full in the beginning of chapter five” appearance of the red line on the first, JRRT, graph would be equal to “filling up just about half of the available height” on the second, All Hyphens graph.

  • The big Chapter One peak of hyphenated words is not driven by JRRT originals.
  • The peak in JRRT words at the end of Chapter 3 is driven by all the doings in Rivendell of Elrond the elf-friend, fair as an elf-lord, his house full of story-telling, and who explains that the swords just found are not troll-make but made for the Goblin-wars: Goblin-cleaver and Foe-hammer.
  • I observe that the first half of Chapter 5 – full of sound words like drip-drip-dripping – is about half-full on the All Hyphens graph and quite full on the JRRT graph; in other words, Tolkien created the hyphenated words which set the stage and open the action for Gollum’s chapter.
  • I see that there’s a dip in the JRRT graph at the end of Chapter 6 which is not echoed in the All Hyphens graph.  Although there are JRRT words there, there are also pine-needles and frying-pans, quite ordinary words.
  • After Chapter 6, the JRRT graph roughly parallels the All Hyphens graph; his original hyphenated words take up their expected proportion of all hyphenated words.

Updated Hyphen Peak

As my Word Fans know, in the last two years I have found a handful more hyphenated words that escaped my 2015 analysis.  While I would have been surprised if these few had changed the overall hyphen picture, it’s best to be certain.

This passage is the densest region of hyphens.

[01.117] Swords in these parts are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and shields as cradles or dish-covers; and dragons are comfortably far-off (and therefore legendary).  That is why I settled on burglary – especially when I remembered the existence of a Side-door.  And here is our little Bilbo Baggins, the burglar, the chosen and selected burglar.  So now let’s get on and make some plans.’

[01.118]  ‘Very well then,’ said Thorin, ‘supposing the burglar-expert gives us some ideas or suggestions.’ He turned with mock-politeness to Bilbo.

Our graph was created using LEXOS and marked up with GIMP.  It acts as a map of the frequency of hyphenated words in The Hobbit across the chapters.


Distinct and unique words in The Shire

Let’s look at our new word lists carefully.  I have used Lexos for today’s numbers, so we will move to the official Lexos count of words:

  • In the Shire text: 11,073 words
  • Distinct words within the Shire: 3,013 words
  • Words which occur only once in The Shire: 2,029
  • Words which occur only in the Shire: 559 (that’s from me, not Lexos)

That rate of 27% distinct words (3,013/11,073) is crazy high!  And 18% unique words?  In a non-technical work?  pretty much unheard of in contemporary work – I would be excited to compare this to Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and perhaps Patrick Rothfuss!  (Oh, why is Lexos’ count different from mine?  Lexos counted the word “Chapter” nineteen times, as well as the Roman numerals for chapters, and any numerals in the text).

But before I hand-type the Slow Regard of Silent Things (about half the length of The Hobbit), let’s compare The Hobbit to The Hobbit.  I used our new random-text-grab script to create a same-size file using words from the whole work (Dear Dave Kale and other number fans, the random grab works with replacement).

  • In the Random text: 11,073 words
  • Distinct words: 2,050 words
  • Words which occur only once in the grabbed text: 1,109

So that’s a rate of 18.5% distinct words and 10% unique words.  Drat it all.  You know me, now I have to see those rates for the whole work.

  • In the whole text: 97,436 words
  • Distinct words: 12,325
  • Words which occur only once in the total text: 7,091

We have in the total text a rate of 12.5% distinct words and 7.2% unique words.  The randomly-grabbed text is not the same.

… and Tech Support just texted me that they would be able to moosh on the code so that the floating-point math definitely doesn’t get in the way.  For total transparency, this is where Tech Support goes far and away beyond me.  I’ve heard of floating points, and I cheered in the 90s when they were available because I saw the numbers behave better… but I wouldn’t know a floating point from a non-floating point to save my soul.


The Shire and Mirkwood compared to random text grabs.

From earlier this week: The Shire text uses 11,119 words, of which 1,484 do not appear in Mirkwood, this is counting every word used – “yes” counts as six words.  That’s 13.3% Shire words.

What we learned today: The Shire text compared to a random word grab of the same sample size – 1,339 Shire words do not match my random text.  That is basically indistinguishable from the Mirkwood difference.  Hmm, fascinating!  Yet most of our Lexos graphs which show both regions paint them as very different from one another at the word level.  Hold on…

Oho!  the Mirkwood text has more words – 16,400 – and only 1,265 are different from a random grab of 16,400 words in the whole novel.  That’s 7.7%.  Very different, my friends!

Let’s clean that up a bit:

  • Shire text: 11,119 words
  • Shire words not appearing in Mirkwood: 13.3%
  • Shire words not appearing in Random text: 12%
  • Mirkwood text: 16,400 words
  • Mirkwood words not appearing in the Shire text: 14.6
  • Mirkwood words not appearing in Random text: 7.7%

Well, well, well.  time to poke at Mirkwood a bit, friends.  Also, it’s time to use the newly-discovered Lexos feature “how many of these words are unique”!  See you soon!



Hyphen Mini-Concordance

I took a dare for this summer, let’s see how I do.  This post is a mini-concordance of the hyphenated words in the work as well as posts about hyphens, based on which we will explore some ideas about language and world-building.  We have 402 hyphenated words to consider.


We reach the signal word itself!

I am intrigued to compare our “uncommon food words” graph to the graph of this word: how intriguing!  The scales are quite different, of course, the word “food” occurring only 39 times in the text.  What interests me is that the word “food” pops up in regions where the uncommon food words are low…

2016.05.18.food vs uncommon foods

Once we’ve completed our survey of food, I am excited to see the graph of the entire repast!

  • 02.035 Of course it was mostly food,
  • 02.109 and food!”
  • 02.113 but there was a good deal of food
  • 02.116 and such food as was untouched
  • 03.005 “We need food,
  • 03.033 whether you liked food,
  • 03.034 Their bags were filled with food
  • 04.042 and no food,
  • 06.001 cloak, food, pony, his buttons
  • 06.061 especially to get food or slaves to work for them.
  • 07.012 We have no food,
  • 07.126 and he would lade them with food
  • 07.126 nor food.
  • 07.126 and nuts are about all that grows there fit for food;
  • 07.127 and the food I send with you.
  • 07.144 when the food begins to run short.’
  • 08.007 The food would not last for ever:
  • 08.036 was a poor exchange for packs filled with food however heavy.
  • 08.043 there was no food to go back to down below.
  • 08.046 and crumbs of food;
  • 08.052 and dream of food,
  • 08.059 with the one idea of begging for some food.
  • 08.060 for scraps of food for fear of becoming separated again.
  • 08.125 and where was there any food,
  • 08.140 Looking for food
  • 08.144 They gave him food
  • 09.010 and to be given food
  • 09.011 by stealing food
  • 10.011 If you want food,
  • 13.057 (and not altogether without food)
  • 13.062 but I see no sign of food.
  • 14.037 and food.
  • 14.038 and there was little food
  • 15.024 And little food to use!’
  • 15.028 for they had food for some weeks with care –
  • 18.019 If more of us valued food and cheer and song


Word fan Feor Hund asked that I give priority to the word “round” and I’m happy to do so!  It makes a delightful graph and is used 112 times in the work.  The peak in Chapter 6 seems to be caused by wargs going “round and round” the trees as Bilbo and his friends jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.  this graph peaks at just over 3.5 “round” words per thousand


  • 1.002 It had a perfectly round door
  • 1.002 as all the people for many miles round called it –
  • 1.002 and many little round doors opened out of it,
  • 1.002 deep-set round windows looking over his garden,
  • 1.021 and scuttled inside his round green door,
  • 1.036 to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes
  • 1.043 while the four dwarves sat round the table,
  • 1.047 on a round of buttered scones,
  • 1.060 with the thirteen dwarves all round:
  • 1.068 while the hobbit was turning round
  • 1.068 and round
  • 1.068 or round
  • 1.068 and round the ceiling;
  • 1.110 of the Country Round with all his favourite walks
  • 1.124 here Thorin stroked the gold chain round his neck –
  • 1.140 and have a look round.
  • 2.022 round the corner of the road from the village.
  • 2.030 never turning round or taking any notice of the hobbit.
  • 2.038 They have seldom even heard of the king round here,
  • 2.043 Three very large persons sitting round
  • 2.050 and William turned round at once
  • 2.060 “P’raps there are more like him round about,
  • 2.071 and his head was going round;
  • 3.002 looking at it with round eyes.
  • 3.011 and the others gathered round him
  • 4.009 “not far round the next corner;
  • 4.021 Round and round far underground
  • 4.021 Round and round far underground
  • 4.025 and armed goblins were standing round him
  • 4.044 many many feet which seemed only just round the last corner.
  • 4.048 They came scurrying round the corner
  • 5.004 and feeling all round himself for matches
  • 5.012 except for two big round pale eyes
  • 5.039 and the answer was all round him any way.
  • 5.134 he saw, filtering round another corner –
  • 6.056 for there were howls all round them now,
  • 6.058 yelping all round the tree
  • 6.059 with wolves all round below waiting for you,
  • 6.064 with wolves all round on the ground below.
  • 6.064 and then rushed round
  • 6.064 and round the circle
  • 6.069 and slowly circling ever round
  • 6.069 and round they came down,
  • 6.070 All round the clearing of the Wargs fire was leaping.
  • 6.070 and howling round the trunks,
  • 6.072 and brushwood round the tree-trunks.
  • 6.072 Others rushed round
  • 6.072 all round the dwarves,
  • 6.072 dancing round
  • 6.072 and round
  • 6.072 in a circle like people round a midsummer bonfire.
  • 6.099 and the figures of the dwarves round it cooking
  • 7.005 for they began to go down circling round
  • 7.019 The dwarves all gathered round
  • 7.030 There is a gate somewhere round this way.’
  • 7.051 and Dori came round the house
  • 7.093 in rolling round drum-shaped sections of logs,
  • 7.097 The dwarves were sitting cross-legged on the floor round the fire,
  • 7.116 dodging round the pillars of the hall,
  • 7.120 dancing slow heavy dances round
  • 7.120 and round
  • 7.125 and they followed round the house.
  • 7.150 is there no way round?’
  • 7.151 Before you could get round Mirkwood
  • 7.151 Before you could get round it
  • 8.005 in the darkness round them,
  • 8.006 and hundreds of eyes all round them,
  • 8.006 flapping and whirring round their ears.
  • 8.040 and have a look round.
  • 8.042 he saw all round him a sea of dark green,
  • 8.044 all round like the edges of a great bowl,
  • 8.050 but to tighten the belts round their empty stomachs,
  • 8.058 they peered round the trunks
  • 8.058 to some of the trees round about;
  • 8.073 Bilbo found himself running round
  • 8.073 and round
  • 8.073 while people he could not see or feel were doing the same all round him
  • 8.075 as it struggled to wind its abominable threads round
  • 8.075 and round him.
  • 8.087 Just coming round again,
  • 8.099 in a thick fence of them all round him –
  • 8.106 that bound him round,
  • 8.107 wound round
  • 8.107 and round with only his nose to breathe through.
  • 8.112 round old Bombur
  • 8.114 and hundreds of angry spiders were goggling at them all round
  • 8.115 to weave their webs all round them again
  • 8.128 and looked round at them.
  • 9.001 of many torches all round them,
  • 9.038 running round putting the finishing touches to the packing,
  • 9.046 Then they drank once round
  • 9.052 began to sing a song round the river-door.
  • 9.055 the barrel rolled round
  • 10.001 After a while the river rounded a steep shoulder of land
  • 10.009 and towed away round the high shoulder of rock
  • 10.045 and ponies had been sent round by circuitous paths
  • 11.037 and drew the key on its chain from round his neck.
  • 12.027 or fly whirling round
  • 12.031 as he hunted round
  • 12.031 and round the mountain-sides.
  • 13.011 Faint echoes ran round the unseen hall,
  • 13.013 and have a look round before the luck turns.’
  • 13.048 and round a wide-sweeping turn –
  • 13.051 and round
  • 13.067 There were several places like it round the Mountain.
  • 14.015 and round again,
  • 16.017 when he missed his footing on a round stone
  • 17.031 round the eastern spur of the Mountain
  • 17.048 round the spur’s end
  • 17.062 in the gloom Bilbo looked round.
  • 18.023 about their lords upon a low rounded hill.
  • 18.043 and round its northern end
  • 19.035 were thick round the door,