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,

If Chance We Call it…

I’ve been waiting a long time to make this chart of some very special common words.  These are every permutation of “chance”, “luck”, “fate”, and “fortune” found in The Hobbit, from “lucky” to “unfortunately”.  We see some when Bilbo finds the ring, yet more when he brags to Smaug about being named Luck-Wearer and Lucky Number.


Highest peak of all, however, is in Chapter 9.

[09.025] When he heard this Bilbo was all in a flutter, for he saw that luck was with him and he had a chance at once to try his desperate plan.  He followed the two elves, until they entered a small cellar and sat down at a table on which two large flagons were set.  Soon they began to drink and laugh merrily. Luck of an unusual kind was with Bilbo then.  It must be potent wine to make a wood-elf drowsy; but this wine, it would seem, was the heady vintage of the great gardens of Dorwinion, not meant for his soldiers or his servants, but for the king’s feasts only, and for smaller bowls not for the butler’s great flagons.

This graph peaks at three-and-a-half words per thousand, and I note with interest that Chapter 15 has no luck, ill or otherwise, about it.  The threatened war between those who should be allies was entirely their own will.  Now… I’ve lumped “fate” with “luck” here.  Is fate not something to do with the will of divinity?  or with the poetic demands of Story?  Much has been written and more will be – I invite comments, particularly with links to your own work.

Intriguing Hyphens

I nourish ideas about the different people Bilbo encountered in Middle Earth and the different languages those people spoke (although they may all have spoken Bilbo’s own language to him during the adventure there and back again).  I’ve mentioned a few times already that Tolkien uses a goodly number of hyphenated words which are not hyphenated in the OED (snow-peak, egg-question, check the Concordance for all 608 of them). Either they are separate words that he’s joined or compound words that he has separated.  He even had made compound words of ones which the OED says are separate words or hyphenated!  I thought of searching for these words to see if they show a particular region of Middle Earth which speaks a language that flexibly mooshes words together to express meaning more specifically.  Would the right word for that be agglutinative?

Well, it’s easy enough to search on hyphens (fear not, I took out the dashes).  I’m just going to leave this graph here for folks to nibble with their second breakfast.

Hyphenated Graph

I’m not sure what to make of it yet; my first approximation is that Westron, Bilbo’s native language, is the agglutinative one and that Mirkwood and the effects of dragon-sickness were both so depressing as to shock Bilbo out of his usual speech patterns.

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.