This document is more general than my other document, which is
commentary on the history of The Lord of the Rings; in time I will possibly
have a document on The History of The Hobbit. There aren't nearly as many
sections as there are in the history of The Lord of the Rings document but
there still a few with some lesser known things including a little known
jest to do with Hobbits that Tolkien elaborates on in the appendix on
languages. All of these can be found in different parts of The History of
Middle-earth [HoMe], Unfinished Tales [UT], The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Silmarillion [TS], The Hobbit [TH] and The Lord of the Rings (LR; The
Fellowship of the Ring, FR; The Two Towers, TT; The Return of the King, RK).
Some of these are used in this document; others are in other documents
and all are part of the Legendarium.
Eä: The universe created by Eru Ilúvatar
Arda: The world
Ainu (p.l. Ainur): The Holy Ones; beings that Eru Ilúvatar created
Vala (p.l. Valar): The Powers of the World (Arda)
Maia (p.l. Maiar): Spirits who helped the Valar in Arda
Melkor ('He Who Arises in Might': The first Dark
Lord, the most powerful of the Valar but who after stealing the
Silmarils is called Morgoth ('Black Foe') is no longer counted amongst
the Valar; Sauron was his most loyal lieutenant.
Balrog: Maiar corrupted by Melko -> Melkor ->
Morgoth; they were his most formidable servants. Although there were at
one point considered to be many or unspecified amount Tolkien would
later specify that there were very few, perhaps no more than 7 (the
number might be off but it was less than 10 for sure). In The War of the
Wrath (First Age) at least one escaped and lie dormant for years until
he was accidentally 'released' by the Dwarves in the Third Age; this is
the one who the Dwarves call Bane of Durin and is the one that Gandalf
confronts at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm in the Mines of Moria. The Balrogs
are the ones who rescue Morgoth from Ungoliant after he refused to give
her the Silmarils for her part in helping destroying the trees. They
pursued her as she fled but Morgoth called them back. The infamous
offspring of Ungoliant is Shelob who monstrous spider who will eat
anything and everything she can get hold of.
Dwarrows: The historically accurate plural of
Dwarf; I have documented this more thoroughly in its own section.
Those who have read TS (or the story that was published 2018 on its
own) will know about The Fall of Gondolin; in this tale Glorfindel
slays a Balrog but like everyone else who does he falls with it. Now Elves
are by natural law to return to the Valinor when their body is destroyed and
to await judgement. Those who have done real evil are judged by Eru himself
and perhaps the most significant example is Fëanor (who is not
Glorfindel, however, was forgiven for his part in ignoring
the Ban of the Valar (see TS) in the Kinslaying &c instigated by Morgoth
(he corrupted the Noldor or at least some of them and when he stole the
Silmaril Fëanor sought revenge and he and others made a vow to reclaim them
and they murdered other Elves who refused to give them their ships to sail
to Middle-earth). This is because he actually was against the Kinslaying and
he only joined out of loyalty for his King (as I think it was - can't recall
At this point because his home of Gondolin was destroyed he stayed in
Valinor for quite some time; here he would befriend Olórin (Gandalf), a
Maia, and having done this, was almost as powerful as the Maiar themselves
in spirit. This is why the Witch-king of Angmar even fled from him (this is
in the Appendix - I want to say Appendix A). Now it's said that he could not
deal with all of the Nine Nazgûl on foot at once but as we know in the FR their
horses were driven mad by the water and along with the fire from Aragorn and
Glorfindel along with the latter's wrath they all were dismayed.
Glorfindel of course is the one who rescues Frodo after he had been
stabbed at Weathertop by the Witch-king, Lord of the Nazgûl. The last time
we see him play a (somewhat) significant role is in The Council of Elrond but either
way he was a very powerful Elf.
There is a lot more to say about Balrogs but here are a few comments. What
is a Balrog? As I noted in the vocabulary they were servants of Morgoth but
then what does it mean? Well at least one 'translation' of the Balrog is a
'demon of terror'. They were Morgoth's most formidable servant and it was
they who rescued Morgoth from Ungoliante (at other times spelt Ungoliant)
after he refused to hand over the Silmarils (he did give other jewels but
she was greedy); they went after her as she fled but Morgoth called them
off. She would later have an infamous offspring: Shelob.
There is also a very contentious debate about whether they can fly; I have
written an essay on this with a different angle
and there is another good discussion at
The Encyclopaedia of Arda.
This debate largely derives from way Tolkien worded the encounter of the
Balrog called 'Durin's Bane' with Gandalf as well as the false belief (and
this is actually noted by Gandalf in The Two Towers in the chapter 'The
White Rider') that the Winged Messenger was the Balrog. Gimli believed it
was but Frodo knew otherwise but he did not want to say: for the
Morgul-knife did have a huge affect on him. But there were other signs that
it was indeed a Nazgûl besides those facts. In fact they had already had a
flying mount for some time: the first time they encounter one (though it
flies over them and does not swoop down on the Fellowship) when the
Fellowship is struggling with the snow on the mountain prior to the decision
to go to Moria which of course is where the Fellowship encounter the Balrog.
This Balrog had fled during the First Age during the 'War of the Wrath'
until the Dwarves delved too deeply in Moria.
Finally for the time being at least, as I have noted, they play a more
significant role in The First Age and one such place is The Fall of Gondolin
where two are slain; both Balrogs took down their opponent and one happened
to be Glorfindel who is the same Elf as in The Fellowship.
As I noted in the vocabulary Tolkien noted in more than one place that
the plural of 'dwarf' should be 'dwarrows'. He pointed out in the Letters
that it was a bad habit of his to use 'Dwarves' and if I recall correctly he
did this to make it like Elves. This was something that publishers gave him
trouble with but even worse was the American publisher that tried changing
'elves' to 'elfs' which he rightfully rejected utterly (since it's never
been that nor indeed is it a word).
In the second chapter of The Peoples of Middle-earth 'Appendix on
'The Appendix on Languages' Tolkien elaborated on the plural a fair bit. He
noted that he didn't know at the time he wrote Dwarves that it should be
Dwarrows rather than 'Dwarfs' (see below) but he did refer to it in one
place in LR; The Mines of Moria (Moria in Elvish means 'Black Chasm') is in
the Common Speech Dwarrow-delf 'Dwarf-delving'.
He notes that dictionaries would have us believe it 'dwarfs' but he
explains how and why it should be dwarrows but I feel that that's of less
interest here compared to the above.
In the Appendix on Language in HoMe XII, ‘The Peoples of Middle-earth’,
Christopher cites his father on many things that would otherwise be unknown.
There has been the suggestion that hobbit was a word that Tolkien might have
seen elsewhere but this is unlikely and in any event unconfirmed. But
Tolkien went much further. A while back I noted to a long time friend that
there is an interesting thing about Hobbits and - rabbits! There is much
more to this including some issues of translation that he did not foresee
but (as expected) he brilliantly solved but this is the information about
rabbits. This is what Tolkien had to say (at least as far as rabbits
This, I confess, is my own invention; but not one devised at random. This is
its origin. It is, for one thing, not wholly unlike the actual word in the
Shire, which was cūbuc (plural cūbugin).*
But this cūbuc was not a word of general use in the Common Speech and
required an equivalent that though natural enough in an English context did
not actually occur in standard English. [...]
* For another, I must admit that its faint suggestion of rabbit appealed to
me. Not that hobbits at all resembled rabbits, unless it be in burrowing.
Still, a jest is a jest as all cūbugin will allow, and after all it does so
happen that the coney (well-known in the Shire if not in ancient England)
was called tapuc, a name recalling cūbuc, if not so clearly as hobbits
recalls rabbit. [This note was later struck out.]
What I first thought of when I first read this is that he must have at the
time of writing forgotten that it's not quite as it is: that is it was rather
random at first. He didn't even know the significance when he wrote on the exam
paper he was marking 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit'. Christopher
notes that this happened a number of other places and I suspect it was this way
here though maybe it was in his mind at the time too. Whether or no he certainly
fleshed it out and he did this a lot with his Legendarium and the languages