This document is more general than my other document, which is specifically the 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).

* Vocabulary

Some of these are used in this document; others are in other documents and all are part of the Legendarium.

  • : 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 fewer 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.
  • Halfling, Halfhigh:: Other names for 'Hobbit'
* Glorfindel: The Fall of Gondolin and The War of the Ring (New: 21 April 2019)

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 reincarnated).

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 off hand).

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.

* More on Balrogs (New: 21 April 2019)

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 here 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.

* On the plural of Dwarf (New: 21 April 2019)

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.

* On the invention of 'Hobbits' (Last updated: 23 Dec 2019)

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 goes):

Hobbits

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 within too.