Elf compounds

Tolkien_ConcordanceFor today’s Friday Feature, I am delighted to share with you one of the nerdiest Tolkien projects I know about. The Tolkien Concordance is Sparrow Alden’s brainchild, where she uses lexinomic data analysis to look for trends within Tolkien’s usage of words in The Hobbit. In particular, she has created 1,534 entries of uncommon words in The Hobbit–specifically, words outside the 10,000 most common words on Project Gutenberg. I know! That’s an amazing number of entries! I have been interested in how to play with Tolkien’s legendarium for a while, and am excited to see where this will go in the future. I will leave you to explore the hundreds of entries, and find little treasures like graphs, games, contests, and onomatopoetic findings.

signumLogo_100Sparrow did this project as part of her MA Thesis at Signum University, and has created a powerful tool that can be used by researchers, but can also be expanded and taken in new directions in the spirit of Digital Humanities scholarship. She presented some of her research in the 2015 Signum marathon fundraising day, which I’ve included here.

words that you were saying

In comparing the hyphenated words, I have reached the elf compounds.  OED attests all of the words below.  Only “elf-fire” and “elf-friend” overlap with the elf compounds of The Hobbit!

I am particularly intrigued by words of elven persons.  OED has the compound with folk, girl, kingdom, lady, queen, and woman, while The Hobbit has guard, host, king, lord, maiden, and prince.

Now… you know me, Word Fans.  I dug a little deeper.  “Elven” is a noun, obviously, meaning a female elf, like fox/fixin and monk/minchin.  In its second meanning, however, it is a combining appositive or attributive form:

 2. Comb. (referring to a kind of imaginary being in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien).

and Elf-king is attested therein.

To be thorough, “elvish” is the OED’s adjective for elf, also spelled “elfish”.  Not “elven”.  That’s pure JRRT.


View original post 135 more words

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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7 Responses to Elf compounds

  1. I’m delighted to be included in your line-up of fellow scholars on the internet, and flattered that you enjoyed my work. You have confirmed that I am reaching my goal: creating a *useful resource* for all of us to share. While anyone can search through their kindle edition to find where a word is used, I hope that I’m adding value to the word entries with notes on etymology, usage, OED tidbits, and my own observations (entries tagged “brief” are simply the concordance data).
    My heart would sing if you and our colleagues comment on different words with links to their own work on that particular concept. Have a great weekend, Word Fans!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy Pines says:

    I’m surprised you found a Tolkien blog. It’s really hard to find Tolkien blogs on WordPress.


  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    It might be interesting to extend the comparison to Bosworth & Toller (available online in some form, or forms). I just checked Henry Sweet’s The Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon (NY: Macmillan, 1897), which I happen to have to hand, and found (with ‘aelf’ beginning with an aesc, and a thorn for ‘th’ in the last two):
    aelf~adl nightmare
    aelf~cynn race of elves
    aelf~sciene elf-sheen, beautiful as a fairy
    aelf~siden(n) nightmare
    aelf~sogotha hiccup
    aelf~thone nightshade (plant)

    aelf itself is defined as fairy, elf, incubus

    Hmm… Hair appeared while Tolkien was alive, and so did lots of recordings of “Good Morning Starshine”, with Oliver’s making it number 6 on the UK charts in October 1969, but I can’t find any evidence that anyone thought to write a filk variant as “Good Morning Elfsheen”.


  4. Pingback: “One of the nerdiest Tolkien projects” | words that you were saying

  5. Pingback: “What the dwarves started to sing…,” a Word Study by Sparrow | A Pilgrim in Narnia

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  7. Pingback: “Small” and “Little”, a Literary Experiment on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit with Sparrow Alden | A Pilgrim in Narnia

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