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906_Bolg_: An Orkish personal name

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  • David Kiltz
    Apr 4, 2006
      In _The Hobbit_ (p. 236 and footnote) we find mentioning of an Orc
      chieftain by the name of _Bolg_ son of _Azog_. He is an Orc of the
      Misty Mountains, about which Tolkien says that they "had long used
      the Westron as their native language" (LR:1131).

      As for the name _Bolg_, that could be, in theory, of orkish "proper"
      origin (Black Speech) or taken from some Mannish tongue. Given the
      geographical position of Bolg's chiefdom, his name might be of
      (North-)Germanic origin. That is, Tolkien would use such a word to
      represent a Westron word.

      If so, Old Icelandic _bolginn_ 'swollen' could be a good starting point.
      The shortened form would roughly parallel Orkish _tark_ 'man of
      Gondor' < Q. _tarkil_ (ibid.). The meaning may have appealed to
      Tolkien, possibly with the by-sense of 'swollen-headed' (cf. French
      _gonflé_, German _aufgeblasen_) for the Great Goblin. [The Great
      Goblin is described as "a tremendous goblin with a huge head", _The
      Hobbit_, p. 60 -- PHW.] Better still, perhaps, we know that Bolg gets
      exceedingly angry at Thorin's company and, in his rage, attacks the
      Dwarves at the Lonely Mountain. Here fits well the meaning of the
      corresponding verb in OE, OS, OHG _belgan_ 'to be angry, rage'.
      So maybe Bolg's name is a sort of pun, with Tolkien having something
      like 'swollen with rage' in mind.

      David Kiltz