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20216Re: [mythsoc] Capitalization in Tolkien

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  • David Bratman
    Dec 7, 2008
      There is definitely no consistency, but the impression I have is that Tolkien's general practice is exactly the opposite of what you suggest. That is, he usually capitalizes the term if referring to the entire race, but uncapitalizes it if referring to individuals. "Bilbo the Hobbit" would be an exception: here "Hobbit" is an epithet and therefore capitalized, as you would say "Durin the Deathless".

      -----Original Message-----
      >From: John Davis <john@...>
      >Sent: Dec 5, 2008 7:28 AM
      >To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      >Subject: [mythsoc] Capitalization in Tolkien
      >
      >Hi,
      >
      >I've been banging my head against this one for a while, and would appreciate any advice...
      >
      >Should one capitalise fantasy races?
      >
      >Now the obvious answer would seem to be no, no more than we capitalise real species. So fox, rabbit, hobbit, elf.
      >
      >But Tolkien frequently - and frequently inconsistently, so far as I can see - does capitalise. Not so much in the Hobbit, sometimes in LotR and his letters, always in CoH (making it Christopher I suppose, but he should know!). Shippey doesn't capitalise, other writers do. Some people claim that the inconsistency is due to Tolkien's editors and proofreaders not being up to the task, but this doesn't seem to excuse the Letters (or does it?). It would be nice to say that Tolkien used lower case if referring to the species (a noun: 'the elven race is immortal', or 'an elven sword'), and capitalised if referring to a specific individual or group of individuals (a proper noun: 'Bilbo the Hobbit', or 'the Hobbits in the boat'. But this doesn't seem to be the case, certainly not by CoH.
      >
      >Online, some people advocate always capitalising fantasy races (saying that they are really more a people), others advocate never capitalising. Most seem unsure.
      >
      >Help!
      >
      >John
      >
      >
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