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Capitalization in Tolkien

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  • John Davis
    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
    Message 1 of 13 , Dec 5, 2008
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      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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    • John D Rateliff
      Hi John As you say, Tolkien s not consistent on this point. But then again, given how long a span of time his legendarium materials cover, and the various
      Message 2 of 13 , Dec 5, 2008
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        Hi John
        As you say, Tolkien's not consistent on this point. But then
        again, given how long a span of time his legendarium materials cover,
        and the various states he left them in, complete consistency would
        have been hard to achieve. I personally don't feel that imposing a
        standardization onto his works is necessary or desirable.
        Re. the general question, "Should one capitalise fantasy races?",
        the standard at TSR was to leave the name of a race in lower-case but
        to capitalize a sub-race -- for example, "that orc is a Uruk-hai";
        "the elf turned out to be a Drow"; "Fallohides are the rarest of the
        three types of hobbit"; &c. I think here they were working on the
        model of ethnicities (e.g., asian vs. Mung). That at any rate was the
        rule they'd extrapolated, which worked pretty well.
        I hope this helps.
        --John R.


        On Dec 5, 2008, at 4:28 AM, John Davis wrote:
        > 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
      • John D Rateliff
        ... As someone pointed out to me off-list (many thanks), this should have been HMONG, not mung . I absent-mindedly typed in the name the way it s pronounced,
        Message 3 of 13 , Dec 7, 2008
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          On Dec 5, 2008, at 11:15 AM, John D Rateliff wrote:
          > I think here they were working on the model of ethnicities (e.g.,
          > asian vs. Mung)

          As someone pointed out to me off-list (many thanks), this should have
          been HMONG, not 'mung'. I absent-mindedly typed in the name the way
          it's pronounced, not how it's spelled. My mistake; apologies to all.


          And in other news, yesterday I found an audiobook at the library of a
          new book out about CSL I hadn't heard of before. The author is S.
          Michael Wilcox and the title OF LIONS, DRAGONS, & TURKISH DELIGHT: C.
          S. LEWIS FOR LATTER-DAY SAINTS [Deseret Books, 2008]. It's quite
          short (2 hr, 40 min) and, as the subtitle indicates, seems to focus
          on parallels between what CSL has to say and "LDS doctrine". Since
          this is a denomination I suspect Lewis knew little about, I'm curious
          to see what Wilcox comes up with. Has anybody else come across this
          work yet?


          --John R.
          current reading: FRAGMENTS OF ANCIENT POETRY (Ossian) by James
          MacPherson [1760]
        • David Bratman
          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
          Message 4 of 13 , Dec 7, 2008
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            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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            >
            >
            >
          • Wayne G. Hammond
            ... We discussed this issue briefly in our note in the 50th anniversary edition of _The Lord of the Rings_, pp. xx-xxi, and in _The Lord of the Rings: A
            Message 5 of 13 , Dec 7, 2008
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              John (Davis) wrote:

              >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!).

              We discussed this issue briefly in our note in the 50th anniversary edition
              of _The Lord of the Rings_, pp. xx-xxi, and in _The Lord of the Rings: A
              Reader's Companion_, pp. 25-26.

              Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • John Davis
              Hi David, John; Which kind of illustrates the problem! Perhaps what is more important is to be consistent oneself? John ... From: David Bratman To:
              Message 6 of 13 , Dec 8, 2008
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                Hi David, John;

                Which kind of illustrates the problem!

                Perhaps what is more important is to be consistent oneself?

                John



                ----- Original Message -----
                From: David Bratman
                To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Monday, December 08, 2008 3:27 AM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Capitalization in Tolkien


                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".
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              • John Davis
                Hi Wayne, Can you tell me what conclusions you reached? John ... From: Wayne G. Hammond To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Monday, December 08, 2008 4:07 AM
                Message 7 of 13 , Dec 8, 2008
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                  Hi Wayne,

                  Can you tell me what conclusions you reached?

                  John


                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: Wayne G. Hammond
                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Monday, December 08, 2008 4:07 AM
                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Capitalization in Tolkien


                  John (Davis) wrote:

                  >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!).

                  We discussed this issue briefly in our note in the 50th anniversary edition
                  of _The Lord of the Rings_, pp. xx-xxi, and in _The Lord of the Rings: A
                  Reader's Companion_, pp. 25-26.

                  Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull

                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





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                • Diane Joy
                  An Urik-hai, I think? ... From: John D Rateliff To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Friday, December 05, 2008 2:15 PM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Capitalization in
                  Message 8 of 13 , Dec 8, 2008
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                    An Urik-hai, I think?

                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: John D Rateliff
                    To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Friday, December 05, 2008 2:15 PM
                    Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Capitalization in Tolkien


                    Hi John
                    As you say, Tolkien's not consistent on this point. But then
                    again, given how long a span of time his legendarium materials cover,
                    and the various states he left them in, complete consistency would
                    have been hard to achieve. I personally don't feel that imposing a
                    standardization onto his works is necessary or desirable.
                    Re. the general question, "Should one capitalise fantasy races?",
                    the standard at TSR was to leave the name of a race in lower-case but
                    to capitalize a sub-race -- for example, "that orc is a Uruk-hai";
                    "the elf turned out to be a Drow"; "Fallohides are the rarest of the
                    three types of hobbit"; &c. I think here they were working on the
                    model of ethnicities (e.g., asian vs. Mung). That at any rate was the
                    rule they'd extrapolated, which worked pretty well.
                    I hope this helps.
                    --John R.

                    On Dec 5, 2008, at 4:28 AM, John Davis wrote:
                    > 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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                  • Carl F. Hostetter
                    No, it s Uruk-hai. And note that _-hai_ is a race-collective, meaning folk , so an individual can t be an Uruk-hai ; rather, one is of the Uruk-hai . Carl
                    Message 9 of 13 , Dec 8, 2008
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                      No, it's Uruk-hai. And note that _-hai_ is a race-collective, meaning
                      "folk", so an individual can't be "an Uruk-hai"; rather, one is "of
                      the Uruk-hai".

                      Carl

                      On Dec 9, 2008, at 1:11 AM, Diane Joy wrote:

                      > An Urik-hai, I think?
                      >
                      >
                    • Diane Joy
                      I bow to greater knowledge. ... From: Carl F. Hostetter To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 2:55 AM Subject: [mythsoc] _Uruk-hai_ (was
                      Message 10 of 13 , Dec 9, 2008
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                        I bow to greater knowledge.
                        ----- Original Message -----
                        From: Carl F. Hostetter
                        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                        Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 2:55 AM
                        Subject: [mythsoc] _Uruk-hai_ (was Re: Capitalization in Tolkien)


                        No, it's Uruk-hai. And note that _-hai_ is a race-collective, meaning
                        "folk", so an individual can't be "an Uruk-hai"; rather, one is "of
                        the Uruk-hai".

                        Carl

                        On Dec 9, 2008, at 1:11 AM, Diane Joy wrote:

                        > An Urik-hai, I think?
                        >
                        >






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                      • Wayne G. Hammond
                        ... Our editorial brief for The Lord of the Rings was that we should follow Tolkien s intentions, when known or perceived with sufficient confidence.
                        Message 11 of 13 , Dec 13, 2008
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                          John Davis wrote:

                          >Can you tell me what conclusions you reached?

                          Our editorial brief for The Lord of the Rings was that we should follow
                          Tolkien's intentions, when known or perceived with sufficient confidence.
                          Unfortunately, there were too many ambiguous or uncertain instances of
                          hobbits/Hobbits and other variously capitalized names of peoples (also of
                          sun/Sun, moon/Moon) in The Lord of the Rings to impose a general rule, so
                          we left things as they stood in our copy-text. Although we were able to
                          make a case for selected regularizations in other respects, Christopher
                          Tolkien agreed that it was best not to do so for the names of races. We
                          did, however, capitalize names of races, when used as such, in our added
                          commentary. Again, see The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion,
                          especially pp. 25-26. There was also a related issue with elvish/Elvish,
                          though there we had explicit JRRT direction: see Reader's Companion p. 173.

                          Wayne & Christina






                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • John D Rateliff
                          I ve now finished up the Wilcox book, which turns out (like most of his works) to not be a book at all but an audiobook original -- essentialLY an extended
                          Message 12 of 13 , Dec 22, 2008
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                            I've now finished up the Wilcox book, which turns out (like most of
                            his works) to not be a book at all but an audiobook original --
                            essentialLY an extended lecture or sermon. I wouldn't rank it as
                            essential but rather as for completists. I liked the second of the
                            two cds better, since there was less about Narnia on it. Despite its
                            presumptive focus, it really doesn't delve much into specifics about
                            how Lewis's ideas interact with Morman beliefs, which could have been
                            rather interesting, but rather holds him up as a champion for all
                            Xians. I'd hoped for an examination of THE GREAT DIVORCE (which
                            Wilcox describes as a favorite of his) in the light of Morman
                            afterlife/prejudgment teachings, but no such luck. A missed
                            opportunity, I'd say.
                            --JDR
                          • John Davis
                            Hi Wayne, Interesting - thanks for that. John ... From: Wayne G. Hammond To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:03 AM Subject: Re:
                            Message 13 of 13 , Dec 23, 2008
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                              Hi Wayne,

                              Interesting - thanks for that.

                              John

                              ----- Original Message -----
                              From: Wayne G. Hammond
                              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                              Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:03 AM
                              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Capitalization in Tolkien


                              John Davis wrote:

                              >Can you tell me what conclusions you reached?

                              Our editorial brief for The Lord of the Rings was that we should follow
                              Tolkien's intentions, when known or perceived with sufficient confidence.
                              Unfortunately, there were too many ambiguous or uncertain instances of
                              hobbits/Hobbits and other variously capitalized names of peoples (also of
                              sun/Sun, moon/Moon) in The Lord of the Rings to impose a general rule, so
                              we left things as they stood in our copy-text. Although we were able to
                              make a case for selected regularizations in other respects, Christopher
                              Tolkien agreed that it was best not to do so for the names of races. We
                              did, however, capitalize names of races, when used as such, in our added
                              commentary. Again, see The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion,
                              especially pp. 25-26. There was also a related issue with elvish/Elvish,
                              though there we had explicit JRRT direction: see Reader's Companion p. 173.

                              Wayne & Christina

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