Suite101 Nov. 29, 2002 article: Real orcs don't do windows
- Real orcs don't do windows
While doing some research on the Uruk-hai, I came across an
interesting fact: there were no Uruk-hai when Tolkien first wrote the
chapter which introduced them. He hadn't conceived of them by that
point. The original title for the chapter was "An Orc-raid".
Well, that doesn't sound very exciting, does it? In fact, by the time
Tolkien had reached this point in the story, Uruks (much less Uruk-
hai) had yet to appear.
Hang on, as Harry Potter might say. Let's back up a bit, and start
While most people know that "orc" rarely occurs in The Hobbit
(Christopher Tolkien was able to find only one occurrence, for
example, in the first edition of the book), you can still find a
few "orc" passages in the second and third editions. What is
significant about the rarity of "orc" in The Hobbit (and the near-
rarity of "goblin" in The Lord of the Rings) is that the frequencies
of these words represent a fundamental transition in Tolkien's
thinking about the creatures which menaced Hobbits.
Goblins haunted Tolkien's imagination as far back as his school days.
The oldest extant example of Tolkien's use of goblins in literature
is the poem "Goblin feet", which was published in the 1915 Oxford
Read the rest here
Delighted to find that you post to this list too.
Perhaps we can begin our aborted discussion on
Tolkien's career and related matters recently cut off
But I have a few comments of a minor sort on your
recent article. First the word "goblin" first appears
in the LATIN text of Orderic Vitellus, yes he's
speaking about those bogies in northern France, but
the word is Latin in the 12th century. It is not
recorded in French until the 15th century, and in
English in the 14th. Given the early entrance into
Med. Latin and the lateness into Norman French and
Middle ENglish, one can not be dogmatic about this
word being "French", particularly with the high degree
of movement back and forth between the 3 languages in
Norman England. The possible relation to Medieval
Latin cobalus should not be dismissed too early or
quickly though Onions did so.
Orc may come from "orcneas", but I doubt it.
"Orcneas" appears ONLY at Beowulf 112, and probably
comes from Latin orca, possibly orcus. Several Old
English glossaries (containing Latin words and their
Old English equivalents) have as an Old English word,
"orc" defined as a demon clearly coming from Latin
"orcus" very early.
Re: "eotenas" in Beowulf 112, you might have mentioned
the obvious connection to the Ettinmoors.
Elves are not necessarily evil in Old English
tradition and it is impossible to try and describe
just what they are and how they were conceived. In
some Old English texts they appear as evil or as bad,
in other texts as positive. Christian heroes are
sometimes ascribed with elfen characteristics, Judith
for example is "elf-shining", beautiful as an elf.
There was a very good article in Mythlore back in the
late '80, very early '90s that dealt with the issue of
the words hobbit, goblin etc.