I have attempted to provide
definitions that are clear and concise. Many Tolkien readers will know that this is not always possible. Not all dictionaries agree on the meanings of words. Many words are difficult, even today to define. Tolkien,
maybe more than anyone else, was aware of the problems with words and their meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary for example, does not have a good definition for wraith. Is a wraith
alive or dead? One can not tell from the definition. In cases like this, going back to the text may be the best solution, because Tolkien often created a definition simply by using the word in a particular way.
are other instances where the definitions exist, but the meaning in the context of the text may still be unclear or debatable. The sentence on pg.145 reads: For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long,
leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold. What does keen mean in this context? At first, it looks to mean sharp, but keen also means:
to wail in lamentation for the dead; to mourn with wailing, as one dead; a wailing lament for the dead. In the next sentence, the blades are referred to as sharp, but a little later, Tolkien also writes:
…that these blades were forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse: they were foes of the Dark Lord, but they were overcome by the evil king of Carn Dûm in the Land of Angmar.
'Few now remember them,' Tom
murmured, 'yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.' The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a vision as it
were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow. Then the vision faded, and they
were back in the sunlit world.
not also mean mourning here? The use certainly implies sharp, but mourning could also be applicable.