The book is intended to be a quick reference guide for the reader of The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings, where old, uncommon and archaic words can be quickly looked up and their meaning made clear,
either during the reading of the text or ahead of time, chapter by chapter without the cumbersome task looking up each word and finding the correct meaning as one comes across it.
The idea for the book came about while reading The Lord of the Rings. I had read it many times before when I was younger, but this time, I wanted to slowly savor the text. What I found was that I had to keep
stopping because I ran across old, uncommon and archaic words that I did not fully understand, interrupting the flow of the text. In looking up the words, I could not just use any pocket dictionary, as most of the words
I was looking for were nowhere to be found in a little book like this. I finally settled on an old, three-volume dictionary published in the 20's that contained the words I was looking for, together with their correct
(I presume) meanings as used in The Lord of the Rings.
Still, I was wishing that I could find a complete list of all of the archaic and, uncommon words already available, easy to look up, chapter by chapter. Unfortunately, I found none to my liking. Those I found, had such short, non-descriptive definitions, that they left me wanting. Other words, I could not find at all. I also found out that even though a word was used again later in the text, its meaning may not be the same as the previous occurrence. Take
draught, for example. It occurs 35 times in the text with at least 5 different meanings. It means current of air in one sentence, drinking, or a drink or potion in another
, one who is drafted into service in another, to draw or to pull in another and finally the depth a vessel sinks in the water. One needs to know all of the meanings in order to fully understand the
The selection of the words is subjective. They are words I did not fully know the definitions of or words where I thought to myself 'I should like to know more about that." How often does one tarry at the
hythe? I purposely used an old dictionary, one in use before the books were written, as definitions and meanings change over the course of time and I wanted to get the older definitions, as Tolkien intended them. In
newer dictionaries, the first definition of rent is payment … but rent as used in The Lord of the Rings
has a completely different meaning. It usually means a tear. I have also included words in common use today, but whose meaning as used in The Lord of the Rings
is completely different than the one we usually associate it with. We all know what essays are, but when used as: "The lesser rings were only essays
in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles…" - is that not much richer, more meaningful use of the word, one that we do not normally associate it with? An essay
being a testing or experiment as opposed to a short literary composition.
While others have written extensively on the words and languages Tolkien created, few have written about the old, archaic and
unusual English words Tolkien used in The Lord of the Rings. The books can, of course, be read without any knowledge or the full understanding of the unusual words he uses, many meanings can be guessed at from
the context of the text they are set in, but only in the understanding of the words, will an additional rich layer of the text be revealed. In guessing, one may guess correctly, but more often than not, my guesses
turned out to be wrong.
In this book, I have listed the old, archaic or unusual word followed by the page of it's first use in the 2002 Houghton-Mifflin Alan Lee Illustrated edition, along with it's meaning as used
in The Lord of the Rings and the sentence it is first used in. Since the Harper-Collins 2002 Alan Lee Illustrated edition has the same pagination as the Houghton-Mifflin edition, the page numbers are the same for
both editions. The words are sorted by first appearance and later words may be listed more than once if the meaning in the later use is different. The first section can be read if one wants to read the definitions of a
few words at once, (like all those words in a chapter) without having to read the whole dictionary. In the last section, the words are arranged alphabetically for ease of finding a particular word without regard to
where it is used. As when the books or chapters are read out-of-order and/or one comes across the second or third use of a word. I have also included the sentence where the word is used to provide the reader with the
contextual setting of the word in the sentence it is used in as an aid to understand the meaning. The sentence from the book can, can of course be read first; the meaning guessed at and then the definition read by those
so inclined. It does make for an interesting game.