Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Attercops of Mirkwood

In my post on Slavic echoes (or the lack of them) in Tolkien’s works, and especially in the comments which it prompted, I talked about the temptation to find such echoes in unlikely places out of mere wishful thinking. But I also acknowledged that Tolkien’s linguistic borrowings were diverse and layered. He liked to imbue words with multiple shades of meaning, or even double-meanings, within and across languages. A classic example of Mordor, which in Sindarin is the “black land”, but which also points to Old English morðor “murder”.

Having thus set the table, let me serve you up a dish of spiders. Specifically, the great poisonous Spiders of Mirkwood. It is pretty well known by now that Bilbo’s taunt, “Attercop! Attercop!”, simply means “poisonous spider” [1]. The compound átor-coppe “spider” is attested in the Old English literature. I do not know of any occurrence of this compound form in Old Norse (one does find köngur-váfa, in which the second element, rather chillingly, means “ghost”), but I’d think it would have been *eitr-koppr. The Old English compound also made its way into Welsh as adargop, eventually shortened to adrop.

Gilliver, et al., think that Tolkien encountered the word while making notes on the 13th-century poem “The Owl and the Nightingale” as an undergraduate. Could be, but I wonder whether he might have seen the poem by Robert Graves, “Attercop: The All-Wise Spider”, published in 1924 [2]. Tolkien used the word “attercops” in early drafts of the poem “Errantry”, probably composed at the beginning of the 1930’s, perhaps even a bit before. (“Attercops” survived into the version published in The Oxford Magazine, 1933, but was not retained in the version printed in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, 1962.) In his poem, Graves is more complimentary to the reviled creature (“Attercop, whose proud name with hate be spoken”), but the poem, and its use of this archaic word, could have been prominent enough to catch the eye of Tolkien, a young poet himself at the time. Tolkien later described Robert Graves and a lecture he (Graves) gave in 1964: “A remarkable creature, entertaining, likeable, odd, bonnet full of wild bees, half-German, half-Irish, very tall, must have looked like Siegfried/Sigurd in his youth, but an Ass.) It was the most ludicrously bad lecture I have ever heard” [3]. Bees, eh? Well, in Old Swedish, a kopp was a “bee”, and *etter-kopp might have been a good substitute for “wild bee” (or today’s Africanized “killer” bees). Ah, but this is just in fun.

Returning to real etymology, the first element in “attercop” goes back to Old English átor (and variously, áter, áttor, ǽtor, etc.), meaning “poison”; cognate forms in the other Germanic languages include Old Norse eitr, Old High German eitar, Old Saxon êttar, hêttar, and among the modern languages this survives in Swedish etter. In Modern English, the word adder, a kind of poisonous snake, derives from Old English nædre, but it could be that átor “poison” influenced the word.

The second element, cop(pe), is usually said to mean “spider” (it survives in Modern English cobweb), but I think it probably came to refer to the arachnid relatively late, and there is much more to say about its earlier etymology. There are three possibilities: (1) “head”, (2) “cup”, and (3) variously “pock, bag, blister”. But when you boil these down, I think it all comes down to one source: PIE *keup “a hole, a hollow”, which gave IE *kaput “head”. How does a head come from a hollow? Think about it. :)

From PIE *keup / IE *kaput developed such related words as Sanskrit कूप /kūpa/ “a pit, well, hollow, cavity”; Greek κύπελλον “cup, goblet”, from κύπη “a hole, hollow”; and Latin caput “head” and cupa “vat, cask, butt” (if you’re snickering at the latter, it’s the source of Modern English butler). Moving forward into the Middle Ages, we have Old Church Slavonic kupa “cup”, OE copp, cuppe “cup, vessel”, ON koppr “cup, small vessel”, and Middle High German kopf “a drinking vessel”. Ah, but that last word looks familiar, doesn’t it? Modern High German has Kopf for “head”, along with Haupt, phonologically related. Modern Dutch, Danish, and Swedish have kop, kop, and kopp, respectively, for “cup”, and Afrikaans gives kop the additional shades of a hilltop and (informally) common sense (i.e., what’s in your kop “head”).

What about “pock, bag, blister”? Where in the world do those come from? Well, a pock is a small hole, related to the American southern dialectal poke (cf. “a pig in a poke”), which is a bag. These two are clearly related, not by etymology but by sense, to PIE *keup “a hole, hollow”. In addition to the meanings of both “cup” and “head”, Modern Frisian kop also has the sense of “blister, bubble, pock”, and so it’s no great leap to the sting of a poisonous spider. But this leap is not mine; I came across this theory (more tenuous than the others, if you ask me, but still connectable to them) in a 19th-century issue of the Proceedings of the Philological Society of London [4].

We’ve thus found a kind of double meaning — “head” versus “cup” — is the second element of attercop. Spiders are both “heads of poison” and “cups of poison”, and they may even have “bags of poison” or deliver a “pox of poison”. But I’m not finished yet.

Where do these Attercops live? Mirkwood of course. Again, it is pretty well known that Tolkien took the compound name for his forest from the Old Norse Myrkviðr, and he extrapolated an unattested Old English form, Myrcwudu, for use in his own legendarium [5]. The first element, English mirk, later murk(y), means “dark(ness)” in all the Germanic languages, e.g., ON myrkr, OE mirce, myrce, OS mirki, Modern Norwegian and Swedish mörk, Danish mørk. Even in Tolkien’s own invented languages, we have Queyna morë and Sindarin môr “dark”. This goes back to an Indo-European root *mer meaning “to flicker” (cf. Lithuanian mirgėti “to glimmer”), from which the Primitive Germanic *merkwia “twilight”.

So where’s the double-meaning? Ah, well, recall Tolkien’s interest in Finnish. There, we find the Finnish word myrkky, which is quite close phonologically, but which doesn’t mean “dark” at all; no, it means “poison”, just like the first element of “attercop”! Cognate to these are Estonian mürk, Hungarian mérĕg, and Lappish mir’hku, all meaning “poison”, and all looking like the first element in Mirkwood. Russian моръ “plague, pestilence” may also connected to the idea of poison. Coincidence? It could be, but I tend to doubt it. We know Tolkien studied Finnish (and to some extent modeled his own Quenya on it). The word myrkky doesn’t seem to occur anywhere in the Kalevala; however, we do find the phrase kuolla myrkystä “to die of poison” in Charles Eliot’s Finnish Grammar, the book Tolkien used in his studies of the language [6].

And I’ve still got one more. Who else have we got in the Mirkwood episode besides the Spiders, Mr. Baggins, and his Sting? Dwarves. How on earth could dwarves and spiders be connected etymologically? It just so happens — and I’ve known this for ages, but have had it up my sleeve awaiting the right opportunity — that dialectal Swedish uses the word dwerg for “spider”; of course, many of you probably know that its primary meaning is “dwarf”. Welsh exhibits the same behavior, where corr is both “dwarf” and “spider”, “the name probably given from the mythical skill of the dwarfs in handicraft” [7]. It’s all about metaphor, and quite possibly Tolkien knew of one or both of these usages.

So, double-meanings, ranging fairly wide, but among languages we know Tolkien studied and with strong ties to the same characters and setting in his first novel. Whether consciously intended or not, such interwoven meanings, like a spider’s web — or better, Ariadne’s thread — they help us to appreciate the ever rewarding complexities of Tolkien’s imagination.

[1] See, for example: Gilliver, Peter, Jeremy Marshall, and E.S.C. Weiner. The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 91–2; and Rateliff, John. The History of The Hobbit, Part One: Mr. Baggins. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007, p. 321n27.

[2] Graves, Robert. Mock Beggar Hall. London: Hogarth Press, 1924, pp. 14–5.

[3] Tolkien, J.R.R. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981, p. 353 (#267).

[4] Wedgwood, Hensleigh. “Notices of English Etymology.” Proceedings of the Philological Society of London, Volume II, Number 26 (22 November 1844), p. 6. For the same point again, see also the excellent and thorough, Adams, Ernest. “On the Names of Spiders.” Transactions of the Philological Society. Berlin: A. Asher & Co., 1859: 216–27, p. 217.

[5] Gilliver, et al., p. 165.

[6] Eliot, C.N.E. A Finnish Grammar. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1890, p. 143.

[7] Adams, p. 221.


  1. Nice post! Just a few minor additions: Like Swedish, modern Dutch also has the word etter (with the additional meaning of `filthy bastard'). Dutch kop does not only mean cup, but also animal head, and as such is used as a vulgar word for human head as well. In addition, kop is a modernised form of medieval Dutch kobbe which means... spider's head. Which of course only confirms what you wrote. - Renée Vink

  2. Very interesting, thank you. A couple of additional references on the Scandinavian words still in common use:

    The etymological dictionary used in Project Runeberg (a dictionary of Swedish peasant dialects) seems to favour the 'poison-bag' interpretation, arguing that it 'seems actually to mean "poison-bag" from the large egg-bag about by the spider':
    (in Swedish)

    Common understanding in Danish ('edderkop') is that of 'poison-head', also supported by the Dictionary of the Danish Language:
    (in Danish)

  3. Spot the difference. Hint: It's not the author.
    "Whether consciously intended or not..."
    "'[C]onsciously or unconsciously', he says; but doesn’t it matter which?"

    I enjoy your blog.

  4. Just a note from a kind supporter of the Frisian Hobbit, it is sinds 17- Sebtember -2009 for sale.For information please feel free to take a look at or at the publiserwebsite (May just intrest someone) - Jeroen Bakker, Holland

  5. @Robert: Nice; thank you for that! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, is that it? :) But since you’ve taken these two comments out of their respective contexts to put them side by side like this, let me add that there is an important difference underlying them, and that is this: in the one case there is at least a little evidence (and arguably more than a little) to put these words and relationships into Tolkien’s mind, where they could indeed have come out unconsciously; in the other, there is basically none.

    Having said that, you’re right: I probably should have been clearer when I questioned Dmitry Kuzmenko (but note that it was just a question, not an outright condemnation) and said that if he wants to argue that Slavic resonances might have unconsciously come through in Tolkien’s process, he should at least be able to establish that Tolkien had more than the barest familiarity with the source languages. With Tolkien’s own self-assessment on Russian and Serbian, that’s a hard case to make.

  6. To Anon. and Troels, thank you both for those comments. They are helpful and interesting, and I’m glad for the additional information.

    To Jeroen, normally I don’t allow comments like this on Lingwë (you may have noticed I deleted a comment advertising Sanskrit religious texts); however, this one is permissible since it relates directly to Tolkien. So, thanks for the links! I have a friend who has already ordered a copy of the Frisian Hobbit, and there’s a chance I’ll end up with something to say about it here as well.

  7. Ah, myrkky. Ah, poison. A Finnish etymological dictionary that I have connects myrkky to myrtyä "to become sour" (both literally and figuratively) and related words. This verb is a phenomime or psychomime (wow, interesting terms), an onomatopeia of things or states that make no sound. A rather common phenomenon in Finnish. This would make myrkky also such a phenomime. In any case, there is a word called myreä listed under the entry for myrtyä. The meanings of this myreä are "sour (lit./fig. again)" and also “gloomy (of weather)”! Though the gloominess of Mirkwoord isn’t due to bad weather, it’s close enough. Mirkwood is Synkmetsä (synkkä metsä "gloomy forest") in Finnish but it might as well be Myreämetsä "a forest with a gloomy weather".. which could also mean "an angry forest"!

    An old Finnish word for "hemlock" is myrkkyruoho, lit. "poison-grass". "The leaves were long, the grass was green, / The hemlock-umbles tall and fair…" According to Parsleys, Fennels, and Queen Anne's Lace by Barbary Perry Lawton, mentioning hemlocks creates an eery and enchanted effect because of their poisnous nature ( (What a long link, by the way.) Another enchanted forest connected to poisonous things. The etymology of hemlock itself is unknown ( Could it be related to Finnish lukki (Shelob is Lukitar in Finnish), a variant word for "spider" (the usual word being hämähäkki)? Lukki is a loan-word from Old Swedish lokke that might an adaptation of Loki, who is of course the trickster god. Well, the O.E. form of hemlock is hemlic, with earlier hymlice and hymblice, so this doesn’t seem probable. Unless y has turned o into front vowel? Folk etymology is one of my favourite hobbies.

    By the way, Charles Eliot's Finnish Grammar seems to be in error. One can't say kuolla myrkystä, lit. "die from poison". One must say kuolla myrkkyyn, lit. "die to poison". On the other hand, "living on bananas" is elää banaaneista, lit. "live from bananas". So Eliot evidently confused life and death. Life is from, death is to.

  8. Mirkwood could also be Myrkmetsä. That would obviously means something like "poison-forest", but it could be also connected to myräkkä "[heavy] storm" and myrsky "storm". Eh, Synkmetsä is better. Though I've never quite liked it.

  9. The closest cognate of hemlock is LG Hemern (OHG hemera, MHG hemer, hemere, LG Hemer and Hemern) 'hellebore'. Its cognate in Proto-Slavic is *chemeru.
    The root hem-, as follows from the Slavic and Baltic (see Vasmer IV:331-32) cognates of Hemern, means "poison, sickness, injury". :)
    According to Liberman and Mitchell, the suffix -lic, also attested in OE cerlic 'charlock', is probably akin to Gmc -ling, occuring in G Schierling 'hemlock'. The original form of the Old English word may have been *hem-l-ing or hem-l-ig, with -ig as in ifig 'ivy'.
    For some reason -l-ic has been recorded only in hem-l-ic and cyr-l-ic, but by the year 700 the suffix had become unproductive and dead; hence the recorded forms ending in -luk and lok.
    An association with lock is due to folk etymology, as happened in wedlock, killock, and so forth. Hemlic = poisonous plant. :)

  10. Petri and Eva, thanks very much for the comments! You’ve given me a lot to think about, and I don’t have sufficient time just at the moment (probably not until Monday, so check back then). But in the meantime, I will say that hemlock may be off the main track. Tolkien usually did not have the poisonous plant in mind when he used the general term “hemlock” (see Hammond and Scull’s The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, pp. 121–2, 172).

    The Old English hymlíc (variously spelled) is of obscure origin, but both Partridge and Skeat suggest that the –líc has the meaning “like” (as in the usual formation of many OE adjectives and adverbs); nothing to do with Loki, though that idea, I admit, does have a certain romantic appeal. Skeat has no ideas about the first element, but Partridge has teased out what sounds like the most probable explanation to me: a contraction of hymelelíce, where OE hymele is the hop plant (as used in beer-brewing). Partridge notes that hymele was used indifferently for several climbing vines or herbs and even suggests the possibility of a pun on drunkenness and poison in the derivation of hymlíc (Origins, 2nd ed., p. 285).

    More to come ...

  11. Yes, I remember that Tolkien used hemlock in a wider sense. It's nevertheless possible that Tolkien might have used it in the usual sense (Hammond and Scull say that as well). The theory of Barbary Perry Lawton, about the poisonous plant being used to effect an eery or enchanted atmosphere, is at least intriguing.

    Finnish humala means "hop" and "[state of] drunkenness". When someone is drunk he is in humala: humalassa. I'd say it's probably originally a metaphorical expression: someone is "in hop", or under the influence of a drink produced from the plant.

  12. Well, I have to say that I suspect that both instances (myrkky and dwerg) are coincidences. They seem to be quite farfetched in my view. It may be that if you look close enough, you would find other instances in Tolkien's writings that are cast in the same mould (here I don't mean the more obvious and explicit ones like "Bag End"). I might have noticed something along these lines myself, but I can't recall it now.

    I have never heard that "dwerg" (or however it is spelt) would be a word for "spider" in Swedish, though I don't have much knowledge about dialectal forms of Swedish. It does seem that you are right though; this was all I found when I googled:
    But I do think it would be very obscure. What dialect would that be in? The page doesn't seem to say, only that the word is attested in the name "Swen Dwergxson" in the year 1471, unless I have got it completely wrong.

    However, maybe it is worth mentioning in this context that there is type of spider that is called "vargspindel" in Swedish. I don't know if the "varg-" part has anything to do with "dvaergh" though. Normally Swedish "varg", as Jason and others will know, means "wolf". I see that the English word for it is, as one would expect, "wolf spider".


  13. Thanks for an interesting post, one of the best on this blog in a long while. I just have a short note on the last comment:

    In some parts of Sweden “Dvärg” is most certainly a word for spider, and it’s still in use today. According to SAOB ( the use is especially widespread in the middle and north of Sweden (“Svealand” and “Norrland”), and the Academy associate its origin to “dvärgsnät” (dwarfs nets, beautiful spider webs glittering with morning dew, usually found close to the ground) which in folklore, as the name suggests, was seen as the handiwork of dwarfs, as proof of their craftsmanship. But as the memory of stories about dwarfs faded away the name became understood as referring to ordinary spiders, and thus its dialectical use (verified in print as early as 1603). All according to the authority of Swedish language, SAOB, that is:


  14. Thanks for that, Richard. It may be that that usage of the word has not spread to Swedish-speaking Finland, or at least I have never heard it. But I'll check if any of my Facebook friends have done so. :)

  15. @Jason: I will quote Liberman (with whom I tend to agree):

    "It Partridge's opinion "the suffix -lic suggests that the Old English noun was originally an adjective: perhaps hymlice is a contraction of hymelelic (a herb) 'like the hop vine of the bryony or the convolvulus,' OE hymele being applied indifferently to all three vine-like or climbing herbs. There may even be some obscure pun on the deadliness of the hemlock - and of the products of the hop". Partridge did not elaborate on the nature of the pun.
    Mueller believed that -lic was OE leac 'leek', as in garlick, for leac sometimes reffered to any garden herb. Even UED says that -lock may be a weakened form of OE leac 'vegetable', as in leac-tun, though Skeat realized that -lice can hardly be -leek, and OED remarks (at charlock): "There appears no basis for the guess that the second syllable is leac, 'leek'. In the first edition of his dictionary, Skeat explained -ley in barley as a reflex of leac, but convinced by Murray's etymology of barley in OED (-ley is from -lik, as in the suffix -ly; the original meaning of the word was 'like barley'), he considered the possibility that -lic in hemlic was of the same origin.
    However, the whole point is that the English suffix -lic acquired a Scandinavian pronunciation [lij] and lost -k, while -leek and garlic show k where it has always been.

    The ancient Germanic suffix -ling is especially common in German. J.Grimm (1890:370) citied a long list of the names of mushrooms ending in -ling. This suffix is a contracion of -l-inga (< PIE -*lo-e-ko). Apparently, -ling alternated with -ig in plant names, at least in English. For instance, ivy descended from ifig. It must have been easy to borrow L radic- and turn it into OE rædic 'radish', for the word sounded like ræd-ic."

  16. Well, in Afrikaans a spider is a spinnekop, literally, a head that spins (some dreadful puns there...).

    BTW, kop is more hill than hilltop. More common is koppie or koppies, literally hillock (-s), but in Afrikaans a koppie would be an average hill, and a kop would be a large/tall hill. But hill is also more formally termed "heuwel".

    Renee (comment #1) made a reference to etter in Dutch - in Afrikaans, it exclusively means puss (as in the stuff leaking from septic wounds).

  17. Thank you to everyone who has commented! The feedback on this post has really exceeded my expectations. A few additional, scattered responses:

    @Petri — Yes, I remember that Tolkien used hemlock in a wider sense. It’s nevertheless possible that Tolkien might have used it in the usual sense (Hammond and Scull say that as well). The theory of Barbary Perry Lawton, about the poisonous plant being used to effect an eery or enchanted atmosphere, is at least intriguing.

    Well, but Tolkien did not use “hemlock” anywhere in The Hobbit, so with respect to Mirkwood, it’s really a moot point, isn’t it?

    Finnish humala means “hop” and “[state of] drunkenness”. When someone is drunk he is in humala: humalassa. I’d say it’s probably originally a metaphorical expression: someone is “in hop”, or under the influence of a drink produced from the plant.

    Yes, in English we say (or used to say; it’s rather archaic today) that someone is “hopped up”. It’s fascinating to see how closely the Finnish word for “hop” matches the Old English. Do you know the etymology, Petri?

    @Ardamir — Well, I have to say that I suspect that both instances (myrkky and dwerg) are coincidences. They seem to be quite farfetched in my view.

    Oh, yes, that is entirely possible. And yet, recall that Tolkien himself admitted (speaking of the Gaelic nasc, nasg) that words could become “lodged in some corner of [his] linguistic memory”, only to come out later, unexpectedly and unconsciously.

    I have never heard that “dwerg” (or however it is spelt) would be a word for “spider” in Swedish, though I don’t have much knowledge about dialectal forms of Swedish. [...] But I do think it would be very obscure. What dialect would that be in?

    I certainly can’t say what dialect, nor how obscure it might be, but as you have seen, others have corroborated this. I mentioned in the post that I had been holding onto this piece of information for some time. I first encountered it in Jacob Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie, where he writes: “The Swed[ish] dverg signifies araneus [i.e., spider] as well as nanus [i.e., dwarf], and dvergs-nät a cobweb” (trans. James Steven Stallybrass, Volume II, p. 471). Grimm footnotes that “the Breton korr is both dwarf and spider”, just as I said of the Welsh corr.

    @Eva — “However, the whole point is that the English suffix -lic acquired a Scandinavian pronunciation [lij] and lost -k, while -leek and garlic show k where it has always been.”

    It’s tricky to argue from pronunciation in this way. So much depends on when the work entered the language, what influences surrounded it, and so on. I don’t find the theory that –líc is really léac “leek” very convincing, personally, but without a systematic study of the actual word forms attested, their contexts, and dates (so far as can be ascertained), it must remain shadowy. I trust that Skeat, Partridge, et al., have probably done a better job than we can. :) And in any case, as I said before, “hemlock” is really beside the point; the word doesn’t occur in The Hobbit at all.

    And anyway, just to show how tricky it is to argue from pronunciation:

    “It must have been easy to borrow L radic- and turn it into OE rædic ‘radish’, for the word sounded like ræd-ic.”

    Old English rǽdic sounded like “radich”, actually, which softened during the Middle English period into the pronunciation we know today. :)

  18. You are right, we should probably take this discussion elsewhere. :)

  19. I’m happy to continue it, either here or via email (my email address is up near the top right). This has been a wonderful discussion. :)

  20. Excellent post! Interestingly, Douglas A. Anderson suggested that the dwarf scene in Mirkwood was a pun on the dwarves being caught in a spider web, which would be a 'dvergs-nät' (dwarves-net) in [a dialect of?] Swedish. It's note 17 to Flies and Spiders in 'The Annotated Hobbit'.

    This isn't meant as a 'he got there first'- you did all the work of figuring out yourself, after all! Think of it as more support for a fascinating suggestion ;)

  21. Finnish humala "hop" is probably of Germanic origin. My etymological dictionary lists these words as cognates: humle in modern Swedish, Danish and Norwegian, and Old Swedish, humli, humla in Old Norse, humall in Icelandic, hymele in Old English (as noted) and homele in Middle Low German. Latin humulus "hop" is probably also a loan word from German. But this word for "hop" seems to have been loaned into German from Slavonic hmelĭ < *hŭmelĭ? < Turkic qumlak "a plant similar to ivy which is made into a drink by sweetening it with honey" (Chuvass χumla "hop"). It has been borrowed from Turkic into several Finno-Ugrian languages. As an alternative suggestion to Finnish humala being a Germanic loan, the etymological dictionary says that an it might have been borrowed directly from a Volgaic branch of the Bulgar language (which is Turkic) into both Proto-Finnish and Germanic.

  22. Excellent post! Interestingly, Douglas A. Anderson suggested that the dwarf scene in Mirkwood was a pun on the dwarves being caught in a spider web, [...] in ‘The Annotated Hobbit’.

    Thank you for reminding me, Anon. I definitely knew this, but it had slipped my mind during the preparation of this post. Let that be a lesson to me to remember my own advice that “The History of The Hobbit, together with The Annotated Hobbit, must now bookend any future study of Tolkien’s novel” (from me review of Ratefliff, emphasis added).

    If you will forgive a digression ... About a year ago, in connection with discussion Kelley Wickham-Crowley’s review of Drout’s J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, some friends and I remarked on this very note from Anderson. One of those friends (who will remember this conversation, if he’s reading this comment) said he thought he’d seen this dwarf-spider connection recently (then), perhaps on my blog. I responded:

    “Not on my blog (I don’t think), though I came across Swedish dverg = ‘dwarf and spider’ independently during my own reading, several years ago — I know it’s still in my notes somewhere. I found it in just [such] a forgotten historical / linguistic work as Wickham-Crowley cited to Doug (though not the same one, I know that; it might have been in Grimm [as indeed it was!]). At some point, I guess, I saw the very note from AH you refer to below and discarded my finding as [not] ‘original’ (hence, why I’ve never said or written anything about it, though I’ve always thought I might make room to mention it in a paper sooner or later) — but this was long enough ago that Wickham-Crowley’s name had left no trace in my memory [...].”

    At the time, I thought it more likely to have been an afterthought on Tolkien’s part, if he knew it at all, even though he did “demonstrate a good knowledge of Swedish in the Nomenclature”.

    This isn’t meant as a ‘he got there first’- you did all the work of figuring out yourself, after all! Think of it as more support for a fascinating suggestion ;)

    Indeed I do. And it took the discovery of the Finnish myrkky to spur me on to write about all of this at last. In any case, the source Wickham-Crowley gave to Doug Anderson postdates The Hobbit, so what I’ve done here is give two independent sources antedating Tolkien’s novel, and hence possibly accounting for his knowledge of the Swedish dialectal form. I think that’s equally (perhaps I daresay more) important.