Here we can consider place names in Tolkien's works. Some of the place names were entirely invented by JRRT, and couched in his own ME languages. Other place names, especially those sited in the Shire, its vicinity, and in Rohan often have english/ celtic roots from our own history. The linguistic/ cultural origins of such names Dingle, and Bree in ME may be good examples of Tolkien "borrowing" names from our real world and the languages he knew here, especially Welsh and Anglo-Saxon english.
Last Edit: Nov 21, 2016 9:08:53 GMT -6 by Andorinha
The term Bree has especially caught my eye. In Tolkien's ME it is officially "Bree Hill," and is named after the geographic situation of the town -- literally it is a habitation site that has grown up the side of a very prominent hill. In our "real" world, there is in Worcestershire England (a place Tolkien ran all over in his youth) a prominence that just might have suggested ME's Bree Hill to his mind. In this case, Bredon Hill, where, in past times several communities once stood, including an Iron Age fortified town, later replaced by Roman works. I was wondering what the term Bree itself might mean, and it may be Welsh-celtic for "hill." The don portion of Bredon, also has the same significance in Old English, "hill." So, in Tolkien's Bree Hill, if the celtic connection is true, the name would mean "Hill-Hill" just as the real world Bredon Hill is precisely translated as "Hill-Hill-Hill," Welsh, Old English, Modern English forms of hill combined.
I want to thank you for this topic! Not for the content, just that I remembered that Shippey had something to say about the word "Bree" in Road to Middle-Earth. I hadn't looked at that book for years!
His choice for the place-name inspiration was the town of Brill, expanded Bree-Hill, again meaning Hill-Hill. In the same paragraph, on pg 109, he also, gives Chetwode nearby, as an example of Wood-Wood.
Post by Fredeghar Wayfarer on Nov 29, 2016 21:48:41 GMT -6
Great stuff, Andorinha. I remembered that Bree Hill meant Hill Hill but I didn't realize there was a real world location that had an equally ridiculous translated name.
Some other place names of note:
Dunland - A dun is an ancient hill-fort. The word comes from Gaelic. Quite appropriate since the Dunlendings are thought to be inspired by the Celts and their rivalry with the Anglo-Saxons (the inspiration for the Rohirrim). So Dunland would be the land of the hill-forts. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dun This is made all the more interesting since the Dunlendings are distantly related to the Bree-landers. Both were descended from the House of Haleth, one of the three races of the Edain in the First Age. There are Celtic root words in Bree and Buckland (like "Bree" and "Chet" and Welsh names like Meriadoc). That indicates a survival of Dunlendish language, similar to Celtic place names surviving in England.
Rivendell - It sounds fancy and mystical to modern ears but this name literally just means "split valley." "Riven" means split or torn apart and a dell is a valley covered in trees. I remember this blew my mind when I first realized what the name meant.
Mirkwood - Tolkien didn't invent this. It was a term used in Germanic mythology for dark forests, especially ones that marked the border of known lands and the wilds of ancient Europe beyond. It's thought that many real world forests have names derived from the Old Norse version, like the Black Forest in Germany. The English version Mirkwood was created the writer William Morris and Tolkien adopted it. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrkvi%C3%B0r
Hi ya, Freddy! LOL got a good kick out of this: "an equally ridiculous translated name." Indeed! It is strange that so many of these "compound names" are found in Tolkien's writing -- since they also occur in many real world place names, something an etymologist like JRRT would have studied. I can only think that he duplicated this real world process of name formation on purpose, no doubt getting a good etymological kick from it himself. Yes, and thanks Fan, for Chetwode = Wood wood!
My personal favorite from modern TV is the athletic competition about "ninjas" with a clumsily named final goal called "Mount Midori Yama," where elements from one language are combined with the same element from another = Mount Green Pine Mount, where yama in Japanese simply means "mount." I suppose for English countryside names this resulted when an older Celtic name was simply amalgamated to an equivalent Anglo-Saxon form, just so that every body would understand that Bree = Hill...
Thanks, Freddy, for the material on "dun," I was unaware of its celtic meaning.