Some Contributions to Middle-earth Lexicography:
Hapax Legomena in The Lord of the Rings
After Tolkien had finished The Lord of the Rings
, he wrote to prospective publisher Milton Waldman that “hardly a word in its 600,000 or more has been unconsidered” (Letters
, 160). This is hardly surprising for a work more than a decade in the making, revised and rewritten, both forwards and backwards, many times. Delivering the Valedictory Address to Oxford a few years later, Tolkien said that he “would always rather try to wring the juice out of a single sentence, or explore the implications of one word than try to sum up a period in a lecture, or pot a poet in a paragraph” (Salu, 17). Tolkien was discussing pedagogy in his address, but in the letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien used almost identical wording in reference to his magnum opus: “[i]t is not possible even at great length to ‘pot’ The Lord of the Rings
in a paragraph or two” (Letters
, op. cit.). The point is, we should consider ourselves justified in examining sentences, phrases, and even individual words in The Lord of the Rings
; Tolkien has as good as given us the go ahead.
Moreover, Tolkien himself engaged in this kind of study on many occasions, dealing sometimes with words and phrases from medieval literature, sometimes with words and names of his own invention. It hardly seems necessary to offer a litany of examples to this audience, but to name one — probably the closest analogue to what I will attempt here — there is Tolkien’s 1925 essay, “Some Contributions to Middle-English Lexicography”, from which I have borrowed part of my own title.i
In some ways, I am also following the model of Tolkien’s fellow Inklings, C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield, whose respective Studies in Words
and History in English Words
are concerned to investigate individual words and their interrelationships. If he’d had more free time, it is easy to imagine Tolkien producing a work like this at some point in his career.ii
With respect to Tolkien’s use of words — that is to say, with Tolkien’s own literary works as the object of investigation — quite a few essays and word-studies have been published over the years. Perhaps the largest collection of this type is The Ring of Words
, half a history of Tolkien’s lexicographical experience with the Oxford English Dictionary, half a collection of word-studies (or perhaps more accurately, one-third, two-thirds). I recommend it highly as a good introduction to the subject. Other scholars who have often explored “the implications of one word” are Tom Shippey, Mark Hooker, J.S. Ryan, and of course, myself. But the words I wish to examine in this essay are of a particular kind. I would like to consider a few of the hapax legomena to be found in The Lord of the Rings
What is a hapax legomenon? For those who don’t normally wield weighty Greek nomenclature with blunt scholarly force, a hapax legomenon (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον) is a word that occurs once — and only once — in a written corpus.iii
What kind of corpus we mean depends on the scope of our investigation. We might speak of a word that occurs only once in a particular work, such as The Lord of the Rings
or the Bible; or a word found only once in an author’s entire body of work, such as Chaucer’s or Shakespeare’s; or even a word that appears just once in the entire written record of a given language, such as Gothic or Old English. I have no such grand designs today! Nor could I possibly discuss all
of the hapax legomena in just The Lord of the Rings
, not even in the most cursory fashion — for the simple reason that there are more than five thousand of them.
But why discuss them at all? What can we learn by looking at hapaxes? Naturally, there are many incidental words Tolkien has used only once in the novel, the examination of which will probably not tell us a great deal — other than attesting to the breadth of the vocabulary at his command. Thus, it isn’t particularly interesting to know that Tolkien uses only once in The Lord of the Rings
the words aback
, … And this is just a handful of the A’s! Tolkien probably had little or no deliberate intention to limit his use of these words to a single instance. Hapax legomena appear in every written corpus; they are unavoidable. But while most are incidental, some are not. For example, is it worth our notice that there is one — and only one — instance of Aman
in The Lord of the Rings
? I think so.
When they aren’t merely incidental, what sorts of things can we learn from hapax legomena? Well, it very much depends what we are looking for, but let me offer a few general observations. These single-use words may call our attention to particular sources, linguistic and literary, from which Tolkien borrowed, as well as give further indications of how he wove them into his work. Or we may learn something about the dialect used for particular characters when those characters conspicuously employ several hapaxes. Single occurrences of proper names help to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Tolkien’s imagination (though I will not consider proper names in this essay). Hapax legomena may even hint at the presence of underlying themes, often deeply buried, but awaiting discovery through lexical analysis. And there is the potential for much more; you never quite know what you’re going to find until you start looking
And what am I looking for in this essay? I would like to talk about a series of hapax legomena (or in one case, as noted below, a dis legomenon), representing two broad categories of words. The first group are words drawn from the semi-pagan traditions of the medieval Germanic world. The second are rather the opposite: words with more explicitly Christian connotations. The first will show us something of how Tolkien leaned on his academic training to incorporate pseudo-historical sources into his fiction; the second will spotlight Tolkien’s religious faith and reveal some of the traces it left in The Lord of the Rings
. To put it more concisely: the mortarboard versus the mitre.
Medieval Germanic Hapax Legomena
As did Barfield and Lewis, let me begin by parading a series of words before you: word-hoard
What do these words have in common, apart from the most minimal use in The Lord of the Rings
? The answer is, they all derive from the medieval Germanic tradition. Here is the specific context for each of them:
- word-hoard: “Sam leapt to his feet. […] Various reproachful names for himself came to Sam’s mind, drawn from the Gaffer’s large paternal word-hoard […]” (LR, IV.2, 623).
- weregild: “‘“This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,” he said; and therefore whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it. But soon he was betrayed by it to his death; and so it is named in the North Isildur’s Bane […]”’” (LR, II.2, 243).
- foeman: “‘[The host] is very great,’ said the scout. ‘He that flies counts every foeman twice, yet I have spoken to stouthearted men, and I do not doubt that the main strength of the enemy is many times as great as all that we have here’” (LR, III.7, 529).
- leechcraft: A dis legomenon: (1) “[S]aid Théoden […] ‘Your leechcraft ere long would have had me walking on all fours like a beast’” (LR, III.6, 519); and (2) “So at last Faramir and Éowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well. For though all lore was in these latter days fallen from its fullness of old, the leechcraft of Gondor was still wise, and skilled in the healing of wound and hurt, and all such sickness as east of the Sea mortal men were subject to” (LR, V.8, 860).
Let us now take these words each in turn and subject them to closer scrutiny.
The first, word-hoard
, is perhaps the most conspicuous of the whole group for its evocative sound and prominent figuring in Beowulf
Him se yldesta andswarode,
Werodes wísa, word-hord onléac (ll. 258–9)
(To him the eldest answered,
The leader of the company, his word-hoard unlocked)
The Old English word-hord
is, in fact, a hapax legomenon in Beowulf
, one of many, and the study of such isolated words in that poem has a long and storied past. Even though it may seem to fall into the kind of critical approach that Tolkien warned against, examining the stones and ignoring the tower (Monsters
, 7–8), it cannot be denied that scholars have greatly profited from such study. Tolkien is quite right that we should admire the beauty and workmanship of the tower, but this does not mean we must never
examine the stones out of which it was constructed.v
So it is with Tolkien’s own words. In this case, I have no doubt that Tolkien knew just what he was doing in applying word-hoard
to the Gaffer’s impressive stock of insults and expletives. Indeed, one of these, “Noodles!”, is itself another hapax in The Lord of the Rings
. As with most of the source material underlying the hobbits and their pseudo-history, the intended tone of the allusion is ironic. The Gaffer isn’t really
like Beowulf. Or maybe he is — if you consider the sharpness of his tongue!
Our next hapax legomenon, weregild
, is likewise a compound, though usually written without a hyphen. It is also sometimes spelled wergild
, or weregeld
. It occurs only once in the body of the novel, but if we include the appendices, weregild
occurs three times more (from the perspective of the novel and all its paratext, it is a tetrakis legomenon). Gilliver et al. discuss weregild
in The Rings of Words
(209–10), where they quote from the OED definition: “[i]n ancient Teutonic and Old English law, the price set upon a man according to his rank, paid by way of compensation or fine in cases of homicide […].” It is composed of the two elements, wer
“man” (cp. werewolf
) and gild
“payment” (cp. yield
; and related, gold
). Tolkien’s choice of this word strikes me as interesting because of the implications it makes about the rule of law in Middle-earth. This is a subject only hinted at, here and there, in The Lord of the Rings
(as, for example, in Beregond’s “trial” for treason). Tolkien’s decision to weave a distinctly Germanic legal concept into the fabric of Middle-earth — as opposed to, say, a Roman one — offers us some idea of what jurisprudence in Gondor might have been like.
The Old English form is wergild
, but Tolkien adopted the spelling popularized by William Morris in the 19th century. William Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon used the word repeatedly in their translation of the Grettis Saga ,vi
a book known to have been in Tolkien’s library long before he wrote The Lord of the Rings
(Scull and Hammond, 601). And in Morris and Magnússon’s book, take special note of the back matter, including indexes of “Personal Names”, “Local Names”, “Things”, and “Periphrastic Expressions in the Songs” (283–304). This is almost an exact analogue, and may
be the actual model, for the indexes of songs, people, places and things Tolkien promised in the first edition of The Lord of the Rings
and actually delivered in the second.vii
Moving on to the next word, foeman
is distinctly Anglo-Saxon, with the ring of an arranged marriage between two upstanding English monosyllables. Rather the sort of thing George Brewerton must have had in mind when “he demanded this his pupils [at King Edward’s School] should use plain old words of the English language” like muck
(Carpenter, 28).viii Foeman
is pure Old English, with its antecedent form, fáhman
, recorded primarily in Anglo-Saxon law-texts. It is a perfect choice to typify the speech of Rohan, which Tolkien has likened to the ancient English of the Kingdom of Mercia. I could easily spend an entire essay in discussion of such words, many of which are, in fact, hapax or dis legomena in the novel.ix
In the interests of brevity, I will limit myself to just one more before leaving the medieval Germanic culture behind: leechcraft
. This word is used twice in The Lord of the Rings
, as I pointed out above; furthermore, leech
are each used once, with related meaning. Leechcraft refers to the medieval practice of medicine (while leeches, in the sense used by Tolkien, were the practitioners of leechcraft; in today’s idiom, doctors). The practice of medicine in Anglo-Saxon England — lǽcecræft
— was, to put it euphemistically, not altogether reliable. Many of the healing remedies were no more than folk-medicine, incantations, and in some cases, the actual application of leeches, used to draw out poisons from the blood. Some of these curatives worked well; others might cause more hurt than the illness itself. Tolkien reflects both sides of the medieval medicinal art in the two uses quoted above. Théoden realizes that Gríma’s “whisperings”, which he likens to leechcraft, have caused him great harm. On the other hand, the leechcraft of Gondor contributed to the recoveries of Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry after their parts in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. It may be drawing too great an inference, but I cannot help wondering whether Tolkien chose to use the word exactly twice with the deliberate aim of making exactly this point.
Elements of Religious Truth in Solution
Shifting gears, I would like to consider another series of hapax legomena in The Lord of the Rings
, each of which points, however subtly, to the underlying religious character of the novel. Returning to the Milton Waldman letter once again, Tolkien famously explained his view that myths and fairy-tales must “reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary ‘real’ world”; furthermore, the direct, explicit incorporation of Christianity into these works struck Tolkien as “fatal” (Letters
, 144). A couple of years later, Tolkien (also famously) described his great novel thus: “The Lord of the Rings
is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” (ibid., 172).
Taking these two statements together, we should expect to find Christian elements throughout the novel, not overtly, but “in solution” — meaning only in little nods and fillips, carefully hidden away here and there in the greater bulk of the story. What better function for hapax legomena than this, to stand in for those elements in solution? There are numerous examples, but I will confine myself to these few: holy
. Here is the context of each in The Lord of the Rings
- holy: “The long years have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the West, beneath the blue vaults of Varda wherein the stars tremble in the song of her voice, holy and queenly” (LR, II.8, 378).
- Underworld: “Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old” (LR, V.4, 828).
- hell-hawks: “‘Faramir! The Lord Faramir! It is his call!’ cried Beregond. ‘Brave heart! But how can he win to the Gate, if these foul hell-hawks have other weapons than fear?” (LR, V.4, 809).
- Over-heaven: “‘The names of all the stars, and of all living things, and the whole history of Middle-earth and Over-heaven and of the Sundering Seas,’ laughed Pippin” (LR, III.11, 599).
- god: “Théoden […] he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young” (LR, V.5, 838).
First, we have holy
. The word occurs only once, in Tolkien’s translation of the song Galadriel sings to the Fellowship on their departure from Lothlórien. The word translates, in part, the Quenya compound, airetári-lírinen
(“holy and queenly song”). Tolkien elsewhere explained that airë
is “holy”, “a title of address to the Valar and the greater Máyar [sic
The word is here associated with Varda, the Lady of the Stars, Elbereth, whom the Elves revere. Invoked many times by the characters in The Lord of the Rings
, she is the closest we ever come to a genuine deity in the novel, one who is present and not merely remembered out of a remote past; or if not literally present, she is at least nearby, listening for appeals for aid, and answering them in the darkness.
In the next hapax, the Underworld
referred to is Angband, the abode of Morgoth in ages past. The word therefore would seem to carry at least as much sense of the pagan as it does of the Cristian Hell. But this is precisely what Tolkien has argued fantasy authors should do: hint at elements of Christian belief without making them explicit. In this case, the Underworld can be regarded a generalized Hell, suitable to Christians or pagans alike. But we know that, for Tolkien, this must also have been a proxy for the literal Hell in which he himself believed. In the next word, Tolkien allows himself to become just a little more direct.
In the compound, hell-hawks
, Beregond’s wonderfully alliterative dysphemism for the winged mounts of the Nazgûl, we have a more explicit reference to Hell. It is true again that Tolkien leaves room for a pseudo-pagan interpretation — even the most superficial knowledge of the medieval Germanic tradition makes that plain, with its many cognates: Old English hell
, Old Norse hel
, Old Frisian helle
, Old Saxon hellja
, Old High German hella
, and Gothic halja
. But all of these words were eventually Christianized, and Tolkien would have been aware that the word was now freighted with Christian overtones. Yet he skirts the edge of explicit reference to religion once again. To use the word more than once would have called too much attention to it; a hapax legomenon suited Tolkien’s need perfectly.
We find a similar situation with Over-heaven
, one of Tolkien’s nonce expressions that has always held a special appeal for me. The word heaven
, by itself, appears many times in The Lord of the Rings
, but frequently in the secularized expression, “Good heavens!” The generic noun, heaven(s)
, appears as well but usually referring merely to the skies or to outer space. Over-heaven
is a special case, and as such it deserves the distinction of being used sparingly — in fact, once. In the guide to his nomenclature that Tolkien prepared for translators, he says that Over-heaven is a calque of the Quenya “tar-menel
‘high heaven’ […], suggested by ON upphiminn
” (Hammond and Scull, 774).
The Old Norse term may have been the one on the tip of Tolkien’s tongue — the word is conspicuous in the Eddic poem, Völuspá (inter alia
) — but it is hardly unique in the medieval Germanic tradition. In Old High German, ûfhimil
is itself a hapax legomenon, to my knowledge occurring only once in the recorded language, in the late 8th-century Wessobrunner Schöpfungsgedicht. There is a cognate form in Old Saxon as well, up-himil
. As in Old High German, this appears to be a hapax legomenon in the language. It occurs at l. 2887 of the great ecclesiastical work, the Hêliand, in close proximity to erđa
“earth” and worold-rîki
“kingdom of the world”. In the Old English of Cædmon, there is an even more striking collocation, where we find middaneard
, and upheofon
(“over-heaven”) all in close proximity. Likewise, the Völuspá features both upphiminn
in close conjunction.
Clearly, though it may not have been fully taken up into his cosmology, Tolkien felt it very appropriate to drop at least one mention of “over-heaven” into The Lord of the Rings
. And while there is full support for a pagan reading, it is impossible to ignore the implication that Over-heaven is “the real Heaven”, i.e., the Christian Heaven, standing tall above the generalized and secularized uses of “heaven” that otherwise pepper the novel. I might add that it’s perfectly appropriate to put this curious hapax legomenon
into the mouth of the eminently curious Pippin.
And finally, god
. Not the singular GOD, written in majuscules. No, Tolkien would not go so far as that (though there is clearly such a singular God in his legendarium, this is beyond the scope of The Lord of the Rings
). This is “a god”, one of many; moreover, this god is rendered less significant through the miniscule spelling, and made more remote through the use of simile: Théoden is “like
a god of old” (emphasis added). There are no actual gods overseeing the battlefield; this is not The Iliad
. Yet an actual god is named in this passage, Oromë the Hunter. This is one of only a few explicit references to the Valar (excepting the frequent invocations to Elbereth), and it is the only one to use the word “god”. Tolkien has been very careful indeed to avoid the word heretofore, and he will not use it again, so why here, why now? The answer is probably that the image of Théoden’s arrival at Minas Tirith represents the focal center of the power and majesty of the entire War of the Ring. This is the moment at which a culture struggling to survive in the face of overwhelming evil would have the greatest need for God, and Tolkien gives us just a taste. This the moment of greatest jeopardy and fear,xi
and Tolkien writes just enough — not one letter more! — to suggest
the appeal to faith in a higher power. The balance Tolkien has struck is perfect. To me, the closing paragraph of “The Ride of the Rohirrim” is one of the most powerful passages in all of Tolkien’s writings.
A Closing Remark
Not every hapax legomenon is significant. Every written corpus has them, from the shortest story to the longest epic, and many are quite ordinary words of limited individual importance. Likewise, the words used most
often are usually not significant (the
, …). It would be supposing too much to take every hapax as a conscious and deliberate clue to readers, even by a wordsmith as meticulous as Tolkien. Yet surely some of them were
deliberate attempts to dissolve important themes and sources “in solution” in Tolkien’s great work. I have tried to demonstrate (albeit briefly) that one can learn quite a bit from the small things; the lessons hapaxes can teach us are often disproportionately greater than the words themselves or their places in the larger work. And having pulled a few needles out of the haystack, I hope to see much further study of Tolkien’s many hapax and dis legomena. The devil is in the details, the old saw goes, and a single word out of 600,000 is quite a detail in which to hide a devil — or a god.
Barfield, Owen. History in English Words
. Rev. ed. London: Faber & Faber, 1954. [First edition, Methuen & Co., 1926.]
Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography
. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
Fisher, Jason. “The Lewis/Tolkien collaboration that might have been (but never was) .” Lingwë – Musings of a Fish
. July 10, 2009. Accessed 26 October 2010.
—. “Horns of Dawn: The Tradition of Alliterative Verse in Rohan.” Middle-earth Minstrel: Essays on Music in Tolkien
. Ed. Bradford Lee Eden. McFarland, 2010. 7–25.
Gilliver, Peter, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner. The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Hammond, Wayne G. and Christina Scull. The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion
. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
Lewis, C.S. Studies in Words
. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1967. [First edition, 1960.]
Magnússon, Eiríkr, and William Morris, trans. Grettis Saga: The Story of Grettir the Strong
. London: F.S. Ellis, 1869.
Salu, Mary and Robert T. Farrell. J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays
in Memoriam. Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 1979.
Scull, Christina and Wayne G. Hammond. The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. Volume 2: Reader’s Guide
. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Shippey, Tom. “Tolkien’s Two Views of Beowulf: One Hailed, One Ignored. But Did We Get This Right?” The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza
. July 24, 2010. Accessed October 26, 2010.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
. Ed. Humphrey Carpenter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
—. The Lord of the Rings
. 50th anniversary ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. [I have also provided Book/Chapter hints for those using different editions.]
—. The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays
. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983.
—. “The Qenya Lexicon.” Ed. Christopher Gilson, et al. Parma Eldalamberon
—. “Some Contributions to Middle-English Lexicography.” The Review of English Studies
1.2 (April, 1925): 210–215.
—. “Words, Phrases, and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings
.” Ed. Christopher Gilson. Parma Eldalamberon
The first word Tolkien discusses in this essay (a two-word collocation, to be precise) is “long home”, in the sense “to depart this life” (210). The Oxford English Dictionary had dated the first use of this expression to the first part of the 14th century, but Tolkien notes that his colleague Kenneth Sisam antedated it to the Old English period. Tolkien himself offers a second example, one not yet recorded in the great Bosworth/Toller dictionary and its supplement. Why do I mention this? Because Tolkien himself would go on to use “long home” is this sense twice in the main text of The Lord of the Rings
(and once in the appendices), making it a dis (or tris) legomenon (see note 3, below).
In fact, Tolkien provided Lewis with an extended analysis of one particular Indo-European root, intended as raw material for Lewis’s Studies in Words
. Lewis used almost none of it, vexing Tolkien and causing him to label Lewis “at best and worst an Oxford ‘classical’ don — when dealing with words” (Letters
, 302). A pity Tolkien never produced his own book on the subject. We know that Tolkien and Lewis planned to collaborate on such a book, though precisely what form it would have taken, had it ever been written, is beyond conjecture. For more on the collaboration that never came to pass, see Fisher “Collaboration”.
Words that occur twice are called dis legomena; three times, tris legomena; four, tetrakis; five, pentakis; and so on.
You will notice that compound words, such as word-hoard
, are treated as one. Various analytical rules may be applied to the study of literary corpora. In some cases, compounds may be split apart; in other cases, morphological variations may be discounted, treating (for example) say
, etc., as a single “word”. The rules may be established to fit the scope and purpose of the research.
Tom Shippey has recently discussed this very subject here at the Scholars Forum. Please refer to his lucid and thorough essay for more on this.
Morris and Magnússon use weregild
to translate the Old Icelandic fégjald
(or simply gjald
), which is of a slightly different etymology than the Old English wergild
. The first element of the Norse word is fé
“cattle; (by metaphoric extension) property, money”, cognate to the Old English feoh
. The second element, gjald
, is the same as the Old English gild
“payment”. Therefore, the Norse word, even while it means more or less the same as the Old English, lacks the specific etymological implication of a payment or compensation for the life of a man
. In the Saga, this sense is usually implied, but Morris and Magnússon introduce it explicitly into their word choice. The other common Old Norse word equivalent in meaning to Old English wegild
, literally “a ring” (paid as compensation).
Morris and Magnússon also include an index of “Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings that Occur in the Story”; Tolkien did not, though some readers might wish he had.
is actually Scandinavian. Brewerton should have suggested dung
, which Tolkien does use in The Lord of the Rings
both being hapax legomena. For that matter, muck
(in the compound muck-rakers
) is yet another hapax legomonen in The Lord of the Rings
. All of these words occur in the dialogue of Orcs — which says a lot about the scatological nature of their idiom.
I have discussed this subject in much greater detail elsewhere. For example, see Fisher “Horns of Dawn”.
At a much earlier stage in the development of Quenya and the legendarium, Tolkien had set down words of a more explicitly religious nature, e.g., aimo
“saint (m.)”, aire
“saint (f.)”, aimaktu
“martyr”, etc. (Qenya Lexicon
, 34). Tolkien is therefore as good as his word in having removed nearly every trace of this from The Lord of the Rings
At the macroscopic level. At the microscopic level, this is counterbalanced by the test of Frodo and Sam’s faith on the journey to Mordor, by the jeopardy and fear they face at Torech Ungol, and by the spirit-crushing march to Mount Doom. A lesser author than Tolkien would have been tempted to place an explicit appeal to God in the mouths of Frodo and Sam, but Tolkien is more careful. There are invocations, but they are made through glossolalia (a religious miracle) — and they remain untranslated and inexplicit.