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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Of oliphaunts and Arda


Mar 7 2013, 1:55pm

Post #1 of 6 (487 views)
Of oliphaunts and Arda Can't Post

I've been wondering about this for some time - the origin of the word "Arda". If I'm correct, "oliphaunt" comes from the Middle English word of the same spelling, which in turn originated from the French "olifant".

My mother tongue is technically Afrikaans (From South Africa) . When I first read Tolkien, I thought the words "Arda" and "oliphaunt" bore striking resemblances to the Afrikaans words "aarde" and "olifant".

Now, "aarde" just means earth. My question is, were these words that Tolkien had learnt from his mother who inevitably picked up some Afrikaans when she lived in South Africa, or is it just a coincidence, and they really came from French/other European words?

Just wondering. Smile

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards because a refusal often offends." - Terry Pratchett

(This post was edited by BoromirOfWinterfell on Mar 7 2013, 1:58pm)


Mar 7 2013, 6:15pm

Post #2 of 6 (250 views)
Hmmm interesting... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm afraid I don't have an answer to this but it certainly sounds a possibility- especially for Arda. Afrikaans is based on Dutch, isn't it (??) and also German has a similar word "Erde" for earth, so I guess the word could come from there and maybe Tolkien also saw an earlier version in the Anglo Saxon (I'm guessing totally). Do any of the linguists out there have a better idea? It's certainly fascinating to look at these comparisons.

"Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold"

Fredeghar Wayfarer

Mar 8 2013, 10:08am

Post #3 of 6 (257 views)
Midgard? [In reply to] Can't Post

I always assumed "Arda" was adapted from the Norse term "Midgard." This was the ultimate source of Tolkien's world since Midgard became "Middangeard" in Old English, which gets translated as "Middle-earth" in Modern English.

You could be right about Tolkien being familiar with the Afrikaans word "aarde". My guess would be that "aarde" derives from the same root as the Norse and Germanic words that mean the same thing. So "Arda" was probably influenced by various words that mean "Earth."


Mar 8 2013, 1:34pm

Post #4 of 6 (228 views)
That's the problem. [In reply to] Can't Post

There are so many Germanic languages he could have derived the words from, including Afrikaans. I guess we'll never know. It's just a nice thought.

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards because a refusal often offends." - Terry Pratchett

The Shire

Mar 8 2013, 1:42pm

Post #5 of 6 (225 views)
but [In reply to] Can't Post

What I want to know is who put the Germ in Germany?
Who put the Pain in Spain
Who put the Bra in Brazil
And did an Orc put the Urug in Uruguay?


Mar 12 2013, 12:01am

Post #6 of 6 (230 views)
*applause* [In reply to] Can't Post

And did an Orc put the Urug in Uruguay?


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