As many of you know, when it comes to Tolkein scholarship I know not half so much as you know and deserve more than half less of what I know you could learn. I’ve been reading his book for more than three years and one unmarked thing I may be the first mythieopoet to discover is that Tolkein had very poor grasp of numeracy (Quendarin for “number literracy” which is a skill that comes from Numernor, just like crushing leaves is).

Lets take a few examples. There will be spoilers for both The Lord Of The Rings and the prequel novel The Hobbit. If like me you stood for a long time beside Ballin‘s tomb before reading the LOTR, you will be well accustomed to spoilers. No real scholar can be spoiled in any case, we just become more learn-ed.


  • There is no such number as eleventy-one. It’s possible that Tolkein meant “twelve” (eleven and one) but how could Bilbo be Five-Fingered Frodo‘s father if he was only twelve? (maybe Hobbit Years are like Dog Years, but I haven’t read all the appendixes yet in case there are spoilers);
  • Five-Fingered Frodo in fact has only four fingers on each hand. Also, it is possible that this name was originally intended for Bilbo (who burgles things, that’s the so-called “five-fingered discount” a term Tolkein would have been well familiar with from his proffessorship writing in the Oxford English Dictionary);
  • The Two Towers is a book-inside-a-book about Minus Tirith (The Tower Of Trueth), Minus Morgul (The Tower Of Mordor) and Orcthanc (The Tower Of Isenguard, where Orcs are made). That’s three towers, I went back and checked! I’m not really sure how that mistake got past his editor Bodley Headly or even the nice foreign lady who did his typing for him because he’s a proffessor (Ms Amanuensis);
  • The elf-rhyme begins “Three Rings for the Elven Kings under the sky…“, but Elrond whose the only Elf King we hear about only has One Ring, not three. Galadriel (G for Girl, that’s why I want to be a philologist when I grow up!) isn’t a King (she’s a Queen) and seems at first to have One Ring (not the one ring) but it’s only an optickl illusion like the pictures in her magic mirror or Balrog wings;
  • In the follow-up The Hobbit (which really comes before) Bilbo says to the dragon Smaug (Smug + Smog = Smaug, see?) that he was chosen for the lucky number, meaning fourteen people! There’s two things wrong with that, first fourteen isn’t a lucky number Proffessor, that’s seven! Fourteen is two lucky numbers (7+7) but it doesn’t mean it’s twice as lucky (unless that’s different for dwarfs). Second, if you count the names carefully there are fifteen people (remember Fili and Kili are two different people even though they always do the same things and don’t forget to include Gandalf too);
  • Lastly, here’s an essay example you can do yourself. Think about the Battle Of Five Armies. What are the five armies? Dwarfs Army, Goblins Army, Wood Elfs Army and Mans Army. Only four! Beeorn (who keeps BEES) is there too, so maybe Tolkein thought he counts as Shapeshifters Army even though there’s only one of him and an army has to be two or more people. Someone (you know who you are and now everyone else does too) tryed to say to me that the Eagles count as an army, but they’re just getting confused. The Eagles come and save Frodo at the end of the LOTR, it’s a completely different book! I’ve even been shown a few paragraphs about Eagles in The Hobbit but I’m certain they were from the Movie Adaption not the original book (you can tell because Doctor Waston from Sherlock Homes is on the cover).

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve learnt a bit of what I know now. Come back soon for more insights (or to read these again if you forgot some). ORIGINAL CONTENT, PLEASE DO NOT STEAL. NO COPYRIGHT INTENDED.

They have a cave troll!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Da22 says:

    You do read into these things mate lol. I always assumed it was called two towers because of the two main towers mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevenger says:

      Liking that link, cheers. There’s a really good answer *sensibly* summarising the Tower-Enumerating Problem.


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