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Wetwang revisited

Part four: visions of the battlefield

Everything that Tolkien said or knew about Wetwang, a place-name both in Yorkshire and in Middle-earth, fell into three different concepts. Philologists had once interpreted the Yorkshire name as Old English for ‘wet field’, but later as Old Norse for ‘place of summons’ or similar. The name also reminded Tolkien of the Middle English alliterative phrase to wete þe wonges, ‘to wet the cheeks, to weep’.

Eye from a bronze statue, 5th–2nd century BC, Getty Museum (Opens in a new window)

In this series of posts, I have suggested that when Tolkien was planning the Fellowship’s journey from Lórien, he used this last association in building up the Middle-earth map of Wetwang and its surrounding region. First he named the great marsh, spread on either side of the River Anduin like two wete wonges. Then, thinking of tears, he added the waterfall above it. On reaching the region, in the chapter ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’ he added the most striking facial features of all…

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