Hobbitus Ille The Latin Hobbit Page 0,1

nickname ‘Bill’ I have rendered as Rostrum – a little Latin pun, however execrable.

One of most enjoyable, as well as one of the most challenging, tasks was to render Tolkien’s many songs into Latin verse. Translating poetry from one language to another is necessarily more paraphrase than translation, so my first objective was to make my Latin verses true to the spirit, if not necessarily the letter, of Tolkien’s originals. To achieve this I had initially planned to use classical quantitative metres throughout – those formal edifices familiar to (and sometimes dreaded by) Latin students from classroom encounters with the Augustan poets. However, I soon realised this would not quite do. In the very first chapter, for example, the dwarves sing a solemn and ancient song, Far over the misty mountains cold, which readily lends itself to the weighty dignity of classical metre. But in the same chapter they break into an impromptu ditty about smashing poor Bilbo’s precious crockery, and this song, so it seemed to me, worked much better in rhythmic (and rhyming) form. When Gollum and Bilbo set each other riddles, these naturally take quantitative shape – this is, after all, an ancient game played since time immemorial – but when the goblins of the Misty Mountains sing to a marching beat, an ominous trochaic pulse best captures the rhythmic stamp of their feet. By contrast, the facetious elves of Rivendell express themselves in lilting iambics.

When I considered that many readers (unless they are musically inclined) will not previously have encountered rhythmic and rhyming Latin verse, I felt certain that this diversity of versification would impart a pleasing extra dimension to the book. Perhaps, after reading the Latin songs of dwarves and goblins here, you may be tempted to investigate some of the medieval verses that inspired them, the magisterial Dies Irae, for example, or the rumbunctious songs of the Carmina Burana. And if they inspire you to sing some Latin, so much the better.

Translating The Hobbit has been quite an adventure: exciting, fascinating, daunting, terrifying. All those, and more besides. When I began this project I shared the trepidation Bilbo felt on setting out; as the work progressed – seemingly with no end in sight – I had my own moments of despair in the darkness; but at last I rejoiced, as did Bilbo, in the satisfaction of bringing my own (literary) adventure to a conclusion: forsan et haec olim meminisse iuuabit.

All that remains is for me to extend my grateful thanks to David Brawn at HarperCollins for his faith in this book and in me, and to Mike Barry, the much-loved Head of Classics at Caldicott School, whose diligent proofreading of the early chapters saved me from some silly errors.


Unfamiliar or new words are marked with an asterisk (*) on their first occurrence and are glossed in the vocabulary at the end, where you will also find a list of proper names. The various verse metres are noted in a brief appendix. Spelling and orthography follow that of the Oxford Latin Dictionary, hence no distinction is made between vocalic and consonantal ‘i’ and ‘u’, and only proper names are capitalised. This has also been my primary (but not sole) reference for definitions and word use.

Mark Walker


Title Page

Translator’s Introduction

I Conuiuium Inopinatum

II Ouilla Assa

III Requies Breuis

IV Super Collem et Subter Collem

V Aenigmata in Tenebris

VI E Sartagine in Ignem

VII Deuersoria Insolita

VIII Muscae et Araneae

IX Cupae e Captiuitate

X Hospitaliter Excipiuntur

XI In Limine

XII Scientia Intrinsecus

XIII Non Domi

XIV Ignis et Aqua

XV Nubes Congregantur

XVI Fur Nocte

XVII Nubes Rumpuntur

XVIII Iter Retrorsum

XIX Gradus Vltimus

Nomina Propria

Verba Fortasse aut Incognita aut Noua

Appendix: Poetical Metres


About the Publisher

haec est fabula de rebus praeteritis. illis temporibus linguae atque litterae a nostris hodie ualde distulerunt. illae linguae in sermonem Latinum conuersae sunt. duas autem quaestiones animaduertas, scilicet: (1) Latine, uerbum nani solum signifi cat pumiliones, id est homines paruulos non, ut in hac fabula, gentem antiquam e qua Thorinus Scutumquerceum et comites orti sunt. (2) hic orcus est nomen quod illis in temporibus hobbiti beluis, quae plerumque gobelini (aut hobgobelini pro generibus grandioribus) appellantur, dederunt. id nomen nequaquam pertinet ad Orcum Latine, id est Dis, deus inferus aut inferi ipsi.

runae fuerunt litterae ueteres, quae in principio ad eas insculpandas et inscribendas ligno uel saxo uel metallo in usu erant, itaque tenues atque angulosae fuerunt. in temporibus huius fabulae nani solum illis frequenter uti sunt, praecipue historias priuatas aut arcanas scribendi causa. in hoc libro runae eorum runis Latinis, quas nunc pauci cognoscunt, signifi cantur. si runae in Tabula Geographica

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