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Snakes on a Plane? Snakes in M-E!

grendel

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We know there were snakes in Middle-Earth, because Gandalf compared Wormtongue with one (Book III Chapter 6), and no one there said "Wait... a what?" But I cannot think of any other reference to snakes, at least in the Hobbit and LotR volumes. It seems strange; certainly these creatures, traditionally thought of as evil, could have been used by Sauron in some way to further his purposes. (I guess you could consider dragons as snakes with wings, but Tolkien always referred to them as "worms".) Looking forward to some learned comments.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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At the end of "The Shadow of the Past" Frodo tells Sam that if he doesn't keep what he's overheard secret, he hopes "Gandalf will turn you into a spotted toad and fill the garden full of grass-snakes".

Saruman calls Eomer "young serpent". Does that count?
 
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Olorgando

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. (I guess you could consider dragons as snakes with wings, but Tolkien always referred to them as "worms".) ...
No, I can't recall that JRRT had snakes having an actual role in any of his writings. Maybe he shied away from them a bit because of the snake in Eden causing the expulsion of Adam and Eve was just too close to his deeply held personal beliefs.

Anything resembling snakes, as far as I can remember, would be those - well, yes, what ere they? skillfully contrived machines? something we would nowadays think of as bionic, or cyborgs? - that were described in Book of Lost Tales vol. 2 in "The Fall of Gondolin", the most detailed description of the actual battle of Gondolin that exists.

Now to put on my decidedly non-professional "philologist" hat, for which I can claim no justification beyond being a dual German and English native speaker for over 60 years:
Question: why was Gríma "nicknamed" "Wormtongue", and not "Snaketongue"? I mean, has anyone ever seen, say, an earthworm sticking out its tongue?
If, as grendel pointed out, JRRT referred to (legged, and never mind winged) dragons as "worms", the decidedly more worm-like snakes must at least silently have been included in this older usage of "worm", which must have had a far wider meaning than today.

Drawing on German, I know of the term "Gewürm", apparently by now quite archaic. German Wiki and all four (abridged) versions of the "Brockhaus" that we own (think of it as Germany's "Britannica"), from a 1973 two-volume edition, are silent, even though the latest one from 2010 is a 24-volume paperback of almost 8900 pages. My Oxford University Press (imprint Clarendon) English-German / German-English dictionary is as mute. Only my "Langenscheidt's Pocket Dictionary" of English-German / German-English, 6th edition of 1970, 16th printing of 1974 (with copyrights stretching back to 1884), states "worms; vermin".
My feeling is that this term includes, besides all of the legless "persuasion", all long-bodied and -tailed amphibians like salamanders, and similar reptiles like lizards. Now the Norse people, meaning all those Germanic-speakers bordering on the North Sea (and with Danes and Swedes and north Germans on the Baltic), are unlikely to ever have had any personal experience with alligators or crocodiles (especially those very large salt-water crocs from northern Australia). I wonder how they would have reacted to those. But in their imagination at least, they seem to have been able to think of creatures that would make the largest Australian "salty" look like a newborn just hatched from the egg - and never mind the "seriously bad breath" that they imagined these creatures to have.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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"Take them away to dark holes full of snakes, and never let them see the light again!"

The Great Goblin, in The Hobbit

Some earlier references here:


Sauron turned himself into a serpent at one point.
And there was a serpent on the Haradrim shield.
 
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Olorgando

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Sauron turned himself into a serpent at one point.
Yes, you're right … but Huan was definitely one being who could take First Age Sauron down permanently, including his serpent guise. Slam-dunk territory.
Just think of Huan having been at the Council of Elrond.
The rest of LoTR would have been shorter than, word-wise, the Council of Elrond was.
(This is getting Monty Pythonish …)
Though we could have had a different version of the Ents flooding Isengard.
After dropping the One Ring in the Cracks of Doom, Huan would have trotted over to the ruins of Barad-dûr and … well, done what all male pooches do occasionally to often, what I've taken to calling leaving a wet "WhatsApp" message there ...
 

Merroe

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The word "snake(s)" is soooo frequently recurring in LotR, that to even start listing all occurrences of that word here is undoable, dear Grendel!
The same word also appeared in TH (be it less).

For my part, I respectfully disagree with you here (no offense meant)...
 

Olorgando

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The word "snake(s)" may be ubiquitous - but the critters, to my recollection, are pretty much invisible.

OT, Merroe, but I feel the need to ask you why you mingle agreement / disagreement with respect / disrespect (offense).
There is no linkage between the two in actual fact.
One can disagree without being disrespectful, nor does agreement imply respect, without the slightest need to add any qualifying statements.
Oh, I know, there are people, groups who seem to see this differently.
99.999% of whom do not deserve the slightest respect.
There is only one thing that deserves unqualified respect, the human rights that are the birthright of every human being, not to be denied by anyone else.
People can erode this birthright respect by their own actions, but nothing and nobody else can.
The 1948 "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" by the United Nations describes what I'm thinking of.
Those most vociferous in "demanding" respect are all too often those who trample on human rights habitually.
The kind of respect they mean cannot be demanded, it can only be earned, and more pointedly be given by others.
To all of the massive abuse the term respect has been subjected to, mostly by the "demanders" my answer is rated PG-18 (or whatever is the real-life equivalent).
 
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