Results 1 to 7 of 7
  1. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
    Old Took
    Points
    7,774
    Posts
    7,709
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    #1

    The name Tolkien

    According to J.R.R. himself, the name Tolkien was that of a German ancestor who came to Britain from Saxony in the 18th century; the name itself derives fro the German "Toll-kühn", i.e. stupid-clever. However, this has recently been cast into doubt by the genealogical research of Ryszard Viajante Derdzinski, who has found the name Tolkien, in various spellings, going back to East Prussia in the 15th century. Despite a disclaimer by Tolkien it does originally seem to have been from a Baltic source - 'tolkyn' or variants, meaning something like 'interpreter'. Linking this with definite ancestors is at present work in progress, but it's at the stage where the chain just needs one more link. Currently it's in Gdansk / Danzig, part of Poland in union with Saxony, town of German language and Baltic culture, in the 18th century, where George Tolkien, our man's great-grandfather, was apprentice, and probably nephew, of Daniel G. Tolkien, b. 1747. The family were furriers ...

    (more as Ryszard discovers it)
    Last edited by Dorwiniondil; 15/Jan/2017 at 06:54 PM.
    The incarnate mind, the tongue and the tale are in our world coeval.

  2. Saranna's Avatar
    Lúthien
    Points
    9,247
    Posts
    11,194
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    #2
    Fascinating - more linguistic than foolhardy then!
    Remembering halfir by learning more each day

    Death comes to all
    But great achievements raise a monument
    Which shall endure until the sun grows cold.
    George Fabricius, 'In Praise of Georgius Agricola'

  3. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
    Old Took
    Points
    7,774
    Posts
    7,709
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    #3
    Revealed: the Act of Nationalizing Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien, 1794.Thanks to Gerald Aurand.
    The incarnate mind, the tongue and the tale are in our world coeval.

  4. I've been meaning to dig more into Derdzinski's posts when I have the time - they look fascinating. The Danzig links are particularly striking to me, since one branch of my father's family lived there for a while -- I'd need to check with my grandmother (who's done most of the genealogical work), but my recollection is that they were there for most of the 18th century, quite possibly at the same time as Tolkien's ancestors (if all this is correct).

    The 'disclaimer' by Tolkien is really rather odd. It comes from a letter from near the end of his life (to Mrs E. R. Ehrardt, dated 8 March 1973):

    I do not understand why you should wish to associate my name with TOLK, an interpreter or spokesman. This is a word of Slavonic origin that became adopted in Lithuanian (TULKAS), Finnish (TULKKI) and in the Scand. langs., and eventually right across N. Germany (linguistically Low German) and finally into Dutch. It was never adopted into English.

    -Letter #349, p. 428f.

    Tolkien is not being a very good linguist here. For one thing, he's quite wrong to say that it 'was never adopted into English', as he himself ought to have been the first to know! His own edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains a glossary entry for the word:

    tulk, tolke n{oun}. man, knight ... [O{ld} N{orse}. tulkr, spokesman]

    The square brackets are original, indicating the word's etymology, which is why I've used squiggly brackets for expanding abbreviations.

    In any case, it is not at all clear why its presence or absence in English should be in the least relevant. His surname was certainly brought over from the Continent, as his own preferred etymology holds. And as he himself notes, the element is widespread from the eastern Baltic to the Low Countries. An association of the Tolkiens with Danzig makes a Baltic proximate origin highly plausible (and helps with explain the second syllable), but even without that there's nothing in Tolkien's objection that actually constitutes a sound refutation of the possibility. I suspect the personal significance of the 'rashbold' etymology (which he refers to frequently and repeatedly, if sometimes obliquely, throughout his life) has influenced his judgement and led him to rather significantly overstate his case here (possibly also influenced by the unknown content of the letter to which he was replying).

    In other contexts, he acknowledges, with no apparent dismay, at least a small amount of Baltic ancestry in his family, so I'm guessing it would be either the specific contexts of the conversation or the precise etymology which provoked his rather sharp and linguistically sloppy response here.

    I'd like to see someone a little better versed in Baltic comment on the Tolkyn forms, since I'm not sure where the second syllable comes from, or how widespread it was in East Prussia (where Derdzinski has provided direct citations of it) versus other regions.
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  5. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
    Old Took
    Points
    7,774
    Posts
    7,709
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    #5
    BTW, it is interesting, given the less than flattering reference to furriers in The Hobbit, that this seems to have originally been the family business!
    The incarnate mind, the tongue and the tale are in our world coeval.

  6. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
    Old Took
    Points
    7,774
    Posts
    7,709
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    #6
    Ryszard Derdzinski on the current state of his research:

    "The Tolkiens origin is complex: German (Saxon and Prussian), Polish and very remotely also Baltic (Old Prussian). And they came from North East Germany, not from South Germany. The form Tolkien (of Baltic and Polish origin) is older that its variants Tollkühn, Tollkuehn, Tollkiehn (which seem to be 'germanization' and 'pseudo-etymology' of the form Tolkien). It first occurs in Duchy of Prussia (under the Hohenzollern rule) in the 16th century in the villages close to Koenigsberg, and this is the main region of the Tolkien family name occurence before the Second World War. It is supposed that Tolkien comes from earlier Tolkyn and Tolkin, the form of the name of the noble family Tolk von Marklingerode of the Saxon origin with their goods in East Prussia (Bartenstein, Rastenburg and Koenigsberg areas) in the 14th and 15th centuries. This form means 'a village of Tolk (tolk is Prussian/Middle German term for 'translator')' and it belonged to the small village Tolksdorf (today Tołkiny) in East Prussia (today in Northern Poland). The story how a Saxon knight Matthias Tolk von Marklingerode, a translator in the Balga office of the German Order founded Tolksdorf/Tołkiny is well known and was told in another post on the Tolknięty blog.

    Last war changed all, and the Tolkiens, Tollkühns, Tollkiehns from East and West Prussia etc. must have emmigrated to Brema, Hamburg, Hannover etc. (we have found only one Tollkuehn in the Polish registers from 1990s!). The first occurence of the 'germanized' form Tollkühn is registered in the documents connected with the possible brother of the first Tolkiens in England – with Christian Tolkien (vel Tollkühn) from Gdańsk (Danzig), 1752–1821. Before the Prussian invasion and the partition of Poland the Gdańsk furriers family was always called Tolkien! After the Hohenzollern invasion the economical situation in Gdańsk was so bad that many manufacturers and tradesmen emmigrated to the other parts of Germany or even to the United Kingdom. This was the fate of Daniel G. Tolkien and Johann (John) B. Tolkien, furrier and clockmaker from Central London (City and Westminster) in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien (1747–1813) and his younger brother Johann Benjamin (1753–1819) were born in Gdańsk (Danzig) during the reign of Augustus III of Poland. They left Gdańsk probably in or after 1772 (the first London document with the Tolkien family name comes from 1777 ˜– the wedding of John Benjamin Tolkien with Mary Warner). Their emmigration must have been connected with the First Partition of Poland. Their brother (?), Christian Tolkien (1752–1821) stayed in Prussian Danzig. Maybe the family was separated because of the pro- and anti-Prussian sentiments? The London Tolkiens stayed to be Tolkiens. The Danzig Tolkiens became 'germanized' Tollkühns."
    The incarnate mind, the tongue and the tale are in our world coeval.

  7. Saranna's Avatar
    Lúthien
    Points
    9,247
    Posts
    11,194
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    #7
    This is all wonderful stuff.
    Remembering halfir by learning more each day

    Death comes to all
    But great achievements raise a monument
    Which shall endure until the sun grows cold.
    George Fabricius, 'In Praise of Georgius Agricola'

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •