Bag End and Bagshot Row

As Amazon’s Rings of Power show continues to release teasers that are more like taunts, showing off how proud they are to ignore Tolkien’s worldbuilding and lore, it’s a good time to re-read LoTR and The Hobbit.

So I was thinking about Bilbo and Frodo’s neighborhood. It turns out that Bag End was also the name of a real farm in Dormston, Worcestershire, England, which was owned for about ten years by Tolkien’s kindly and eccentric maternal aunt, Jane Neave. It was called Dormston Manor Farm when she got hold of it; but she researched and found it was originally called Bag End, and then refused to call it anything else. (Of course, this is also a horrible pun, being a direct translation of “cul d’sac.”)

Dormiston was originally Deormodsealdtune, Deormod’s town. “Deormod” means “bold-mood, bold-mind.” (And you can read Tolkien’s brief essay on ofermod to learn more about mod.)

Bagshot Row, where Sam and Gaffer Gamgee live, is based on a placename in Hampshire. Bagshot is near Aldershot. Aldershot comes from Alreshate, Alder-holt, and Bagshot comes from Bagsheta, Bacga’s holt. (A holt is an Old English word for woods, a thicket, a copse. There’s another old word with the same spelling that means an otter den, but it comes from a different Germanic root.)

Baggins is an actual English surname. It’s the patronymic form of names like Bagge, Bagg, and Bag, which also may come from the Old English given names Bacga, Baecga, Bagga, Baggi.

Baecga’s meaning is unknown. It might refer to some kind of wild animal, like a wild badger (theorized to be “bagga” as well as “brocc”); a wild pig (Old Dutch bagghe, a small pig); or a wild sheep (Scandinavian bagge, ram or wether).

Later on, there’s a Middle English word “bagger” which turned into Modern English “badget,” a hawker or peddler. This seems to be talking about actual bags full of goods.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Bag End and Bagshot Row

  1. Have you read “The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot”? It’s very, very good and touches on the above note about Baggins/Bag End (no mention of Bagshot Row, though). I highly recommend it, particularly with the RoP nonsense on stage for everyone to see.

  2. Thanks for the background! The perpetrators of the Amazon show need to spend a few years in Mordor. 🤣

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds

    Thanks for this! I enjoyed Andrew Morton’s Tolkien’s Gedling 1914 (which includes an interesting St. Nicholas church), but have not yet caught up with Tolkien’s Bag End.

    I confess I have a lot of catching up to do on your posts, as well – have you already mentioned that there are copies of a couple editions of Eilert Ekwall’s The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names scanned in the Internet Archive (the older simply available, the newer among ‘Books to Borrow’)? There are scans other of his books as well, including of various copies of The Place-names of Lancashire.

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