The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Extant III 3019
An Old English word for a low-status freeman2


About this entry:

  • Updated 2 September 2017
  • This entry is complete


The errand-rider of Erkenbrand

After the loss of the Second Battle of the Fords of Isen, Erkenbrand withdrew his Riders to Helm's Deep, and sent Ceorl south as a messenger to warn Éomer. He was surprised to come across Théoden's army riding north, ready to launch their own defence of the Fords. The news brought by Ceorl caused Théoden to reconsider his strategy, and he rode instead to join Erkenbrand at Helm's Deep, so setting the stage for the mighty Battle of the Hornburg.

Like other Rohirrim, Ceorl's name comes from Old English. It refers to a particular rank in Anglo-Saxon society, in fact the lowest rank possible while remaining a freeman. Historically, these people would not normally have been professional soldiers, so if Ceorl's background follows his name, we might guess that he was a farmer or tradesman who had been pressed into military service to help deal with the imminent threat to Rohan.



At least, this would be the approximate Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of the word ceorl. This pronunciation is reflected in the modern English word 'churl', which derives from Old English ceorl.


The word ceorl derives from an ancient Germanic word for 'man', but by Anglo-Saxon times it referred to a particular stratum of society, a workman or peasant who was nonetheless a freeman, and therefore not a bondsman or thrall. From the same etymological source came the name 'Carl', which was actually used by members of the Cotton family in the Shire, reflecting the common linguistic heritage of the Rohirrim and Shire-hobbits.


About this entry:

  • Updated 2 September 2017
  • This entry is complete

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Website services kindly sponsored by Axiom Software Ltd and myDISCprofile.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2003, 2017. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry