The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Associated with Dunland and Fangorn Forest at the southern end of the Misty Mountains
A type of crow


About this entry:

  • Updated 10 September 2017
  • Updates planned: 1


Black crows out of the southern Misty Mountains

Large black birds of crow-kind, native to the lands that bordered the southern Misty Mountains, Dunland to the west and Fangorn to the east. They seemed to possess at least some level of intelligence, and were apparently used as spies by Saruman during the War of the Ring.



Crebain is a plural Elvish word, with the presumed singular form being craban. Unfortunately, no etymological explanation of this name is attested, though craban can probably be taken simply as the Sindarin word for 'crow'. There are very few Elvish words that are even remotely plausible as an ultimate origin of the name, with perhaps the old word rhafn, 'wing', being the only realistic possibility in the known Elvish corpus.

It is perhaps notable that rhafn is somewhat similar to English 'raven', and it has been speculated that there may be a connection via Old English hræfn. This is not only the origin of the modern English word 'raven', but is also distinctly reminiscent of Elvish rhafn, so we might perhaps speculate that the word craban was inspired by Anglo-Saxon hræfn, with Tolkien devising an alternative etymology to conceivably connect the word to Elvish word Crebain. (The potential link to Old English hræfn is suggested in Jim Allan's An Introduction to Elvish, quoted in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion.)

Crows and ravens are of course different - but related - kinds of birds, but they are similar enough that a potential linguistic connection like this is not entirely unrealistic.

See also...

Crows, Hawks, Spy-birds


About this entry:

  • Updated 10 September 2017
  • Updates planned: 1

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

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2002, 2017. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus, the DISC profiling solution.
High Influence (I) in a DISC profile indicates self-confidence, sociability and openness.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry