The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Reputed to be found within the Great Sea
Race
Part of Hobbit folklore
Pronunciation
fastito'calon
Meaning
Probably derives from the Greek for 'shield-turtle'1

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  • Updated 13 June 2011
  • This entry is complete

Fastitocalon

A sea-creature of Hobbit legend

"There are many monsters in the Sea,
But none so perilous as HE..."
From Fastitocalon
in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

A monstrous creature of the Sea said to be the last of the great 'turtle-fish'. Fastitocalon was so huge that sailors could mistake his immense shell for an island, but after they landed, the monster would dive into the depths of the ocean, drowning his unfortunate passengers. In Tolkien's world, the name Fastitocalon is known only from Hobbit folklore, and it's unclear whether it referred to an actual creature, or was merely a garbled misinterpretation of old sailors' tales.

Tolkien did not invent the word Fastitocalon; in fact it is found Old English poetry, where it seems to refer to a whale. Etymologically, though, the name ultimately derives from the Greek word for 'turtle', and Tolkien seems to have combined the two concepts, hence the notion of the 'turtle-fish'; a creature as large as a whale but with a horny shell on its back.


Notes

1

Fastitocalon is a name from real historical folklore, which seems to have originated with aspidochelóne, meaning 'shield-turtle' in Greek. Over the centuries, the word was modified by generations of scribes, either in error or to fit local pronunciations. So in medieval Latin it became aspidocalon, while further changes adapted the name into Old English as Fastitocalon.

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