The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Location
Only specifically recorded on Amon Rûdh in Beleriand,1 but clearly widely known in Middle-earth
Species
Capra aegagrus (hircus)2
Meaning
From Old English 'gāt'3

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About this entry:

  • Updated 1 April 2018
  • This entry is complete

Goats

Agile horned creatures. They were clearly as common in Middle-earth as they are today, but it's difficult to be sure whether they were domesticated by the peoples of those times. The few references we have to these animals seem to refer to wild goats living in mountainous regions, leaving it unclear whether they were also kept as farm animals. The goat was the indirect source of the family name 'Goatleaf': in fact that word originally referred to a plant (better known as a honeysuckle) that was a favourite food of goats.


Notes

1

Goats are mentioned several times in Tolkien's tales, but almost always in a metaphorical way, with characters referring to their nimbleness or fleet-footedness. So, we can be sure that goats were familiar animals in Middle-earth, but we have no real information about where they were most likely to be found. The sole exception is the hill of Amon Rûdh, from which the Petty-dwarf Mím made his escape down a track in the hillside made by goats. Thus Amon Rûdh is the only specific location where we can be absolutely sure goats were to be found in Middle-earth.

2

Capra aegagrus is the wild goat, and its domesticated cousin is Capra aegagrus hircus. It is not entirely clear from the references we have whether characters are referring to wild or domestic goats, but given the common emphasis on their grace and climbing skill our references would seem to tend towards the wild variety. In the specific case of Amon Rûdh, with its steep and treacherous hilltop path in the wilds of Beleriand, we can be all but certain that the goats involved were wild ones.

3

The ultimate source of the Old English name for this animal, 'gāt', is not certainly known. One possibility is the ancient root *ghaid-, which meant 'jump, play', and seems to have been applied to first young goats (known in modern English as 'kids').

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 1 April 2018
  • This entry is complete

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