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  • Updated 26 October 2019
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Hlothran

The true surname of the Cotton family

In common with most Hobbit-names, the family name 'Cotton' is actually a translation of their true Westron name, Hlothran. In the Shire itself, the word hloth referred to a small Hobbit-hole (specifically, one with just two rooms) and a ran (or ranu) was a village or hamlet of such holes. Hence a hlothran would be a group of modest smials, and was said to have been common as place-name within the Shire. This came to be adopted as personal name by a certain Hobbit (specifically one who would have been known as Hlothrama, better known by the English version of his name, Cotman). From him sprang a family who took Hlothran as their family name.

The derivation of the modern surname 'Cotton' is almost identical to that of Hlothran, except of course that no Hobbit-holes are involved. It refers to a collection of small houses or cottages, and so represents an almost exact anglicisation of the Westron name. At an added level of ingenuity, the choice of the name 'Cotton' also intentionally connects the family with the Gamgees, though the reference tends to be unfamiliar to most modern readers1.


Notes

1

The reference is to the material now usually known as 'cotton wool', a medical application of which was invented by a certain Dr J. Sampson Gamgee. At the time Tolkien was writing, cotton wool (at least in a medical context) was still commonly called 'Gamgee Tissue'.

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About this entry:

  • Updated 26 October 2019
  • Updates planned: 1

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