The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Mentioned just once, in events of III 2941
Meaning
The word 'ogre' first appears as hogre in French fairy-tales - it seems not to have a particular meaning
Note
Ogres make an actual, though fleeting, appearance in the very earliest versions of Tolkien's work1, but he seems to have later abandoned them. Given that the only published reference to them is a brief consideration by Bilbo, where he thinks of them only as belonging to tales, it seems reasonable to guess that there were no 'real' ogres, even in Middle-earth.

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  • Updated 26 May 2007
  • This entry is complete

Ogres

A mysterious and fearsome race

Monstrous and destructive creatures of legend and folklore. In fact, it is doubtful whether Ogres ever existed in Middle-earth. Tolkien mentions them only once, in The Hobbit, during Bilbo's Riddle-game with Gollum. In his attempt to solve Gollum's fifth riddle, Bilbo '...sat in the dark thinking of all the horrible names of all the giants and ogres he had ever heard told of in tales...' (The Hobbit 5, Riddles in the Dark). Since no ogre is ever again mentioned, it is entirely possible that they were a mythical race even to the inhabitants of Middle-earth.

One tenuous possibility is that the 'ogres' of Hobbit legend represented a remote cultural memory of the Oghor-hai, the fierce woodland people otherwise known as Drúedain or Woses. It's hard to defend this idea linguistically, since 'ogre' would be an English translation of an unknown Westron name, unless Tolkien intended us to imagine that our own word 'ogre' is itself an echo of the distant Oghor-hai. This is less far-fetched than it might seem, because actual folk-tales of Woses do in fact exist. It's hard to be sure whether any of this was Tolkien's intention, but the similarity of the two words at least raises the possibility of some kind of a link.


Notes

1

In the very first legends of Middle-earth written by Tolkien, published in the first Book of Lost Tales, there's a mention of a class of servants of Melkor that were somehow 'bred in the earth' by him, known as the Úvanimor, and described as 'monsters, giants, and ogres'. These Úvanimor are never mentioned after that point.

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