The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Location
Only directly described as being found in the Shire, but evidently widespread1
Species
Any of numerous species in the genus Rattus, especially the black rat Rattus rattus and the brown rat Rattus norvegicus.
Meaning
From Old English ræt, of uncertain origin2

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About this entry:

  • Updated 26 September 2018
  • Updates planned: 1

Rats

Rodent pests

Verminous creatures at least as common in Middle-earth as they are today.


Notes

1

There are numerous mentions of rats in Tolkien's tales, but those references are almost always metaphorical in nature. There is in fact only a single direct reference, when Hobbits searching Bag End for Lotho Sackville-Baggins after the defeat of Sharkey could find only mice and rats. Nonetheless, the fact that many different characters refer indirectly to rats - if only as an insult or a simile - shows that they were commonplace across Middle-earth.

2

Words similar to 'rat' occur in many different languages across at least the Celtic, Germanic and Romance families, implying that the word comes from a very ancient root indeed. The details of that root remain unclear, but many sources suggest connections to words for 'gnaw' or 'scrape' going back to archaic Proto-Indo-European.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 26 September 2018
  • Updates planned: 1

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