The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Location
Widespread throughout Middle-earth, including Beleriand; a black variety was found in Mirkwood
Species
Any of about thirty members of the genus Sciurus1
Meaning
From Greek skiouros, literally 'shadow-tail'2

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About this entry:

  • Updated 25 June 2018
  • Updates planned: 1

Squirrels

Agile creatures of Middle-earth's forests

Nut-eating rodents often found in trees. Most would have been red or grey, but in Mirkwood, the squirrels were said to be black in colour.


Notes

1

Historically, the most common squirrel in northwestern Europe was the red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, and this would likely have been the species prevalent in Middle-earth, or a close relative. The larger grey squirrel Sciurus carolinensis is now much more common, but this is a North American species introduced into Europe in the nineteenth century. It would presumably, therefore, have been entirely unknown east of the Great Sea in the Third Age or earlier.

2

The etymology of the word 'squirrel' from 'shadow-tail' is clear, but the reasoning behind the name is less obvious. Some sources hypothesise this is due to squirrels raising their tails over their backs, apparently to shade themselves or provide protection. Other sources suggest that this is merely a 'folk etymology', invented after the fact, and that the original reasoning behind the name has been lost.

See also...

Black Emperor, Watchwood

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 25 June 2018
  • Updates planned: 1

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