The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Created by Varda more than three Ages before the beginning of the First Age
Meaning
Wain is an old word for 'Wagon'1
Other Names

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 16 November 1998
  • This entry is complete

Wain

A Mannish name for the Sickle of the Valar

"...the stars of the Wain were already twinkling..."
The Hobbit, 10 A Warm Welcome
The seven stars of the Wain

The name in the northern lands of Middle-earth for the constellation2 we know today as the Plough or the Big Dipper. In Tolkien's mythology, these seven stars were set in the sky by Varda in the shape of a mighty sickle, as a warning to Melkor and his underlings. The Men and Hobbits of the northern lands seem to have been ignorant of this, though: they gave these stars the more prosaic name of 'the Wain', meaning a wagon or cart.


Notes

1

Tolkien's choice of the name 'Wain' must come from the real medieval name for this group of stars: Charles' Wain ('Charles' here refers to the Emperor Charlemagne). Though Charlemagne has no place in Tolkien's world, the seven stars do form roughly the shape of a horse-drawn cart, and the name would have been natural in the setting of Middle-earth.

2

Strictly speaking, the Wain isn't a constellation - it forms part of the larger constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear.

See also...

The Seven Stars

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Website services kindly sponsored by Axiom Software Ltd.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 1998, 2000. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.