The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Location
Hounds in general were widespread, but the only animal named specifically as a wolfhound, Huan, dwelt originally in Aman and later in Beleriand
Race
A hunting breed of Canis lupus familiaris, the domestic dog
Meaning
Hounds bred for hunting wolves1

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  • Updated 14 December 2017
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Wolfhounds

Hunters of wolves

A large and powerful type of hound, which take their name from their purpose of hunting for wolves. The most famous of these in Middle-earth was Huan, originally a wolfhound of Oromë in Aman, who was given to Celegorm and followed his new master into exile with the Noldor.

Eventually Huan abandoned Celegorm to aid Beren and Lúthien in their Quest of the Silmaril, and fulfilled his destiny as a wolfhound in that quest. At Tol-in-Gaurhoth he fought many of Sauron's wolves, defeating each of them until he slew the mighty Draugluin, and then even defeated Sauron himself in wolf-form. Huan survived all those encounters, but during the quest a Silmaril was consumed by yet another wolf, Carcharoth, the greatest beast of that kind to ever live. Huan went with the Hunting of the Wolf that pursued Carcharoth, and when the greatest wolfhound met the greatest wolf, each killed the other. Nonetheless, through Huan's final sacrifice the Silmaril was recovered.


Notes

1

The word 'wolfhound' is relatively recent coinage, dating from the late eighteenth century (and therefore there is no Old English equivalent such as wulfhund). In Ireland, where this breed originated, a hound was known as a and a wolfhound as a cú faoil (where faoil means 'wolf'). The loyalty of a wolfhound was seen as a mark of nobility, and so came to be attached to lordly names (with the most famous example being the hero Cú Chulainn).

The idea that a wolfhound would reserve its loyalty for a deserving master has remarkable parallels to the tale of the hound Huan, who abandoned his cruel master Celegorm to aid Lúthien and Beren in their Quest for the Silmaril. There's a further parallel in Huan's name, which shares a derivation with Sindarin , 'dog, hound', from an ancient root khug-, said to mean 'bark'. The similarity of Sindarin to Irish is certainly notable, but whether Tolkien was influenced by the old Irish traditions surrounding these hounds is not recorded. If not, this would certainly be a remarkable coincidence.

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About this entry:

  • Updated 14 December 2017
  • This entry is complete

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