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Sigelwara Land

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Sigelwara Land is the title of an essay by J.R.R. Tolkien, in which is examined the etymology of Sigelwaran (and the more usual form Sigelhearwan) — the Old English word for Ethiopians.[1][2]



Tolkien discusses the elements of the word Sigelhearwan and related forms, as found in Old English manuscripts. Sigel can mean both "sun" and "jewel", and while the meaning of hearwa is unknown, he suggests that it is connected to devils and blackness.[1] Tolkien writes that his tentative analysis shows that:

[g]limpses are caught, if dim and confused, of the background of English and northern tradition and imagination [...] Sigel may be taken as a symbol of the intricate blending of the Latin and Northern which makes the study of Old English peculiarly interesting and controversial.
J.R.R. Tolkien[3]

Relation to the legendarium

Tom Shippey has suggested that Tolkien's discussion of Sigelhearwan "helped to naturalise the 'Balrog' in the traditions of the North, and [...] to create (or corroborate) the image of the silmaril, that fusion of 'sun' and 'jewel' in physical form".[4]

Publication history

The essay was originally published in two parts: part one appeared in Medium Ævum (Vol. 1, No. 3) in 1932, and part two appeared in Medium Ævum (Vol. 3, No. 2) in 1934.[1][2] Both parts of the essay also appeared as separate offprints.[5]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: II. Reader's Guide, pp. 889-90
  2. 2.0 2.1 Medium Aevum. 1932, Medium Aevum. 1934, at (accessed 2 February 2013)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Sigelwara Land Part 2", in Medium Ævum (Vol. 3, No. 2), pp. 110-11
  4. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, p. 39 (1992, 2nd edn.)
  5. Sigelwara land - I. 1932, Sigelwara land - II. 1934, at (accessed 2 February 2013)