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This article is about an early concept of elves. For the race of elves the Gnomes became, see Noldor.
Jenny Dolfen - The Coming of Fingolfin.jpg
General Information
MembersFinwë, Fëanor, Finrod, Inglor, Beren, Turgon
Physical Description
DistinctionsGreat skill with metal and gems, deep knowledge.
Average heightTall.

The term Gnomes was briefly used in J.R.R. Tolkien's early work The Book of Lost Tales to describe the race of Elves that would become the Noldor. In those works he borrowed several folkloric names to describe his original creations, like Fae, Elves, Dwarves, Ogres and Goblins.



In a letter dating from 1973, Tolkien stated that the word gnome derives from Paracelsus,[1] whom is known to have used Modern Latin gnomus in a 16th century treatise.[2]

The word likely comes from genomos "earth-dweller". It has a similarity with Greek γνώσις gnosis "knowledge" which is why Tolkien used it for the wise clan of his Elves (Quenya Ñoldo "the Wise").[source?]

Cf. also the Mannish word nóm meaning "wisdom".


A Gnome is a dwarf-like creature of European folklore, often associated with Dwarves and Goblins. Traditional Gnomes however were unlike his depiction of his High Elves, they were imagined as deformed, underground and by the 19th century were depicted dwarf-like.

For that reason Tolkien dropped the term since that would confuse the readers. However, other folkloric names like "Elves", "Dwarves" and "Goblins" would persist in Tolkien's writing ever since, although he would be unsure about them (he did replace "Goblin" with "Orcs" after the publication of The Hobbit").

Other versions

At one time, "Gnomes" also referred to the Valar.

External links


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Elena Jeronimides 14 June 1973" (letter)
  2. Douglas Harper, "gnome", Online Etymology Dictionary (accessed 19 June 2012)