Tolkien Gateway


"Talk less, Fisher Blue! Keep your kindly wishes
Fly off and preen yourself with the bones of fishes!
Tom Bombadil[1]

Kingfishers were bright blue birds.


[edit] History

Kingfishers lived on the waterside, feeding on fish. One notable kingfisher lived, according to Hobbit folklore, in the Old Forest. It jestfully harassed Tom Bombadil, who in return compared it to a weathercock, and commented that, despite its lordy appearance, it lives in a dirty home.[note 1] Upon flying away it lost a bright blue feather which Tom took replacing the old battered swan-feather in his hat.[1] Tom still bore a noticeable large blue feather on his hat when he met Frodo and his companions.[2]

Gondor was also familiar with the Kingfisher; when Faramir saw what he thought was a black squirrel or kingfisher, he asked Anborn whether there were any black kingfishers in Mirkwood,[3] a forest known for its black animals.[4] Anborn saw the mysterious creature had four limbs, and quickly dismissed both ideas. It turned out to be Gollum, hiding in the Forbidden Pool.[3]

[edit] Etymology

Kingfishers were originally called the King's fisher, as they, like swans, were royal animals[5] although the historical association is unknown.

[edit] Other names

Several Eldarin words for the bird are known as well: in Quenya, it was called halatir (or halatir(no)), from the roots SKAL and TIR, literally meaning "fishwatcher".[6] Noldorin had a similar word, heledirn.[6]

[edit] Inspiration

The Kingfisher, and especially the rivalry between the kingfisher and the Old Swan in Bombadil Goes Boating, was inspired by its use in European royal houses. Originally, the swan was the animal owned by kings, but later, it became the kingfisher. In Middle-earth, both yearned for the return of the rightful King.[5]

[edit] External links

  1. These scolds refer to the superstition that "if a kingfisher skin is hung by the bill, it turns like a weathercock"; and that a kingfisher home is "a chamber tunnelled into a sandy bank and lined with disgorged fish bones and feces"


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "Bombadil Goes Boating"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Old Forest"
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Forbidden Pool"
  4. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 480
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 240, (dated 1 August 1962)
  6. 6.0 6.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", roots KHAL, SKAL and TIR