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This article is about an early concept of elves. For the race of elves the Gnomes became, see Noldor.
General Information
Other namesNoldoli
LocationsKôr, Nargothrond, Dorthonion, Gondolin, Tol Eressea
LanguagesKornoldorin, Noldorin
MembersFinwë, Fëanor, Finrod, Inglor, Beren, Turgon
Physical Description
DistinctionsGreat skill with metal and gems, deep knowledge
Average heightTall
Hair colorDark
Skin colorWhite
GalleryImages of Gnomes

The terms Gnomes and Noldoli were used for many decades in J.R.R. Tolkien's earlier phases of his legendarium to describe the race of Elves that would become the Noldor.

The names of the Noldoli are in the Gnomish or Noldorin languages.

External history

Gnomes and Noldoli were both used from the beginning of Tolkien's legendarium, The Book of Lost Tales. Noldoli became the later form Noldor c. the mid-1930s, when most of the major texts of the Silmarillion tradition had new revised versions made, all having Noldor where earlier texts had Noldoli.[1] Gnome, however, continued to be used well after this point. It was published in the first edition of The Hobbit in 1937.[2] It continued to be used in drafting of The Lord of the Rings.[3][4] It was even used as far into the story as the drafting of the chapter that became "The Window on the West", which was written in 1944.[5] However, by the time Tolkien began to draft the material that became the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings in the late 1940s, the problems with the term were recognized, and eventually it was deemed "too misleading" due to confusion with the popular concept of gnomes.[6]


In a letter dating from 1973, Tolkien stated that the word gnome derives from Paracelsus,[7] who is known to have used Modern Latin gnomus in a 16th century treatise.[8]

The Gnome of Paracelsus likely means "earth-dweller". The basis for Tolkien's use of Gnome was Greek gnōmē meaning thought or intelligence.[9]

Cf. also the Mannish word nóm meaning "wisdom".[10]

After the flight of Noldoli and slaughter of Solosimpi, the gnomes who stayed in Aman and did not join other tribes were called Aulenossë (nossë "kind, people" is related to -nor in Valinor (root NO in a dictionary of Qenya)[11]), the people of Aulë. He himself called the gnomes who stayed in his palace just Eldar.[12]


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 dwellers, 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").

In the first Portuguese translation of The Hobbit, the title of the book is translated as gnomo, the Portuguese word for gnome. See: O Gnomo.

Other versions of the legendarium

At one time, "Gnomes" also referred to the Valar.[source?]

External links