Sigelwara Land

From Tolkien Gateway

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.

Relation to the legendarium

In early drafts of The Lord of the Rings, anglicized names for the Haradrim in the text, were Silharrows and Harwan, which according to Christopher Tolkien are derived from the Old English name for the Aethiopians. Haradwaith has the anglicized name (Sun)Harrowland.[4]

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".[5] (In Aelfwine's Old English translations, the name Silmaril is rendered phonetically as Sigelmaerels containing sigel = sun, jewel).[6]

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.[7]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (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. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "XXV. The Story Foreseen from Fangorn", Note 4
  5. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, p. 39 (1992, 2nd edn.)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Appendix 1: Fragments of a translation of The Quenta Noldorinwa into Old English, made by Ælfwine or Eriol; together with Old English equivalents of Elvish names", p. 209
  7. Sigelwara land - I. 1932, Sigelwara land - II. 1934, at (accessed 2 February 2013)