An Etymological Excursion Among the Discussion Groups

by David Bratman

[used by permission of the author]

 

The Mythopoeic Society will be thirty years old in September 1997, and like

any society it has developed a number of traditions over the years. One

tradition for which newer members may need some explanation and guidance is

that of the naming of discussion groups. In the early years of the Society,

virtually all groups were named for places (or occasionally groups of

people) from Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, or other mythopoeic authors. In

recent years some groups have adopted more functional or idiosyncratic

names. There is no rule that group names must conform to a certain pattern.

But people forming groups may find it useful to know what the pattern is:

what kind of names have been used, on what basis they've been chosen, and

what names are still available.

 

The Mythopoeic Society was founded as a single discussion group in Los

Angeles in the fall of 1967. Within a year there were two groups in the

area, and within two years there were four. Groups began to appear outside

of L.A. All were originally known by purely functional names. In those

days the term for a group was branch, so they were "The San Gabriel Valley

Branch", "The Hollywood-Wilshire Branch", etc. In the summer of 1970 the

West Los Angeles Branch dubbed itself "The Chapter of the Western Marches",

and soon the other existing groups followed by adopting appropriately

mythopoeic geographic nicknames, mostly from our authors, such as

"Lothlorien", "Archenland", and "Battle Hill", and a tradition was born.

Gradually these evocative names became the names in normal use, and the old

branch designations became merely descriptors of location. Thus the groups

really had both kinds of name, and having one type of name did not preclude

also having the other.

 

The following dictionary of mythopoeic names used by discussion groups is

not a complete list of every group ever formed. It goes through March 1997,

and omits a number of prospective and short-lived groups, especially ones

that never had names, or had unidentifiable or purely functional (e.g. "The

Tolkien Society of (Place)") names. But it does include all groups that

have had long-established existences. "Prospective" indicates a group that

was named but never chartered. Even some of the established groups are long

departed, but it has generally been our custom that names are not reused.

Reasons are given for the namings when I have personal knowledge or a solid

surmise, and I welcome additions and corrections. I hope this list will

help inspire new groups looking for a mythopoeic name.

 

NAMES FROM TOLKIEN

 

Barad-dur (Coraopolis, Pennsylvania - prospective): In The Lord of the

Rings, Sauron's tower in Mordor.

 

Baranduin (Kansas City, Kansas - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings,

the Elvish name for the Brandywine River.

 

Belfalas (Long Beach, California - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings,

a fair coastal region of Gondor. Alludes to Long Beach's situation as a

coastal region of Los Angeles.

 

Bucklebury (Orange County, California): In The Lord of the Rings, the

chief village of Buckland, just east of the Shire. Alludes to Orange

County's situation relatively distant (and across a border) from Los Angeles.

 

Bree (Rockford, Illinois): In The Lord of the Rings, the town of Hobbits

and Men where Frodo meets Aragorn. Name also used by a prospective group in

San Joaquin Valley, California.

 

The Burrahobbits (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): In The Hobbit, Bilbo starts to

call himself a burglar, then corrects himself to a hobbit, causing the

trolls to think he said he was a burrahobbit.

 

Butterbur's Woodshed (mail group): In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf

refers in a letter to Butterbur's memory as being like a lumber-room. This

was misremembered by the group's namers as a woodshed. Alludes to the

group's meetings being conducted by mail.

 

Companions of the Ring (Seattle, Washington): In The Lord of the Rings,

the members of the Fellowship of the Ring. Later replaced by Erebor.

 

Crickhollow (Reno, Nevada): In The Lord of the Rings, the home in Buckland

to which Frodo moves before leaving the Shire.

 

The Desolation of Smaug (Pomona Valley, California): In The Hobbit, the

region around the Lonely Mountain to which the dragon has laid waste.

Alludes to Pomona Valley's being a desolation of smog.

 

Dimrill Dale (Madison, New Jersey - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings,

the valley outside Moria where Mirrormere is located.

 

Dol Amroth (North Hollywood, California): In The Lord of the Rings, the

city of Prince Imrahil in Belfalas.

 

Doriath (Huntsville, Alabama - prospective): In The Silmarillion,

Thingol's hidden woodland elf-kingdom.

 

Eorlingas (Buffalo, New York): In The Lord of the Rings, the name of the

Rohirrim for their own people.

 

Erebor (Seattle, Washington): In The Hobbit, the Lonely Mountain where

Smaug the Dragon dwells. Alludes to any number of lone mountains in the

Seattle area.

 

Esgaroth (Toronto, Ontario): In The Hobbit, the Lake-Town where Bilbo and

the Dwarves were outfitted. Alludes to Toronto's similar situation on a

long lake.

 

Fanuidhol (Denver, Colorado - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings, the

Elvish name for one of the Mountains of Moria. Alludes to the mountains

overlooking Denver.

 

Fornost (Oakland County, Michigan): In The Lord of the Rings, the ruined

capital of the Numenorean kingdom of Arthedain. Possibly alludes to the

group's similar northern location.

 

Galadhremmin Ennorath (Ann Arbor, Michigan): In The Silmarillion, a

phrase occuring in an Elven poem, meaning "tree-tangled Middle-earth".

Alludes to the arboreal reference in the name Ann Arbor.

 

Gondolin (Great Falls, Montana): In The Lord of the Rings, the hidden elven

city of Turgon, to which Tuor comes.

 

The Green Dragon (Hollywood, California): In The Lord of the Rings, an inn

in Bywater in the Shire.

 

The Grey Havens (Monterey, California): In The Lord of the Rings, Cirdan's

harbor from which ships sail to Valinor. Alludes to Monterey's situation as

a foggy western harbor. Also used in variant form by "The Havens of Long

Beach" (California) and a number of prospective groups.

 

Helm's Deep (North Merrick, New York): In The Lord of the Rings, the gorge

in Rohan where a major battle is fought.

 

Henneth Annun (San Fernando Valley, California): In The Lord of the Rings,

the hidden refuge of Faramir and his Rangers.

 

Hobbiton (Tampa Bay, Florida): In The Lord of the Rings, the hobbit

village above which Bilbo and Frodo live.

 

The Iron Hills (Riverside, California - prospective): In The Hobbit, the

home of the Dwarves under King Dain. Possibly alludes to the Riverside

hills being similarly to the east of L.A.

 

Istari (Wantagh, New York): In The Lord of the Rings, the Elvish name for

the order of Wizards. Name also used by a prospective group in Traverse

City, Michigan.

 

The Khazad (Portland, Maine/St. Louis, Missouri): In The Lord of the Rings,

the Dwarvish name for their own race.

 

Khazad-dum (San Francisco, California): In The Lord of the Rings, the

Dwarvish and hence more respectful name for the Mines of Moria. Alludes to

the caves at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the group's

original meeting place. Also used as "The Bridge of Khazad-dum" by a group

in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

The Last Alliance (Cleveland, Ohio): In The Lord of the Rings and The

Silmarillion, the alliance between Elendil and Gil-galad that defeated

Sauron at the end of the Second Age.

 

Lothlorien (San Gabriel Valley, California): In The Lord of the Rings, the

elven woodland kingdom of Galadriel and Celeborn. The original Mythopoeic

Society discussion group. Name also used by a later group in San Diego,

California.

 

The Midgewater Marshes (Bowling Green, Ohio): In The Lord of the Rings,

the marshes through which Aragorn and the hobbits walk after leaving Bree.

Alludes to Bowling Green's flat (and formerly marshy) surroundings and to the initials

of the local Society for Creative Anachronism group.

 

Minas Aearon (Chicago, Illinois): A constructed name in the Elven language

Sindarin, meaning "Tower of the Sea".

 

Mirrormere (La Habra-Whittier, California - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings,

the lake in Dimrill Dale where Durin beheld Durin's Crown.

 

Mytheithel (Endicott, New York): In The Lord of the Rings, Mitheithel is

the river crossed by the Great East Road at the Last Bridge. The group

respelled it to emphasize the homonym "myth".

 

Nargothrond (Orange County, California): In The Silmarillion, the caves of

Finrod Felagund.

 

Neldoreth (Chicago, Illinois - prospective): In The Silmarillion, the

forest where Beren met Luthien.

 

Niggle's Parish (Los Angeles, California): In "Leaf by Niggle," the name

given to the home and garden where Niggle lives after he finds his Tree.

 

The Old Forest (Santa Rosa, California): In The Lord of the Rings, the

forest of Tom Bombadil and Old Man Willow.

 

Orthanc (Chicago, Illinois): In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman's tower in

Isengard.

 

Osgiliath (San Leandro, California): In The Lord of the Rings, the

abandoned river-spanning capital of Gondor.

 

The Prancing Pony (Dayton-Kettering, Ohio): In The Lord of the Rings,

Barliman Butterbur's inn at Bree.

 

Rhosgobel (Washington, D.C.): In The Lord of the Rings, the home of the

wizard Radagast. Alludes to Washington's location in the Society for

Creative Anachronism's Mirkwood province. Later replaced by Knossos.

 

Rhûn (Phoenix, Arizona): In The Lord of the Rings, the furthest east known

area of Middle-earth. Allusion probably because it was by far the most

easterly group at the time of its formation. Later replaced by Edgestow.

 

Rivendell (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota): In The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings,

the Elven refuge where Elrond dwells. Allusion to the Mississippi River

which flows between the Twin Cities.

 

Rómenna (New York-New Jersey): In The Silmarillion, the main port of

eastern Numenor. Alludes to the group's eastern location.

 

Sammath Naur (Honolulu, Hawaii): In The Lord of the Rings, the cave in

Mount Doom in which Sauron forged the Ring and where it may be destroyed.

Alludes to the volcanos of Hawaii.

 

The Shire (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): In The Lord of the Rings, the

homeland of the Hobbits. Possibly alludes to the use of old English shire

names for county names in eastern Pennsylvania.

 

Shire Talk (Kamiah, Idaho - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings, the

Hobbits have a phrase "Sure as Shiretalk".

 

South Farthing (Dallas, Texas - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings,

the Southfarthing is the southern portion of the Shire. Alludes to Texas's

southern location, and possibly also to Southfork in the tv show Dallas.

 

Tookland (Fountain Valley, California - prospective): In The Lord of the Rings,

the folkland of the Tooks in the Shire.

 

Valinor (Torrance, California): In The Silmarillion, the land of the Valar

across the western ocean from Middle-earth. Possibly alludes to the western

view from the beaches near Torrance.

 

The White Council (Detroit, Michigan): In The Lord of the Rings, the

council of the Wise who oppose Sauron.

 

NAMES FROM LEWIS

 

Archenland (La Mirada-Whittier, California): In The Horse and His Boy, the

kingdom of which Shasta is the lost heir.

 

Association of Pfifltriggi (Silver Spring, Maryland): In Out of the Silent

Planet, the Pfifltriggi are one of the three races of hnau on Malacandra.

 

Cair Paravel (San Diego, California): In The Lion, the Witch and the

Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, the castle of the Kings and Queens of

Narnia. Alludes to the similarly situated Cabrillo Lighthouse in San Diego.

 

Edgestow (Phoenix, Arizona): In That Hideous Strength, the university town

where the story takes place.

 

Lantern Waste (San Bernadino, California): In The Last Battle, the

desolate area surrounding the Lamp-post. Alludes to the semi-desert

conditions of San Bernardino.

 

Spare Oom (Washington suburbs, Virginia/Nashville, Tennessee): In The Lion,

the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy speaks of the spare room from which she

entered Narnia, which Tumnus misunderstands as Spare Oom, the country from

which she hails.

 

The Wood Between the Worlds (Kitsap, Washington): In The Magician's

Nephew, the wood through which Polly and Digory travel to reach other worlds.

 

NAMES FROM WILLIAMS

 

Battle Hill (Santa Barbara, California): In Descent into Hell, the

battlefield turned suburb where the story takes place.

 

Coinherence (online group): In Williams's theology, the intimate

reciprocalinter-relationship between persons.

 

The Council of Logres (Vancouver, B.C. - prospective): In Taliessin Through

Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars, and also Lewis's That Hideous

Strength, Logres is the idealized counterpart of Britain, which the

companies of Logres are pledged to protect.

 

The Place of the Lion (Chicago, Illinois): In The Place of the Lion, the

title refers to the Platonic archetype lion which dominates the narrative.

 

The Region of the Summer Stars (San Diego, California - prospective): In

The Region of the Summer Stars, the sphere of Heaven which is the goal of

poetic and romantic fulfillment.

 

NAMES FROM OTHER SOURCES

 

Annwn (Oxford, Ohio): In Welsh mythology, the underworld. The principal

story of Annwn is retold in Evangeline Walton's Prince of Annwn.

 

Avalon (Sacramento, California): In Arthurian legend, the island to which

Arthur's body was taken. Sometimes identified with Glastonbury. Possibly

alludes to Sacramento's similar situation surrounded by lowlands subject to

flood.

 

Chapter of the Elfin Marches (West Los Angeles, California): In fairy tales,

the Elfin Marches are the borderlands beyond the lands we know, where elves

may be found. This name was adopted later by the group which originally

called itself "Chapter of the Western Marches".

 

Gwynedd (Houston, Texas): In Welsh history and mythology, a kingdom in Wales.

 

Knossos (Washington, D.C.): Archaeological site, once the capital of the

Minoan nation of ancient Crete. Allusion possibly to Washington's being the

capital of its nation, with equally magnificent monuments.

 

Mydgard (Los Angeles, California): In Norse mythology, the world in which

humans live. The term was borrowed by Tolkien for his mythology, translated

as "Middle-earth".

 

Once Upon a Time (mail group): In fairy tales, the traditional opening words.

 

Roke (Baton Rouge, Louisiana): In Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of

Earthsea, the island on which the school for wizards is located. Possibly

alludes to Baton Rouge being a university town in a water-logged region.

 

Sheep, Indeed (Northeastern Georgia): This name came to the group's founder

in a dream (see Mythprint, April 1990, p. 3). Alludes to the members'

refusal to "follow the crowd" and to the difficulty of gathering them together.

 

Starforge (Berkeley, California): specific reference unknown. Later

replaced by Storisende.

 

Storisende (Berkeley, California): In James Branch Cabell's Figures of

Earth, Manuel's castle; also the title Cabell used for the collected

edition of his works.

 

Sutton Hoo (Los Angeles, California): Site of a rich Saxon burial in East

Anglia, a principal source for artifacts of the heroic Northern age. This

name was used for a period by the group otherwise known as Mydgard.


For current Discussion Group meeting plans,

Access the Activity Calendar

Gaze into the Hermits'Pool , a page devoted to fantasy discussion groups

Go to The Mythopoeic Society homepage
http://home.earthlink.net/~emfarrell/mythsoc/mythsoc.html


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