"A hundred"

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Jon Hodgson
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"A hundred"

Post by Jon Hodgson » Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:48 am

Hey everyone! It's been a while since I've had any time to just chat. I noticed a (mildly?) interesting thing today as I was searching the text of The Lord of the Rings.

I was looking for the phrase "a hundred" (in reference to Bree's "hundred houses", as it happens) and it struck me that many many times there are "a lot" of things, Tolkien refers to them as "a hundred".

I'm reliably told that when we look at medieval texts, especially battle reports, that give numbers of thousands it is generally understood that a thousand is shorthand for "lots and lots", and this seems somwhat akin to that.


a hundred sturdy hobbits

but a good many stray ruffians have joined up
with them. There must be close on a hundred of them;

The Tooks did come sooner. Before long they marched in, a hundred strong

When the poor creature died next Spring-she was after all more than a hundred
years old

The third evil was the invasion of the Wainriders, which sapped the waning strength of Gondor in wars that lasted for almost a hundred years.

though they lie hardly more than a hundred leagues north of the Shire.

old even for Hobbits, who reached a hundred as often as not;

and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot
snakes.

and yet after a hundredyears they can still surprise you at a pinch.

she had been obliged to wait about seventy-seven years longer for Bag End than she once
hoped, and she was now a hundred years old.

In a hundred yards or so it brought them to the river-bank,

many side-doors, and about a hundred windows.

a hundred yards and more beyond the Hedge;

creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter.

within a hundred leagues of the Shire.

The worthies of Bree will be discussing it a hundred
years hence.'


I could go on. I don't know if there's any deeper meaning here beyond it being an often-used part of Tolkien's lexicon, but it seems relevant to anyone trying to invoke the feel of Tolkien's writing to sprinkle in some "hundred"s when describing amounts of things...
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Terisonen
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by Terisonen » Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:31 am

Is It an another trick of english like Phrasal Verbs? :shock:
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Terisonen
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by Terisonen » Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:36 am

I bet more on a idiosyncrasy (in a linguistic acceptance) of Tolkien. So, yeah, use it it a hundred time, and again.

I may have miss that in french traduction of Tolkien. I have to re-read it.
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NIÑO
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by NIÑO » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:07 am

Hiyas!


Could be a nod to biblical numbers which also stand for "lots and lots".


Ñ

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zedturtle
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by zedturtle » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:24 am

Terisonen wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:36 am
I bet more on a idiosyncrasy (in a linguistic acceptance) of Tolkien. So, yeah, use it it a hundred time, and again.

I may have miss that in french traduction of Tolkien. I have to re-read it.
Is there a French idiom that more or less means the same thing? I’d be curious to know if the idiom is used instead of the literal translation. I’m given to understand that Tolkien is especially hard to translate, because of all the word-play.
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Gilrohir Arncelevon
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by Gilrohir Arncelevon » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:30 pm

It may very well be a "rough measure" used to imply "lots/many". But another thought occurs to me. Professor Tolkien was an expert on Anglo-Saxon history and literature and the term "hundred" was used in a number of contexts in the Anglo-Saxon world. For example, counties in Anglo-Saxon England were divided into "hundreds" which may originally have been an area of one hundred "hides" (a measure of land) or one hundred households. Though this was not always the case, particularly in the south. When men were called up for military duty, they were called up from the "hundreds" (so to say there were "hundreds of men" may really mean there were men from many "hundreds". Anyway, it may be that the term "hundreds" used in the context of land or numbers of people in Tolkiens works is a reference or recollection of the old English which Professor Tolkien spent his time teaching at Oxford. He might unconsciously be used to seeing the phrase in the books he studied and have carried it over to his writings.

Anyway, hope that adds to the debate.

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Terisonen
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by Terisonen » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:53 pm

zedturtle wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:24 am
Terisonen wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:36 am
I bet more on a idiosyncrasy (in a linguistic acceptance) of Tolkien. So, yeah, use it it a hundred time, and again.

I may have miss that in french traduction of Tolkien. I have to re-read it.
Is there a French idiom that more or less means the same thing? I’d be curious to know if the idiom is used instead of the literal translation. I’m given to understand that Tolkien is especially hard to translate, because of all the word-play.
Yes we use hundred also, but more like the meaning " A lot (hundred cars) ", "A crowd (hundred person) " or a short distance (two hundred meters). You can see 'hundred' as a milestone, if a fuzzy one.

We french reader have received a brand new translation recently. It make me re-reading The Hobbot and The Lord of the Ring.
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Terisonen
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by Terisonen » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:03 pm

A found that: (in french) : Centenier ('Hundred' in french translate 'Cent)' :

Centenier: In Frank time, person in charge of administration of a hundred on behalf of a Count.
In Roman and Medieval time, chief of a hundred troop (military). -Derivative of Centurion"?-
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Stormcrow
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by Stormcrow » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:59 pm

Jon Hodgson wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:48 am
I'm reliably told that when we look at medieval texts, especially battle reports, that give numbers of thousands it is generally understood that a thousand is shorthand for "lots and lots", and this seems somwhat akin to that.
What you've been told certainly is true, but I've only ever heard it applied to military numbers. It's not confined to the medieval; accounts of ancient battles and armies do the same thing. I don't think Tolkien was trying to reproduce this most of the time. He seems to have either actually meant a hundred, or else was giving a vague sense of lots and lots that we still use in English.
a hundred sturdy hobbits
Probably an estimate, but in the ballpark. It probably doesn't mean "lots and lots (but really only fifty)."
but a good many stray ruffians have joined up
with them. There must be close on a hundred of them;
Sounds like a guess of the actual number.
The Tooks did come sooner. Before long they marched in, a hundred strong
Could be a vague "lots and lots," or it might not be.
When the poor creature died next Spring-she was after all more than a hundred
years old
Definitely an actual number.
The third evil was the invasion of the Wainriders, which sapped the waning strength of Gondor in wars that lasted for almost a hundred years.

though they lie hardly more than a hundred leagues north of the Shire.

old even for Hobbits, who reached a hundred as often as not;
Almost certainly all actual numbers.
and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot
snakes.
Just a simile, so it doesn't matter.
and yet after a hundredyears they can still surprise you at a pinch.
Just a hypothetical hundred years, so it doesn't matter.
she had been obliged to wait about seventy-seven years longer for Bag End than she once
hoped, and she was now a hundred years old.
An exact number.
In a hundred yards or so it brought them to the river-bank,
An actual estimate.
many side-doors, and about a hundred windows.
Could be a "lots and lots" expression, but I think there may actually be about a hundred windows.
a hundred yards and more beyond the Hedge;
Probably an actual estimate.
creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter.
Undoubtedly a made-up number meaning "lots and lots." But it's not just an ancient usage of "lots and lots" where we would use an exact number; this is a perfectly acceptable expression in contemporary English.
within a hundred leagues of the Shire.
This one is interesting. People often take it completely literally to estimate the population of Eriador, but it may very well just mean "even very far from the Shire."
The worthies of Bree will be discussing it a hundred
years hence.
A hypothetical hundred years, so it doesn't matter.
I could go on. I don't know if there's any deeper meaning here beyond it being an often-used part of Tolkien's lexicon, but it seems relevant to anyone trying to invoke the feel of Tolkien's writing to sprinkle in some "hundred"s when describing amounts of things...
I don't think there's a deeper meaning, or my responses would have been more uniform. Most of the time he means it literally, or as a ballpark but real target number for some quantity. Occasionally he uses it figuratively to mean "lots and lots." I don't think he ever obviously uses it in the ancient sense of "lots and lots of troops, never mind their actual numbers."

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Jon Hodgson
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Re: "A hundred"

Post by Jon Hodgson » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:22 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:59 pm
Jon Hodgson wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:48 am
I'm reliably told that when we look at medieval texts, especially battle reports, that give numbers of thousands it is generally understood that a thousand is shorthand for "lots and lots", and this seems somwhat akin to that.
What you've been told certainly is true, but I've only ever heard it applied to military numbers. It's not confined to the medieval; accounts of ancient battles and armies do the same thing. I don't think Tolkien was trying to reproduce this most of the time. He seems to have either actually meant a hundred, or else was giving a vague sense of lots and lots that we still use in English.
a hundred sturdy hobbits
Probably an estimate, but in the ballpark. It probably doesn't mean "lots and lots (but really only fifty)."
but a good many stray ruffians have joined up
with them. There must be close on a hundred of them;
Sounds like a guess of the actual number.
The Tooks did come sooner. Before long they marched in, a hundred strong
Could be a vague "lots and lots," or it might not be.
When the poor creature died next Spring-she was after all more than a hundred
years old
Definitely an actual number.
The third evil was the invasion of the Wainriders, which sapped the waning strength of Gondor in wars that lasted for almost a hundred years.

though they lie hardly more than a hundred leagues north of the Shire.

old even for Hobbits, who reached a hundred as often as not;
Almost certainly all actual numbers.
and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot
snakes.
Just a simile, so it doesn't matter.
and yet after a hundredyears they can still surprise you at a pinch.
Just a hypothetical hundred years, so it doesn't matter.
she had been obliged to wait about seventy-seven years longer for Bag End than she once
hoped, and she was now a hundred years old.
An exact number.
In a hundred yards or so it brought them to the river-bank,
An actual estimate.
many side-doors, and about a hundred windows.
Could be a "lots and lots" expression, but I think there may actually be about a hundred windows.
a hundred yards and more beyond the Hedge;
Probably an actual estimate.
creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter.
Undoubtedly a made-up number meaning "lots and lots." But it's not just an ancient usage of "lots and lots" where we would use an exact number; this is a perfectly acceptable expression in contemporary English.
within a hundred leagues of the Shire.
This one is interesting. People often take it completely literally to estimate the population of Eriador, but it may very well just mean "even very far from the Shire."
The worthies of Bree will be discussing it a hundred
years hence.
A hypothetical hundred years, so it doesn't matter.
I could go on. I don't know if there's any deeper meaning here beyond it being an often-used part of Tolkien's lexicon, but it seems relevant to anyone trying to invoke the feel of Tolkien's writing to sprinkle in some "hundred"s when describing amounts of things...
I don't think there's a deeper meaning, or my responses would have been more uniform. Most of the time he means it literally, or as a ballpark but real target number for some quantity. Occasionally he uses it figuratively to mean "lots and lots." I don't think he ever obviously uses it in the ancient sense of "lots and lots of troops, never mind their actual numbers."
My goodness, you went through every example to somehow "disprove" it? Again, I ask - are you ok, in yourself, Stormcrow? You seem like such an angry, unfriendly guy all the time.

And hey, you missed my point completely: namely that Tolkien uses the words "a hundred" constantly. So that's an interesting thing we can emulate if we want to sound like Tolkien ourselves.
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