20

Based on these questions/answers, 1, 2, 3, 4, it appears that the Sindarin language was originally called Gnomish, which implies that Gnomes were an intended race or creature for the Middle-earth universe.

I don't recall anything about Gnomes in The Hobbit or the LOTR books, and given that Gnomish is no longer called Gnomish but is now rather a form of Elvish, I doubt that Gnomes made it into any final versions of the Middle-earth universe.

However, I was wondering if Gnomes were mentioned in any of his early drafts, or if they turn up in other works of his (e.g. his stuff about Tom Bombadil before he was incorporated into Middle-earth)?

  • Bombadil was a Maia. There is some mention of the petty dwarves in the tale of Túrin. Mim and his sons were the last of these. – user2497 May 6 '18 at 12:58
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    @user2497 Bombadil's true nature is much more ambiguous. You can't just say he is a Maia. – suchiuomizu May 6 '18 at 13:34
  • @suchiuomizu and user2497: see also one of the top questions on this site about the nature of Tom Bombadil. – Rand al'Thor May 6 '18 at 13:45
  • @Randal'Thor Tom Bombadil was a doll that Tolkien’s children owned. – Edlothiad May 6 '18 at 21:53
  • @Edlothiad I know ;-) – Rand al'Thor May 7 '18 at 21:12
36

There were "Gnomes", but it was just a previous name for the Noldor.

From Tolkien Gateway:

The term Gnomes or Noldoli was briefly used in J.R.R. Tolkien's early work The Book of Lost Tales to describe the race of Elves that would become the Noldor. In those works he borrowed several folkloric names to describe his original creations, like Fae, Elves, Dwarves, Ogres and Goblins.

This is also mentioned in Wikipedia.

The name was inspired by the ancient Greek "gnome" meaning thought or intelligence, and it was originally going to appear in the text of The Hobbit. From Tolkien's Letters, Letter #239 to Allen & Unwin (20 July 1962):

If gnomos is used as a translation of dwarves, then it must not appear on p. 63 in the elves that are now called Gnomes. I need not trouble the translator, or you, with the long explanation needed to account for this aberration; but the word was used as a translation of the real name, according to my mythology, of the High-elven people of the West. Pedantically, associating it with Greek gnome 'thought, intelligence'. But I have abandoned it, since it is quite impossible to dissociate the name from the popular associations of the Paracelsan gnomus = pygmaeus.1 Since this word is used – for its aptness in preference to Sp[anish] enano I am not able to judge – for 'dwarves', regrettable confusion would be caused, if it is also applied to the High Elves. I earnestly suggest that on p. 63, lines 6-7, the translator should translate old swords of the High Elves of the West; and on p. 173, line 14, should delete (or Gnomes) altogether. I think these are the only places where Gnomes appears in The Hobbit.

See Wiktionary for more detail on the meaning of the ancient Greek "gnome" (γνώμη).

Believe it or not, an early title considered for The Silmarillion was "The History of the Gnomes". Yeaaaah ... doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?

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    Technically, no. There weren’t any Gnomes, there were elves called gnomes. The commonly thought of race of mini peeps never existed in TL, nice answer, though some canon evidence would be better than an answer from a wiki – Edlothiad May 5 '18 at 18:37
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    @Edlothiad Pedantry is always to be respected; edited. As for canon evidence, isn't the quote from Letters enough? – Rand al'Thor May 5 '18 at 18:39
  • Apologies, I was zooming through on mobile and missed that line. Although I still wouldn’t recommend the wiki, while excellently sourced they seem to have a preference on which scholars they subscribe to and tend to promote their understanding. – Edlothiad May 5 '18 at 20:54
  • @Edlothiad There were petty dwarves. – user2497 May 12 '18 at 5:57
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    @user2497 if that's your insistence then all dwarves are gnomes. I'm not seeing what specific description makes them particularly gnomish? The fact they're dwarves of smaller stature? Or gave away their Khuzdul names and language? – Edlothiad May 12 '18 at 7:42

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