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
Esgaroth (Toronto, Ontario): In The Hobbit, the Lake-Town where Bilbo and
the Dwarves were outfitted. Alludes to Toronto’s similar situation on a
Fanuidhol (Denver, Colorado – prospective): In The Lord of the Rings, the
Elvish name for one of the Mountains of Moria. Alludes to the mountains
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.