Monday, August 27, 2007



The obsolete English word hame means "covering, integument." J.R.R. Tolkien used Greyhame as a surname for the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, and in the Old English Fight at Finnesburg, graeghama (greycoat) is a kenning for "wolf."

In Tolkien's Silmarillion, the human Beren donned a wolf-hame, or coat made of wolf skins. In Old Norse, the expression úlfa-hamir (wolf-coats) occurs.

All of the above comes from Peter Gilliver et al., The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 140-141.

In Homer, Iliad 10.334 (cf. 10.459) Dolon puts on the skin of a grey wolf (ῥινὸν πολιοῖο λύκοιο) before going on a scouting expedition at night. Euripides, Rhesus 201-215 (a dialogue between Dolon and the chorus leader, tr. E.P. Coleridge), describes the donning of the wolf-hame in detail:
DOL. I will set forth; but going within my house I will clothe myself in fitting attire, and then I will hasten to the Argive fleet.

CHO. Why, what dress in place of this will you assume?

DOL. One that fits my task and furtive steps.

CHO. One should ever learn wisdom from the wise; tell me, what will be your equipment?

DOL. I will fasten a wolf-skin about my back, and over my head put the brute's gaping jaws; then fitting its fore-feet to my hands and its hind-feet to my legs, I will go on all fours in imitation of a wolf's gait to puzzle the enemy, when I approach their trenches and barriers round the ships. But whenever I come to a deserted spot, I will walk on two feet; such is the ruse I have decided on.
There are also wolf skin helmets in Vergil, Aeneid 7.689-690 and 11.680-681.

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