notes from J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 2001

-Tolkien took Saruman’s name from the reconstructed word *saru, which would have been the equivalent of the West Saxon word searu in the dialect of Mercia (the Mark). Searu appears in some compunds:

searonet = searo-net, Beowulf’s mail shirt made by the orþanc (cunning thought) of the smith

searo-bonds hold Heorot together; usually translated as cunning here, but could mean some kind of iron clamps

searoþonc = cunning thought

searocræftig = cunning-crafty (adj)

searoniþ = cunning-spite (noun)

searugimma geþræc = “confusion of cunning gems”

sinc searwade = “treasure was cunning” (here it is made into a verb)

So Saruman could be translated as “cunning man”, which on the surface seems like an epithet that could be given to any wizard. But, significantly, the word searu clearly carries connotations of mechanical ability, deceit, and worldly wealth/power, all ingredients in the downfall of Saruman.

-Frodo’s name comes from Froda father of Ingeld, vaguely alluded to in Beowulf. Same character appears as Froði father of Ingjaldr in Old Norse “as if later authors were trying to make sense of different and contradictory stories.” In both OE and ON the name means “the wise one”. Froði was a pacifist (like Frodo toward the end of The Lord of the Rings) and so was more-or-less forgotten (again, like Frodo–he did not become famous or well-respected in the Shire, and his heroism was eventually misunderstood/misinterpreted in other lands), unlike the famously vengeful Ingjaldr.

According to Saxo Grammaticus and Snorri Sturlusson, Froði reighned over a period without war or robbery called the Froða-frið, or “peace of Froði”. The peace was generated by a magic mill turned by giantesses who turned on Froði because he wouldn’t give them any rest.

Shippey writes, “There is something sad, ironic, and true about the fact that Ingjaldr remained a popular Norse name for generations, and even the monks of Lindisfarne wanted to hear about him, while the story of his peaceful father was rapidly turned into a parable of futility.” (184)

-From Pearl, “As stremande sterneʒ quen stroþemen slepe”, “as streaming stars when stroth-men sleep”

OE *stroþ probably means marshy, overgrown land; stroþemen is possibly poetic description of mortal men in this tangled world only dimly aware of what lies beyond. (204)

-Old English word for the gods is osas, cognate of Old Norse Aesir. (286)

-In “Farmer Giles of Ham” the parson “was a grammarian, and could doubtless see further into the future than others.”
In medieval terms, grammar = “glamour” (shape-changing, deception) = “grammarye” (magic). (292)