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by Sharkű


Middle French hagard
Date: 1567

Definition: 1 of a hawk : not tamed
2 a : wild in appearance b : having a worn or emaciated appearance : gaunt

Usage in Books

Haggard is an extremely interesting word, not only as itself, and with its development from 'untamed hawk' to 'wild, gaunt', but also in its various uses in Lord of the Rings.

"Even to the Mere of Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come; but here neither spring nor summer would ever come again."
This is an description of the barren lands of Gorgoroth. In this context of comparison with the Dead Marshes, haggard emphasizes how faint spring would be in that despoiled land. There once was beauty, but that is lost, and now even spring is only gaunt and wild.

At Weathertop: "in their [the Nazgűl's] haggard hands were swords of steel".
And later: "Here, yes here indeed was the haggard king whose cold hand had smitten down the Ring-bearer with his deadly knife".
Twice it is here used for the Nazgűl. In "The Road To Middle-Earth", TA Shippey discusses this use:

"The word 'haggard', used at II, 315, implies how this happened. It was first used as a noun, to indicate a hawk caught when fully fledged; later it came to mean 'wild, untamed', and to be applied with special reference to a look in the eyes, 'afterwards to the injurious effect upon the countenance of privation, want of rest, fatigue, anxiety, terror or worry'. At this stage it was influenced by 'hag', an old word for witch, and implied also gaunt or fleshless. The Ringwraiths are fleshless and 'faded' from addiction, and privation, and from being caught by Sauron."

Living creatures are described as haggard, too:

"Gollum himself had remained unchanged; but whatever dreadful paths, lonely and hungry and waterless, he had trodden, driven by a devouring desire and a terrible fear, they had left grievous marks on him. He was a lean, starved, haggard thing, all bones and tight-drawn sallow skin."

After Pippin had looked into the palantír, we have:
"'The devilry! What mischief has he done-to himself, and to all of us?' The wizard's [Gandalf's] face was drawn and haggard."
"'I did,' said Frodo. His face was grim and set, but resolute. He was filthy, haggard, and pinched with weariness, but he cowered no longer, and his eyes were clear."

In all above uses, the significance of the word is especially to express that the current 'gaunt' state was once not so. The Dead Marshes were once a grassy plain, the Nazgűl were once proud lords and kings, Gollum was more agile and strong before the hardships of Mordor, as was Frodo. Gandalf's appearing haggard is out of worry and fear.

Another thing is obvious: that things become haggard is never due to normal exhaustion or wearing out. The 'hag', the witch, morgul, dark sorcery, is always somehow behind it in form of the corrupting powers of the Enemy, that wears out the lands, his minions, and those that have to oppose him. This connotation of the word within the Lord of the Rings is supported by its exclusive use in these places.
All in all, haggard serves as a great example of one of the many words which Tolkien used not only for its immanent dictionary meaning, but to which he also gave a certain defined connotation and deeper meaning by placing them in a certain context, and in that only.

(Etymology and definitions taken from

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