How does a Brazilian spider reveal our connection to Middle Earth?
Scientists have named a newly discovered spider, Smeagol, after a 'Lord of the Rings' character. The arachnid joins a host of other areas in which 'Lord of the Rings' has fused with reality.
Technically a daddy-long-legs, not a spider, the discovery of the arachnid Iandumoema smeagol was announced in the journal Zookeys, USA Today reported.
Researchers named their many-legged find after "the hobbit named Smeagol, created by J.R.R. Tolkien, being the original name of Gollum – the dweller of the caves located below the Misty Mountains of Middle-earth of the "Lord of the Rings" book," authors Ricardo Pinto-da-Rocha, Rafael Fonseca-Ferreira, Maria Elina Bichuette wrote in the article.
This overlap of 20th century literature and arachnids, fantasy and reality, suggests that in modern thinking, the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy has morphed into more of a cultural touchstone than a six-time box office sensation.
Fantasy series with rich cult followings have joined the founding myths that are passed down as part of Western civilization's cultural heritage, Ben Hammersley wrote for the BBC:
Our shared mythos, the cultural touchpoints we can use as a framework to tell each other stories, is no longer the Bible or the Odyssey. It's Star Wars and Star Trek, Gotham City, and Westeros. The average person in the street probably would not be able to tell you the plot of Macbeth, but they all know who Luke Skywalker's father is ... Our modern civilization, like all civilizations before it, has settled around a set of myths and legends as the basis of its culture.
In the case of "Lord of the Rings," this manifests itself not only in cave-dwelling arthropods in Brazil, but also in Tolkienesque stories, street names, and even children.
A Dutch city called Gerlop pays tribute to Middle Earth with street names in clusters of related characters, Manuel Pangaruy reported in Oddity Central. The savvy Gerlop traveler might go down Balin Street, take a right on Laan van Tolkien, and continue onto Galadriel.
Writers in a Goodreads thread confessed to naming pets, laptops, and children after Frodo, Belladonna Took, Mithril, and even Elessar Maikael (he goes by "Elf").
"Just because it's an invented language, doesn't make it less valid – all language is invented, and languages come and go," one person commented.
Another said the reason for the names' popularity was how familiar they felt, perhaps because of how people can use the stories to relate to each other.
"I think that a lot of Tolkien's Elvish names and words lend themselves to proper names," he wrote. "They're unusual (that is, uncommon) and yet somehow familiar at the same time."
The researchers in Brazil are not the first scientists to bring Middle Earth to life in their work. On Titan, a moon of Saturn, ambitious astronauts could someday wander through a set of six hills named after characters from Tolkien's Middle Earth, according to the International Astronomical Union.
If the "Lord of the Rings" world is becoming a cultural touchdown with the longevity of Penelope and Hamlet, a walk toward Titan's hills of Arwen, Bilbo, and Faramir might leave these futuristic space travelers feeling oddly at home.