In "The Lord of The Rings" J.R.R Tolkien used this expression: "glimpse a time" in a sentence "Their earliest tales seem to glimpse a time when they dwelt in the upper vales of Anduin, between the eaves of Greenwood the Great and the Misty Mountains.", what does to glimpse a time exactly mean?

  • It's the full (subscription-only) OED definition #4 To give a glimpse of. Also with out. rare. But I'd also say it's an example of a (not uncommon) usage applied to many verbs still today, whereby a literal subject or object is replaced by a more contextually relevant one. I can't remember the name of this "literary device", but here, it amounts to replacing the literal subject their earliest tales with the unspecified but logically obvious "observer" (as the "object" of the verb), who might catch that glimpse. Feb 1 at 21:04
  • ...I mean the usage exemplified by This wine is drinking well, where it's an unspecified "object" doing the drinking (it's not the wine drinking itself). Feb 1 at 21:07

1 Answer 1


"Glimpse" means to see something for a short time. But it has lots of extended or metaphorical meanings. For example, a story might contain a short description of something. We would then get a glimpse of it though the story.

Here Tolkien takes this further. He moves the subject from the reader to the story. So if the story contains a few words about the time living between the mountains and the forest, then the story glimpses this time.

So you understand that the story may be unclear, and the description might be short, but the story contains words that describe a time living between the mountains and the forest.


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