small wonder that spell means both

Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men.

From “On Fairy-Stories” by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Note (from Online Etymology Dictionary) in Old English “spell” meant: “story, saying, tale, history, narrative, fable; discourse, command.” The meaning of “a set of words with supposed magical or occult powers, incantation, charm” was first recorded in the 1570s. Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore: “This later meaning of ‘spell’ is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will—unlike charms for healing, protection, etc.” Also note that our word “gospel” comes from the Old English “godspel” which is literally “good spell” (from god “good” + spel “story, message”).


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