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12th of Astron, 3018, Third Age - Gandalf reaches Hobbiton.

Tolkien's Elvish Alphabet

How To Correctly use Tengwar


Would Tolkien Approve of the Amazon Television Series of The Lord of the Rings?


A Timeline for reading The Lord of the Rings

A rigourous reading schedule

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 28th of Thrimidge, 3558, Shire Reckoning

I have decided I am going to read The Lord of the Rings again. I even bought a new copy; my others were from the 1980's (no, I'm not that old - they were my father's). While this one came with the Reader's Companion, I am not reading that with it. I am reading it again for pleasure, not study. Alright, alright; partially for study for future blogs (or whatever you want to call them). But, I thought of something that would be really cool, yet challenging: why not read The Lord of the Rings using the timeline given in Appendix B of The Return of the King?

Making the Timeline

Well, obviously this would be tricky, having to look through the book to see where a day ends, and so on. But, surprisingly, it was not all that hard. I had to be very specific with where to stop in the middle of a chapter, but it's easy to follow along (I think). I went through this multiple times alongside the appendix, so it ought to be accurate.

The dates given in Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings puts the dates of events in the Shire calendar, which is found in Appendix D, which has 30 days to 12 months, with 2 days of Yule, which are the first and last days of the year, and 2 days of Lithe with Overlithe, or Midsummer's Day, between them. The months are in the order given: Afteryule; Solmath; Rethe; Astron; Thrimidge; Forelithe; Lithe and Overlithe are placed here; Afterlithe; Wedmath; Halimath; Winterfilth; Blotmath; and Foreyule. I have the dates in the Shire calendar, using the Shire months, and the dates in the Gregorian calendar. Note that this is not including leap day, but if you do read it on a leap year, I guess you have an extra day to catch up on reading!

Technically, there's about 12 years between A Long Expected Party and The Shadow of the Past. If you want to wait that long to finish the Lord of the Rings, go ahead. Too long for me.

I would encourage making your own Shire calendar, like I have, and putting your important dates on it. I have made a graph for converting your Gregorian calendar days to the Shire calendar. Just click here:

If you find anything to be incorrect, let me know through my contact page. For the final version of the timeline, click here: . Hope you enjoy!

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Tolkien's Elvish Languages: Quenya

Guides, Dictionaries, and Translators

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 3rd of Forelithe, 3558, Shire Reckoning

After reading so many of Tolkien's works, I have a great appreciation and love for his invented languages. Of course, being a Tolkien fanatic and aficionado, I had to learn the languages, or at least be able to translate sentences into them.

This is going to be on Quenya only. This blog being as of the 9th of Forelithe, I will have two more blogs about Sindarin, and then the Black Speech.

One thing before I start: if you think I am going to give you the rune sets to write the languages in, you are wrong. I will be doing a blog very soon about that (this is as of the 9th of Forelithe). This is for the languages: words, not runes.

Quenya

First, Quenya was one of the languages spoken by the Elves. An earlier language, Common Eldarin, from which Quenya was developed, was developed among the Elves who reached Valinor (the High Elves) that were not of the Teleri. Sindarin however, almost like the simplified version of Quenya, was spoken by Elves for many ages longer – and it is Sindarin, not Quenya, that is referred to by the modern term 'Elvish'.

In the Three Houses of Elves, which are the Noldor, the Vanyar, and the Teleri, the Noldor and the Vanyar spoke slightly different dialects, though mutually intelligible, dialects of Quenya, called the Noldorin Quenya and Vanyarin Quenya, respectively. The Vanyarin Quenya was also called Quendya, which was adopted by the Valar, who introduced new words into it from their own original language, though these are more numerous in the Vanyarin dialect than that of the Noldor. This is probably the case because of the long-lasting, close relationship between the Vanyar and the Valar. The Third House, the Teleri, spoke a different, yet closely related language, which they called Telerin. Quenya and Telerin are so alike that many think of the latter as a dialect of the former, but while linguistically possible, this is historically untrue though, for the languages do not share a common history.

The written script alphabet of the Elven languages is usually Tengwar, also known as the Fëanorian Characters, which, as I said, is discussed in an upcoming blog, this as of the 9th of Forelithe. Or, an older rune set, the Sarati was also used.

According to 'The Lhammas' it was Oromë of the Valar, who came upon the Elves at Cuiviénen, 'The Waters of Awakening', who taught them Quenya. Later, Tolkien rejected this theory. Over time, however, the Eldar changed the language and added words of their liking to it and softened its speech from its Valarin speech origins. The Valar did adopt this language in order to converse with the Eldar of Valinor.

The History of Quenya

Following the Darkening of Valinor, some of the Noldor fled to Middle-earth, and spoke Quenya among themselves. Elu Thingol of Doriath, who was the king of the Sindar, who were Elves of the Telerin line who remained in Beleriand instead of going to Valinor, learned about the Noldor slaying the Teleri, which was called the First Kinslaying, which took place at Alqualondë, the Swanhaven, which was the chief city of the Falmari on the shores of Valinor, said to be north and east of Tirion between the Calacirya and Araman in northern Eldamar. At this, he forbade the use of Quenya in Doriath. This was no big problem, for the Sindar had been slow to learn Quenya anyway, while the Noldor at this time had fully mastered Sindarin.

The Quenya used in Middle-earth of the Third Age, in which the Lord of the Rings is set, had come to be a scholarly pursuit; basically, it was not used in conversation typically. Sindarin became the vernacular of all Elves, while Quenya was preserved as a formal language and for writing. However, the Noldor still remembered Quenya, and valued it highly. In the Lord of the Rings, Gildor and his party appreciated Frodo Baggins' greeting Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo. ('A star shines on the hour of our meeting.') During the events of the Lord of the Rings, Galadriel was probably the only Elf in Middle-earth wo had learned Quenya as a mother-tongue, for she was born in Valinor, during the days of the Two Trees. Noldorin, or Exilic, Quenya differed somewhat from Valinórean Quenya, for the language continued to change after exile, and it underwent some regularisation as it became a language of lore. There were also a few changes in pronunciation.

The poem Namárië, also known as Galadriel's Lament, is the longest piece of Quenya found in the Lord of the Rings.

Grammar

If you want to learn more about this, I would highly encourage buying the following:

Also, here is a great link to get started. Just click here.

Influence

'The ingredients in Quenya are various, but worked out in a self-consistent character not precisely like any language that I know.'

- J.R.R. Tolkien

The phonology and grammar of Quenya are most strongly influenced by Finnish, an agglutinative language. The grammatical inspiration also comes from Latin and Greek, all three of these being languages Tolkien knew. The phonology is based on Finnish, and to a lesser extent Latin, Italian, and Spanish. Some interesting phonological rules are that no consonant cluster can begin or end a syllable, with one exception, the dual dative ending -nt; a word may not end in a non-dental consonant; and voiced stops must be preceded by sonorants. The first two of the phonotactic rules also exist in Finnish.

The most striking feature of Quenya is the agglutination, meaning that multiple affixes are often added to words to express grammatical function. It is possible for one Quenya word to have the same meaning as an entire English sentence. For example, one could say 'I have found it' (Eureka!) in Quenya in a single verb, utúvienyes.

Quenya was intended to be an archaic, august, and ancient language, for the peoples of Middle-earth of the Third Age, being the cultural analogue of Latin in Europe. For that reason, Tolkien decided to make Quenya look a lot like Latin when one looked at it, and he substituted K for C and Q for QU.

Tolkien wrote a lot more about Quenya and his other languages than he published in his lifetime. In fact, Tolkien, who was a professor of linguistics at Oxford, originally invented Middle-earth and its inhabitants as a means of putting a history of war, suffering, and migration upon his artificial languages, which is what separates him from many other fairy-story writers. The famous novels might be considered incidental to his further and more passionately developed linguistic hobby. The journals Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon are devoted to editing and publishing Tolkien's linguistic papers.

Other versions of the Legendarium

In Tolkien’s early writings, for instance, the History of Middle-earth, this language was called Qenya, even though it is pronounced the same as Quenya, and it underwent numerous revisions in both grammar and vocabulary before it reached the form found in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The term Qenya is now used to distinguish between old Qenya and the new Quenya. However, the fluid nature of Quenya (or Qenya, for that matter) makes such a distinction very difficult.

If you would like to learn Quenya, click here.

All Posts

Would Tolkien Approve of the Amazon Television Series of The Lord of the Rings?

Gollum...Good?

Are You Sure?


The History of Narsil

The Origins of the Sword of Elendil


The Secret of the Doors of Durin

The History and the Alphabet


Tolkien's Languages: The Black Speech

Dictionaries and Courses


Tolkien's Elvish Languages: Sindarin

Translators, Dictionaries, and Books


Tolkien's Elvish Languages: Quenya

Guides, Dictionaries, and Translators


A Timeline for reading The Lord of the Rings

A rigourous reading schedule

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About Me


This is what I do.

My name is Andrew Yarbrough, an aspiring fantasy writer. My favorite author, who is also my role model, is (of course) John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who is, in my opinion, the best author ever. Besides, the fact that he made an entire world; characters; names; languages; runes; races and species; and more is incredible.

I started the Second Inklings after having learned about the Inklings, a writing group that Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and others were involved in. They shared the things they wrote with each other, and they each gave feedback to the others. Me and two of my friends began sharing our chapters that we wrote each week, and then gave each other constructive criticism.

I thought this would be helpful for a lot of people who like to write fantasy, so I made this site. But, I realised that the Second Inklings should be exclusive to the best writers. But, for those who might want to get into the Second Inklings eventually, I made the Fellowship of the Ring: a larger, non-exclusive (unless you do not write fantasy) group for writers. Anyone who wants to join can, but they must share their writings often; once a week if in the Second Inklings, and every other week if in the Fellowship.

Right now, the Fellowship is not up and running. For those of you who send me emails with your things and get into the Fellowship, I will have that up soon. Please be patient!

The purpose of this site is to give knowledge about Tolkien and his writings, and to provide other writers with resources for writing, inventing your own languages, and studying Tolkien's works.

Basically, if you are a writer of fairy-stories, then you have come to the right place!

If you have any questions about anything 'Tolkienistic', just click here to go to my contact page.

Join the Second Inklings!


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Tolkien's Elvish Languages: Sindarin

Translators, Dictionaries, Books

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 8th of Forelithe, 3558, Shire Reckoning

Following up on my Quenya blog, I wrote this one. Unfortunately, this one is longer.

Once again, before I start: if you think I am going to give you the rune sets to write the languages in, you are wrong. I will be doing a blog very soon about that (this is as of the 10th of Forelithe). This is for the language: words, not runes.

Sindarin

The language referred to when called 'Elvish,' Sindarin was the most commonly spoken Elvish language in Middle-Earth in the Third Age.

The History of Sindarin

Sindarin was the language of the Sindar, those Teleri which had been left behind on the Great Journey of the Elves. It was derived from an earlier language called Common Telerin, an ancient dialect of the Common Eldarin, spoken by the Teleri or Lindar clan of the Elves. When the Noldor came back to Middle-earth, they adopted the Sindarin language, although they believed their native Quenya more beautiful. Before its downfall, most of the Men of Númenor also knew the language, though the common language there was Adûnaic, the 'Language of the West', derived from the Hadorian tongue. Knowledge of it was kept in the Númenórean realms-in-exile Arnor, the Northern Kingdom of the Dúnedain in the land of Eriador, and Gondor, the South Kingdom of the Númenóreans, especially among the learned. While Westron, the language of the Dúnedain, descended from Adûnaic, became the most common language in Middle-earth during the Third Age, Sindarin remained the everyday language of Rangers and Elves.

Sindarin became the language of the Noldor at the command of King Elu Thingol of Doriath, after he learned of the First Kinslaying at Alqualondë. The Noldor had slew many of the Teleri, of which Thingol was among, to have their ships to gain passage to Middle-earth, and at this Thingol declared that Quenya, the language of the Noldor, should be prohibited in his lands. As the Noldor were dwelling in a land that spoke Sindarin, and because of the decree of Thingol, though it did not directly affect them, they gradually switched entirely to Sindarin. Their names were also changed to Sindarin, such as Finwë-Ñolofinwë to Fingolfin, and Turukáno to Turgon.

The written script alphabet of the Elven languages is typically Tengwar, although Cirth, itself originally intended specifically for Sindarin) can also be used.

Grammar

Sindarin is mainly analytic, though traits of its highly inflected progenitor can still be seen. If you want to learn more about this, I would highly encourage buying the following:

Phonology

Sindarin was designed to have a phonology like unto Welsh, another language Tolkien knew. It has most of the same sounds and similar phonotactics.

Letter IPA Example Notes
a, ä a Aragorn Sindarin a is most like a in English father or a in Spanish mambo. Either pronunciation is suitable.
á a: Sindarin á is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin a, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
â a:: Sindarin â is pronounced for an even longer duration that Sindarin á, usually in single-syllaple words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as á.
ae a͡ɛ Maedhros Simliar to ai, but ends at a more open vowel height.
ai a͡ɪ Edain Sindarin ai is most like i in English time. ae is similar to ai, but ai
au, aw a͡ʊ Glaurung; Araw Sindarin au is most like ou in English thousand or like ow in English cow. It is never pronounced like au in English cause or like aw in English law. The spellings au and aw are the same sound, but aw is preferred at the ends of words, as in Araw.
b b Beleriand
c k Celeborn Always hard c like in English cake. Never soft c like in English cell.
ch x orch Always like ch in Scottish loch. Never like ch in English chair.
d d Dúnedain
dh ð Caradhras Sindarin dh is most like th in English the. It is not pronounced like normal d.
e, ë e Beren Sindarin e is most like e in English get or e in Spanish comprende. Either pronunciation is suitable, but it never has a y off-glide like in English grey.
é e: Sindarin é is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin e, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
ê e:: Sindarin ê is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin é, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as é.
ei e͡ɪ Ereinion Sindarin ei is most like ey in English grey, always with the y off-glide.
f f, v Fëanor Represents [v] when before n, and [f] everywhere else.
g g Galadriel Always a hard g like English gasp. Never soft g like English gem.
h h Húrin
hw ʍ Sindarin hw is most like the traditional pronunciation of wh in English whale, as it is still heard in Scotland, Ireland, and parts of the southern United States. It is also similar to ju in Mexican Spanish Juan. It is never pronounced like an ordinary w in English wail. If nothing else works, try pronouncing w while whispering.
i I, j Minas Tirith Sindarin iis usually pronounced as the i in English sick. But sometimes Sindarin i is more like y in English young - it is this way at the beginning of a word before a vowel, and in certain unstressed syllables before vowels. For instance, Doriath is a compound of dôr+iath, where iath is just one syllable.
í i: Círdan Sindarin í is pronounced noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin i, and has a different quality. Sindarin í is most like i in English ink or like i in Spanish gringo. Either pronunciation is suitable.
î i:: Gwîr Sindarin î is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin í, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as í.
l l Legolas Kind of obvious.
lh ɬ Lhûn There is no parallel for Sindarin lh in English. But it is like ll in Welsh or ł in Navajo, or Quenya hl. More specifically, it is a voiceless alveolar lateral, like s when spoken in a lateral lisp. If nothing else works, try pronouncing l while whispering.
ll l: mellon Sindarin ll is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin l, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
m m Mordor Pretty clear...
mh An Archaic Sindarin sound, a 'spirant' m, just like Gaelic mh. This sound became the same as v since at least the First Age, and mh as a spirant m does not appear even in The Silmarillion-style Sindarin spellings, so that spellings like Tinúviel are preferred over *Tinúmhiel. Suffice it to say that this spelling of mh is not used in The Lord of the Rings-style Third Age Sindarin either.
mm m: Rammas Sindarin mm is pronounced for a longer duration than Sindarin m, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
n n Nevrast
nc nk Orthanc Like nk in English think.
ng ŋ(ɡ) Fingolfin; Glamdring Represents [ng] between two voewls, like ng in English finger, and [ŋ] everywhere else, like ng in English singer. It is never pronounced like ng in English ginger.
nn n: Pelennor Sindarin nn is pronounced for a longer duration than Sindarin n, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
o, ö ɔ Gorgoroth Sindarin o is most like o in English hot, but with rounder lips. It can also be pronounced like the o in the Italian word notte. Either pronunciation is suitable, but it never has a w off-glide like ow in English show.
ó ɔ: Dor-lómin Sindarin ó is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin o, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
ô ɔ:: Sindarin ô is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin ó, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as ó.
oe o͡e Sindarin oe is somewhat like oi in English join. THough this is not completely accurate because oe ends with an off-glide that sounds like Sindarin e, it is a suitable pronunciation because there is no Sindarin oi to contrast with. Alternately, oe is like oe in Hawaiian Aloha 'Oe.
œ ø Nírnaeth Arnœdiad An Archaic Sindarin sound, at one time pronounced like French eu, oe or oeu, or like German/Swedish ö or like Danish/Norwegian ø. In the Third Age is is pronounced just like Sinddarin e, so it is suitable to pronounce it like e. Mostly found in First Age Sindarin words, and most famously in Nírnaeth Arnœdiad. The Lord of the Rings-style Third Age Sindarin spellings do not use œ at all, only e, such as Ered Luin instead of *Œrœd Luin.
p p Pengolodh
ph f, f: Ephel Dúath Represents [f] when final, [f:] everywhere else.
r r Boromir Sindarin r is always trilled or at least flapped wherever possible, like in Scottish English. It is not pronounced like general English r, but this is still often a suitable pronunciation because Sindarin has no other rhotic consonant besides rh.
rh Rhovanion There is no parallel for Sindarin rh in English. But it is like Welsh rh, or Quenya hr. If nothing else works, try pronouncing r while whispering.
rr r: Sindarin rr is pronounced for a longer duration than Sinddarin r, but otherwise is pronounced the same. For this reason, rr is always trilled, because a flap r cannot be pronounced long.
s s Sirion Sindarin s is always pronounced like s in English safe, and never like s in English ease. There is no z in Sindarin.
ss s: Ossiriand Sindarin ss is pronounced for a longer duration than Sindarin s, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
t t Túrin
th θ Ecthelion Sindarin th is always pronounced th in English think, and never like th in English these - the latter sound is used for the separate Sindarin consonant dh.
u ʊ Curufin Sindarin u is most like u in English put or the vowel sound in the word good. It is never pronounced like u in English gut, or like u in English rude.
ú u: Lúthien Sindarin ú is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin u, and has a different quality. It is pronounced like u in the English word dude or like u in Spanish mundo.
û u:: Barad-dûr Sindarin û is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin ú, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as ú.
ui u͡ɪ Orodruin Sindarin ui is most like oo y in English too young, pronounced all in one syllable. ui is always counted as one syllable, and never split into two syllables u i.
v v Tinúviel
w w Gwaihir
y y Emyn Muil Pronounced like the French u or the German ü. It is also permissible to pronounce it like Sindarin i, if at least because Sindarin i and y become pronounced the same during the Third Age.
ý y: Sindarin ý is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin y, but otherwise is pronounced the same.
ŷ y:: Sindarin ŷ is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin ý, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as ý.

Pluralization

Sindarin plurals are characterised by i-affection, or umlaut. Almost all Sindarin words form their plurals like English man/men and goose/geese - by changing the vowels in the word. The plural patterns are:

In Non-Final Syllables
a > e galadh > gelaidh
e > e bereth > berith
i > i fireb > firib
o > e golodh > gelydh
u > y tulus > tylys
y > y (no example available)

In Final Syllables
a > ai adan > edain
â > ai tâl > tail
e > i edhel > edhil
ê > î hên > hîn
i > i brennil > brennil
î > î dîs > dîs
o > y annon > ennyn
ó > ý bór > býr
ô > ŷ thôn > thŷn
u > y urug > yryg
û > ui hû > hui
y > y ylf > ylf
ý > ý mýl > mýl
au > oe naug > noeg

Note that ai can sometimes become î (or, less commonly, ý).

The reason for this is that the primitive plural ending (still present in Quenya as -i) affected the vowels in the word by making them higher and fronter (not a typo). After this sound change occurred, the suffix disappeared when all final vowels were lost.

Class Plural

Sindarin also has several suffixes which denote a so-called class plural. For example, -ath indicates a group of something, e.g. elenath from elen, an archaic form of êl, meaning ‘star’ and –ath. It means ‘a group of stars’ of ‘all the stars in the sky’. Another ending, -rim, is used to indicate a race, e.g. nogothrim from nogoth - ‘dwarf’ and -rim, meaning ‘the race of dwarves’. The ending -hoth is generally used in an unfriendly sense, e.g. gaurhoth from gaur - ‘werewolf’ and -hoth, meaning ‘werewolf-host’.

Mutation

Sindarin has a complex series of mutations. There are three main different types of mutation: soft mutation (or lenition), nasal mutation and stop (occlusive) mutation. Additionally, a mixed mutation is also observed after certain particles or prepositions. Finally, it is presumed that Sindarin also once had what we could call an archaic spirantal mutation (also sometimes called liquid mutation by scholars). It is still uncertain whether this mutation is still productive or if it only occurs in ancient constructs.

Initial mutations must not be confused with assimilations that may occur in compound words, such as in the names Araphor, Arassuil, and Caradhras.

The following table outlines how different consonants are affected by the different mutations:

Basic Soft Nasal Mixed Stop Liquid
b v m b b v
c g ch g ch ch
d dh n d d dh
g ' ng g g '
h ch ch h ch ch
lh thl 'l 'l thl 'l
m v m m m v
p b ph b b ph
rh thr 'r 'r thr 'r
s h s h s s
t d th d th th

Here the apostrophe indicates elision.

Words beginning in b-, d-, or g- which descend from older mb-, nd-, or ng- are affected differently by the mutations:

Basic Soft Nasal Mixed Stop Liquid
b m mb mb mb b
d n nd nd nd d
g ng g g g g

Take, for example, the deictic article i, which triggers soft mutation. When added to a word like tâl, it becomes i dâl. In Sindarin’s phonological history, t became d in the middle of a word. Because i tâl at the time was considered one word, the t became d, and thus i dâl. However, without the article the word is still tâl.

Mutation is triggered in various ways:

  • Soft mutation, the most widely occurring mutation, is triggered by the singular article i, the prefixes athra-, ath-, go-, gwa-, ú-, and u-, as well as the prepositions ab, am, adel, be, dad, di, na, nu, and î, and after avo. It also affects the second element in a compound, an adjective following a noun, and the object of a verb.
  • Nasal mutation is triggered by the plural article in, and the prepositions an, dan, and plural ’nin.
  • Mixed mutation is triggered by the genitive article en, and the prepositions be, erin, nan, ‘nin, and uin.
  • Stop mutation is triggered by the prepositions ed, ned, and o(d).
  • Liquid mutation is presumably triggered by the preposition or.

Pronouns

Pronouns are perhaps the most poorly attested feature of Sindarin. What has been reconstructed by the comparative method is largely conjectural and is not agreed upon, and therefore will not be addressed in this blog, because that’s too messy.

Sindarin pronouns, like those in English, still maintain some case distinction. Sindarin pronouns have nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative forms.

First Person

Case Singular Plural
Nominative im
Accusative im #men
Genitive nin min [subj. vin]
Dative enni [refl. anim] ammen
Enclitic -n -m

Second Person

Case Singular Plural
Nominative
Accusative le (resp.) le (resp.)
Genitive lín
Dative
Enclitic ?-ch

Third Person

Case Singular Plural
Nominative e
Accusative den di hain (inanim.)
Genitive tîn [subj. dîn]
Dative
Enclitic -- -r

Verbs

Sindarin verbs are also quite complex. The number of attested verbs in Sindarin is small, so the Sindarin verb system is imperfectly known; no verb has a full paradigm of forms available. There are two main types of verbs: basic and derived. Basic verbs have stems which end in a consonant, and derived verbs have stems which incorporate some sort derivational morpheme, such as a causative ending, which ends in -a.

Basic Verbs

Basic verbs, though smaller in number than derived verbs, have a very complex conjugation which arises from Sindarin’s phonological history.

Basic verbs form the infinitive by adding -i: giri from gir-. This ending causes an a or o in the stem to umlaut to e: blebi from blab-. Sindarin does not use infinitive forms very often, and rather uses the gerund to achieve the same meaning.

For all persons except the third person singular, the present tense is formed by the insertion of -i, and the proper enclitic pronomial ending: girin, girim, girir. As with the infinitive, -i causes an a or o in the stem to umlaut to e: pedin, pedim, pedir, from pad-. The third person singular, because it has a zero-ending, does not require the insertion of -i. This leaves the bare stem, which, because of sindarin’s phonological history, causes the vowel of the stem to become long: gîr, blab, pâd.

The past tense of basic verbs is very complicated and poorly attested. One common reconstructed system is to use -n: darn. However, the only time this -n actually remains is after a stem in -r. After a stem ending in -l, -n becomes -ll: toll. After -b, -d, -g, -v, or -dh, it is metathesized and then assimilated to the same place of articulation as the consonant it now follows. The consonant then experiences what could be called a "backwards mutation": -b, -d, and -g become -p, -b, and -c, and -v and -dh become -m and -d. The matter is complicated even further when pronomial endings are added. Because -mp, -mb, -nt, -nd, and -nc did not survive medially, they become -mm-, -mm-, -nn-, -nn-, and -ng. In addition, past tense stems in -m would have -mm- before any pronomial endings. Because this all may seem rather overwhelming, look at these examples which show step-by-step transformations:

  • cab- > **cabn > **canb > **camb > camp, becoming camm- with any pronomial endings.
  • ped- > **pedn > **pend > pent, becoming penn- with any pronomial endings.
  • dag- > **dagn > **dang (n pronounced as in men) > **dang (n pronounced as in sing) > danc, becoming dang- with any pronomial endings.
  • lav- > **lavn > **lanv > **lanm > **lamm > lam, becoming lamm- before any pronomial endings.
  • redh- > **redhn > **rendh > **rend > rend, becoming renn- before any pronomial endings.

The future tense is formed by the addition of -tha. An -i is also inserted between the stem and -tha, which again causes a and o to umlaut to e. Endings for all persons except for the first person singular can be added without any further modification: giritham, blebithar. The first person singular ending -n causes the -a in -tha to become -o: girithon, blebithon, pedithon.

The imperative is formed with the addition of -o to the stem: giro!, pado!, blabo!.

Derived Verbs

Derived verbs have a much less complex conjugation because they have a thematic vowel (usually a) which reduces the number of consonant combinations which occur.

The infinitive is formed with -o, which replaces the -a of the stem, e.g. lacho from lacha-.

The present tense is formed without modification to the stem. Pronomial endings are added without any change.

The past tense is formed with the ending -nt, which becomes -nne with any pronomial endings, e.g. erthant, erthanner.

The future tense is formed with -tha. With the addition of the first person singular -n, this becomes -tho.

The imperative is formed like the infinitive.

Dialects

During the First Age there were several dialects of Sindarin:

  • Doriathrin or the language of Doriath, a form of the language which preserved many archaic forms;
  • Falathrin or the language of the Falas, later also spoken in Nargothrond;
  • North Sindarin, the dialects originally spoken in Dorthonion and Hithlum by the Sindar, these dialects contained many unique words and were not fully intelligible with the Sindarin of Beleriand proper.

With the exception of Doriathrin, the dialects were changed under Noldorin influence, and adopted many Quenya features, as well as unique sound changes devised by the Noldor (who loved changing languages). The distinct dialects disappeared after the Noldor and Sindar were dispersed during the later Battles of Beleriand. In the refuges on the Isle of Balar and the Mouths of Sirion a new dialect arose under the refugees, which mainly took after Falathrin. During the Second Age and Third Age Sindarin was a lingua franca for all Elves and their friends, until it was displaced as the Common Tongue by Westron, a descendant of Adûnaic which was heavily influenced by Sindarin.

Sindarin is actually a Quenya term. No Sindarin word for Sindarin is known, but usually the term Edhellen ("Elvish") is used in Neo-Sindarin.

Etymology

The word Sindarin itself is actually a Quenya word given by the Noldorin Exiles. It is pronounced [ˈsindarin].

Names of the Sindarin Tongue

Sindarin is the language referred to as "the Elven-tongue" in The Lord of the Rings.

In a letter, Tolkien referred to Sindarin as Grey Elvish. In another manuscript he used the similar name Grey-elven.

Inspiration

Tolkien originally imagined that the language which would become Sindarin was spoken by the Noldor. However, Tolkien later decided that it was the language of the Sindar. For this reason it is called "Noldorin" in the older material, such as the Etymologies in the Lost Road and Other Writings. When Noldorin became Sindarin, it also adopted some features of the originally unrelated language Ilkorin. Tolkien based the sound and some of the grammar of his Noldorin/Sindarin on Welsh, and Sindarin displays of the consonant mutations that characterize the Celtic (especially Brythonic) languages. The language was also probably influenced to an extent by the Germanic languages, as Tolkien was a scholar of both Old English and Old Norse.

External Links

Here are some websites with helpful resources:

Tolkien's Languages: The Black Speech

Dictionaries and Courses

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 14th of Forelithe, 3558, Shire Reckoning

The Black Speech is one of the languages constructed by J.R.R. Tolkien, spoken in the realm of Mordor. Tolkien described the language as having been created by Sauron as an in-universe constructed language to be the sole language of all the servants of Mordor, thereby replacing, with little success, the many different varieties of Orkish, Common Speech, that is, Westron, and other languages used by his servants. Tolkien said the language exists in two forms: the ancient 'pure' forms used by Sauron himself, the Nazgûl, and the Olog-hai, and the more 'debased' form used by the soldiery of the Barad-dûr at the end of the Third Age.

The Olog-hai are described in Appendix F of The Return of the King, for the term does not appear in the story proper. They are 'strong, agile, fierce, and cunning' trolls created by Sauron, not unlike the Uruk-hai, servants of Saruman. Unlike other trolls, they could, while under Sauron's will, withstand sunlight. They seldom spoke and were said to know no language other than the Black Speech, in which Olog-hai means 'troll-folk' (singular Olog 'troll'). They appear during the end of the Third Age and could be found near Dol Guldur and in the mountains around Mordor. Since the 'hill-trolls' of Gorgoroth that fought in the Battle of the Morannon, or the Battle of the Black Gate (mor- ‘black’, annon 'gate'), could also withstand sunlight, these are taken to be the Olog-hai of Appendix F. They are described as being taller and wider than men, with armour or hide of horny scales, and they had black blood. Peregrin Took slew their leader; and after the destruction of the One Ring and the fall of Sauron, the surviving trolls scattered, as if mindless.

Development by Tolkien

The Black Speech is one of the more fragmentary languages in the novels. Tolkien did not write songs or poems in the Black Speech, like he did in Elvish, apart from the One Ring inscription. Tolkien stated

'The Black Speech was not intentionally modeled on any style, but was meant to be self consistent, very different from Elvish, yet organized and expressive, as would be expected of a device of Sauron before his complete corruption. It was evidently an agglutinative language. […] I have tried to play fair linguistically, and it is meant to have a meaning, not be a mere casual group of nasty noises, though an accurate transcription would even nowadays only be printable in the higher and artistically more advanced form of literature. According to my taste such things are best left to Orcs, ancient and modern.'

Tolkien received a goblet with the Ring inscription on it in the Black Speech. Because the Black Speech in general is an accursed language, and the Ring inscription in particular is a vile spell, Tolkien never drank out of it, and used it only as an ashtray.

History

Sauron attempted to impose the Black Speech as the official language of the lands he dominated, which were ultimately to include all of Middle-earth, and all his servants, but he was only partially successful. The Nazgûl, the Olog-hai, and several of Sauron’s major lieutenants and officers, like the Mouth of Sauron, learned and used the Black Speech, but it never really caught on with the Orcs, or the various groups of Men from the east and south that Sauron conquered. The Orcs tended to corrupt and debase any language they were exposed to, so while the Black Speech strongly influenced their vocabulary and perhaps grammar, it soon changed into the myriads of Orkish dialects, which are not mutually intelligible. By the end of the Third Age, while Orc vocabulary was peppered with certain terms from the Black Speech, even they generally communicated Westron, albeit heavily debased. The Elves refuse to utter the Black Speech, for it attracts the attention of the Eye of Sauron.

The Black Speech may have had at least some influence from Valarin, the language of the Ainur, because Sauron himself was one of the Maiar, the lesser class of the Ainur, and thus this was his own original language. Valarin itself is also said to have been unpleasant for Elves to listen to, though this was because it radiated such force and power that those who were not of the Ainur were discomforted by it.

The One Ring Inscription

The only example of 'pure' Black Speech is the inscription upon the One Ring:

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh bursum-ishi krimpatul.

Translated into English:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Vinyar Tengwar is a journal published by the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, dedicated to the study of the invented languages of J.R.R. Tolkien. The publication is indexed by the Modern Language Association. 'Vinyar Tengwar' is broken Quenya for News Letters. Vinyar Tengwar first appeared in 1988, at first edited by Jorge Quiñónez and later taken over by Carl F. Hostetter. It appeared in bimonthly intervals at first, but after July of 1994, issues appeared more irregularly, about once a year.

Dictionary

I have found a dictionary for the Black Speech. It is accurate with the bits we get in The Lord of the Rings and Appendix F of The Return of the King, and there is no way of knowing if the rest is accurate. It is a great resource; just click here:

Usage in the Films

For The Lord of the Rings film series, the linguist David Salo used what little is known of the Black Speech to invent two phrases:

Gu kibum kelkum-ishi, burzum-ishi. Akha-gum-ishi ashi gurum.
'No life in coldness, in darkness. Here in void, only death.'

The word burzum-ishi ('in darkness') is taken from the Ring Verse, and three other abstract nouns are invented with the same ending -um. The word ashi, meaning 'only', is taken from ash, which means 'one', in the Ring Verse. The other words were invented by Salo.

Inspiration

Russian historian Alexander Nemirovski claimed a strong similarity to Turkish and Hurrian, which had recently been partially deciphered at the time of the writing of The Lord of the Rings, E.A. Speiser’s Introduction to Hurrian appearing in 1941. The four -atul morphemes suggest that the language is agglutinative like Turkish.

In Music

Believe it or not, there are people who have used the Black Speech (or their own invented Pseudo-Black Speech) in songs and musical instruments. Norwegian band Burzum took their name from Black Speech for ‘darkness.’ Seymour Duncan named one of their guitar pickups Nazgûl, and there's more.

A Course

If you would like to learn to speak the Black Speech, click here.

Tolkien's Elvish Alphabet

How to Correctly use Tengwar

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 29th of Astron, 3559, Shire Reckoning

Have you ever wondered how to write the beautiful script of the elves? Or have you wondered how the stunning font on the One Ring translates to the inscription? Fortunately, figuring out what the runes mean is easy! Here is a guide to the Tengwar: how to write and use it correctly. Too many use the Tengwar out of context, and then are frustrated at their outcomes, or are pleased with it and send it on to others, giving the false impression that the tengwar meant for the language of Sindarin can be used for English. Follow along below to unveil the truth behind Tolkien’s runes!

Modes

Tengwar is written in a number of different ways, known as modes. Each language has its own corresponding mode of tengwar: there is a mode for Quenya, Sindarin, the Black Speech, and even English. Each mode has its own characteristics: the Quenya mode is written with sharp points upon every end of its consonants, called tengwa. In the Sindarin mode, the curls of the tengwa are more pronounced, and they end with a rounder shape. Sindarin is the most commonly used mode, and the most easily recognisable.

The phonetic values of the consonants and the way the vowels are indicated vary from mode to mode, but they are easy to pick up and understand.

The Tehtar

Vowels are indicated by diacritics, called tehtar, which, in the Quenya mode, appear over the consonant which precedes them; while in the Sindarin and Black Speech modes, they are above the consonant which follows them. When vowels stand on their own or come at the beginning of a word (in Quenya mode), the diacritics appear over a special vowel holder.

The Tengwa

The consonants have more rules than the vowels have got. Consonants are doubled by adding a wavy line below or above them. When followed by a vowel, the letters s, ss, and r are written with the tengwa silme nuquerna, esse nuquerna, and rómen respectively. Otherwise these letters are written with the tengwa silme, esse, and óre. Also, when the letter s follows another consonant, it is written with a small downward hook.

The Quenya Mode

Below are the consonants for the Quenya Mode.

Here are some additional letters of the Quenya Mode.

The Sindarin Mode

Consonants:

And additional letters:

Vowels

Below shows all vowels, which are the same for the Quenya and Sindarin Modes:

Vowel Placement

This demonstrates how the verbs ought to be placed:

In Quenya, using the word Qenya:

And in Sindarin, using the word Edhellen:

Using the Modes Correctly

To be clear, the Sindarin and Quenya modes are not to be used to write English sentences and words. Too many times I have seen this, and unfortunately at one time I was one of those who did this. But I discovered that it did not work well, and placement of vowels was quite difficult at times. Quenya mode is to only be used with sentences and words in Quenya; and the Sindarin mode is to only be used with sentences and words in Sindarin.

I highly encourage that you purchase David Salo's A Gateway to Sindarin. I own it, and it is an excellent book: it has helped me to learn every aspect of Sindarin - how to conjugate verbs, decline nouns, and the like. I am currently working my way through the book and others like it in high detail, making many notes, in order to make a course so that anyone can learn to speak and write Sindarin correctly - just as Tolkien would have. Thank you for your patience while I work on this enormous project!

The Secret of the Doors of Durin

The History and the Alphabet

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on Midyear's Day, 3558, Shire Reckoning
Happy Midyear's Day! This was posted on the 183rd day of the year, which is halfway through the year; 182 days have passed, 182 to go. Called Overlithe or Midyear's Day in the Hobbit calendar, on the Gregorian calendar it is July 1st.

The West-gate, the West-door of Moria, the Elven Door, or the Doors of Durin is the entrance into the Mines of Moria, and was the western entrance to the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm. The Fellowship of the Ring was forced to enter here after failing to pass Caradhras.

The main entrance to Khazad-dûm was the Great Gates in Dimrill Dale, a valley on the east side of the Misty Mountains, beneath the Redhorn, Silvertine, and Cloudyhead peaks (Nanduhirion in Sindarin and Azanulbizar in Khuzdul, the secret language of the Dwarves), which were inscribed with spells of prohibition and exclusion in Khuzdul. During the Second Age, it was decided to open a way to the west side of the Silvertine, which would help make contact and cooperation with the Elven realm of Hollin.

The West-gate was constructed in cooperation between Dwarves and Elves, sometime between S.A. 750 and 1500. It was the two greatest craftsmen of the Second Age who built the Doors: the Elf and Lord of Eregion, Celebrimbor, who made the rings of power, excluding of course the One; and the dwarf Narvi. These were the days before the Dark Years of Sauron’s dominion in Middle-earth, and the friendship between Dwarven and Elven kingdoms was an especially rare event. During this peaceful time the Doors stood open, allowing unhindered trade. But during the War of the Elves and Sauron in S.A. 1697, the Doors were closed after Hollin fell to Sauron’s forces.

When Khazad-dûm was abandoned in T.A. 1981 the way of opening the Doors was lost and forgotten.

Sometime between 2845 and 2950, Gandalf, of the Istari, entered the city of the Dwarves looking for King Thráin II who had disappeared on a journey to Erebor. After his search Gandalf exited through the Doors; however, this did not help him to know how to open the doors from the outside.

In 2994 of the Third Age, during the settling of Balin’s Colony, the Dwarves Balin had taken with him to recolonize Moria after the defeat of Smaug the dragon, the Dwarves were attacked by an onslaught of orcs. Óin led a group to the west side of the city hoping to escape through the Doors of Durin, but instead he found the water up to the doors, and there the Watcher in the Water, the mysterious and horrific beast that lurked in a lake caused by the damming of the Sirannon river, beneath the western walls of Moria, killed him. The Dwarves were trapped, and slain.

In August of 3018 Gollum took refuge in Moria; but when he had at last discovered the way to the Doors he could not get out.

On the 13th of January 3019 the Fellowship of the Ring entered Moria through the Doors, but initially Gandalf could not find out the password to open them. Merry Brandybuck unknowingly gave Gandalf the answer by asking, 'What does it mean by speak, friend, and enter?' When Gandalf realized that the correct translation was 'say friend and enter' he sprang up, laughed, and said 'Mellon', which means 'friend' in Sindarin, and the Doors opened. Shortly after, the Watcher in the Water attacked the Fellowship and shut the Doors behind them.

Appearance

Fashioned as flush doors, the jambs were invisible to the eye, and matched so perfectly with the rock of the mountain that when closed the Doors could not be seen. The slabs were made by Narvi out of a grey material stronger than stone, and Celebrimbor inlaid them with ithildin, which could only be seen in starlight and moonlight.

When visible, the fine silver-like inlay showed a hammer and anvil, which are the emblems of Durin; a crown and Seven Stars, which is probably Durin’s crown; two trees surmounted by crescent moons, most likely symbolizing the Tree of the High Elves, Galathilion, or the Tree of Tirion, made by Yavanna for the Elves of the city of Tirion, made in the image of Telperion, the elder of the Two Trees of Valinor; and a single star, the emblem of the house of Fëanor. On the top left and right corners there were the tengwar Calma (C) and Óre (N) standing for Celebrimbor and Narvi; between their feet was Ando (D) for Durin.

The inscription on the archivolt read:

'Ennyn Durin Aran Moria. Pedo Mellon a Minno.
Im Narvi hain echant. Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thiw hin.'

As Gandalf first translated it to the Fellowship:

'The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.'

Actually, the inscription gave the password that would make the Doors swing open. Gandalf's translation is correct, but the proper translation of the second sentence, also correct, is 'Say "friend" and enter.'

From the inside, the Doors could be opened by simply pushing against them, though it usually took the strength of two to do so. When Moria was inhabited by the Dwarves they kept doorwards inside who would help open the Doors and see that only those with permission could pass.

An Inconsistency

The name Moria is translated ‘Black Chasm’ and was a derogatory description of the place which the Dwarves did not like, and was given after the Balrog called Durin’s Bane took over the city in the Third Age. It is therefore a mystery why that name appears on an inscription made in the Second Age, and made in consent with the Dwarves.

The Alphabet Used on the Doors

Researching for this blog, I was not able to find the alphabet for the runes used on the Doors. So I have transcripted it here as well as I can. It’s as accurate as it can be; if you write out the Elvish inscription above, it ought to come out to the same thing as on Tolkien’s picture.

Letter Rune
a
ai
ch
d
e
h
i
im
in
l
m
n
nn
o
p
r
t
th
u
v
w
y

Unfortunately, we are missing a few letters, but there are no examples of it in the inscription upon the archivolt.

The History of Narsil

The Origins of the Sword of Elendil

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 14th of Forelithe, 3558, Shire Reckoning

The Sword of Elendil is definitely the most famous sword of Tolkien's works. It's too bad that not many people know a lot about it. Sure, some 'know' that it was broken by Sauron stepping on it, which shows you that they haven't read too much about it (only seen it - the films portray the sword being broken by Sauron stepping on it - not in the books!); and that the elves reforged it for Aragorn; but do they know why the sword gives Aragorn credibility that he is the Heir of Isildur?

Name

Narsil is Quenya for 'red and white flame,' nar= fire (as an element), sil= shine white, according to Ruth Noel's The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth. Tolkien wrote that 'Narsil is a name composed of 2 basic stems without variation or adjuncts: √NAR "fire", and √THIL "white light". It thus symbolised the chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness, Sun (Anar) and Moon (in Q[uenya]) Isil' (Letters, p. 425; LotR Companion, p. 231).

Tolkien wrote that Andúril 'meant Flame of the West (as a region) not of the Sunset' (Letters, p. 425). The name is derived from Quenya andúnë ‘sunset, west’ and ril 'glitter, brilliance' (LotR Companion, p. 263).

History

During or before the First Age, the Dwarven-smith of Nogrod named Telchar forged the sword of Elendil. In the Second Age, Narsil was an heirloom of the descendants of the first King of Númenor, Elros. Although nothing is told of Narsil during this time, it eventually came to Elendil, a distant descendant, close to the end of the Second Age.

Telchar also made Angrist, the knife that freed the Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth Bauglir; and the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin, or the Helm of Hador, which Túrin Turambar wore into battle many times.

Elendil bore Narsil in the Siege of Barad-dûr, but Sauron killed him, and the sword broke into two pieces under him as he fell. Isildur, son of Elendil, took up the sword and used its shard to cut the One Ring from the hand of Sauron. Isildur took the shards of the sword. Shortly before Isildur was killed in the second year of the Third Age in the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, Isildur gave the shards to an esquire named Ohtar. He took them to Rivendell, where Valandil, Isildur’s youngest son, was fostered.

'The Orcs were drawing near. Isildur turned to his esquire: "Ohtar," he said, "I give this now into your keeping;" and he delivered to him the great sheath and the shards of Narsil, Elendil’s sword.'
- Unfinished Tales, Part Three, Chapter I

The Siege of Barad-dûr was the armed conflict that would end the War of the Last Alliance, in which Elves and Men marched against the fortress of Sauron, and the Second Age. It was the direct result of the Battle of Dagorlad, which took place on the great, treeless, open plain between the Dead Marshes and Cirith Gorgor, which gave the Last Alliance passage into Mordor, but at a heavy cost.
The Disaster of the Gladden Fields was an ambush on Isildur and his personal guard at the beginning of the Third Age, and where the One Ring was lost till Sméagol found it many years later.

The Shards of Narsil, as they were called, were one of the heirlooms of the Kings of Arnor, and after the Northern Kingdom was destroyed they remained an heirloom of the Rangers of the North, the northern wandering people of Eriador, the last remnant of the Dúnedain of Arnor, of which Aragorn was a part. It was not reforged till the War of the Ring at the end of the Third Age in Rivendell for Aragorn, who was heir of Isildur and Chieftain of the Dúnedain. After the Council of Elrond, the Elves of Rivendell reforged Narsil into a new sword, which Aragorn named Andúril. In other writings, Narsil was renamed Branding, after it was reforged.

He carried the sword during his journey as part of the Fellowship of the Ring, and fought with it many times. He referred to it as the ‘Sword that was Broken’ or ‘The Sword Reforged.’ When entering Meduseld he initially refused to surrender it to Doorward Háma, and entered into a long argument with him, until convinced by Gandalf to do so.

Meduseld is the great Golden Hall that stood upon a green terrace in Edoras, and was the King of Rohan’s abode.

Aragorn often used the sword to help establish his credentials as the Heir of Isildur and the throne of Gondor. This was especially true when he convinced the Dead Men of Dunharrow to fulfill their oath to support Gondor in its time of need.

Andúril’s blade was engraved with the designs of the Seven Stars between the rayed Sun and the crescent Moon, symbols of Elendil, and his sons Anárion and Isildur. It also had many cirth upon it. Its blade was notably brilliant, justifying its name.

'The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes.'
- The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter III, The Ring Goes South

According to a note in the 1966 Index entry for 'Stars', the seven stars 'originally represented the single stars on the banners of each of seven ships (of 9) that bore a palantír.'

Passed down through the line of Isildur, Narsil, Andúril as called after the reforging of the sword, its history is the greatest of all weapons. Held as the highest relic of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, the sword belonged only to the true King of Gondor, Aragorn son of Arathorn, Heir of Isildur.

Gollum...Good?

Are You Sure?

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 10th of Halimath, 3558, Shire Reckoning

At a glance of the actions of the character Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, one would say that he is fully evil. He might have led Frodo and Sam to the Morannon (The Black Gate) and to Mordor, but for his own purposes – to have the hobbits killed by Shelob, his spider friend, and regain ‘the precious’; and he does talk rudely to Sam all the time: ‘Yes, yes, and Sam stinks!...Poor Sméagol smells it, but good Sméagol bears it.’ But ‘no, no!’ 1, as Gollum would say. Although some might think that Gollum is completely consumed with the desire to have the Ring back in his own ‘pocketses,’ I think there is evidence that shows that he also wanted the Ring destroyed to be rid of Sauron, and for Frodo’s well-being.

'No, Precious!'

First, we see that Gollum does not want Sauron to have the Ring:

‘Sméagol will swear on the Precious!’…
‘And what would you swear?’ asked Frodo.
‘To be very very good,’ said Gollum. Then crawling to Frodo’s feet he grovelled before him, whispering hoarsely: a shudder ran over him, as if the words shook his very bones with fear. ‘Sméagol will swear never, never, to let Him have it. Never! Sméagol will save it. But he must swear on the Precious.’ 2

Gollum didn’t really want anybody to have his Precious, but he knew that Frodo having it would be better than it being in the hands of Sauron, the Lord of the Ring. Gollum had been tortured by Sauron (by his servants or by Sauron personally, it is not known) before now, as we are told in The Fellowship of the Ring, in the chapter entitled ‘The Council of Elrond’:

‘He is in prison, but no worse,’ said Aragorn. ‘He had suffered much. There is no doubt that he was tormented, and the fear of Sauron lies black on his heart. Still I for one am glad that he is safely kept by the watchful Elves of Mirkwood. His malice is great and gives him a strength hardly to be believed in one so lean and withered. He could work much mischief still, if he were free. And I do not doubt that he was allowed to leave Mordor on some evil errand.’ 3

And also, supporting the theory that Sauron tortured Gollum personally:

‘Yes, He has only four [fingers] on the Black Hand, but they are enough,’ said Gollum shuddering. 4

If Aragorn is correct that Gollum was charged by Sauron to find the Ring, then Gollum led Frodo to Shelob for Sauron also. But, Gollum himself says:

‘…I did escape, all by my poor self. Indeed I was told to seek for the Precious; and I have searched and searched, of course I have. But not for the Black One. The Precious was ours, it was mine I tell you. I did escape.’ 5

So then, Gollum wanted the Ring for himself – and he definitely doesn’t want it going to the Dark Lord:

‘…Don’t take the Precious to Him! He’ll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all the world. Keep it, nice master, and be kind to Sméagol. Don’t let Him have it.’ 6

'My Precious!'

Next, Sméagol’s second reason for wanting the Ring for himself is so Frodo doesn’t get hurt:

‘…Don’t let Him have it. Or go away, go to nice places, and give it back to little Sméagol. Yes, yes, master: give it back, eh? Sméagol will keep it safe; he will do lots of good, especially to nice hobbits. Hobbits go home. Don’t go to the Gate!' 7

While this may just sound like a ruse for Frodo to give the Ring back, Gollum really is looking out for Frodo. When Frodo told Sméagol to lead them to the Black Gate, he does so, but knows that the hobbits should not go that way:

‘…[Master] says: Sméagol, take me to the Gate – and then good-bye! Sméagol can run away and be good. But now he says: I purpose to enter Mordor this way. So Sméagol is very afraid. He does not want to lose nice master. And he promised, master made him promise, to save the Precious. But master is going to take it to Him, straight to the Black Hand, if master will go this way. So Sméagol must save them both, and he thinks of another way that there was, once upon a time. Nice master. Sméagol very good, always helps.’ 8

Frodo and Sam followed Gollum up the stairs to Cirith Ungol in the border-mountains of the Ephel Dúath, and while the hobbits were resting, Gollum slipped away and visited Shelob, planning to lead the hobbits to her and then get the Ring for himself when she was finished with them. But, when he returned, he saw Frodo sleeping, and he was nearly moved to repent:

…Peace was in both [of the hobbits’] faces.
Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee – but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing. 9

Sméagol and Gollum

Third, and finally, Gollum still has a bit of good in him during his time with Frodo on the journey to the Black Land. Even Gandalf realized this:

‘…Even Gollum was not wholly ruined. He had proved tougher than even one of the Wise would have guessed – as a hobbit might. There was a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and light came through it, as through a chink in the dark: light out of the past. It was actually pleasant, I think, to hear a kindly voice again, bringing up memories of wind, and trees, and sun on the grass, and such forgotten things.
‘But that, of course, would only make the evil part of him angrier in the end – unless it could be conquered. Unless it could be cured.’ Gandalf sighed. ‘Alas! there is little hope of that for him. Yet not no hope…’ 10

The evil part of Gollum, was almost cured by being with Frodo and Sam for that time, which was only thirteen days. Seeing what he had been, and having an empathy for Frodo, since they were both Ringbearers, helped Sméagol to win some arguments with Gollum, reminding Gollum that Frodo had been kind to ‘them,’ giving Gollum a chance for reform, and indeed Frodo’s pity toward Gollum did ameliorate him somewhat. But the Ring had had a hold over Gollum for too long, and his desire for his ‘precious’ became too strong for Sméagol to hold back. Even after seeing the hobbits sleeping, Gollum had come too close to the Ring to let the opportunity slip from him now.

Gollum also wanted Frodo to ‘go home’ 11 and give the Ring to him so that Frodo would not be destroyed by the Ring, as Gollum had been. He did not ask Frodo to give the Ring to him just to have it back from the ‘hobbitses’ that stole it from him, but so that Frodo would not have to endure the hardship of bearing the Ring. He may have known that if he did take it back, it would lead to his complete destruction under its power. But he had already been ruined by it, and he knew it. This shows that Sméagol did indeed still have ‘a little corner of his mind that was still his own,’ 12 and that, though twisted with anger and hate from the loss of the Ring, was still a hobbit that had feelings, and that was not wholly evil. He had been alone for so long, and he could barely remember the sound of friendly voices, and when he heard Bilbo’s, he was relieved, as Gandalf said in The Shadow of the Past, from the Fellowship of the Ring. After having been with Frodo and Sam for some time, the old Stoor hobbit began to return to him little by little, and he began to feel compassion for Frodo, and did not want him to be ruined as Sméagol had been.

So, Gollum didn’t lead the hobbits to Mordor, hoping the entire time he would regain his precious. He wasn’t just looking out for himself, wanting his ‘birthday present’ back. He didn’t want anyone to have his precious, yes, but with good reasons. He attempted to sacrifice himself to the Ring, but Frodo would not surrender it. This made Gollum angry, so he led the hobbits to Shelob, then later attempted to take the Ring as Frodo had decided he would not destroy the Ring. And Gollum was completely destroyed by the Ring, for his desire for the Ring had taken over all other senses. But still he did a good thing by attacking Frodo at the very end: the Ring was destroyed, only because of Gollum’s actions. And Gollum did fulfill his wish to see Frodo unhurt by the Ring by stopping Frodo from taking the Ring for himself and destroying it, as Frodo had set out to do. Gollum did not want Sauron to have the Ring, and he did not want bad things to happen to Frodo, and in the end, though filled with evil, Gollum did good and kept Sauron from having the Ring, and also kept Frodo from being destroyed by it.

1: The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed - Back to text.
2: The Two Towers, The Taming of Sméagol - Back to text.
3: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond - Back to text.
4: The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed - Back to text.
5: The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed - Back to text.
6: The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed - Back to text.
7: The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed - Back to text.
8: The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed - Back to text.
9: The Two Towers, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol - Back to text.
10: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Shadow of the Past - Back to text.
11: The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed - Back to text.
12: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Shadow of the Past - Back to text.

Would Tolkien Approve of the Amazon TV Series of The Lord of the Rings?

Posted by Andrew Yarbrough on the 2nd of Afteryule, 3559, Shire Reckoning

Today, the 3rd of January 2018, or the 2nd of Afteryule, 3559 S. R., is J. R. R. Tolkien's twelfty-sixth (126th) birthday! About two months ago Amazon made a large purchase and bought the rights to make episodes based on Tolkien's works; and I wondered: what would Tolkien think about Amazon's future television series? Of course, we do not yet know how accurate Amazon's representations of the stories will be, but of course, we can judge from the criticisms Tolkien made on reproductions of his stories, former dramatisations of Tolkien's works, and his son Christopher's disapproval of Peter Jackson's movies and guess if Tolkien would approve of (a) Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, and (b) the future Amazon television series.

1957 Cartoon The Lord of the Rings

When an American film-maker had enquired about the possibility of making a cartoon film of The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien was open to the idea at first, and he told his publisher, Rayner Unwin, on the 19th of June 1957:

As far as I am concerned personally, I should welcome the idea of an animated motion picture, with all the risk of vulgarization; and that quite apart from the glint of money, though on the brink of retirement that is not an unpleasant possibility. I think I should find vulgarization less painful than the sillification achieved by the B. B. C.1

Before this, Tolkien had sold rights to the B. B. C. to make a radio adaptation, and was very upset at how they had changed the story to be quite silly, as he expresses in the last sentence above. Three months after he wrote this letter, Tolkien received a synopsis of the proposed film, which he agreed to read, and afterward, he wrote to Rayner Unwin about it:

An abridgement by selection with some good picture-work would be pleasant, & perhaps worth a good deal in publicity; but the present script is rather a compression with resultant over-crowding and confusion, blurring of climaxes, and general degradation: a pull-back towards more conventional 'fairy-stories'. People gallop about on Eagles at the least provocation; Lόrien becomes a fairy-castle with 'delicate minarets', and all that sort of thing. 2

Needless to say, Tolkien did not really like the outline he received, but he did say that he was 'quite prepared to play ball, if they are open to advice...' 3. Tolkien later received another copy of the synopsis of the film, and went through it in about two months, and sent Forrest J. Ackerman an extensive list of edits that he wanted made to the story line. It included thirty-three edits that Tolkien wished to have made, and he also stated that, 'Part III...is totally unacceptable to me, as a whole and in detail.' 4 While Tolkien was not reading the synopsis for Jackson's films, we know that Tolkien was a stickler for details, and the loss of many specific attributes would have annoyed him. For example, the 1958 synopsis of The Lord of the Rings by Morton Grady Zimmerman left out The Scouring of the Shire chapter and Saruman's true death, as Peter Jackson's movies also do. Tolkien said about this:

Z[immerman] has cut out the end of the book, including Saruman's proper death. In that case I can see no good reason for making him die. Saruman would never have committed suicide: to cling to life to its basest dregs is the way of the sort of person he had become. If Z[immerman] wants Saruman tidied up (I cannot see why, where so many threads are left loose) Gandalf should say something to this effect: as Saruman collapses under the excommunication: 'Since you will not come out and aid us, here in Orthanc you shall stay till you rot, Saruman. Let the Ents look to it! 5

Same With Peter...

Peter Jackson would not leave The Scouring of the Shire chapter in the movies either, nor did he use Tolkien's above alternative. While it is a small detail and of little importance to the main story (save to put an end to Saruman in a sensible way), I believe that Tolkien would not have liked the scene of Wormtonuge stabbing Saruman in the back, for there was no really good reason for it, save that Saruman hit him. Instead, Tolkien would have rathered that either they kept The Scouring of the Shire and had Wormtongue slit Saruman's throat (like in the books) after blame and countless insults were laid upon him by Saruman; or left out The Scouring of the Shire and left Saruman imprisoned in Orthanc by the Ents.

The change in storyline and lack of detail, like unto the above instances (and sometimes worse) were frequent throughout the 1958 outline, most of them being sillification: 'Why on earth should Z[immerman] say that the hobbits "were munching ridiculously long sandwiches"? Ridiculous indeed!' 6; disregard to time and changing of seasons: 'Gandalf does not say they will leave as soon as they can pack! Two months elapse. There is no need to say anything with a time-purport. The lapse of time should be indicated...' 7; and actions made by certain characters: 'The landlord does not ask Frodo to 'register'! Why should he? ... If details are to be added to an already crowded picture, they should at least fit the world described.' 8 Tolkien had a great distaste for these kinds of things, as he said in his comments about the B. B. C.'s radio adaptation. While Jackson's The Lord of the Rings did not, as Tolkien said about the 1958 synopsis, '...reduce and lower the tone towards that of a more childish fairy-tale'9 (save that Gimli the Dwarf was made out to be comic relief), both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies paid very little attention to the passing of time, and did change the actions of characters (including having Aragorn reveal a sword at Weathertop, which was not in the book, and Tolkien did not approve of it in the 1958 paper: 'Strider does not "Whip out a sword" in the book. Naturally not: his sword was broken.' 10), and in The Hobbit movies, Jackson did the exact opposite of what Zimmerman and the B. B. C. did to The Lord of the Rings: he made a childish fairy-tale, which The Hobbit truly is, into a more serious tale. As Christopher Tolkien says about The Lord of the Rings: 'They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25 ... and it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.'11

While some say that Tolkien would have appreciated the great care put into the movies, I do not think he would have liked the way Peter Jackson failed to represent his stores how they should have been: The Hobbit should have been a less serious telling of the story, and more comical, as Tolkien wrote it to be, and it should have stayed with the storyline in the book as much as possible, instead of making many unnecessary additions that were not in the book; and The Lord of the Rings should have also stayed closer to the book. As proved above, Tolkien would not have been too fond of The Lord of the Rings movies, and he definitely would not have appreciated the wreckage The Hobbit films made his books appear to be. Will the Amazon television series be any better?

1: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #198, pg. 257 - Back to text.
2: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #201, pg. 260-1 - Back to text.
3: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #201, pg. 261 - Back to text.
4: THe Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #210, pg. 277 - Back to text.
5: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #210, pg. 277 - Back to text.
6: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #210, pg. 276 - Back to text.
7: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #210, pg. 273 - Back to text.
8: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #210, pg. 272 - Back to text.
9: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #210, pg. 273 - Back to text.
10: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; Letter #210, pg. 272 - Back to text.
11: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2013/01/09/why-jrr-tolkiens-son-hates-what-peter-jackson-has-done - Back to text.