Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Laite i heru (praise the Lord)...my mom mailed me my dictionary of the languages Tolkien created for Middle-earth! I'd been wanting to blog about the amazing skill of Tolkien as a linguist...the man created 14 distinct languages, and wrote his Middle-earth books to provide a world where the languages could be used. By far the most complete of these languages is Elvish, which actually has two branches: Quenya ('High-Elven') and Sindarin ('Grey-Elven'). Sindarin evolved from Quenya, which as time progressed became a language of lore and song.

Fans of the movies will remember the Fellowship camping at the gates of Moria, unable to get in until Frodo asks Gandalf about the Elvish word for 'friend.' Gandalf answers 'mellon' and so solves the riddle. Elvish is spoken several other times in the movies, but appears quite often in the books. For now, I will quote and then translate a hymn to Elbereth, the Elf-Queen, that the Elves sing in Rivendell and which appears (with slight variations) throughout the trilogy:

A Elbereth Gilthoniel
silivren penna miriel
o menel eglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-diriel
o galadhremmin ennorath
Fanuilos le linnathon
nef aear, si nef aearon!

O Star-Queen, Star-Kindler
glittering slants down like sparkling jewels
from (the) firmament glory (of the) star-host!
To remote distance after having gazed
from treewoven middle-earth,
Snowwhite, to thee I will chant
on this side of the ocean, here on this side of the great ocean!

Make of that what you will...I personally prefer the beauty of the Elvish, since the English sounds rather awkward and old-fashioned. However, sometimes it helps to have a translation to get the idea. Maybe I'll write a blog in Elvish sometime...


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