J. R. R. Tolkien was a gifted philologist: not only did he know his subject exceedingly well, but he also had an innate ability to understand and perceive tongues. Language matters are tightly interwoven into Tolkien’s tales, and they, as the Professor himself stated, were “fundamentally linguistic in inspiration” (Letters, № 165). Thus, it is only natural that Arda had its own talented linguists, and they were the Elves.
Welsh is of this soil, this island, the senior language
of the men of Britain; and Welsh is beautiful.
(English and Welsh)
Languages were an enormous part of J. R. R. Tolkien’s life. He was ever surrounded by them: the Professor worked with languages, learnt them and, above all, he loved them greatly. That latter aspect was vital in Tolkien’s treatment of tongues. He felt their aesthetics keenly: some languages did not appeal to him, while others had a firm grasp on his heart, were in accord with his tastes and were dear to him for various reasons. One of such tongues was Welsh. Read more
Pronunciation of words in real and invented languages can be of various kinds: in some tongues words are pronounced in the same way they are spelt, but in others there are entire systems with reading rules of different degrees of complexity. In some cases the way a word is spelt versus the way it is pronounced can be divided by a yawning gap. Some languages have special marks above or below letters to indicate certain peculiarities in their pronunciation. J. R. R. Tolkien’s invented languages Quenya and Sindarin are no exceptions. Read more
The opening line of The Hobbit firmly belongs to the treasury of best-known book openers in literature. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. This short sentence invites readers into a whole new world full of interesting places, charismatic characters and glorious deeds. Both in the world of Middle-earth and outside it this very hobbit-hole becomes the starting point of dangerous journeys and exciting adventures. So what exactly is this dwelling of a hobbit?
As the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings made their ways to the publishers in their respective time, Tolkien faced an unexpected problem. All of the instances of Dwarves or dwarvish and elvish or elven were corrected to Dwarfs, dwarfish, elfish and elfin to coincide with the standard dictionary spelling. Tolkien had a lot of issues with those corrections, and in the present reflection I am going to look into the example of Dwarves.
Those who read Tolkien deeply and wish to discover more about his Legendarium could have noticed the word Gnomes in the early versions of the tales that the Professor used to refer to the Elves known as the Noldor. Later, though, he abandoned the term opting only for the Quenya word Noldor instead. This change has a history.
The world of Arda is full of fascinating characters and creatures not found in other tales or mythologies or, in any case, not in the same form J. R. R. Tolkien envisioned them in his books. Owing to a well-developed system of languages, it was possible for the Professor to use precise words in his invented tongues, for example in Quenya or Sindarin, to name those characters whose identities it was not always possible to render accurately in English. In a letter Tolkien mused that he was “under the difficulty of finding English names for mythological creatures with other names”. He did it so as not to shower his readers with “a string of Elvish names”, but some interpretations were false, according to Tolkien himself. One of the most interesting examples of this is Istari or the Wizards.
Language creation was one of the greatest interests that J. R. R. Tolkien had in his life. The Professor’s stories were closely connected with his invented tongues which were an integral and vital part of the whole mythology of Arda. There are a lot of various aspects to look at Tolkien’s language creation from, so to begin with the exploration of this amazing manifestation of his creativity, I am going to look into what makes Tolkien’s languages resemble those we speak in our world.
Very few readers are left unimpressed when they, together with Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, lose their way in the fog on the Barrow-downs and become trapped in the mound by the Barrow-wights. These creatures are horrible and horrifying, and appear even more so as we do not fully understand what they are exactly. So, what are these wights and where do they come from?