Are you friend or foe?

It was often the case that in his writings J. R. R. Tolkien used unusual words either in their older meanings changed today, or the ones no longer in active use. It is such words that create a very special old-fashioned atmosphere of most of the Professor’s tales, tone them down to the stories of the past and give lovers of words a chance to dig out a new lexical treasure. One of such interesting choices was the noun unfriend that does not appear in Tolkien’s works very often.

Read more

Shadowy people.

In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien readers meet various kinds of ghostly characters. While they are all different, have various origins, backgrounds and specific traits, one aspect unites them: these wights instil great fear and are downright spooky. It is hard not to have one’s blood chilled by the Ringwraiths, not to be scared by the Barrow-wights or haunted by the Dead Men of Dunharrow.

Read more

Samwise the Hopeful.

The concepts of hope and courage permeate the tales written by J. R. R. Tolkien through and through. They are vital and, I do not think it will be an exaggeration to say, central to his narratives. There are many examples of how hope and courage make a big difference, help characters achieve almost the impossible and thus influence the course of events dramatically. In this special reflection for Tolkien Reading Day 2021, whose main theme is Hope and Courage, I would like to look at how hope helped Sam Gamgee lead Frodo and himself through the perils of Mordor to the final destination of their deadly quest.

Read more

Dots and curls: on the diacritics in Quenya and Sindarin.

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

In starlit memory.

In many ways Elvish immortality in Tolkien’s Legendarium is more like a doom for its bearers, rather than a blessing: being not permanent living per se, it is rather the state of an immensely long life until the end of Arda without any knowledge of what comes afterwards. Thus, alongside moments of joy, Elves carry great burdens of battles lost, dear ones dead and sorrows experienced over the courses of their really long lives, and the burden becomes only heavier with years. As Men are growing stronger and more powerful, Elves are waning and fading gradually. In Tolkien’s own words, they “are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death” (Letters, № 131).

Read more

Feasts interrupted.

Interrupted feasts make a recurring theme in Tolkien. Some of these are minor interruptions, like Dwarvish intrusions into Elvish merrymakings in Mirkwood: they cause mostly annoyance to the Elves, rather than present a serious threat. Other feast interruptions to be found in Tolkien’s tales are far from being annoying trifles and have serious social implications.

Read more

Fëanor the skilful.

It is very often that Fëanor is remembered for grievous deeds and worst manifestations of his complex, albeit fascinating, character. However, being a gifted and skilful Noldo, he contributed a lot to Elvish craftsmanship, culture and traditions. His works were meant to be useful, unique and long-lasting, with some things surviving well into the Third Age and remaining long after Fëanor himself was no more.

Read more