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).

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In the pits of iron.

Over the course of Middle-earth history its villains have always been inventive in hiding the places of their habitation as much as they possibly could so that nothing and nobody could interfere with their evil deeds. Various camouflage devices have been applied, beginning with going deep underground to veiling tall towers in shadows and deceits. Unsurprisingly, the first bad boy to go subterranean was Melkor: he had set the trend for living below ground level way before the counting of time even started.

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“I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me”

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?

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What’s in the spelling?

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.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall. On Sauron’s appearance.

Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was

that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic.

In his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power

(as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding

figure of great strength of body and supremely

royal demeanour and countenance.

(Letters, № 246)

Readers of The Lord of the Rings are well aware of Sauron’s being the chief menace of the Second and Third Ages after the capture of Morgoth and the War of Wrath. What is rather obscure, though, is what the great Middle-earth adversary looked like. In his writings and letters Tolkien gave a few clues concerning the looks of Sauron, leaving all the rest to his readers’ imagination.

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