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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Autumnal vs. Utumno

Finwe
Lorien


Mar 21 2013, 3:58pm

Post #1 of 4 (259 views)
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Autumnal vs. Utumno Can't Post

Disclaimer: If anyone find themselves relating to this post in any way, drop what you're doing and have your children start hunting for a nursing home.

With arrival of spring yesterday, I found myself searching my rapidly deteriorating brain trying to think of the name of the spring equinox. I knew it wasn't autumnal because (SPOILER ALERT!) that occurs in autumn. Long story short, after I finally remembered the term 'vernal', I couldn't help but notice the connection to Tolkien due to the similar sounding names of autumnal to Utumno. In Tolkien's world, you had the Spring of Arda and many of its creations ended by the power of Utumno. Very similar to how in our world, many of the wonders that spring brings give way to autumn. Was this nomenclature Tolkien chose coincidental or deliberate? Or am I just in the final stages of insanity?

As three great Jewels they were in form. But not until the End, when Fëanor shall return who perished ere the Sun was made, and sits now in the Halls of Awaiting and comes no more among his kin; not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls, shall it be known of what substance they were made. Like the crystal of diamonds it appeared, and yet was more strong than adamant, so that no violence could mar it or break it within the Kingdom of Arda.


Elthir
Gondor

Mar 22 2013, 1:02pm

Post #2 of 4 (144 views)
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chance similarities [In reply to] Can't Post

I think there can be many chance similarities between Elvish words and words in Primary World languages. That said, that doesn't mean there were not any connections of any type in this arena. Perhaps something like (which happens to involve Utumno a bit)...




Quote

In The Etymologies we find a base TUB-, untranslated, but with a primitive derivation *_tumbu_ 'deep valley'. Cognate with this is the adjectival formation *_tubná_ 'deep', whence N. _tofn_ (note the development *_-bn_ to _-fn_ as in Welsh).

(...) *_Utubnu_, of Melkor's 'vaults in the North', whence Q. _Utumno_, and by regular development (as in Welsh) of medial _t_ to _d_ and of final *_-bn_ > *_-fn_ > _-n_, the Sindarin name _Udűn_. This will be familiar to readers of The Lord of the Rings as the region just behind the Morannon in the extreme north-west of Mordor. A name that Tolkien translates as 'hell'.

(...) The deep parallels in form, meaning, and mythological significance between W. _Annw(f)n_ 'hell' and S. _Udűn_ 'hell' are far more striking than the surface similarity between W. _Annwn_ and S. _Annűn_ 'Sunset, West', but are discoverable only by philological exploration. Just the sort of exploration that Tolkien himself would have loved, I think!'

Carl Hostetter




In any case and generally speaking, I think in the end, if we lack real evidence from JRRT himself to draw a given connection between his invented Elvish words and words from Primary World Languages (not just English of course), the case will rest on how well it can be made, or how convincing it seems, subjective as that can be. As with other ideas of course.

Tolkien did once write:


Quote

'The 'source', if any, provided solely the sound-sequence (or suggestions for its stimulus) and its purport in the source is totally irrelevant except in the case of Earendil; see below.

'It is therefore idle to compare chance-similarities between names made from 'Elvish tongues' and words in exterior 'real' languages, especially if this is supposed to have any bearing on the meaning or ideas in my story. To take a frequent case: there is no linguistic connexion, and therefore no connexion in significance, between Sauron a contemporary form of an older *thaurond- -- derivative of an adjectival *thaurá (from a base THAW) 'detestable' and the Greek saura 'a lizard'.'

JRRT




That said, things are a bit more complicated. Mr Hostetter further explains (in part):


Quote
(...) By Tolkien's own statements, it is a valid endeavor to highlight the intended historical connections between the Eldarin languages and those of the Primary World, especially Indo-European; but also by Tolkien's own statements, it is an invalid endeavor to simply search dictionaries of Primary World languages for isolated words that just happen to match or resemble some Eldarin word. The former endeavor will illuminate Tolkien's intentions in constructing the Eldarin tongues, while the latter will only expend effort to find accidental congruences. In either case, the main factor determining relevance is the supporting evidence (or lack thereof) that can be brought to bear to bolster the assertion and to persuade others that it is correct.




For more on this see the articles titled Words and Devices published in Vinyar Tengwar.

Apologies if I've misrepresented Mr. Hostetter's views in any of this, as I know he posts here sometimes, or did in the past anyway.


So... ahh... what was the question again Wink


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 22 2013, 1:43pm

Post #3 of 4 (147 views)
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Thank you for a wonderful post ! [In reply to] Can't Post

What a pleasure to read! I was fishing about (flapping about? scratching head?) for an answer to Finwe's thoughtful question. You certainly found it Elthir....! SCORE!
( I clearly have no expertise at all in the area, simply found it a fun and puzzling question. Tongue)


I think there can be many chance similarities between Elvish words and words in Primary World languages. That said, that doesn't mean there were not any connections of any type in this arena. Perhaps something like (which happens to involve Utumno a bit)...
In any case and generally speaking, I think in the end, if we lack real evidence from JRRT himself to draw a given connection between his invented Elvish words and words from Primary World Languages (not just English of course), the case will rest on how well it can be made, or how convincing it seems, subjective as that can be. As with other ideas of course.


So it is totally possible that on a purely chance level the words have a symbolic similarity, if we equate Utumno (from where the Lamps were put out) and Autumn (when the 'sun', lamplike, sinks lower) and that this is unintended, but fitting sort of coincidence, which deepens the meaning even if unintended by the author if the origins of the word are more closely examined by the reader and the analogy applied.

Tolkien did once write:
'The 'source', if any, provided solely the sound-sequence (or suggestions for its stimulus) and its purport in the source is totally irrelevant except in the case of Earendil; see below.
'It is therefore idle to compare chance-similarities between names made from 'Elvish tongues' and words in exterior 'real' languages, especially if this is supposed to have any bearing on the meaning or ideas in my story. To take a frequent case: there is no linguistic connexion, and therefore no connexion in significance, between Sauron a contemporary form of an older *thaurond- -- derivative of an adjectival *thaur¨˘ (from a base THAW) 'detestable' and the Greek saura 'a lizard'.'
JRRT


I think then perhaps (?) we have a more purely auditory, expressive overlap here, (considering the sound-similarities of Utumno and Autmn) based purely on sound-sequence, as of course Tolkien's ear was so refined for perceiving. This quote (which I just love) makes me think that:
A passage from J. R. R. Tolkien's 1955 essay "English and Welsh" has been cited as the origin of the idea:[1]
"Most English-speaking people...will admit that cellar door is 'beautiful', especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful. Well then, in Welsh for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant."


So perhaps it is both a removed idealogical coincidence combined with the similarity of sound structure. Either way, I will now associate them more consciously, the thought having been placed. That's something we will have in common now Finwe!


Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.

(This post was edited by Brethil on Mar 22 2013, 1:48pm)


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2013, 5:26pm

Post #4 of 4 (94 views)
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Some things are just nice to say [In reply to] Can't Post

A friend of mine once kept a list, including "gubernacular", "molybdenum" and "flong".
I like "Obsidian bunker", obviously.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

 
 

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