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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
the Underworld (as in Grond, Hammer of the...)

Alveric
Rivendell


Nov 22 2017, 8:32pm

Post #1 of 14 (4406 views)
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the Underworld (as in Grond, Hammer of the...) Can't Post

By now I am quite accustomed to blundering ignorantly into matters well-known to Ye Contributors to the Forum, so here's another one:

The battering ram in ROK is called Grond, in memory of the mace used by Morgoth (Silm, On the Ruin of Beleriand). In both texts the phrase "Hammer of the Underworld" is added. What does this "Underworld" refer to?

And yes, I'm still plugging away at my Tolkien-in-Chinese book. For this term, I'm looking at several translations, and I'm getting various things: dixia ("underground"), diyu (literally "earth-prison," but in fact "hells"), heian shijie ("the dark world"), and yinshi ("hidden world," or maybe yin in the sense of dead).

Any thoughts?

Eric


Darkstone
Immortal


Nov 22 2017, 8:47pm

Post #2 of 14 (4375 views)
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Utumno [In reply to] Can't Post

Now Melkor began the delving and building of a vast fortress, deep under Earth, beneath dark mountains where the beams of Illuin were cold and dim. That stronghold was named Utumno.
-The Sil, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 1: Of the Beginning of Days

Utumno is Quenya for "underworld".

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.




(This post was edited by Darkstone on Nov 22 2017, 8:50pm)


squire
Half-elven


Nov 22 2017, 8:50pm

Post #3 of 14 (4376 views)
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I think the association with hell is the best way to go [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien doesn't emphasize an underworld association in his descriptions of Mordor, the "hell" or hellish land of the Third Age. But in his First Age stories he does say that Morgoth's original castle/HQ/kingdom is underground, below (as usual) some mountains.

Its name, Utumno, is Quenya for "Underworld", and the Sindarin equivalent word, Udun, the place Gandalf describes the Balrog as being from, means "Hell". Balrogs were First Age creatures who hung out with Morgoth in Utumno/Udun. Since we've already encountered a First Age Balrog in LotR, it's not a complete surprise that Mordor's armorers would also name their brand new battering ram with a reference to the First Age work of their professional antecedents.

The Lotr.wikia encyclopedia site actually gives Chinese character translations for Utumno, that I imagine will help you decide if this is the word Tolkien was thinking of when referring to Grond.



squire online:
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Alveric
Rivendell


Nov 22 2017, 9:07pm

Post #4 of 14 (4370 views)
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OK, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

OK. Grond (battering ram) was named after Grond (mace) of Morgoth, whose HQ was a deep-pit-like fortress named Utumno, which (whether in Quenya or Sindarin) have root meaning related to deep pits. Thanks for this. I really appreciate all this help, even if it makes me look like a bit of a newb.

I also note that Tolkien did not actually call Grond "the hammer of hell." I have to treat the various online fan sites that say simply Utumno = hell with some caution. Tolkien surely wanted to avoid the theological implications. To say "hell," you have to say "heaven," and that's a pickle not plucked in Arda. (Or --is it possible?--I might be wrong! Do any of the canonical texts actually use the word "Hell"?)

(The wiki you gave transliterates Utumno, not translates. Utumno is hence Wu-tu-mu-nuo.)

Eric


squire
Half-elven


Nov 22 2017, 9:50pm

Post #5 of 14 (4368 views)
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Isn't 'diyu' the right choice, then? [In reply to] Can't Post

If I understand your original post, that word has a literal meaning of 'underworld' (pits - also a word used for Thangorodrim) and then a strong association with 'hell'.

I agree that Tolkien does not want Hell (a translation of Udun, if not Utumno) to be taken in the literal Christian (mythic, of course, but literal within the myth) sense, pairing with Heaven. But hell in English has a wealth of colloquial meanings that far outstrip the formal religious reference; along with being any place of punishment and torment it ties into Classical (pagan) references to the underworld as well as Norse myths (where the word comes from). I can't help with the Chinese, of course. But perhaps Under-World could be rendered Divine-Prison, Death-Pit, Devil-Land, or some other such construction conveying burial, death, and torment at the hands of fate or the gods?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Darkstone
Immortal


Nov 22 2017, 9:53pm

Post #6 of 14 (4364 views)
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No problem [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I really appreciate all this help, even if it makes me look like a bit of a newb.



None of us knew any of this stuff right off. Not even Tolkien.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.




Elthir
Grey Havens

Nov 22 2017, 11:35pm

Post #7 of 14 (4353 views)
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what the "heck" [In reply to] Can't Post

Utumno is glossed "the deep hidden" in Morgoth's Ring, seemingly with a new base in mind TUP "cover over, hide" (see TUB below if interested).

But anyway Tolkien defined Udun as "dark pit", called the Underworld of old (distinct from the place in Mordor), and in the 1966 index: Udun "hell".

JRRT uses the word hell in (oldish) poetry at least, in both versions of The Lay of the Children of Hurin for example. The first line in version I reads:

"Lo! the golden dragon of the God of Hell"


But if you mean "canonical" as in the word "hell" appearing in something Tolkien himself published, I can't recall at the moment.

_____


Carl Hostetter explains the words with respect to the "old" base TUB (excuse my lack of diacritics):

"In The Etymologies we find a base TUB-, untranslated, but with a primitive derivation *tumbu 'deep valley'. Cognate with this is the adjectival formation *tubna '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 Udun. 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'.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Nov 22 2017, 11:35pm)


Alveric
Rivendell


Nov 25 2017, 11:29pm

Post #8 of 14 (4222 views)
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Cool, rich stuff [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks again for all this. I would certainly think of the Lay of the Children of Hurin as canonical, or canonical-enough. Don't know if it's been translated into Chinese yet. There are several options for "God of Hell"!

I've been reading a lot in the field of translation theory, and one of the universally-agreed points is that no one word ever means exactly what any other word means. This is the case of language-to-language, but also within a language (a paraphrase). Of course, all over the world we can point at the moon, say my word for it, hear yours, and everyone knows your word "means" my word. But that really only works with denotation of physical objects. It doesn't work very well with anything non-physical or non-empirical (like "love," "post-modernism," or "hell"). (Plus, there's some doubt about the validity of the distinction between denotation and connotation.

So, to come back to "the Underworld," no doubt the overlap with "Hell" is quite sufficient for us to say that by "the Underworld" Tolkien meant "Hell." We might ask what "Hell" meant to him... But he didn't actually say that Grond was named after the "Hammer of Hell." It's clear from "On Fairy-stories" that Tolkien believed the details (like individual word choice) matter. When Tolkien indexes Udun as hell, that's just what inter-lingual glossaries do. He wouldn't have said, Udun = broccoli, but that doesn't make udun = hell any less problematic.

And then, hello! To translate "the Underworld" into Chinese, we see several options, one of which (diyu) is very explicitly rooted in Chinese thinking about the afterlife--with multiple levels, different kinds of torture, with a set sentence (after which you get out and are re-born), etc. So it quickly gets weird and fun.

I don't have a solution to all this--for me, it's enough to enjoy the endless complications and new meanings generated by taking words seriously. Ultimately, my book won't be about what Tolkien meant, but what the translations mean.

Eric


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Nov 26 2017, 2:22am

Post #9 of 14 (4219 views)
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Need this "Hell" have a Christian meaning? [In reply to] Can't Post

Wasn't there a "Hell" (or "Hel") in pre-Christian Germanic mythology?

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Darkstone
Immortal


Nov 27 2017, 6:59pm

Post #10 of 14 (4108 views)
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Niflheim [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Wasn't there a "Hell" (or "Hel") in pre-Christian Germanic mythology?


Basically where Theoden would have ended up if he had died of old age or sickness rather than in battle.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.




Darkstone
Immortal


Nov 27 2017, 9:59pm

Post #11 of 14 (4094 views)
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Hell-hawks = Mordor-hawks [In reply to] Can't Post

'Faramir! The Lord Faramir! It is his call!' cried Beregond. 'Brave heart! But how can he win to the Gate, if these foul hell-hawks have other weapons than fear?'
-The Siege of Gondor

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.




Elthir
Grey Havens

Nov 27 2017, 11:57pm

Post #12 of 14 (4083 views)
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Norse Hel [In reply to] Can't Post

You might be thinking of Hel (Old Norse "Hidden"), or Helheim, presided over by a fearsome being (Loki's daughter), also called Hel.

According to my source the names of Hel and Hell come from the same root in the Proto-Germanic language, reconstructed by modern scholars as *haljo, "concealed place."

The historian H.R. Ellis Davidson noted that: "There is no consistent picture in Norse literary tradition of the fate of the dead" and "to oversimplify the position would be to falsify it."

Although one popular account is that of the death of Baldur, who goes to Hel after being slain by mistletoe.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Nov 28 2017, 2:53pm

Post #13 of 14 (4036 views)
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Nice catch, but is it as literal as that? [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe Beregond is using a general metaphor, analogous to "hellhound" or "hellhole", where "hell" just refers to a sense of horror and evil rather than to a specific place of origin. The "hawk" part is a metaphor anyway - the flying beasts aren't birds, and it's their riders who use fear as their weapon, even if together they give an impression of being hellish, rapacious birds. I think Beregond's "foul hell-hawks" is really about something more visceral and more fundamental than just the fact that they come from Mordor.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



FarFromHome
Valinor


Nov 28 2017, 3:16pm

Post #14 of 14 (4035 views)
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I think Tolkien would have approved! [In reply to] Can't Post

You seem to be reflecting one of Tolkien's great interests, which was how languages are bound up with the cultures they spring from. As I recall, his first inspiration for creating his myths was wanting to imagine a world where his newly-created languages would be spoken. "Nobody believes me when I say that my long book is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real. But it is true." (Letter 205)

Starting from there, he has obviously given a great deal of attention to how you "translate" Elvish into "Common Speech", and how you render Common Speech in English, so that it doesn't bring up unwanted associations with concepts in our world that might conflict with the culture of the imaginary world he's created. He has to use English words like "hell" or "underworld" to translate names, but I think he always tries to give a sense that the translations are not quite accurate, that there are differences between cultures that make meanings fluid and uncertain. It's interesting to see how translating from English to Chinese has the same effect, and you're experiencing the very thing that Tolkien was trying to create in his imaginary languages - no two words ever mean exactly the same thing when you are trying to bridge different cultures, beliefs and traditions.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


 
 

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