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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Treebeard — 4. ‘Teaching them to speak and learning their tree-talk’

visualweasel
Rohan


May 1 2008, 3:22pm


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Treebeard — 4. ‘Teaching them to speak and learning their tree-talk’ Can't Post

I feel I may be on thin ice with some of you (not interested in languages indeed!), but I am going to push my luck with a little discussion of Entish today. I will try to keep my comments and questions a bit shorter as well. (I can hear you laughing at that claim, even now).

In Appendix F, Tolkien describes Entish:


Quote
The language that they had made was unlike all others: slow, sonorous, agglomerated, repetitive, indeed longwinded; formed of a multiplicity of vowel-shades and distinctions of tone and quantity which even the loremasters of the Eldar had not attempted to represent in writing. They used it only among themselves; but they had no need to keep it secret, for no others could learn it.



1. Is this manner of speech suitable for the Ents? They must have a pretty advanced vocal apparatus for producing that “multiplicity of vowel-shades and distinctions of tone and quantity”, eh?

2. The reference to writing here is interesting. Ents do not seem to have a culture of writing, do they? And how could they, considering that paper and parchment are made of living things! Might they not cut letters into stone like the Dwarves?

3. Or is their culture an oral one, resembling, but of much greater antiquity than that of Rohan, their neighbor. Could Fangorn itself be termed a living library or repository of knowledge? Their language seems to bear this out, with its “words” growing longer all the time. As Ents go “tree-ish”, is that the equivalent of losing books, losing knowledge, like the Ashburnam House fire which destroyed much of the Cotton collection?

4. Leaves are important to Tolkien. Athelas. The leaf-wrappings for lembas. Even Pipeweed, simply called “Leaf.” A page in a book is also a leaf. If Fangorn is a kind of living library, is the reverse true, too, that the ‘leaves’ of the Red Book of Westmarch are a kind of ‘forest’ – again, cf. my comments and questions on Tuesday about the phrase galadhremmin ennorath “tree-woven lands of Middle-earth”. How far can we take this metaphor? The Irish alphabet, for example, gives all its letters tree-names. Again, the connection between writing and trees is reasserted.

Tolkien goes on in Appendix F:


Quote
Ents were, however, themselves skilled in tongues, learning them swiftly and never forgetting them.



5. Can we reconcile this statement with Treebeard’s forgetting the word for a hill or rock-shelf? He seems to grasp for the name, rumbling a long Entish equivalent, and finally admitting, “I do not know what the word is in the outside languages.” This seems to contradict Tolkien’s later statement.

And continuing:


Quote
But they preferred the languages of the Eldar, and loved best the ancient High-elven tongue. The strange words and names that the Hobbits record as used by Treebeard and other Ents are thus Elvish, or fragments of Elf-speech strung together in Ent-fashion.



6. Indeed, most of the ‘Entish’ given in the chapter is really Elvish, mainly Quenya. Just how much of it is Elvish? And why isn’t more of it genuine Entish? What effect does Tolkien achieve by inserting untranslated passages of ‘Entish’? Like this one:


Quote
‘Still: Taurelilómëa-tumbalemorna Tumbaletaurëa Lómëanor, that is what they used to say. Things have changed, but it is still true in places.’



Curious wrote earlier in the discussion, “The ents are probably like Tolkien; always composing, never finished.” I like this. They were clearly like Tolkien in the sense of being the philologists of Middle-earth (a point noted by scholars), but this comparison, too, strikes me as very apt. Reminding me of this memorable passage:


Quote
‘[..] my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.’



7. If names and stories are equivalent, in some sense, as Treebeard says (and one would think Tolkien would agree): what single word might The Lord of the Rings be — for you?

8. Why is Treebeard so reluctant to give out his “real name”, anyway? Why is he so surprised at the cavalier attitude toward names evinced by Merry and Pippin? What’s the danger in knowing somebody or something’s real name?

9. Does anyone here know Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books? In Earthsea, the knowledge of people’s or things’ true names can give a mage total power over them. These are, therefore, closely guarded secrets. Has anyone (other than me) ever connected Treebeard’s comments with Le Guin? Might she have gotten the idea from Tolkien? There is also the character of the Master Namer, whose own name, Kurremkarmerruk, was said to mean absolutely nothing in any language. Kind of the antithesis of Treebeard’s “my name is like a story”, isn’ it? Likewise, in draft (Treason of Isengard), Treebeard tells the hobbits: “Oh, [Tom Bombadil] has got a very long name.”

Finally:


Quote
Treebeard rumbled for a moment, as if he were pronouncing some deep, subterranean Entish malediction. […] ‘Wizards ought to know better: they do know better. There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of Men bad enough for such treachery. Down with Saruman!’



10. Considering the long-windedness of Entish, would a malediction delivered in it be especially potent (like a potion with many ingredients and a long brewing time)? Or perhaps the opposite, and the Ent might never finish delivering it, leaving the target to go on misbehaving indefinitely?



Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish

The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3

Subject User Time
Treebeard — 4. ‘Teaching them to speak and learning their tree-talk’ visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 1 2008, 3:22pm
    Dwarvish names.... palantiriel Send a private message to palantiriel May 1 2008, 6:50pm
        Very good observations! visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 1 2008, 7:06pm
    You don't know all my secret names Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 1 2008, 7:53pm
    I'm no good at language questions :( Elenedhel Send a private message to Elenedhel May 1 2008, 9:27pm
        I remember that book!! Laerasëa Send a private message to Laerasëa May 1 2008, 10:33pm
            I would recommend re-reading it Starling Send a private message to Starling May 2 2008, 9:21am
        Wasn't Island of the Blue Dolphins around 1960 or so? visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 1 2008, 11:56pm
            It's too bad... Elenedhel Send a private message to Elenedhel May 3 2008, 12:21am
    Venturing a couple of thoughts Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 1 2008, 10:23pm
    **throws wease a wet-suit and life-preserver a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 2 2008, 12:10am
        Did you notice sador Send a private message to sador May 5 2008, 11:02am
    Some thoughts. Canto Send a private message to Canto May 2 2008, 12:43am
    Thoughts. Curious Send a private message to Curious May 2 2008, 1:04am
    shamelessly interrupts program to announce: I made it to Tol Eressea! a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 2 2008, 1:44am
        Congrats, a.s.! Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo May 2 2008, 5:45am
            neither of us will ever catch up to gramma, anyways! a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 2 2008, 11:33pm
        Good for you! sador Send a private message to sador May 2 2008, 9:26am
            no, it's the journey that counts and not the destination a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 2 2008, 11:37pm
        Welcome!// Curious Send a private message to Curious May 2 2008, 12:31pm
            I see you kept the bench warm for me!! Thanks. // a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 2 2008, 11:38pm
        Welcome, O "frequently winded" one :-D // Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 2 2008, 8:54pm
            I'm in a rarified group, ain't I? a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 2 2008, 11:39pm
        Well, welcome! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn May 3 2008, 3:44am
        Well, there goes the neighborhood. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand May 4 2008, 4:15am
            hah! you can't run once you get to Valinor!! LOL // a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 6 2008, 2:45pm
    Hill Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo May 2 2008, 5:53am
    Names, Languages, and similar (un)interesting subjects sador Send a private message to sador May 2 2008, 9:19am
    There's hills and hills... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome May 5 2008, 9:38am
        a personal experience with word-searching ElanorTX Send a private message to ElanorTX May 6 2008, 8:58am
            “Words like salmon” visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 6 2008, 2:41pm
                You'd have fun in Old Pascua! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 6 2008, 4:34pm
                Not just me? Good! Eowyn of Penns Woods Send a private message to Eowyn of Penns Woods May 6 2008, 4:50pm
                Happens in my family all the time. Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 6 2008, 5:00pm
                Shakespeare is such a great writer Curious Send a private message to Curious May 6 2008, 6:10pm
                Definitely. Kimi Send a private message to Kimi May 6 2008, 9:15pm

 
 
 

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