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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
More musings, namely writing and languages in ME

Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 3, 12:50am

Post #1 of 21 (6064 views)
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More musings, namely writing and languages in ME Can't Post

Hello all!

So some questions popped into my mind as I browsed the LOTR appendices and David Salo's "Introduction to Sindarin", and it got me to wondering more about languages and writing in ME.

So as far as we know, these characters spoke and wrote in these languages/letters:

Hobbits- they spoke Westron/Adunaic. However, there is little we know of their writing. We know Bilbo taught Frodo the elvish Tengwar, because he recognizes that Sauron's script on the ring was written in some form of elvish letters, though he could not read it (possibly due to the Black Speech language on it?). Bilbo was quite scholarly, but one could potentially assume that more hobbits could read and write than just them (obviously Merry and Pippin could, and so could Sam). So what script did they use? Runes?

Aragorn- fluent in Adunaic, Quenyan, and Sindarin. One can also assume he can read both the Cirth Daeron/runes and the Tengwar, given that he was very well-educated, as befitting his status as heir to Gondor's throne (and also being fostered by Elrond). One might also suppose he at least had a little bit of knowledge of Khuzdul, though I'm not 100% positive on this. He certainly wasn't fluent in it, as few ever were outside of the dwarves.

Boromir- given his status as the son of the Steward and heir to the Stewardship before his death, I believe he spoke both Westron and at least some Sindarin. I also think that Gondor used the Tengwar- am I correct in this?

Gimli- Westron and Khuzdul. He no doubt was highly familiar with the Cirth, as dwarves utilized the runes immensely. I do not know if he knew Tengwar, though we know Ori did from the book of Mazarbul.

Legolas- Westron and Sindarin. I do not know if he knew Quenya, since his father and grandfather were hostile to the Noldor (part of the reason why Oropher, his grandfather, retreated north when Celeborn and Galadriel (her being a Noldo) moved in next door). And I do not know if the Silvan tongue was still spoken in Thranduil's halls/amongst the people they ruled or not. If so, then that would be another tongue he would have likely known.

This does beg a good question though- he is technically a prince (and depending on whether he had siblings or not (the elves had less and less children as the years failed), he could have conceivably been Thranduil's only heir/crown prince as well). So would he have been educated in Quenya? Or not, with the tensions between Thranduil and their Noldorin kin? And what scripts would he have known? Tengwar undoubtedly, but would he have also learned the Cirth?

And how many elves would have known Westron? Was it limited to just the select few who had interactions with other races (ie nobility or tradesmen), or would all elves have been educated in it as well? We know there was mention that Haldir's brothers did not understand Westron, so one can assume not all did. But it does make me wonder- do you think that elves that weren't involved in trade or nobility understood Westron? In Rivendell, perhaps they would, since Elrond fostered the heirs of Isildur and his home was welcome to all who weren't on the side of evil.

But what about elsewhere? What about the Gray Havens? Or Lorien and Mirkwood realms? Given the isolation on the part of the latter two, I would imagine that not very many of their people spoke or understood Westron, since they weren't around those who spoke it except rarely.

What are your thoughts on the languages and writing styles of our Middle-earth inhabitants?

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Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 3, 2:27am

Post #2 of 21 (6026 views)
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Another random question [In reply to] Can't Post

How exactly were the lanterns of the dwarves (and presumably Thranduil's Halls) lit? Oil? Many of them were in very hard to reach places, I presume, to leave a cavern well-lit (especially Thranduil's Halls). One could also ask the same about Menegroth and Nargothrond, as they were also underground halls.

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squire
Half-elven


Feb 3, 2:49am

Post #3 of 21 (6032 views)
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Is 'magic' not a good answer? [In reply to] Can't Post

That's always been my impression. They didn't have electricity, as that's not Tolkien's style. Likewise the idea of oil doesn't seem consistent with the descriptions, which emphasize a brightness more intense than is gotten from flame, whether candle wax or lamp oil. I think the lighting of the many various caves in Tolkien's stories, from the Sil to The Hobbit to LotR (Moria in retrospect), is meant to be fantastical, rather than subject to scientific analysis.



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Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 3, 5:50pm

Post #4 of 21 (5936 views)
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That is an excellent analysis [In reply to] Can't Post

We know that dwarves can create magic doors, and so can elves- why not magic lamps/lanterns? Smile

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Happy reading everyone!


Chen G.
Rohan

Feb 3, 6:43pm

Post #5 of 21 (5923 views)
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Moria did have shafts of light [In reply to] Can't Post

One would assume the same was true of other subterranean realms.


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 3, 7:34pm

Post #6 of 21 (5919 views)
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I think those were for both light and airflow [In reply to] Can't Post

I can definitely see that. I think the films' depiction served very well.

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Happy reading everyone!


Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 3, 8:32pm

Post #7 of 21 (5911 views)
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Letters . . . and a possibly thorny, wooldland bramble of ideas? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hobbit Writing

Technically (although I wouldn't push Tolkien on it, and not that you said otherwise), in translation, the English word "letters" refers to the Feanorian script, while "runes" refers to the Cirth.

Anyway, generally speaking at least, I would say that the Hobbits used the Feanorean letters. In the Third Age, despite their love of the runes, even many of the Dwarves "… had found it convenient to learn to write it [the Common Speech] according to the then established customs of the West."

JRRT, Of Dwarves And Men. A bit earlier in this text:

"Now the Common Speech, when written at all, had from its beginning been expressed in the Feanorian script. Only occasionally and in inscriptions not written with pen or brush did some of the Elves of Sindarin descent use the Runes of Daeron . . ."

And (Prologue) "doubtless" the Hobbits learned their letters (those who did anyway) and began to write after the manner of the Dunedain.



The Tongues of Mirkwood

The matter of the speech of Mirkwood seems a bit knotty, but we might keep in mind that readers have access to various passages JRRT himself had not published. I've chatted with at least one person who argued that the following texts aren't necessarily as "variant" as they might seem at first, but that matter aside, here's what I've collected:

A) In a late text published in Unfinished Tales it was said Oropher (father of Thranduil father of Legolas) and some Sindar merged with the Silvan Elves "adopting their language"

B) In another late text (same book) it was said that by the end of the Third Age the Silvan tongues had probably ceased to be spoken in Lórien and the Realm of Thranduil.

F) According to another passage (again described as "late") Sindarin was said to be used in Thranduil's house -- thus used by his son Legolas one would expect -- "though not by all his folk."

G) And in a letter dated Dec. 1972 (another late example!) Tolkien explained that: "The Silvan Elves of Thranduil's realm did not speak S. but a related language or dialect."

This last mention is pretty late, but the dating of much of this seems fairly vague in general.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Feb 3, 8:41pm)


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 3, 9:12pm

Post #8 of 21 (5902 views)
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So it would appear [In reply to] Can't Post

that Tolkien hadn't quite made up his mind in this matter then before his death? Didn't he pass in 1973?

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Happy reading everyone!


Meneldor
Valinor


Feb 3, 11:18pm

Post #9 of 21 (5892 views)
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I vaguely remember a reference to crystal lamps. [In reply to] Can't Post

An early draft of the Fall of Gondolin, maybe?

IIRC, an elf (gnome?) carried a crystal lamp to light the way through a tunnel.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 3, 11:25pm

Post #10 of 21 (5890 views)
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That is really interesting :) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the reference!

My writing and novels:

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You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 3, 11:50pm

Post #11 of 21 (5889 views)
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When Tuor seeks the Gate of the Noldor [In reply to] Can't Post

More specifically, the lamp appears in the 1950s rewrite of The Fall of Gondolin (UT), where Gelmir, to aid Tuor's journey, brings forth one of the Noldorin lamps (made of old in Valinor), which sent a clear blue light "from a flame imprisoned in white crystal."

Christopher Tolkien notes that the blue-shining lamps of the Noldor are referred to elsewhere, and points to an earlier version of the Tale of Turin, where Gwindor possessed one of these lamps, called Feanorian Lamps.


Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 3, 11:54pm

Post #12 of 21 (5888 views)
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It is for me! [In reply to] Can't Post

Smile


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 3, 11:59pm

Post #13 of 21 (5883 views)
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Nice catch! [In reply to] Can't Post

I do wonder if such lamps were commonplace amongst other groups of elves, including the Sindar? I wonder because the Sindar never made it to Valinor, and there wasn't a lot of niceties between the Noldorin exiles and the Sindar in Beleriand, namely thanks to Feanor and his sons.

I can see how the dwarves would have come by such lamps/crystals with their friendship with the Noldor during the Second Age in Eregion, but the mysteries surrounding Thranduil's realm and such lamps remains.

Unless it's possible that ME had some of these crystals within it somewhere as well?

My writing and novels:

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You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


hanne
Lorien

Feb 4, 4:49pm

Post #14 of 21 (5847 views)
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Magic is credited in Lay of Leithian description [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien Gateway reproduces part of the the Lay of Leithian where Tolkien describes how Menegroth is lit.

There were ordinary lanterns and torches in the outer caves, but in the inner Melian had created magic light that perfectly mimicked alternately day and night, and seems to have shone from the artificial leaves in the stone-carved trees. It sounds incredibly gorgeous!


Quote
…through corridors of carven dread
whose turns were lit by lanterns hung
or flames from torches that were flung
on dragons hewn in the cold stone
with jewelled eyes and teeth of bone.

Then sudden, deep beneath the earth
the silences with silver mirth
were shaken and the rocks were ringing,
the birds of Melian were singing;
and wide the ways of shadow spread
as into arched halls she led
Beren in wonder.

There a light
like day immortal and like night
of stars unclouded, shone and gleamed.
A vault of topless trees it seemed,
whose trunks of carven stone there stood
like towers of an enchanted wood
in magic fast for ever bound,
bearing a roof whose branches wound
in endless tracery of green
lit by some leaf-imprisoned sheen
of moon and sun, and wrought of gems,
and each leaf hung on golden stems.



Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 4, 4:57pm

Post #15 of 21 (5839 views)
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thumbs up! [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 4, 5:24pm

Post #16 of 21 (5836 views)
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How beautiful! [In reply to] Can't Post

I can imagine it in my mind, and doubtless it was amazingly beautiful Heart

I highly doubt Moria and the Woodland Realm's underground halls had such lighting though Wink

My writing and novels:

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Happy reading everyone!


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 7, 5:49pm

Post #17 of 21 (5758 views)
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Another odd question [In reply to] Can't Post

because my brain is being rather random today.

Can elves feel cold? I know they can endure it better than most other races (except maybe dwarves? Who is hardier? I would think dwarves are, but still), but do they still feel it?

I was reminded of this question after reading the part in the Sil about the elves losing so many while crossing the Helcaraxe, and it is mentioned that it has a deathly cold wind and is very dangerous. So it made me wonder if elves can actually get too cold, under the right circumstances, and if they can feel cold (or temperature extremes in general) even if they endure it better than mortals do (again, dwarves notwithstanding).

This question was furthered by both the polar vortex (I had a whale of a time deicing the chicken's water dish this morning) and me seeing a funny screencap when Legolas and the others popped out of the snow "like daisies" (to quote Mulan Tongue) on Caradhras from FOTR. I can't imagine that being completely encased in wet snow was all that warm, even for an elf Wink

My writing and novels:

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Happy reading everyone!


(This post was edited by Cirashala on Feb 7, 5:50pm)


Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 14, 8:04pm

Post #18 of 21 (5544 views)
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keepin warm [In reply to] Can't Post

I would say Elves feel cold. Haldir notes that it is cold in the treetops in winter, and that he has skins and cloaks to spare.

Or maybe another description might do better: "Now Tuor and Voronwe were tormented by the cold . . ."

JRRT, early 1950s Fall of Gondolin, Unfinished Tales.


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 14, 9:30pm

Post #19 of 21 (5538 views)
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And yet [In reply to] Can't Post

you also have that part in FOTR where it states that Legolas alone of all the Fellowship was still in good spirits as the storm had bothered him little.

(Don't quote me on this I'm stick on my bed with ice pack from surgery and my copy of LOTR is in the other room). Of course, this quote could have merely been that the snow bothered him little because he could walk on top of it, as opposed to Aragorn and Boromir who had to "swim" in the snow and break a path just to get off the mountaintop, rather than the storm's cold bothering him.

Also note- it mentions here that he only wore light shoes, not boots-which I would imagine would have resulted in frostbite, except for his being an elf.

Do these two assessments of elves and cold/snow contradict each other then?

My writing and novels:

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You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 15, 12:08am

Post #20 of 21 (5529 views)
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snow shoes [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, it's known that Elves were "capable of far greater and longer physical exertions (in pursuit of some dominant purpose of their minds) without weariness (…) and they could endure great physical pain for long periods"

Athrabeth, Author's note 5. Which seems to agree with Voronwe's: " . . . long must be the hunger and cold the winter that shall slay the kin of those who passed the Grinding Ice." FG, UT

Despite, concerning Voronwe and Tuor again, Fall of Gondolin (FG) UT: " . . . and the waybread was dwindling; and they were cold and weary."

For myself, I don't find any necessary contradiction between these quotes and the Legolas descriptions. Tolkien once noted about Legolas: "He was tall as a young tree, lithe, immensely strong, able swiftly to draw a great war-bow and shoot down a Nazgûl, endowed with the tremendous vitality of Elvish bodies, so hard and resistant to hurt that he went only in light shoes over rock or through snow, the most tireless of all the Fellowship..."

JRRT, quoted in The Book of Lost Tales by Christopher Tolkien


(This post was edited by Elthir on Feb 15, 12:09am)


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 15, 12:15am

Post #21 of 21 (5522 views)
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Ah [In reply to] Can't Post

So they could feel cold, but it would take immense or lengthy exposure to cold to kill them, and they could feel pain but could bear/endure it longer than most, and they could get tired, but it would take a lot to get them that way, and they were really strong.

And yet, the dwarves themselves are praised for their endurance, strength, and ability to be indomitable, except by their lust for gold.

So one begs the question- who is the hardier of the two races, elves or dwarves? Or is it a draw?

Also, given their love of light, I imagine that, outside of evil or battle, the only thing that could kill an elf would be locking them up in pure dark, with no light at all. Imprisonment in a very pitch-black dark place would be akin to torture for elves, I would think, and I imagine they would succumb to the lack of light far more quickly than any other affliction not of the sword or evil.

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


(This post was edited by Cirashala on Feb 15, 12:17am)

 
 

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