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Does anyone know what the elves used to write?

Cirashala
Valinor


Mar 20 2021, 11:00pm

Post #1 of 15 (1527 views)
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Does anyone know what the elves used to write? Can't Post

Did they use a quill like the hobbits, or did they use brushes? Did Tolkien ever specify? I'm trying to find a downloadable elvish font, but I want it to look like it was written with whatever implement they used Smile Thanks!

Edited to add: Do you think the elves of the north, due to trade with the Men of the Lake, used a form of Westron in written agreements and such? How would "Elvish Westron" look different than the Shire script? I'm curious. It makes 100% sense that Thorin, in Bilbo's contract, would know the Shire script- given the trade between the Blue Mountains and the Shire...but curious how they would have handled writing between elves and Men up north Smile

Do you know if Tolkien ever said anything on that? Or would it be a speculative question (I wouldn't mind hearing your speculation either). Do you think Thranduil (and possibly Legolas, as his son) would have known Westron script? Or even Shire script (which I think unlikely).


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(This post was edited by Silverlode on Mar 21 2021, 2:24am)


squire
Half-elven


Mar 21 2021, 1:21am

Post #2 of 15 (1487 views)
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According to the LR Appendix E on the writing systems... [In reply to] Can't Post

... "The Tengwar were devised for writing with brush or pen"

Which makes sense given the basically uncial forms, with their curves and thick-thin strokes achieved by holding the flat edge of the pen or brush at a constant angle.

As he notes in the same passage, the Cirth or 'runes' were meant to be carved or inscribed, and so only used straight strokes.

He acknowledges that the Tengwar had "squared forms" for inscriptions, i.e. carving in hard surfaces, but these were "in their case derived from the written forms."

Basically if you find an Elvish font it will look correctly written, given that it is a typeface and not actual hand-written lettering.



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Cirashala
Valinor


Mar 21 2021, 1:47am

Post #3 of 15 (1485 views)
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I had an addendum question too [In reply to] Can't Post

but just missed the editing window by seconds Pirate

Do you think the elves of the north, due to trade with the Men of the Lake, used a form of Westron in written agreements and such? How would "Elvish Westron" look different than the Shire script? I'm curious. It makes 100% sense that Thorin, in Bilbo's contract, would know the Shire script- given the trade between the Blue Mountains and the Shire...but curious how they would have handled writing between elves and Men up north Smile

Do you know if Tolkien ever said anything on that? Or would it be a speculative question (I wouldn't mind hearing your speculation either). Do you think Thranduil (and possibly Legolas, as his son) would have known Westron script? Or even Shire script (which I think unlikely).

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!


(This post was edited by Cirashala on Mar 21 2021, 1:48am)


squire
Half-elven


Mar 21 2021, 2:09am

Post #4 of 15 (1485 views)
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I don't think Tolkien ever delved into regional written scripts in the Third Age [In reply to] Can't Post

As you probably know, his Tengwar script is not an alphabet but a phonetically complete system for writing down consonantal sounds in consistent and logical fashion. Trust a philologist to decide that his fantasy races would be, essentially, philologists too!

The result, in theory at least, is that Tengwar can be used to write down any human language, because our consonants all come from the same mouth and vocal cords.

So could Westron, as well as Sindarin and Quenya, be written in Tengwar script? Yes (again, in theory - there are actually problems with Tengwar. Don't go there.). Did the Elves of Mirkwood, the Men of the Lake, and the hobbits of the Shire speak different forms of Weston? Well, it certainly seems likely that accents and local vocabulary would differ, but the whole point of Westron as a literary device in the stories is that it is a Common Speech and remained mutually understandable between exceedingly remote and unconnected communities over thousands of years. Ditto for Tengwar, for that matter.

So, for story purposes, following the stylized and simplistic examples of Westron and Tengwar as described in the LotR Appendices, I think we might as well assume that the Elves, the hobbits, and the Men all wrote the same language in the same script, when communicating in Westron. As you say, the Common Speech was a second language for both the Elves and the Northmen (though not for the hobbits, who had forgotten or abandoned their original language), and so the two neighbors of the Wood and Lake would also have used Tengwar to represent their own languages as needed.



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Cirashala
Valinor


Mar 21 2021, 2:14am

Post #5 of 15 (1483 views)
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Isn't there one sound in Westron that isn't in Sindarin? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sh (like shh! Someone's coming)? I don't seem to recall seeing that one in Tengwar...(and yes, I am aware that it contains many dipthongs too- I just called it an alphabet for a lack of a better word (and to aid in others understanding the question)).

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Happy reading everyone!


squire
Half-elven


Mar 21 2021, 4:03am

Post #6 of 15 (1474 views)
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I don't know much about Westron [In reply to] Can't Post

But if I remember, Tolkien worked out as much of it as he wanted to, after he finished writing LotR. There's a good deal of Westron described in 'The Notion-club Papers' (in HoME IX, ca. 1946) that I haven't bothered to absorb, and a very little of it that is mentioned almost in passing in the LR appendices (written late 40s-early 50s).

Now, is 'sh' a sound in Westron? I don't know. What I do know is we mustn't take Westron for English. If we want to follow Tolkien's conceit that he 'translated' LotR from some manuscript written in Westron, the two languages may have nothing in common, phonetically.

Now in English, 'sh' is certainly a fundamental sound. But in Westron, does 'sh' even exist? - waiting for correction!



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InTheChair
Rohan

Mar 21 2021, 11:04am

Post #7 of 15 (1438 views)
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Was Tengwar the default go-to script used for writing? [In reply to] Can't Post

When carving in Bilbos door, or in that stone at Weathertop, Gandalf seems to have used the Cirth, or the Elf runes, or even Dwarf runes. Saruman also resorted to the Runes for the Helmets of his Orcs.

The Elves of Mirkwood dealt not only with the Men of Dale, but they, and the Men of Dale as well, dealt with the Dwarves of Erebor. The Dwarves appear to have been the economic heart of the Region before Smaug arrived. So would not the Elves of Mirkwood be far more likely to write any agreement in this script used by the Dwarves and Men? I think there was a form of these runes also intended to be used with brush or pen, though it originated as carved runes.

Also we know that King Thranduil came there from Doriath, where the runes were invented, and so these might be the script he and his people identify with, rather than the Noldorin Tengwar. (Though obviously he would have know how to read and write Tengwar as well)

I do think Tengwar was the script used in Numenor and in the realms of the Exiles. (King Elessars letter to Sam(?) is written in Tengwar) I guess that places like Rivendell or other Elven realm with ties to the Noldor would also have used them.

There's probably no support for it but I tend to imagine that in places like Wilderland, Mirkwood, Rohan, where influences are from Northmen, Dwarves, and perhaps Sindar, some adaptation of the Runes would be the more common script in use. While in places like Arnor and Gondor, and Eregion, where influences are from Numenor or Noldor, the Tengwar would be the more common script used for writing.

The Hobbits, being essentially a part of old Arnor, would have used Tengwar?


(This post was edited by InTheChair on Mar 21 2021, 11:12am)


squire
Half-elven


Mar 21 2021, 12:55pm

Post #8 of 15 (1432 views)
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Very good thoughts about Cirth (runes) being common in the North [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's as likely as not that you are right: the Cirth, or rune forms, may have been the lettering of choice in areas dominated by Dwarven or Sindarin cultures. But I have a feeling Tolkien was not particularly concerned about this detail of his invented world.

He certainly made sure his characters used the Cirth whenever inscriptions had to be engraved or carved quickly, as you note about Gandalf's use of runes to make marks on wood or stone. And we saw in Moria that the Dwarves used the Cirth to letter Balin's tomb; and the famous Map of Erebor uses runes to give it that northern romantic feel, even if the runes aren't the Cirth but just mundane Anglo-saxon ones.

On the other hand, in the equally famous painting of Smaug's hoard, we see that the Dwarves used Tengwar to label their jars of riches:



I don't think any general rule about script usage by cultures or by medium and mode (implement and surface) can be applied to all of Tolkien's various stories and settings.



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Cirashala
Valinor


Mar 21 2021, 5:42pm

Post #9 of 15 (1405 views)
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Who painted that? [In reply to] Can't Post

Was it Tolkien?

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


Mar 21 2021, 5:43pm

Post #10 of 15 (1403 views)
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sh and general shtuff [In reply to] Can't Post

Yep, Tolkien notes (Appendix F) that SH occurs in Westron, Dwarvish and Orkish, and represents a similar sound to sh as in English.

In the runic section we also find that the runes numbered (in the chart) 13-17 and 23-28 (thus including rune 15 for SH), were most probably invented by the Noldor of Eregion "since they were used for the representation of sounds not found in Sindarin."

And for example, there's a page from The Book of Mazarbul in the Common Speech "in a large bold hand using an Elvish script" (which Gimli describes as Ori's hand).


More generally, in the "Dwarf Section" of the late text Of Dwarves And Men, JRRT explained:


Quote
"Here we are concerned only with the Common Speech. 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 their spelling was then dependent on the already established usages of the Feanorean script.

The Dwarves had originally learned the Common Speech by ear as best they could, and had no occasion to write it; but in the Third Age they had been obliged in the course of trade and other dealings with Men and Elves to learn to read the Common Speech as written, and many had found it convenient to learn to write it according to the then general customs of the West. But this they only did in dealings with other peoples. For their own purposes they (as has been said), preferred the runes and adhered to them."


That quoted, I didn't pause to reflect (or check Tolkien-published statements) to see if everything here fits with already published work and examples. In other words, I just typed it out unthinkingly, hoping that Tolkien hasn't stepped on his own foot here, with respect to . . . something.

And I'm too lazy to do this second step. At the moment Smile


(This post was edited by Elthir on Mar 21 2021, 5:53pm)


Cirashala
Valinor


Mar 21 2021, 5:48pm

Post #11 of 15 (1402 views)
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I also noticed a detail, now that you mention dwarves and tengwar :) [In reply to] Can't Post

Gimli mentions in Moria (or was it Gandalf?) that Ori often wrote speedily in the Elvish characters when they were reading the accounts of the last moments of their lives in the Chamber of Mazarbul.

My writing and novels:

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Happy reading everyone!


Elthir
Grey Havens


Mar 21 2021, 5:51pm

Post #12 of 15 (1399 views)
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Yep. Tolkien did. [In reply to] Can't Post

As in painted that Smile


Elthir
Grey Havens


Mar 22 2021, 1:09pm

Post #13 of 15 (1300 views)
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Appendix E and F [In reply to] Can't Post

By the way, I did a bit of checking with the Appendices to compare what I quoted above from the late text Of Dwarves And Men, which part seems in accord with already published description. For example:

"As with their speech the Dwarves made use of such scripts as were current and many wrote the Feanorean letters skillfully; but for their own tongue they adhered to the Cirth, and developed written pen-forms from them." Appendix E

And Appendix F is actually pretty brief with respect to language, where it's noted that in the Third Age, with trading and so on, the Dwarves used the languages of Men while using their own tongue mostly in secret.


CMackintosh
Bree

Mar 23 2021, 9:18am

Post #14 of 15 (1246 views)
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ads or addresses [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think it's as likely as not that you are right: the Cirth, or rune forms, may have been the lettering of choice in areas dominated by Dwarven or Sindarin cultures. But I have a feeling Tolkien was not particularly concerned about this detail of his invented world.

He certainly made sure his characters used the Cirth whenever inscriptions had to be engraved or carved quickly, as you note about Gandalf's use of runes to make marks on wood or stone. And we saw in Moria that the Dwarves used the Cirth to letter Balin's tomb; and the famous Map of Erebor uses runes to give it that northern romantic feel, even if the runes aren't the Cirth but just mundane Anglo-saxon ones.

On the other hand, in the equally famous painting of Smaug's hoard, we see that the Dwarves used Tengwar to label their jars of riches:



I don't think any general rule about script usage by cultures or by medium and mode (implement and surface) can be applied to all of Tolkien's various stories and settings.


It's probably the advertisements for Elvish customers. Or name and address of customer, written in Elvish so the delivery dwarves can get it right when they meet up with their customers. Wink


InTheChair
Rohan

Mar 23 2021, 6:53pm

Post #15 of 15 (1225 views)
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Good quote. [In reply to] Can't Post

This seems to suggest more strongly that Tengwar had become something of a standard for writing. At least in the North-Western part of the world (Meaning that which is mainly covered by the map in the Lord of the Rings.)

 
 

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