tolkien's languages

Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings: Frodo Baggins, derived from the Old English fród, meaning “wise by experience.” His name is Maura Labingi in Westron and Iorhael in Sindarin, a combination of the root words ior, meaning “old,” and hale, meaning “wise.”

Tolkien in The Hobbit: their names were Balin and Dwalin and Oin and Gloin and Dori and Nori and Ori and Fili and Kili and Bifur and Bombur and Bofur

Pippin: Prince of the Halflings

(A response to this post, if interested.)

So, when Pippin arrives in Minas Tirith with Gandalf, both Denethor and Beregond make some sort of comment about the strangeness of hobbit-speech. They don’t really specify what about Pippin’s speech is so strange, just vaguely referring to accent. And that could just have been a regular comment on whatever regional accent the hobbits probably had compared to the men of Gondor. But in Appendix F Tolkien comments on the issue, saying:

The Westron tongue made in the pronouns of the second person (and often also in those of the third) a distinction, independent of number, between ‘familiar’ and 'deferential’ forms. It was, however, one of the peculiarities of Shire-usage that the deferential forms had gone out of colloquial use. They lingered only among the villagers, especially of the West-farthing, who used them as endearments. This was one of the things referred to when people of Gondor spoke of the strangeness of Hobbit-speech. Peregrin Took, for instance, in his first few days in Minas Tirith used the familiar forms to people of all ranks, including the Lord Denethor himself. This may have amused the aged Steward, but it must have astonished his servants.

Since this pronoun use doesn’t really translate into English (does anyone who’s read the books in another language know if they reflected this?), the whole issue would go unnoticed by readers unless they read Appendix F. Which is a pity, since it has a sort of humorous result. After being in Minas Tirith for a while, Pippin notices that he’s getting a lot of attention from the people of the city. In fact, Tolkien tell us:

People stared much as he passed. To his face men were gravely courteous, saluting him after the manner of Gondor with bowed head and hands upon the breast; but behind him he heard many calls, as those out of doors cried to others within to come and see the Prince of the Halflings, the companion of Mithrandir. Many used some other tongue than the Common Speech, but it was not long before he learned at least what was meant by Ernil i Pheriannath and knew that his title had gone down before him into the City.

Now, if you didn’t know about the grammar issue, you’d think that people were just making this assumption because Pippin arrived with Gandalf. But Tolkien fully explains the joke in the appendix, saying “No doubt this free use of the familiar forms helped to spread the popular rumor that Peregrin was a person of very high rank in his own country.”

SOURCES: LotR, LotR Appendix F

Hi my name is Aragorn son of Arathorn heir of Isildur descendent of Numenor King Elessar of the house Telcontar and I have long ebony black hair (almost as long as my name) and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Beren (AN: if u don’t know who he is get da hell out of here!). I’m a man but I live for over 100 years. I have pale white skin. I’m also a Dunedain ranger, and I go to the Prancing Pony Inn in Bree where I brood in the corner (I’m eighty-seven). I’m a goth (in case you couldn’t tell) and I wear mostly black.  For example today I was wearing a black cloak with black trim and black boots and black clothes and smoking a black pipe. I was brooding in my corner in the Prancing Pony. It was night-time and raining so there was no sun, which I was very happy about. A group of hobbits stared at me. I put up my middle finger at them.

`I need no map,’ said Gimli, who had come up with Legolas, and was gazing out before him with a strange light in his deep eyes. `There is the land where our fathers worked of old, and we have wrought the image of those mountains into many works of metal and of stone, and into many songs and tales. They stand tall in our dreams: Baraz, Zirak, Shathûr.

`Only once before have I seen them from afar in waking life, but I know them and their names, for under them lies Khazad-dûm, the Dwarrowdelf, that is now called the Black Pit, Moria in the Elvish tongue. Yonder stands Barazinbar, the Redhorn, cruel Caradhras; and beyond him are Silvertine and Cloudyhead: Celebdil the White, and Fanuidhol the Grey, that we call Zirak-zigil and Bundushathûr.

`There the Misty Mountains divide, and between their arms lies the deep-shadowed valley which we cannot forget: Azanulbizar, the Dimrill Dale, which the Elves call Nanduhirion.’

`It is for the Dimrill Dale that we are making,’ said Gandalf. `If we climb the pass that is called the Redhorn Gate, under the far side of Caradhras, we shall come down by the Dimrill Stair into the deep vale of the Dwarves. There lies the Mirrormere, and there the River Silverlode rises in its icy springs.’

`Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram,’ said Gimli, `and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla. My heart trembles at the thought that I may see them soon.’

-The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Ring Goes South”

Feanorian Names

I’ll just list all the names and meanings below, but it’ll probably be very helpful if you’ve already read this post about elvish naming customs.


  • Father-name: Curufinwe (“Skillful Finwe”)
  • Mother-name: Feanaro (“Spirit of Fire”), Sindarized to “Feanor”


  • Father-name: Nelyafinwe (“Finwe the Third”), sometimes shortened to Nelyo
  • Mother-name: Maitimo (“Well-shaped One”), the first half of which was used in his Sindarized name (mait > maed)
  • After-name/Epesse: Russandol (“Copper-Top”), a reference to his red hair. The first half of this name was used in his Sindarized name (rus > ros)


  • Father-name: Kanafinwe (“Strong-Voiced of Finwe”)
  • Mother-name: Makalaure (“Gold-Cleaver”), probably a reference to the golden sound he made while playing the harp. Sinxarized to “Maglor”


  • Father-name: Turcafinwe (“Strong, Powerful Finwe”)
  • Mother-name: Tyelkormo (“Swifty-Riser”), a reference to his quick temper. Sindarized to “Celegorm”


  • Father-name: Morifinwe (“Dark Finwe”), a rerence to his dark hair.
  • Mother-name: Carnistir (“Red-Face”), Sindarized to “Caranthir”



  • Father-name: Pityafinwe (“Little Finwe”), because he was the youngest (sometimes - Tolkien kept changing his mind on this.)
  • Mother-name: Ambarussa (“Top-Russet”), a reference to his red hair. Sindarized to “Amrod”


  • Father-name: Telufinwe (“Last of Finwe”), because he was the youngest (sometimes - Tolkien kept changing his mind on this.)
  • Mother-name: Originally, his mother-name was Ambarussa, like his twin Amrod. But Feanor didn’t like them having the same name, so Nerdanel changed it to Umbarto (“The Fated”). Feanor again disapproved, thinking this a disturbing name for a child, and so he changed it to Ambarto (“Upwards-Exalted”) Amras himself preferred Ambarussa, and later Sindarized it to “Amras”

SOURCES: The Silmarillion, The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 5 (“The Etymologies”), & vol. 12 (“The Shibboleth of Feanor”)

For “The Lord Of The Rings,” Tolkien invented 27 languages, created an elaborate fantasy realm in which humans live alongside elves, hobbits, dwarves, wizards, orcs, etc.,—each with their own histories and mythologies, and several with different subpopulations scattered throughout this realm—then spent decades writing a 1000 page story about them which went on to be the second best selling book of the 20th century after the Bible and which is widely regarded as a masterpiece of English literature.

And he kept the Gregorian calendar.

Sauron’s Name in Numenor

Coda to this post. Canonically, Tar-Mairon is the title Sauron used in Númenor, which means ‘King Excellent’ in Quenya. 

But speaking elven languages, like Quenya, was against the law; the majority of the Númenóreans were strongly anti-elvish, and Sauron hated the elves, so why would he use a title in Quenya? 

Maybe Ar-Pharazôn gave his adviser a special exception, but I think it’s more likely that Sauron actually used an Adûnaic translation of his name.

So what was his name then?

We know that Tar- becomes Ar- in Adûnaic, but we have no translation for the second word.

Sauron’s original name was Mairon, from Q maira “admirable, excellent, precious, splendid, sublime”.

Adûnaic simplifies ai into long ê, giving us the loan word mêra

If we add the adjective ending -ôn, we get the noun mêraôn, “admirable one,” similar to pharazôn “golden one.” But I’m doubtful this an acceptable or pronounceable vowel cluster in Adûnaic.

We could alter it by dropping the first vowel to form Mêrôn. Or we could add a glide consonant y to make Mêrayôn, like in the word Avalôiyada.

So possible Adûnaic names for Sauron are Ar-Mêrônand Ar-Mêrayôn.

I wondered why Iceland’s rugged, rain-drenched landscape seemed so insistently familiar- until I learned that Tolkien had read Morris’s Journals of Travel in Iceland, 1871-1873 and created from them the character of the home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his soggy ride to Rivendell.
The name of the wizard, Tolkien acknowledged, he had plucked from Snorri’s list of dwarfs, though Gandalf had nothing dwarfish about him (in the first draft of The Hobbit, the wizard’s name was Bladorthin). Gandalf’s physical description and his character, Tolkien wrote, were Odinic. They derived from Snorri’s tales of the Norse god Odin, the one-eyed wizard-king, the wanderer, the shaman and shape-shifter, the poet with his beard and his staff and his wide-brimmed floppy hat, his vast store of riddles and runes and ancient lore, his entertaining after-supper tales, his superswift horse, his magical arts, his ability to converse with birds.
But who was Snorri Sturluson? Thirty years after meeting his Gandalf on the page, I finally thought to answer that question…
—  Nancy Marie Brown, Excerpt from the preface to Songs of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
The basic pleasure in the phonetic elements of a language and in the style of their patterns, and then in a higher dimension, pleasure in the association of these word-forms with meanings, is of fundamental importance. This pleasure is quite distinct from the practical knowledge of a language, and not the same as an analytic understanding of its structure. It is simpler, deeper-rooted, and yet more immediate than the enjoyment of literature.
—  J. R. R. Tolkien. English and Welsh

justkiddingbutforreal  asked:

Should I learn to write in Quenya or Sindarin?

An interesting decision to make. Of course, in the end it’s your choice. But, the way I see it, these are the points to keep in mind:


  • The language developed and spoken by the Noldorin and Vanyarin elves, especially while in Valar. It was affected by such linguists as Rumil and Feanor. In the later ages of Middle Earth it was rarely spoken, but remained a formal language for some ceremonies or names.
  • Quenya is said to be influenced mostly by Finnish, but also by Latin and Greek.
  • This isn’t my area of expertise, but I’ve heard that Quenya has a larger vocabulary, and is more widely spoken by fans. It’s main grammatical challenge, I’ve heard, is that it’s highly agglutinative and uses a lot of changing word-endings.
  • Want to hear it spoken by the expert?


  • The language developed and spoken by the Sindarin elves, and eventually became the most spoken elvish language in Middle Earth. It was also largely adopted by the Dunedain men of Gondor and Arnor (although their dialect ended up a bit different.)
  • Sindarin is said to be influenced by Welsh, and also some Germanic languages.
  • This isn’t my area of expertise, but I’ve heard that Sindarin is a little bit less developed (though there’s a change that the neo-Sindarin used in the movies has changed that a bit), and isn’t quite as widely-spoken by fans. I’ve also heard that it’s a little harder to learn, because it uses a lot of mutation.
  • Want to hear it spoken by the expert?

Hope this helped, and good luck! (If interested, check out this post on elvish language resources.)

If anyone who’s learned either of these languages has any other advice, please add it as a reply or reblog! (I won’t have time to get to it if you send it to my poor overflowing inbox!)

📚 In what language do you read The Hobbit? We will be at #MagicCon this weekend. It combines #RingCon and #HobbitCon. Among other guests, will be hosting Adam Brown, Jed Brophy, Graham McTavish and Dean O’Gorman from the Hobbit movies.


(From video description)

This is a rare recording of J.R.R. Tolkien from 1952, in which he recites the Quenya poem “Namárië”, famously sung by Galadriel in the chapter “Farewell to Lórien” in “The Lord of the Rings”.

“Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen,
yéni únótimë ve rámar aldaron!
Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier
mi oromardi lisse-miruvóreva
Andúnë pella , Vardo tellumar
nu luini yassen tintilar i eleni
ómaryo airetári -lírinen.

Sí man i yulma nin enquantuva?

An sí Tintallë Varda Oiolossëo
ve fanyar máryat Elentári ortanë,
ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë;
ar sindanóriello caita mornië
i falmalinnar imbë met, ar hísië
untúpa Calaciryo míri oialë.
Sí vanwa ná, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!

Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.
Nai elyë hiruva. Namárië!”

“Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind,
long years numberless as the wings of trees!
The long years have passed like swift draughts
of the sweet mead in lofty halls
beyond the West, beneath the blue vaults of Varda
wherein the stars tremble
in the voice of her song, holy and queenly.

Who now shall refill the cup for me?

For now the Kindler, Varda, the Queen of the stars,
from Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like clouds
and all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
and out of a grey country darkness lies
on the foaming waves between us,
and mist covers the jewels of Calacirya for ever.
Now lost, lost to those of the East is Valimar!

Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar!
Maybe even thou shalt find it! Farewell!”


So I was reading this part of The Hobbit last night from the chapter “Queer Lodgings”:

“[Beorn] called it the Carrock, because carrock is his word for it. He calls things like that carrocks, and this one is the Carrock because it is the only one near his home and he knows it well.”

This prompted an interest in the root of the name Carrock. The Anglo-Saxon word for “rock” is “carr,” and the Welsh word for “rock, stone” is “carreg,” and the two appear to have been blended together to make Car-rock

Much like Bree Hill translates as “Hill Hill” or Chetwood as “Woodwood” or Legolas Greenleaf as “Greenleaf Greenleaf” the name Beorn gives to huge rocks is “rockrock”

In summary, Tolkien is making subtle language jokes throughout his writings because he’s a major dork and we love him for it. 

So it’s widely known that J.R.R. Tolkien was extremely critical of/dissatisfied with the state of academia in his time, and he also believed that linguistics, history, and literature were three facets of the same discipline that lost important context if considered individually.

Well I finally got around to reading his valedictory address, and oh my god if it isn’t the saltiest thing ever written.

Tolkien on scientific linguistics:
“ … forming what one might call our ‘hydroponic’ department.”

Tolkien on using undergrads as research assistants:
“Whatever may have been found useful in other spheres, there is a distinction between accepting the willing labor of many humble persons in building an English house and the erection of a pyramid with the sweat of degree-slaves.”

Tolkien on the process of getting a degree:
“… a 'planned economy’, under which so much research time is stuffed into more or less standard skins and turned out in sausages of a size and shape approved by our own little printed cookery book… . I should hesitate to accuse anyone of planning it with foresight.”

Tolkien on pop-culture studies:
“We now have on our hands one thousand two hundred years of recorded English letters, a long unbroken line, indivisible, no part of which can without loss be ignored.”

Tolkien on student accommodation:
“Meanwhile many of the better students wish to spend more time in a university; more time in learning things, in a place where that process is (or should be) approved and given facilities… . But alas! those with the more eager minds are not necessarily those who possess more money.”