The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth

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The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth is a book[1] on the languages of Middle-earth by Ruth S. Noel. The first edition, entitled The Languages of Middle-earth, was published in 1974 by Mirage Press, Baltimore. The revised version was published in 1980 by Houghton Mifflin. Ruth S. Noel, also known as Atanielle Annyn Noel, is the author of The Mythology of Middle-earth.

Pages 16 through 34 contain surveys of the languages of the Hobbits and of the Rohirrim. They are both similar to Old English or Anglo-Saxon. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, creator of Middle-earth, was a professor of this language, and a great expert on it. A few words are also Middle English or local dialect place-names. Both lists are in alphabetical order.

The next section, "Quotations Translated" (pp 35-41), is a list (in chronological rather than alphabetical order) of all phrases and sentences in Sindarin, Quenya and Black Speech as found in The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings, and Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Tolkien. Translations are either from Tolkien himself — given in quotation marks - or hypothesized by Noel. There are a few omissions and many mistranslations:

  • Sindarin Mae govannen! (no translation given) = "Well met!" (page 36)
  • Sindarin ammen! (no translation given) = Probably "for us."
  • Sindarin pedo mellon a minno = rendered as "speak friend and enter." Actually, though this was the first translation produced by Gandalf, it was proven incorrect. The correct translation is: "Say 'friend' and enter." (page 38)
  • Quenya A vanimar, vanimalion nostari! = rendered hypothetically by Noel as "o fair-home, fair-gold ... queen!" (page 41). The correct translation, as given in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, is: "O beautiful ones, parents of beautiful children!"

Next, from pages 42 to 51, we find a survey of the three non-Roman writing systems used by Tolkien in his published work: Anglo-Saxon runes (used in The Hobbit), Cirth or Angerthas, and Tengwar, the Elven script.

On pages 53 to 74 there is a survey of Quenya and Sindarin. On pages 75 to 92 there is a glossary of both languages.

The second half of the book (pages 93 through 207) is "The Tolkien Dictionary: Fourteen Tolkien Languages." The 14 languages in question are Black Speech, Common Speech (Westron), Dunlending, Hobbitish, Khuzdul (Dwarvish), "Mannish" (any human language), Númenórean, Orkish, Pre-Númenórean, Quenya, Rohan, Sindarin, Sylvan, Wose. These are all the languages in The Lord of the Rings, except for Entish (of which no real examples are given; the closest we get is Elvish words strung together in an Entish manner, a sort of Ent pidgin).

Since 1980 a large amount of Middle-earth linguistic material has appeared in print, making Noel's book obsolete. The use of the Tengwar is also incorrectly presented.

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