Collect


Collect for Hallowmas or All Saints' Day

O almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Five Quick Takes

I.


I have been house-sitting for my parents for a little less than two weeks now. (They are helping my dear Nana, who is a hoarder, turn her house into less of a death trap, especially since she now has difficulty walking.) The dog and the cat are still alive and the house has not run away, so I consider it a net success. Also I have rediscovered my love of pickles,1 which I’d somehow forgotten for something like a decade now.


They live in the suburbs, and the incredible silence and solitude here is almost eerie—but the eeriness is less than the sense of peace. The noise of Baltimore took a long time to get used to, especially at night, living on the ground floor of a street-facing building (not that there are many non-street-facing buildings in the city), but I did after a few months, and I have such bad insomnia anyway that it was less noticeable than you’d think to begin with. Now, being back at Chez Blanchard feels almost like visiting a cloister, except with wifi and a dachsund.2




It’s given me time to think. And time to feel—which, despite my morbid habit of incessant introspection, I don’t often allow myself: I’m too busy trying to analyze what I feel to sit back and let myself feel it, especially because a lot of it is pain, and I’d rather disinfect that by analyzing it to death than actually suffer. Anyway. Since realizing, a couple of months ago, that I’m going to be taking another stab at celibacy,3 I had vaguely thought that now things would be easy—not painless, but easy, or easier at least—and I was super wrong. Loneliness is just as hard, and bewildering, to deal with as it ever was. I’m not frightened like I used to be, but I am feeling pretty gloomy about it, and really don’t know what I’m going to do.


Though it’s occurred to me that my preoccupation with doing something about loneliness may be part of the problem. I dunno.


✠     ✠     ✠


II.




Pope Francis’ recent declaration that Christians owe LGBT people an apology was a great relief to me, especially in the wake of Orlando and the lackluster response to it from the USCCB. Predictably enough, some of the … brethren4 at Crisis have apparently piped up about how what the Church really owes gay people an apology for is not proclaiming The Truth About Homosexuality™ loudly enough.5


The thing is, not only is that not what His Holiness said, it really doesn’t make any damn sense. It might, if the Church had not been proclaiming her views on homosexual sex with perfect clarity since day one, and with considerable vigor—passing occasionally into what looks like anger—since the Sexual Revolution. But, she has. Everybody knows what the Catholic Church thinks.


When I was a teenage atheist, raised in a liberal Anglican denomination, literally the only thing I knew about the Catholic Church’s teaching was that they were against gay sex and abortion. Couldn’t have told you about the doctrine of the Real Presence, or anything about Mary, or the social teaching of the Church, or Papal infallibility. … But I did know that Catholics taught that gay sex was immoral. … Given that only 3% of the population are even routinely inclined to engage in same-sex sexual behavior, I have heard this particular teaching expounded way, way more often than is proportionate. And unlike other sexual sins, which are treated with a kind of knowing sigh, this one gets roundly and clearly condemned in a way that makes gay people feel singled out, shamed and unwelcome. … This kind of sanctimonious asshattery is exactly what Francis suggested we need to apologize for—and until those who are guilty of it stop making excuses for their bad behavior and start actually repenting, we will continue to get the kind of hard-hearted response that we’re seeing today from many in the gay community.


At what point can we bring ourselves to believe that showing kindness and courtesy to gay people is not a possible source of scandal, because if we’re being kind then we must not be conveying The Truth About Homosexuality™? At what point can we trust that our Lord had the right idea when He showed compassion and generosity first, and only then, if at all, gently enjoined repentance? When can say about the culture war, Stick a fork in it, it’s done?




✠     ✠     ✠


III.


Then again, maybe I’m unfair. Years upon years of feeling excluded, demeaned, and hurt will push you that way—but it’s still bad to be unfair, still a tendency you shouldn’t deliberately give in to or justify. That way lies the same monstrosity that injured you in the first place.


The thing is, knowing that, it’s easy enough to suppose that at least part of the reason that conservative homophobes (or just plain jerks), Catholic or not, behave the way they do is because they’ve been scarred by some irrational suffering of their own. Nothing eases a stinging wound like being right. And being actually right doesn’t protect you from the consequences of the ego boost. Which is also, perhaps, why I feel so much better than them, why I feel I can look down my nose at those wounded, ignorant, nasty homophobes and dismiss them with a few clever words and a veneer of pity. Pride is addictive and foul. There’s no amount of introspection that can cure it; only Jesus, Jesus, the mercy of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the grace of Jesus.


✠     ✠     ✠


IV.


And now for something completely different: a man with three buttocks an excerpt from a short story I recently wrote called Grandfather Seer, which I posted in its entirety for my Patreon sponsors.


The old man woke suddenly only a few minutes after dawn. He had heard something. He might once have dismissed it as a dream, but he was canny: sixty years dwelling alone with God had taught him to distinguish dreams and fantasies from reality with great subtlety. There was calm outside the hut, except for a voice: a solitary voice, wailing, like a child’s. There was someone else in the village.
He got up, disturbing a few of the goats. His own ewe slept soundly on. Picking his way over the crowded floor, the old man pushed the door open. The rain had gone not long ago, and the red earth was now turned to brown mud, smelling faintly like lye. He listened carefully. The voice was still calling, in Oshiwambo, repeating the same words over and over: ‘Meme! Ohandi ehama! Penduka, Meme! Penduka!’
Grabbing his stick from its place by the door, the old man hurried toward the voice. It was only forty meters or so from the empty hut he had adopted. He stumbled on a sharp stone, hoisted himself up again, and continued. Reaching the hut, he banged his stick against the door.
There was a sudden yelp, and the voice stopped. The old man waited for a few long moments; then he opened the door. ‘Ino tila,’ he said soothingly into the dark. ‘Walelepo.’
Tatekulu?’
Nearly all the children in the village had called the old man grandfather, but he recognized this one’s voice now. Fanuel—it was an angelic name, according to legend. He was so named because his skin was pale, paler than a European, and his hair was yellowish white. When he was born, a few of the villagers had suggested that he be abandoned as a bad omen, but the elders had overruled them and Fanuel had been kept. That was three or four years ago; the old man could not remember exactly; everything went by so quickly.
The boy asked him to wake his mother. The old man’s eyes could hardly make anything out in the gloom, except the whitish shape of the boy. But he knew already that the boy’s mother was dead.
Itule,’ he said. There was no purpose in trying to explain. The boy was too young. He put out a hand, repeating that they should go, and the boy took it and left the hut with him, naked and blinking in the sunshine.
They went back to the old man’s hut together. He doffed his robe and put it on the boy, using a piece of twine to hitch it properly—Fanuel’s skin was far too delicate to withstand the harsh sun they would endure as they walked. The old man himself would have to go bare-skinned, but he was very dark and did not worry about the sun. The wells outside were suspect, thanks to the black rains, but there were a few skins in the hut that, by God’s grace, were still partly full. There was a sturdy knife as well, with a leather sheath and a piece of string that served as a belt. The old man took a small bag of dried corn and filled a second bag with peanuts, found a couple of roughly hewn bowls, and placed the boy and their food on a zebra. There was no harness, but he was able to find a switch, so that the beast could at least be impelled to move as needed.
The boy asked where they were going.
Okokule unene,’ the old man told him.
Aaye Meme?’ No Mama?
Aaye Meme.’
He roused his ewe from her slumber, and she stared balefully at him for a moment before getting up. He hustled her and the zebra out of the hut, clucking to any of the other animals that would listen; a few more sheep followed with them, and the old man breathed a sigh of relief. They set off westward. It could not be more than a few days before they encountered the next village, and he was hoping for a road or a river before then.


✶     ✶     ✶


The old man and the boy walked for two weeks without seeing another living soul. Three villages went by in which all the inhabitants were rotting. He always made Fanuel stay at the edge of of the settlement with the animals while he investigated; he was able to refill the skins in the first two places, but there was nothing more to be had from them. When he came back, tired and aching, the boy would ask him, ‘Oto kongo shike?’
Itule,’ the old man would answer, and on they would go.
The old man tried to pray as they went. He could never get further than ‘Baba Yetu’ any more in his native Swahili; he could manage a few more phrases if he prayed in Latin or German, before the full meaning of the phrases caught up to him and tied his tongue in a knot. The boy did not pray along—he knew no Swahili, whereas the old man did not know the Our Father in Oshiwambo and could not summon the strength to translate it—but sometimes the boy sang, imitating the plainsong he had heard now and again, filling in the gaps in his memory by imagination. The result was a comical mixture of African, European, and nonsense words, but it was lovely nevertheless. The boy’s voice was pure, sweet, and trilling, like a lark’s song.
On the fifth day out, one of the three sheep that had consented to follow with them died. The old man had thought it looked sickly, and before long its wool had begun to fall off, as if it were leprous. When it dropped, he stopped them, and when he had determined that it was dead, he used the knife to take some skin from the animal and made himself a loincloth. Then they went on.
By the time they reached Etosha, the knot had descended from the tongue through the old man’s throat and into his stomach. Had the whole countryside been emptied? The sheep were starting to get hungry and thirsty—all the water and food that he and the boy could spare had been going to the zebra. What little water Etosha held was a blackish, salty sludge. But there were several aloe trees growing there, and the old man cut many leaves to sustain them, if and when the water ran out. The old man decided to turn south and follow the road toward Windhoek.
They walked. The struggling grasses gave way to naked sand. Once, far off the road, they saw the remains of a leopard, rotting beside the skeleton of what seemed to be a goat; they noticed it because of the hiss of the flies that were breeding in the meat.
One night, a week after Etosha, they stopped a little north of Otjiwarongo. The old man could see the town from where they made camp, but they did not advance to it; the boy and the beasts were exhausted. They set up a camp, and the old man found a dead baobab tree, broke some branches from it, and built them a fire. They had seen no predators since the leopard, but it did not pay to take chances. It was clear that night—a rarity in these strange weeks—and the numberless stars winked at them, white and blue in the blackness, as Fanuel slept.
The old man could not sleep. He sat and stared at the fire. It waved long orange arms toward the sky, and periodically cracked the pockets that had preserved moisture to nourish the baobab.
Kwa nini, Baba Kalunga?’ he murmured. Father God said nothing. A jackal howled nearby: its cry was suddenly stifled in a yelp, and there was quiet. The old man stood up and peered out westward, where the cry had come from, and saw a pale and ghostly shape advancing toward them.
‘Who are you?’ called out the old man in English. The shape said nothing, and he tried again. ‘Ongoye lye? Wer bist du?’
The shape answered him unexpectedly in Swahili: ‘Tazama, Babu Mwonaji, rangi farasi.’ Behold, Grandfather Seer, a pale horse.
The old man nodded. ‘Hazari ba jioni, Mtu Farasi.’
The shape came up to the fire. It was stark grey-white, whiter than a European, and thin, with a distended belly, and too many fingers. It was naked. It appeared to be of no sex, and if it had ever had hair, all of it had long since fallen out. The shape seated itself on the earth at the edge of the firelight, its long limbs and unblinking eyes making it look like a spider. It fixed his gaze on the boy.
Owa hala shike?’ the old man asked suspiciously, fingering the knife.
The shape smiled horribly, without looking away from the boy. ‘Nawe.’ I want you.
The old man shivered. He had dealt with devils before during his fasts; they rarely manifested themselves so explicitly, but it did happen at times. They were liars, but the horror was that it could be difficult to divine what they were lying about. They knew how to mix the truth with lies so as to throw an adept off the scent. The question was, this devil having said he wanted the old man, was that a lie or a treacherous truth?
Nawe,’ the shape repeated. It suddenly leaned forward towards the boy, and the old man darted between them. The shape laughed a guttural laugh and was still.
‘“Dry bones can harm no one”,’ it said in English in a sing-song voice. ‘“Co co rico, co co rico.”’
Mwongo,’ the old man hissed.
Ndiyo. Baba Mwongo anataka Babu Mwonaji.’  It laughed again.
Nenda zako, shetani.’
In qua potestate hæc facis,’ the shape replied in the holy language, ‘et quis tibi dedit hanc potestatem?’
The old man opened his mouth to pray, but he found himself still unable. His face crumpled. Fanuel stirred in his sleep, but did not wake. ‘Unataka nini na mimi?’
The shape put its many-fingered hands behind its head and stretched out its long legs, as if it could warm itself at the fire. ‘Kuja na kuona, babu.’
‘No.’
The shape smiled its horrible smile. ‘Mvulana atakuja.’ The boy will come.
Kamwe!’ the old man shouted. The boy started awake, crying. The old man turned and crouched beside him, gathering him up in his arms, and looked back in wrath at the pale shape—but it was gone.




✠     ✠     ✠


V.


I’ve been rather worried for some time now about a banned commenter of mine6; the ban is enforced via comment approval, and I’m reluctant to change that since it makes it so much harder for people to comment, but that does also mean that I generally glance at his comments as I’m deleting them. I’m not hurt by the things he says exactly, but I’m pretty disturbed by them. His alternation between declarations of my vileness and damnation (including telling me several times that I should commit suicide), the most pornographic, sacrilegious obscenities I’ve ever seen (many of them involving our Lord), and sweetly composed entreaties to join his brand of fire-and-brimstone Catholicism (because who wouldn’t crave those enticements?), are far creepier than any one of them would be alone. I haven’t the faintest idea what I can do for or about this person. Except to pray, and ask you all to pray with me. I am very slightly concerned for my physical safety from this person—after all, it isn’t unknown for people to stalk and eventually attack strangers (though he hasn't threatened me per se)—but …


I feel like I had a much more optimistic ending for this take when I started it. Well, toodles!




✠     ✠     ✠


1Shut up.
2Do monasteries have wifi? I’d assume they don’t, but on the other hand the Dominicans and Benedictines have such a long tradition of scholarship, I’d think they’d want access to virtual libraries these days. (I assume that the Jesuits do, because Jesuits. And that the Franciscans don’t, for the same reason.)
3Feel free to make your own ‘You’re going to put someone’s eye out with that thing’ joke here.
4Yes, brethren. And yes, …, but the brotherhood really is the more essential fact.
5The Truth About Homosexuality™ consists in: (1) gay sex is wrong; (2) any and every form of ‘gay identity’ (do not omit quotation marks), including any and all use of terms such as gay, is a rejection of Christ in favor of homosexuality as one’s primary identity; (3) nothing else. No copyright infringement is intended by this footnote.
6I will not give out any details about this person. I don’t want him attacked; nor do I want him to start targeting other people on my account.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Hidden Family of Tolkien Languages?

The making of a lambë [language] is the chief character of an Incarnate.
—Pengolodh of Gondolin (recorded in The War of the Jewels, compiled by Christopher Tolkien)


✠     ✠     ✠



John and Greta Carswell kindly invited me to participate in their podcast, The Tolkien Road, to discuss Elvish languages last week (pursuant to my piece back in February about Nandorin). I’ve been reflecting on Tolkien’s corpus of invented languages again since that time, and I’ve hit on another theory.


Most of the languages that Tolkien invented were those of the Elves: Quenya, Sindarin, Nandorin, Doriathrin, Telerin, and the Primitive Quendian that underlay them all. However, a handful of other languages that appear in the Middle-earth books were also treated. Few Mannish languages were given much attention; the most important of them, Westron or the Common Speech, was ‘translated’ entirely into English, and though its immediate ancestor Adûnaic1 was worked out rather more, neither language received quite the detailed analysis that Sindarin and Quenya were given, nor are there any complete texts. The Orkish languages, though a very few words (like Golug ‘Noldo, High-Elf’) are known, were considered by both Tolkien and the Elves to be ugly and degraded, and he devoted very little energy to developing them.


However, three non-Elvish languages are of interest to me, because I believe they may be connected: Valarin, the language of the Valar2; Khuzdûl, the secret tongue of the Dwarves; and the Black Speech, devised by Sauron. This last was—to a limited extent—the lingua franca of Sauron’s second empire in Mordor, in the period during which The Lord of the Rings is set, and a number of Black Speech words (such as ghâsh ‘fire’) did become common among Orcs.3 I suspect, for reasons I will lay out here, that both Khuzdûl and the Black Speech are in fact modified forms of Valarin, forming a Valinórean family as the tongues of the Elves form an Eldarin family.




First, a word on each of these three languages. Dwarvish or Khuzdûl is the one about which we know the most—ironically, since it was famous for being a jealously guarded secret of Dwarvish culture—so we’ll begin there. Tolkien composed Dwarvish largely on the pattern of Semitic languages, where meaning is encoded not in a root of sequential sounds, as in English or the Elvish tongues, but in something called a radical: a series of consonants (usually three, sometimes two) into which vowels are inserted in different ways to make different words. For example, the consonant sequence Kh-Z-D in Khuzdûl indicates the general meaning ‘Dwarvishness,’ and related words are built from it, such as Khuzd ‘Dwarf,’ Khazâd ‘Dwarves,’ and the term Khuzdûl itself.4 Dwarvish also seems to contain a limited amount of inflection: the suffix -ul serves as a patronymic and may be a more general possessive, genitive, or adjectival marker.


We know less about the grammar, or even the vocabulary, of Valarin, the language which the Valar devised for themselves. This is partly because the Elves themselves were not fond of Valarin; Rúmil of Tirion remarked, ‘The tongues and voices of the Valar are great and stern, and yet also swift and subtle in movement, making sounds that we find hard to counterfeit; and their words are long and rapid, like the glitter of swords’; Pengolodh the Sage said more simply that ‘the effect of Valarin upon Elvish ears was not pleasing.’5 It has a multitude of sounds, some of which—such as 3 (often written gh) and z—were avoided or altered in some varieties of Elvish, particularly Quenya.6 Some of its vowels (æ as in English cat, and ô as in English pot) were likewise absent from Eldarin tongues, and adjusted accordingly if words were borrowed from Valarin. We have a few hints at an intricate grammar, with features such as a plural infix rather than a suffix or an umlaut, exemplified in words like mâchanâz ‘authority,’ of which the plural is mâchanumâz, showing the plural infix -um-. We also know that, at least in certain words, some remarkably varied forms are permitted: both šata and ašata are given for ‘hair’ (and the form *ašta appears to be used as well, at least in compounds7), and both Ošošai and Oššai for the name of Ossë,8 while the word ‘fire’ can appear as both rušur and uruš.


Finally, the Black Speech. We have still less of this than of the other two, and for good reason; it was designed by Sauron, to serve as the language of his slaves, and is therefore the closest thing to a language of evil that Middle-earth knew. Tolkien loathed the language—in one of his letters, he mentions that when an admirer sent him a steel goblet engraved with the inscription on the Ring, he decided to use it as an ashtray—and put that loathing into his good characters as well; when Gandalf read the inscription at the Council of Elrond,


the change in the wizard’s voice was astounding. Suddenly it became menacing, powerful, harsh as stone. A shadow seemed to pass over the high sun, and the porch for a moment grew dark. All trembled, and the Elves stopped their ears.9


Nonetheless there are a few fragments which tell us something of its character. Its sound system is very unlike the Elvish languages: consonant clusters such as sn, rz, bh, shd, and zg are attested, all of which are impossible in Quenya and Sindarin alike (phonotactically or even phonologically); and it seems to be rich in gutturals, sounds the Elves found disgusting—the voiced velar fricative, spelled 3 or gh,6 which was systematically eliminated from Eldarin tongues, and the uvular pronunciation of r, as in French or German, are specifically attested. Tolkien states in The Peoples of Middle-earth that ‘[the Black Speech] was so full of harsh and hideous sounds and vile words that other mouths found it difficult to compass’. It’s been suggested by Alexandre Nemirovsky, a historian of the Near East, that the language was modeled on Hurrian, and the neighboring language of the Hittites is another possibility—Hittite had a number of archaic gutturals that are extremely difficult to pronounce, placed far back in the pharynx and epiglottis, and if the Black Speech shared these sounds then it would be natural that the Elves would find it both ugly and pointlessly difficult. Nor did the tengwar or, to my knowledge, the cirth have symbols to represent them. Nemirovsky also theorized, based on the forms of the verbs in the Ring text, that the language had an agglutinative, ergative grammar (as Hurrian did), markedly unlike the inflected and accusative structure of the Eldarin tongues—and, in fact, unlike most languages.


So on what grounds do I propose that all three of these languages are part of a Valinórean family? Well, let’s start with the origins of each. Valarin was of course composed by the Valar. And so was Dwarvish; or rather, it was composed by Aulë, the Vala who made the Dwarves and invented a language for them to speak. Similarly, the Black Speech was invented by Sauron,10 who as a Maia would have known Valarin as his ‘native’ language. It would therefore be natural for both Aulë and Sauron to draw upon their own tongue in forming a new one.


Is there any evidence that they did so? In the case of the Black Speech, yes: the word nazg ‘ring’ is suspiciously similar to Valarin *naškad, tentatively isolated from Mâchananaškad ‘Doom-Ring.’11 It’s just possible that ghâsh ‘fire’ is ultimately derived from Valarin uruš of the same meaning, if a uvular r were raised into a velar fricative gh. Khuzdûl is less tractable. Mahal, the Dwarves’ name for Aulë, could be descended from Valarin mâchan ‘authority,’ which also yielded the Quenya title Máhan for the lords of the Valar. Delgûmâ—a Valarin word whose meaning unfortunately isn’t recorded—is cited as the source of the Quenya telluma ‘dome,’ and although it’s a stretch, it’s just possible that the Dwarvish *tumun (isolated from Tumunzahar ‘Hollowbold, Nogrod’) is related.


A subordinate reason for supposing that these languages are related is their similar phonology. All three share certain sounds (e.g. sh, gh, z) that never appear in the chief Elvish tongues, as well as seeming to display aspirated stops (e.g. kh, th as in English backhand, outhouse), which dropped out of Elvish languages. All also seem to display a marked preference for the cardinal vowels a, i, and u; the Black Speech in particular may lack e altogether, and o is stated to be rare in the appendices to LotR. This isn’t conclusive, though: Adûnaic shares these traits to a degree, though it perhaps favors the cardinal vowels a little less.


However, my real reason for thinking that Khuzdûl has a Valinórean background, aside from the obvious argument of its craftsman, is structural. Valarin is not well understood, but I think it shows tell-tale signs of being, like Dwarvish, a language based on radicals rather than stems. The marked and irregular variations in some of the (all too few!) words we have suggests it: the common thread between ašata, *ašta, and šata for ‘hair’ is precisely the consonants Š-T, and the forms rušur and uruš both suggest a radical R-Š with the general meaning ‘fire.’ The persistence, respectively, of the vowels a and u may parallel Adûnaic, in which radicals were again the basis of words, but had a theme vowel as well, which had to appear somewhere in the word (though its place could vary considerably): so, the radical-theme pairing for ‘hair’ would be Š-T (A), and so on.


And what do we gain by this theory? Nothing really, but it’s so much fun.


POSTSCRIPT: A VALARIN WORD?


The Valarin vocabulary available to us hardly amounts to more than about thirty words. A few more can be isolated from compounds, with modest likelihood: *ezel ‘green’ seems to be a fairly safe deduction (appearing in Ezellôchâr ‘the Green Mound’ and Ibrîniðilpathânezel for Telperion, literally ‘Silverflower-Greenleaf’ … probably), as do *ibri ‘silver’ or ‘white,’ *igas ‘heat,’ *naškad ‘ring,’ and *phelûn ‘dwelling place.’


I think we can add another: *aman ‘blessed.’ The words amanaišal ‘unmarred,’ dušamanûðân ‘marred,’ and the name Mânawenûz ‘Manwë [lit. Blessed One]’ all appear to contain it—less certainly in the case of Mânawenûz, given the long â, but the possibility is still there (especially since, though no Valarin reflex is recorded, the Quenya name Manwë did also have a rare variant Amanwë, reported in the index of the Silmarillion if memory serves). The name Aman, typically translated as ‘the Blessed Realm,’ was the name of the continent upon which the Valar and the Calaquendi Elves lived—charmingly referred to as Faërie in The Hobbit—but I know of no Primitive Quendian stem from which this name could be derived, suggesting that it comes from Valarin, and I think this too strengthens the idea that *aman, as such, is a Valarin word.


This allows us to make a surprising observation. H. K. Fauskanger points out in his article on Valarin at Ardalambion that ‘The word dušamanûðân “marred” would seem to be a passive participle by its gloss; if we had known the verb “to mar,” we could have isolated the morphemes used to derive such participles.’ However, if in fact it derives from *aman ‘blessed,’ then it is (probably) a modified adjective rather than a participle. What’s interesting is that, unlike in English, the word meaning ‘unmarred’ is morphologically simpler than the word ‘marred’: the latter takes both a prefix and a suffix, the former only a suffix. The concept of being blessed, happy, or free from evil is apparently treated as the base, and the idea of marring has to be added to that base—the exact opposite of the relationship between the English words unmarred and marred. This seems deeply harmonious with Tolkien’s thought as a whole; evil cannot make, it can only mock, distort, or reduce good things; as Elrond remarked at the Council, ‘Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.’


It would also allow us to divide the two words ‘marred’ and ‘unmarred,’ thus: aman-aišal and duš-aman-ûðân. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence of what *aišal, *duš, or *ûðân might mean in isolation—and they might even be inflectional affixes, rather than independent words. (It’s tempting to see an analogy to English dys- in Valarin duš-, but the temptation should be resisted, if only because there’s no real evidence for it in the rest of the corpus.) Perhaps another and more insightful linguist can find a place to go from here.




✠     ✠     ✠


1This was the vernacular language of Númenor, or in English Westernesse, the home given to the Elf-Friends (Men who were allied with the Elves and friendly to the Valar2) after the destruction of Beleriand at the end of the First Age. Númenor itself was destroyed shortly before the close of the Second Age, a little more than three thousand years before the events of LotR.
2The Valar were godlike or angelic powers (indeed, the name Vala means ‘Power’) created by Eru, ‘the One’ (i.e. God in a monotheistic sense), which governed the created world. They assumed incarnate forms freely, out of love for the material world which they had been sent to serve; but they did not need or depend on their bodies any more than we depend on our clothes to exist.
3Nonetheless, Sauron’s original goal of making it the native tongue of all who served him seems to have been frustrated. During most of the Third Age, the only beings who knew and spoke the Black Speech were the Nazgûl; it was revived after Sauron’s return to Mordor, and throve there from about 2945 (allowing him and/or the Ringwraiths time to teach it to the Men and Orcs who served him) until his demise in 3019. The only race to whom it was a birth-tongue were the Olog-hai, a new subspecies of Trolls bred by Sauron to be able to endure the sun.
4This important structural element was passed on to other languages, notably Mannish ones. Adûnaic was built on a similar structure, which it then passed on to the Common Speech. The name Gimli is almost certainly related to the Adûnaic noun gimil, which literally means ‘stars’ and, by extension, the starry sky.
5Rúmil of Tirion was an Elf of Aman, the Blessed Realm and home of the Valar, who devised the first Elvish script, upon which the later tengwar were based. (Most inscriptions we see in LotR, other than runes, are tengwar.) He also composed the Ainulindalë, the story of the preëxistence and operations of the Valar and their lesser companions, the Maiar, before Middle-earth was created: a translation stands at the beginning of the Silmarillion.
Pengolodh the Sage was one of the ancient Loremasters, born in Middle-earth during the First Age when Beleriand was in flower. He was behind only Rúmil and Fëanor himself, the greatest of the Eldar, in brilliance of intellect; he is thought to be one of the very few Elves who ever learned Dwarvish. He left Middle-earth for Aman sometime between 1695 and 1700 of the Second Age (i.e., about 5600 years before the events of LotR).
6Tolkien (like other linguists) sometimes uses the letter 3, or yogh, to express the sound of a voiced velar fricative: a sound rather like a ‘blurred’ g (related to g the same way v is related to b). The digraph gh is used for the same purpose. All known Eldarin languages eliminated this sound without a trace. Similarly, the Elves regularly changed the sound of z to a trilled r (except for the Vanyarin dialect of Quenya, which was never spoken in Middle-earth, save presumably during the War of Wrath); the same thing happened historically in the transition from Old Latin to Classical Latin.
7The compound in question is the name Tulukhaštâz, Noldorinized as Tulkas. (I’ve taken the liberty of emending the recorded form Tulukhastâz, which contains s without a caron, on grounds of the etymology of the word and the fact that Tolkien did often make errors in his handwriting!) It contains the word tulukha ‘yellow,’ and is translated as ‘Yellow-Haired’; the final z appears at the end of many Valarin nouns, chiefly names, and may be a nominative marker.
8Ossë was one of the Maiar, spirits similar in kind to the Valar but lower in stature. He was one of the lesser governors of the seas; one of his names in Sindarin was Gaerys, which contains the word gaer ‘sea.’ Interestingly he is one of the few Maiar whose name was borrowed from Valarin, instead of given in an Elvish equivalent; this happened moderately often with the Powers themselves, but among the Maiar only Ossë and Eönwë (the herald of the Valar) are so honored.
9From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond.
10Sauron, whose original name was Mairon ‘the Admirable,’ was one of the company of Aulë in the beginning, before his corruption (as was Saruman). Given Sauron’s passion for breeding new types of Orcs and Trolls, and the fact that the Orcs themselves may once have been Elves who were twisted and ruined under the ‘care’ of Sauron in the First Age, the imprint of Aulë’s character seems to have been strong even in the depths of his malice. (Contrary to popular belief, Tolkien never settled the problem of Orkish origins to his own satisfaction. The thesis that they were corrupted Elves is the best known and perhaps the most credible, being ‘canonized’ in the published Silmarillion; but it has difficulties of its own.)
11Due to the restrictive phonotactics of Quenya, this term was borrowed into that language as Máhanaxar.