Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.

2/27/2006

Appendices D, E & F

Tolkien's attention to detail in all aspects of Middle-Earth lends an air of greater authenticity to this world. As Middle-Earth is supposed to be an imaginary time of this real world, it makes sense that the calendar by which its history is reckoned should be different than that of the modern Gregorian calendar which was not instituted until 1752. While the Elves measured the passage of time in longer measurements, the calendar used by the Numenoreans at the beginning of the Second Age - known commonly as the "King's Reckoning"- was later adapted by the hobbits after the founding of the Shire.

In the King's Reckoning, there were twelve months broken up into weeks that consisted of seven days just like ours. But whereas we account for 365 days by varying the number days within each month ("Thirty days hath September, April, June and November..."), the Middle-Earth calendar has thirty days in each month plus five specially designated days throughout the year that do not belong to a specific month or day of the week (360 + 5 = 365). One of the biggest differences with our modern calendar is that their equivalent of February has thirty days, something you may or may not have noticed in "The Tale of Years".

The first and last days in Middle-Earth are designated as "Yule" days - Yule I follows the last day of the old year and Yule II precedes the first day of the new year. In between June and July are three days that signify the middle of the year: Lithe (or Lithe I), Mid-Year's Day and Afterlithe (or Lithe II). Because of this configuration, any given date falls on the same day of the week every year. And for leap years, there is one extra Lithe day following Mid-Year's Day called Overlithe.

One glaring error that Peter Jackson made in "The Fellowship of the Ring" was a line delivered by Saruman concerning the Nine Nazgul who he learned were abroad. He says "they crossed the River Isen on Mid-Summer's Eve disguised as riders in black". Well, first of all there is no such thing as Mid-Summer's Eve by Tolkien's calendar. It's possible that Jackson meant the day before Mid-Year's Day but according to "The Tale of Years", the Nazgul crossed the Isen on September 18th - hardly mid-summer or mid-year. Perhaps he felt that audiences would identify with a "mid-summer's eve". I'm sure even most fans failed to notice this. I didn't even think about it until I just read through the Appendix.

Anyway, if you've ever looked at our calendar and marked an anniversary of a significant event in The Lord of the Rings, you were way off. Tolkien didn't include a conversion table that showed the relationship between his dates and our modern calendar. But anyone with a working knowledge of spreadsheet software (and the inclination) can create their own. Being a Tolkien Geek, I did just that. There is one other variable however. Since Mid-Year's Day in Middle-Earth corresponds seasonally to the Summer Solstice, the Middle-Earth calendar is actually ahead of ours by ten days. So our New Year's Day would equate to their Afteryule (January) 9th.

Confused? It's not surprising. But here is a list of significant dates during the War of the Ring converted to our own equivalent:

- September 22nd (Bilbo's Birthday) = September 14th
- October 6th (Attack on Weathertop) = September 28th
- December 25th (Fellowship departs Rivendell) = December 16th
- March 10th (the Dawnless Day) = March 3rd
- March 25th (Destruction of the Ring) = March 18th

One other thing I wanted to mention. When the Ring is destroyed and Sauron is overthrown on March 25th, Aragorn (as King Elessar) decrees that March 25th will be the first day of the new year for every year going forward. This is not an arbitrary date for Tolkien. Knowing his history, he was aware that up until 1752, March 25th was recognized by the Kingdom of Great Britain as the first day of the year because all throughout the Middle Ages, England (as well as much of Europe) adapted the reckoning of the Christian Liturgical year which began on the Feast of the Annunciation (the revelation to Mary of her conception of Jesus Christ) which is March 25th [revised and corrected]. While Tolkien probably didn't plan this from the beginning, it seems he decided at some point to make this parallel.

[I've only scratched the surface here on the intricasies of the Middle-Earth Calendars. For a more in-depth analysis, I heartily recommend this page at "Gondolin.net".]

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Part of the mythology that Tolkien created within Middle-Earth is that the text of the story comes directly from the Red Book of Westmarch, written in the language of Westron or The Common Speech as it existed at the end of the Third Age. Tolkien, as a sort of editor, presents the work as if he has translated it into modern English. So why then discuss such topics as spelling and pronunciation?

Simply stated, the names of beings and places pre-date modern English and are not subject to typical English pronunciation, which is really an amalgam of rules that evolved from several other Germanic and Romance languages. Tolkien, remember, was a professor of languages - a subject very near and dear to his heart. For Tolkien, even words that originated in the Common Speech conformed to the rules of pronunciation associated with Quenya, the ancient High-Elven language of the Noldor. Peter Jackson did a decent job (with a few notable exceptions) of conforming to Tolkien's pronunciation guidelines in his films. In fact, it was here that many a casual reader of the books first heard some of these names pronounced the way that the author had intended.

I, myself, have had to "re-train" myself in the way I read the books to try and get it right. For years, I referred to Celeborn and Cirdan incorrectly as SELLeborn and SEERdan. In Quenya, there is so soft "c". These names are properly pronounced KELLeborn and KEERdan. The letter "G" has only a hard sound as in "give", never a "j" sound as in "gentle". The vowel sounds are also very specific. In English, the vowels a, e, i, o and u each have long and short sounds but in Middle-Earth they are only pronounced as ah, eh, ee, oh and oo, much like in Spanish or Italian. As such, Gandalf's proper pronunciation is GAHndAHlf. I did notice that Peter Jackson's hobbits deviated from this, using a longer "a" as it sounds in "stand". Purists would hate this but frankly that's the way I'm most comfortable saying it. And, hey, perhaps living in such isolation the hobbits developed their own peculiar dialect. There is evidence in the next Appendix to lend credence to this theory.

Incidentally, when you listen to Christopher Lee - who plays SAHrumAHn - his pronunciation is perfect. This is because he himself is a huge Tolkien fan (which makes you wonder if he raised any objections to the "Mid-Summer's Eve" line). The other vowel sound that most people get wrong is "i". Minas Tirith should be Meenas Teereeth, not with an "eye" sound as in the mathematical term "minas". There are also some vowel diphthongs that I've gotten wrong in the past. For example, "au" should always be pronounced as it is in "how", not as in "dinosaur". Sauron should be SOWron, never SAWron. Also, the "ai" diphthong used in words like Edain and Dunedain is pronounced "aye" as in "fine".

Tolkien dedicates the rest of Appendix E to writing. he differentiates between the Tengwar, or letters, and the "Cirith" which are primarily runes. The former was used for writing with an implement, such as a pen. The latter was reserved for inscriptions. Unfortunately, Tolkien overindulges himself here and gets extremely technical. I admit that I find this part difficult to follow. Unless languages are your passion, it's hard to get into it. And I barely got through second year high school Spanish. He also makes no mention of how the Common Speech is written. Did Bilbo and Frodo use the Elvish letters or some other form? He isn't really clear on this one.


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One of the most interesting legacies of Tolkien's work is his creation of the languages of Middle-Earth. He developed enough vocabulary, syntax and grammatical rules that languages such as Quenya and Sindarin can be learned like any other language. For those interested in pursuing this depth of study, I recommend the following websites: Quenya Course, Elvish Dialogue Translations & Ardalambion. As I noted above, languages aren't exactly my thing.

In Appendix F, Tolkien discusses the different languages of Middle-Earth in relation to the races who spoke them: Elves, Men, Hobbits and others. For the Elves, Tolkien explains the difference between Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya is the more formal of the two languages and was spoken chiefly by the Noldor. Sindarin was the more colloquial tongue, spoken mostly by the Wood Elves, or Teleri, in Mirkwood and also in Lothlorien. When Galadriel spoke Elvish, it was mostly Quenya which I believe is the language used for the songs that Tolkien included in the later chapters of Book Two. Legolas' primary language was Sindarin but he understood the language of his Noldor kin.

The Common Speech originated among the Men of Middle-Earth. Although the Numenoreans spoke a language closer to Elvish called Adunaic they were fluent in Quenya. Those Numenoreans who were seduced by Sauron into sailing to Valinor rejected the Elvish language and even outlawed it. But the faithful, including Elendil and his followers, were much closer to the Elves and spoke Quenya as a second language. This tradition followed the Dunedain all the way down to Aragorn. And over time, the Numenoreans and their descendents enriched the Common Speech with element of the Elven language.

Hobbits adapted the Common Speech but Tolkien points out that they may have changed it slightly. He writes that "they used it in their own manner freely and carelessly". Perhaps Peter Jackson took note of this and encouraged the actors to "mispronounce" Gandalf? Who knows? Because one of the three strains of Hobbits, the Stoors, migrated over the Misty Mountains and spent some time in the south near Dunland, they may have brought with them a word that the indigenous people still used, "holbytla", which meant "hole-builder". The word Hobbit may well have been derived from this term.

Tolkien then touches briefly upon the languages of Ents, Trolls and Dwarves. The Dwarves were very secretive of their own language, guarding it as a treasure of the past. In fact they were even more secretive about their names. Tolkien writes:"Gimli's own name, however, and the names of all his kin, are of Northern (Mannish) origin. Their own secret and 'inner' names, their true names, the Dwarves have never revealed to any one of alien race. Not even on their tombs do they inscribe them."

The rest of the section focuses on how Tolkien "translated" the various languages and does it in such a convincing way that the reader is able to buy into the idea that these cultures were real. and that's one of the primary reasons that Tolkien included all of this material that made up the Appendices; to make all of it more "real" to the reader (and perhaps to himself).


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Postscript

Well, there you have it: The Lord of the Rings from Prologue to Appendices. It's been six months to the day since I first posted an introduction to The Fellowship of the Ring, which was the official "kick-off" of this project. It was probably foolish of me to thing that I could get all this done in the three month time period that I originally planned. Actually, I probably could have finished it that quickly, but by doing so I wouldn't have put in half of the effort that I ultimately did.

It's been a long (sometimes grueling) process but I've learned a lot more about the books by doing it. Hopefully, those of you who followed along got something out of it as well. So what's next? I'm not really sure. Certainly, I need a long break. And I'm not eager to tackle anything significant anytime soon. For the time being I'll likely make a general post now and then. I actually have one planned for my top ten favorite casting choices in Peter Jackson's films. One day I'll read through the books again and maybe I'll make amendments to the original posts as I'm always discovering new stuff as I read.

In the meantime I'm open to suggestions as well as any nagging questions that anyone might have. I've appreciated your past input and encouragement.

8 Comments:

At 10:34 PM, Anonymous KevinM said...

Bravo! Job well done.

I'd suggest taking up either the Simmarillion or the hobbit next. After a well deserved break, that is. I found reading the Sim. profoundly altered my understanding of LOTR.

It would also be interesting to know your take on the top ten worst casting choices, as well as the best.

I'm also curious as to why Jackson didn't shoot The Hobbit when he shot LOTR in one fell swoop.

Thanks again for an interesting diversion.

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on writing what looks like a great series. I just discovered it, and read the first two chapters, and am looking forward to the rest.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Thank you for the tremendous effort. I found your commentary uplifting and enjoyable. A true labor of love. Along the way I remembered why these books had such a tremendous effect on me. I am overdue for a return to them.

Again, I thank you.

 
At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Ronald Kyrmse said...

I almost agree with you on the matter of Middle-earth calendars vs. our own. For more details see the following page on my Gondolin website -

Concordance Among the Calendars of Middle-earth
http://www.geocities.com/otsoandor/Concordance.htm

Of course, I would very much appreciate your comments on this analysis and the whole Gondolin site!

Nai anar caluva tielyanna!

Certur Harmatir

 
At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Feast of the Conception (March 25) and the Feast of the Assumption (August 15)are NOT the same thing and were never the same thing...not that anyone will read this note after so long a time.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Gary said...

Sorry, sloppy research on my part. I copied the info from what I thought was a fairly reliable source.

And looks like twelve years of Catholic school made little impact.

Duly noted and corrected.

 
At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion about the correct pronunciation of Tolkien's names. It is remarkable that in Dutch all vowels are actually pronounced exactly as Tolkien specifies it. I have never called Gandalf anything else but Gahndahlf, and the same with Sauron and Minas Tirith. To me the Anglo-American versions have always sounded as abominations.

 
At 7:08 AM, Blogger Carly said...

Just wanted to make a comment on the existence of a midsummer's eve...Elrond mentions midsummer's eve at the end of chapter 3 of The Hobbit.

 

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