Sunday, 4 December 2011

Tolkien Work Current and Future and Some Linguistic Archaeology

This week Wotan is taking a break from Nysianer Chronicles (which is taking up many notebooks with root words and proposed declensions and the dreaded chapter two exposition story around the languages more to come in the holiday break)
I wanted to report on some interesting areas of Tolkien Studies Wotan is currently involved with and end with two bonus Tolkienian linguistic explorations that have come out of this work


I can hardly believe that we are in the final weeks of the Mythgard Institute's very first excellent course Tolkien and the Epic - and what a way to conclude this exploration that has taken us through some of the great works that influenced Tolkien (Beowulf, The Kalevala, The Lay of the Volsungs) and great works by Tolkien himself (Sigurd und Gudrun, The Children of Hurin and The Lay of Leithian).
In addition to excellent lectures by the President of the Mythgard Institute, the Tolkien Professor himself, Corey Olsen (his lectures on The Lay of Leithian were awe inspiring) we have also the incredible good fortune to have guest lectures by some of the pantheon of Tolkienian scholarship including Dr Verlyn Flieger, Tom Shippey (the Gandalf of Tolkien studies) and this week Dr Michael Drout - I consider myself a groupie of all four! It is quite amazing to sit at your computer (our modern day Palantir) and have these important scholars comes as if out of the west to talk about Tolkien and, more importantly, interact with students online with q
uestions and discussions,

And what a way to end this first course than with a three week exploration of Tolkien's masterwork The Lord of the Rings. Dr Drout's talk on The Fellowship of the Ring focused on how Tolkien gets us to care about Middle Earth and how knowledge is distributed in the narrative. This was some of the most original thought I have heard on The Lord of the Rings in a while. I am a massive fan of Dr Drout having heard all his Modern Scholar series and his excellent Anglo-Saxon Aloud podcasts. I have been through his landmark work J. R. R. Tolkien, Beowulf and the Critics twice and am looking forward to his upcoming Tolkien book The Tower and the Ruin and his new book on philology. C.S.Lewis said of Tolkien that he lived inside languages- and I think it can be said of Dr Drout that he lives inside Tolkien - the power of The Mythgard I
nstitute is being able to take a virtual class with an important Tolkien academic like Professor Drout as he sits in his house (having just read a chapter of The Two Towers to his son for bedtime)

The spring the great work of The Mythgard Institute continues with two brilliant courses - Tolkien and Lewis and the Making of Myth and Taking Harry Seriously -Exploring Harry Potter (taught by the excellent Amy Sturgis)

Here is a short film showing some exciting highlights of The Tolkien and Epic Course....

Wotan is also very excited to announce that he has recently been excepted into a Phd Programme through The University of Wales to work with one of the top Tolkien scholars Dr Dimitra Fimi on Tolkien Studies. Dr Fimi is the author of one of the key works on Tolkien - the 2011 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award winning Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to well as teacher of two of the best online courses I have taken J.R.R Tolkien Myth and Middle Earth in Context and Fantasy Literature Before and After Tolkien

Wotan feels like Frodo at the Council of Elrond starting on this quest! My Phd project which I have started work on is called "I'll have to find out what that means" Employing Literary and Linguistic Archaeology to Unearth the Earliest Strata of Tolkien’s Secondary World - And there will be more to come on this project in the coming weeks, months, and years!

FINDEGIL - An Unsung Gondorian Scribe with Nice Hair

In preparing for our Mythgard Institute The Fellowship of the Ring exploration I re-read the notes on The Shire Records and one character jumped out at me who is very important as without him we would not have the Account of the War of the Ring translated by Professor Tolkien - and that is the Gondorian scribe - FINDEGIL

In the Note on The Shire Records it states that the original Red Book of Westmarch was not preserved. Several copies, with various notes and later additions, were made. The first copy was made by request of King Elessar of Gondor and Arnor, brought to Gondor by Frodo's companion Thain Peregrin I. This copy was known as the Thain's Book and "contained much that was later omitted or lost". In Gondor it underwent much annotation and correction, particularly regarding Elvish languages. Also added was an abbreviated version of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen by Faramir's grandson Barahir. A copy of a revised and expanded Thain's Book was made probably by request of Peregrin's great-grandson and delivered to the Shire. It was written by the scribe Findegil and stored at the Took residence in Great Smials. This copy was important because it alone contained the whole of Bilbo's Translations from the Elvish (i.e. the great tales of the Silmarillion). It was this version that passed through many hands and came down to Professor Tolkien who translated it.

So without the scribe Findegil we would not have the account of The War of the Ring and perhaps the great tales of the First (and Second?) ages.

So who was Findegil and, more importantly, what does his name mean (key to Tolkien). ]

According to the Encylcopedia of Arda -

" Findegil's main claim to historical notice was due to a note he added to the Thain's Book, marking its completion in the year IV 172. This gives Findegil the distinction of being the last character in any of Tolkien's tales whom we can date with confidence."
So we know he was a scribe who lived in Gondor in the time of the Reunited Kingdom

His name certainly sounds Elvish and specfically Sindarin -

The Roots FIN, FINN, FINDEL all have to do with hair, a single strand or mass PHIN+DELAD hair (as in Glorfindal) GLORFINDEL = GLAUR + PHIN+DELA. DEL thick dense, Q PHINDELE mass of long hair OLD SINDARIN findel later finnel (Parma Eldalamberon 17, p. 17)

But there is also the Quenya gloss FINTA to make, show off or decorate a thing with delicate work (a good root word for a scribe)

GIL of course means star (Gil-Galad) and can also mean glint or spark

Ah but then in The Etymologies we find the root TEK (p. 391) which means to make a mark, write or draw together and the Quenya word TEKIL meaning pen which in Noldorian becomes TEGOL so not to far from DEGIL - so perhaps his name means - He with the fine hair who writes with a pen."

So lets hear if for our fair haired Gondorian scribe Findegil for without his effort we would never have heard of any of these glorious tales!


Faramir is one of my favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings and I am enjoying revisiting with him this weekend in preparing the readings for The Two Towers lectures next week by Professor Olsen. I have always thought it interesting that Tolkien gave his own recurring nightmare of the great wave comimg over the land to Faramir.

As to the roots and meaning of his name - there is an easy part and a not so easy part.

The easy part is MIR which according to The Etymologies is the root for jewel, precious thing, treasure from which we get the Quenya MIRE which in Parma Eldalamberon 17 Tolkien quotes for atamir, heirloom as a gloss for the Old English word maðm (a precious treasure, valuable gift) there is also the Quenya word MIRYA for a beautiful work of art. MIRIAMA very precious So it is pretty clear that the MIR ending means jewel of precious thing.

The Fara (or Phara) is s bit trickier. In The Etymologies there is a root PHAR from which we get the Quenya word FARYA meaning suffice, sufficient

So Faramir could be a Quenya/Sindarin mixed name for "a sufficient jewel??"

Boromir's name according to the Etymologies might mean enduring, faithful, loyal -so perhaps his name means faithful or loyal jewel.

It is interesting to posit if Denethor their father gave these names then we are already seeing a bit of the source of favoritism between the two sons - both are jewels but one is loyal and faithful and the other one is only sufficient. Also the irony of Boromir's name based on what happens to him is palpable.

But there is another possible root that comes from Parma Eldalamberon 17 (Words, Phases, and Passages in LOTR) is PHERE which means quick, ready, prompt - so could his name made The Jewel that is ready (to fight) ... Possibly.

That's it for now from Wotan - in the next blog post Wotan will discuss two new books on constructed languages he is currently reading The Dictionary of Made Up Languages and From Elvish to Klingon - Exploring Constructed Languages

Lebe Wohl for now!

1 comment:

Troels said...

I'm a little behind on my blog reading, so this is a little belated, but congratulations on getting into (onto?) the Ph.D. programme! I'll follow the progress with great interest.

And merry Christmas!

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