COTW Appendix F11 - On Translation

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Belba Grubb From Stock

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Sep 6, 2005, 9:29:54 AM9/6/05
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Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Certainly not JRRT. Here for the last time in this work he expounds on
Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves for our entertainment and consideration in a
way that not only allows us to discover more about those peoples, whom
we thought we knew quite well by now, but also must have afforded him
great pleasure both as a philologist and a subcreator.

If it will interest you, I will send you a copy (rather rough) of
the matter dealing with Languages (and Writing), Peoples and
Translation.

The latter [Translation...BB] has given me much thought. It seems
seldom regarded by other creators of imaginary worlds, however
gifted as narrators (such as Eddison). But then I am a
philologist, and much though I should like to be more precise on
other cultural aspects and features, that is not within my
competence. Anyway 'language' is the most important, for the story
has to be told, and the dialogue conducted in a language; but
English cannot have been the language of any people at that time.
-- From Letter 144, 1954, to Mrs. Naomi Mitchison (the matter of
the rest of this paragraph and subsequent nine paragraphs
follows very closely but is not identical to the matter of
Appendix FII)

In the secondary world, the Translator explains that the Common Speech,
or Westron, has "inevitably" been turned into modern English. Some
attempt has been made to represent the different dialects, but the
differences between the rustic dialect of The Shire and the Westron used
by Elves or the Dunedain of Gondor was much greater than is shown here.
For one thing, Hobbits no longer distinguished between familiar and
deferential forms of the second and sometimes third person in their
speech, and so during his first few days in Minas Tirith Pippin used the
familiar form even with Denethor, who tolerated it, but it must have
astonished others and likely helped build the rumor that Pippin was a
very high-ranking individual in his own land. A few Hobbits could also
use a more formal, learned form of Westron when the occasion required.
In general, much-traveled Men (such as Aragorn) and Dwarves could speak
Westron in the manner of those among whom they found themselves. Elves
had the command of many styles although when they spoke Westron most
naturally it was in a form similar to their own speech and even older in
form than that used in Gondor. Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would,
without regard for words.

The Translator in this secondary world has also translated all Westron
names according to their senses and notes that when English names or
titles occur it is because those forms were current at the time in
Westron. Thus we have Rivendell and Imladris, Mount Doom and Orodruin,
and Brandywine for Baranduin, although this last example was actually a
Hobbit alteration of the Elven word rather than an actual translation.
Hobbit names were remarkable in that names could be inherited; also,
most surnames were derived from place names or (especially in Bree)
plants and flowers. Some were derived from jesting nicknames and a few,
notably Took and Boffin, were old names of forgotten meaning and so were
anglicized by the Translator. For first names, Hobbits usually named
their girls after flowers or jewels. Boys and some girls received first
names that had no particular meaning at all, such as Bilbo (and Belba)
or Bungo. The translator goes into more detail about Hobbit naming.

The Translator also sometimes used surviving elements of Celtic names to
signify names that reflected old remnants of Hobbit and Mannish
languages in place names, for example, Bree, Combe, Archet and Chetwood.
One Hobbit name, Meriadoc, was also derived this way because this
character's Westron name, when shortened, meant "jolly"; thus we have
Merry (who actually seemed at times to be as morose as Hobbits ever get!).

The Translator also turned Mannish languages that were related to the
Westron into forms related to English, notably with the language of
Rohan, which

I have accordingly made to resemble ancient English, since it was
related both (more distantly) to the Common Speech, and (very
closely) to the former tongue of the northern Hobbits, and was in
comparison to the Westron archaic. In the Red Book it is noted in
several places that when Hobbits heard the speech of Rohan they
recognized many words and felt the language to be akin to their
own, so that it seemed absurd to leave the recorded names and words
of the Rohirrim in a wholly alien style.

The Translator then turns to the derivation of some unusual Hobbit
words, such as mathom, and explains the relationship between the word
smial and Gollum's actual first name (we never learn his surname) of
Smeagol. He also notes that the northerly language of Dale is
represented only in dwarf names and explains why it's "dwarves" and not
"dwarfs" or "dwarrows" and that the Dwarves’ own name for themselves is
Khazad, one of the few words in their private language that Dwarves have
allowed to become known among other peoples.

The English word elves has been used to translate both Quendi, the name
in High-elven for all their kind, and Eldar, the name of the Three
Kindreds who, except for the Sindar, travelled to the Undying Real at
the beginning of time.

After an eloquent description of the Elves, the People of the Stars; the
vast difference between them and our usual impression of an elf these
days; and the remark that they now have departed and will never return;
the Translator closes this appendix on a lighter note with a detailed
discussion of three names: Hobbit, Gamgee and Brandywine.

DISCUSSION:
1. I have stayed away from the primary world and how this appendix
developed from it because of my own limitations as well as uncertainty
as to how interested people would be in discussing it. In doing so it
has dawned on me just how uncertain JRRT and his publishers must have
been about the popular appeal of this subcreation based on linguistics.
This was less true for /The Hobbit/ but must have been quite a dilemma
when pressure grew on JRRT to write a sequel to that book, one that he
resolved beautifully with what turned out to be a song in prose that was
indeed "no bedtime story," but much, much more. As it turned out the
languages portion was very popular indeed, and JRRT discussed his
invented languages and how the legends sprang from them both in letters
and in these appendices (and probably elsewhere, although I have not
read or heard them yet). What is your reaction to the linguistics, both
in the primary and world?

2. It is not possible to get "the jest" JRRT speaks of in linking the
names Gamgee and Cotton until one reads the biography and /Letters./
Are there other "in" jokes here and/or anywhere in /The Hobbit/ or /The
Lord of the Rings/?

3. The term dwarves first appeared in /The Hobbit/ and in 1938 JRRT
explained the "real answer" to why that was used instead of the
dictionary plural of dwarfs: "I knew no better." Even back then,
however, JRRT pointed out that dwarrows would be the form it might have
taken and mentioned that these are only approximate translations of the
"Old Elvish" names for "beings of not quite the same kinds and
functions." He also pointed out practically that the word dwarves
sounds well with the word elves. This illuminates his love with the
sound of words and also shows that while he developed and deepened
parts of his invented world he never really changed it. What other
words or words in the two works also provide some illumination?

4. JRRT pointed out to Mrs. Mitchison in 1954 that few other
subcreators have given much thought to the languages of the worlds they
have imagined. Did he start a trend, so that now we have other writers
inventing languages or at least using language to bring their world to
life? Is the work of JRRT still unique in this? I haven't read much CS
Lewis; how did he treat language(s) in his created world?

5. JRRT was occasionally incensed by some attempts to translate his
work, in particular, place names. For those whose native language is
not English but who speak English and so can compare the work in
Tolkien‘s native tongue and the translation into their own, how well did
the translator do?

6. Your comments, questions and

R. Dan Henry

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Sep 7, 2005, 10:29:47 PM9/7/05
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On Tue, 06 Sep 2005 08:29:54 -0500, Belba Grubb From Stock
<ba...@dbtech.net> wrote:

This is a wonderful section, where we see Tolkien momentarily relax from
the necessary pretense that he is making this up and lets us see Tolkien
the translator for a few pages. Unfortunately, this proved so convincing
evidence of Middle-Earth's legitimacy as historical that Christopher
Tolkien felt obligated to spend much of his life continuing his father's
work to manufacture a "textual history" to bolster the claim of
invention. :-)

>smial and Gollum's actual first name (we never learn his surname) of
>Smeagol.

His family name was clearly "Poor" and his people placed the family name
before the personal name. Thus, he occasionally refers to himself by his
full name "Poor Smeagol".

>What is your reaction to the linguistics, both
>in the primary and world?

German's hard enough. I'm supposed to wrap my head around Elvish?

>2. It is not possible to get "the jest" JRRT speaks of in linking the
>names Gamgee and Cotton until one reads the biography and /Letters./
>Are there other "in" jokes here and/or anywhere in /The Hobbit/ or /The
>Lord of the Rings/?

Almost certainly.

>3. The term dwarves first appeared in /The Hobbit/ and in 1938 JRRT
>explained the "real answer" to why that was used instead of the
>dictionary plural of dwarfs: "I knew no better."

Heh. And now "dwarves" is the more common term. Now, if we all push hard
enough, maybe "dwarrows" can displace it.

>He also pointed out practically that the word dwarves
>sounds well with the word elves. This illuminates his love with the
>sound of words and also shows that while he developed and deepened
>parts of his invented world he never really changed it. What other
>words or words in the two works also provide some illumination?

Too many examples to count. The man was a wordaholic.

>4. JRRT pointed out to Mrs. Mitchison in 1954 that few other
>subcreators have given much thought to the languages of the worlds they
>have imagined.

True. Although this is certainly not true of all of them. Edgar Rice
Burroughs lacked Tolkien's professional training and luxury of vast time
reworking the same material, but his world-building did not neglect
languages. The full working out of languages in Tolkien's style,
however, does appear to have started with the professor.

>Did he start a trend, so that now we have other writers
>inventing languages or at least using language to bring their world to
>life?

It is much more common now, but still not the norm for those actually
working towards a book, film, game, or other published product.
Practicality there requires an "invent when you need it" approach. For
those engaging in world-building projects for their own sake, I think
language development is nigh-universal.

>Is the work of JRRT still unique in this?

Klingon, at least, represents an attempt at creation of a
fully-developed fictional language on a par with Tolkien's languages.
Indeed, it will almost certain surpass them for completeness if it
hasn't already.

>5. JRRT was occasionally incensed by some attempts to translate his
>work, in particular, place names. For those whose native language is
>not English but who speak English and so can compare the work in

>Tolkien壮 native tongue and the translation into their own, how well did
>the translator do?

From previous discussions, I gather that this has, as one would expect,
varied considerably from translation to translation. Certain aspects may
be quite simply impossible to capture in translation in languages with a
different history than English.

>6. Your comments, questions and

Belba! Belba! You fall suddenly silent!

--
R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

Belba Grubb From Stock

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Sep 8, 2005, 12:21:44 AM9/8/05
to
R. Dan Henry wrote:
> On Tue, 06 Sep 2005 08:29:54 -0500, Belba Grubb From Stock
> <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote:
>
> This is a wonderful section, where we see Tolkien momentarily relax from
> the necessary pretense that he is making this up and lets us see Tolkien
> the translator for a few pages. Unfortunately, this proved so convincing
> evidence of Middle-Earth's legitimacy as historical that Christopher
> Tolkien felt obligated to spend much of his life continuing his father's
> work to manufacture a "textual history" to bolster the claim of
> invention. :-)

An interesting point, Dan. I don't know, though, if "obligation" is the
word there. Reading through /Letters/, especially those to Christopher
during the war but also in some comments to his publishers, it sounds
like something else, something closer. Christopher was in on it at
least from the point when as a child he was paid to find errata in /The
Hobbit/ while in bed with a heart condition. In a sense that probably
doesn't apply to anyone else, Christopher has walked the length and
breadth of Arda with his father, and what we are seeing in those works
published by Christopher is a continuation of the invention, if by means
of clarification and/or expansion, rather than an effort to keep up the
pretext. It will be weaker and incomplete and his works sound more
"worldly" than his father's published works but these things are to be
expected. He is, in a sense, still drawing "maps," this time with
words, for his father's work.

Christopher has done (or did) some scholarly linguistic work on his own, no?

>>smial and Gollum's actual first name (we never learn his surname) of
>>Smeagol.
>
>
> His family name was clearly "Poor" and his people placed the family name
> before the personal name. Thus, he occasionally refers to himself by his
> full name "Poor Smeagol".

ROTFL!!


>
>
>>What is your reaction to the linguistics, both
>>in the primary and world?
>
>
> German's hard enough. I'm supposed to wrap my head around Elvish?

It's either that or Old English, Welsh and the Scandinavian, Finnish,
and Gothic tongues: your choice. ;-)

>>2. It is not possible to get "the jest" JRRT speaks of in linking the
>>names Gamgee and Cotton until one reads the biography and /Letters./
>>Are there other "in" jokes here and/or anywhere in /The Hobbit/ or /The
>>Lord of the Rings/?
>
>
> Almost certainly.

No almost. I have puzzled over that intermittently for *years!*

>>3. The term dwarves first appeared in /The Hobbit/ and in 1938 JRRT
>>explained the "real answer" to why that was used instead of the
>>dictionary plural of dwarfs: "I knew no better."
>
>
> Heh. And now "dwarves" is the more common term. Now, if we all push hard
> enough, maybe "dwarrows" can displace it.

Applications for membership in the "Add Dwarrows To the English
Language" political action committee are being taken over there, just
beyond Durin's Bridge. Mind the Balrog on the way.

>
>
>>He also pointed out practically that the word dwarves
>>sounds well with the word elves. This illuminates his love with the
>>sound of words and also shows that while he developed and deepened
>>parts of his invented world he never really changed it. What other
>>words or words in the two works also provide some illumination?
>
>
> Too many examples to count. The man was a wordaholic.

He himself admitted wryly he had trouble keeping to a minimum with
words. What are some of the examples you had in mind?

>
>
>>4. JRRT pointed out to Mrs. Mitchison in 1954 that few other
>>subcreators have given much thought to the languages of the worlds they
>>have imagined.
>
>
> True. Although this is certainly not true of all of them. Edgar Rice
> Burroughs lacked Tolkien's professional training and luxury of vast time
> reworking the same material, but his world-building did not neglect
> languages. The full working out of languages in Tolkien's style,
> however, does appear to have started with the professor.

I had forgotten about him. Treebeard would have loved "Barsoom."

>>5. JRRT was occasionally incensed by some attempts to translate his
>>work, in particular, place names. For those whose native language is
>>not English but who speak English and so can compare the work in

>>Tolkien‘s native tongue and the translation into their own, how well did

>>the translator do?
>
>
> From previous discussions, I gather that this has, as one would expect,
> varied considerably from translation to translation. Certain aspects may
> be quite simply impossible to capture in translation in languages with a
> different history than English.

It was in these cases that JRRT recommended keeping the names that he
had given. He was rather irate over a Dutch translation when he said that.

>
>
>>6. Your comments, questions and
>
>
> Belba! Belba! You fall suddenly silent!
>

Yeah, it worked once when I did it accidentally and I keep trying to
repeat. Guess it's just not gonna work twice. (g)

Barb

John Jones

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Sep 10, 2005, 7:13:03 AM9/10/05
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"R. Dan Henry" <danh...@inreach.com> wrote in message
news:hg8vh1htbnb8rqcnf...@4ax.com...

>
> >smial and Gollum's actual first name (we never learn his surname) of
> >Smeagol.
>
> His family name was clearly "Poor" and his people placed the family name
> before the personal name. Thus, he occasionally refers to himself by his
> full name "Poor Smeagol".
>

Gollum actually thought that his surname was 'Soddov' because whenever he
appeared, his relatives would say ' Sod off, Smeagol'.

Odysseus

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Sep 10, 2005, 3:06:37 PM9/10/05
to
John Jones wrote:
>
<snip>

>
> Gollum actually thought that his surname was 'Soddov' because whenever he
> appeared, his relatives would say ' Sod off, Smeagol'.

You stole that line from _The Black Adder_ (more specifically from
the Baldrick character), didn't you?

--
Odysseus

Christopher Kreuzer

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Sep 11, 2005, 6:11:28 PM9/11/05
to
Belba Grubb From Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote:
> R. Dan Henry wrote:

[about Appendix F]

>> This is a wonderful section, where we see Tolkien momentarily relax
>> from the necessary pretense that he is making this up

"Pretense that he is making this up"?
I don't think that came across right! :-)

>> and lets us
>> see Tolkien the translator for a few pages. Unfortunately, this
>> proved so convincing evidence of Middle-Earth's legitimacy as
>> historical that Christopher Tolkien felt obligated to spend much of
>> his life continuing his father's work to manufacture a "textual
>> history" to bolster the claim of invention. :-)

Spent much of his life? I'm not sure how true that is. We know for
certain that Christopher Tolkien took on the role of literary executor
for his father, J.R.R. Tolkien, after JRRT died. And they did discuss it
in the last years of JRRT's life, as JRRT became aware that he would not
have the time or energy to finish /The Silmarillion/. Anyway, I would
guess that the work you are referring to started at some point after
1973, finishing with the publication of /The Silmarillion/ in 1977. Then
he would have worked with Humphrey Carpenter on /Letters/ and advised
him on the /Biography/. The publication of /The History of Middle-earth/
series did take over a decade, but I get the impression that Christopher
Tolkien did most of this after he retired.

<snip>

> Christopher has walked the length and
> breadth of Arda with his father

<snip>

> He is, in a sense, still drawing "maps," this time
> with words, for his father's work.

What a wonderful way to put it!

> Christopher has done (or did) some scholarly linguistic work on his
> own, no?

I'm not certain, but I think he followed much the same career path as
his father. He was a student, lecturer and professor at Oxford
University, IIRC, and in the same field of Anglo-Saxon and Old English
studies. I also seem to recall that Christopher Tolkien attended several
meeting of the Inklings as well.

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

R. Dan Henry

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Sep 12, 2005, 1:27:01 AM9/12/05
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On Sun, 11 Sep 2005 22:11:28 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

>Belba Grubb From Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote:
>> R. Dan Henry wrote:
>
>[about Appendix F]
>
>>> This is a wonderful section, where we see Tolkien momentarily relax
>>> from the necessary pretense that he is making this up
>
>"Pretense that he is making this up"?
>I don't think that came across right! :-)

Nonsense. I wrote what I meant and I meant what I wrote. Including the
concluding smiley.

John Jones

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Sep 11, 2005, 9:16:50 AM9/11/05
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"Odysseus" <odysseu...@yahoo-dot.ca> wrote in message
news:43232ED3...@yahoo-dot.ca...
I have to confess, yes I did ;o)
I thought that I might share it with the non-Blackadder-watching people.

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