Tolkien Gateway

Letter 144

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 144
RecipientNaomi Mitchison
Date25 April 1954
Subject(s)The Lord of the Rings, Languages

Letter 144 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

Naomi Mitchison had a number of questions about the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien began the letter by thanking her for all her letters and appologized for not answering them. He stated that some of the questions were answered in The Silmarillion, but since the publisher won't publish the book he needed to write an appendix to the third volume to address some of the issues.

Tolkien explained that Westron was the Common Speech of the Third Age of Middle-earth and these words had been translated into English. Forms of speech related to Westron he had turned into forms of speech related to English. He stated that for the language of the Rohirrim he used a modified version of Old English, while the language of Dale and Esgaroth was a modified Scandinavian.

Furthermore, Tolkien described the Elven languages of the The Lord of the Rings: Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya was grammatically inspired from Latin, Finnish and Greek. Sindarin had a linguistic character similar to British-Welsh.

Tolkien also explained that the Quendi were similar in appearance to Men with greatly enhanced aesthetic and creative faculties, greater beauty and longer life. There were two types of Quendi: the Eldar who heard the summons to take the Great Journey and the Lesser Elves who did not answer. The Eldar themselves branched off into two different types: the Noldor or High Elves and the Sindar or Grey-elves. The Noldor at the time of The Lord of the Rings were Exiles.

In that letter, Tolkien also briefly discusses his 'fear' that the Entwives may in fact have been destroyed by Sauron.