Tinfang Warble

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This article is about the half-fay in the early legendarium. For the poem of the same name, see Tinfang Warble (poem).
Tinfang
Half-fay
Eva Zahradníková - Tinfang Warble.jpg
"Tinfang Warble" by Eva Zahradníková
Biographical Information
Other namesTimpinen
Tinfang Gwarbilin[1]
TitlesWarble
PositionFlautist
LocationAlalminórë in Tol Eressëa
Far regions in the Great Lands
AffiliationPalúrien
LanguageGnomish
Notable forEnchanting those who hear his fluting
Family
ParentagePossibly Palúrien
Physical Description
GenderMale
Hair colorOld white and glistening[2]
ClothingShadowy coat[2]
Twisted and curled slippers[2]
GalleryImages of Tinfang
"'Twas Timpinen who played to you, and honoured are you, for this garden has been empty of his melody many a night. Now, however, for such is the eeriness of that sprite, you will ever love the evenings of summer and the nights of stars, and their magic will cause your heart to ache unquenchably."
― Vairë to Eriol in The Chaining of Melko

Tinfang, called Timpinen by Vairë, and Tinfang Warble by the children, was an eerie half-fay mentioned within the earlier versions of the legendarium.[3]

He was whimsical and capricious; his piping was enchanting and made everyone wish to find out where the music came from and hear more. But his talent was matched by his shyness, and always evaded those who wanted to approach, as he was playing only for himself.[4]

History[edit | edit source]

Tinfang Warble in autumn by Eva Zahradníková

Tinfang was a half-fay whose origins and nature was shrouded in mystery, yet it was believed everywhere that he was not completely of the Valar nor fully of the Eldar. Rather, he was "half a fay of the woods and dells, one of the great companies of the children of Palúrien and half a Gnome or a Shoreland Piper".[3]

He was said to be a strange, but a wondrously wise flautist who "played and danced in summer dusks for joy of the first stars". He was more shy than a fawn, tending to hide as swiftly as a vole, even at a sound as subtle as a footstep snapping a twig. Yet, he had some prideful nature, going as far as using his flute to mock from afar all those who try to see him. Despite his pride, he led the Eldar forth while "piping strangely" or aloof, but never marched or rested among them.[3]

Tinfang's fluting had an enchantment, and the stars twinkled according to his notes. The Noldoli claimed that the stars appeared in the sky too soon when he played. Not even the Solosimpi could rival his fluting, despite their claim of shared kinship.[3]

Tinfang was named by the Elves alongside Dairon and Ivárë as being "the three most magic players",[5] and the Moon was said to be able to enchant him during summer nights in June, kindling "the pale firstling star".[6]

He usually played his flute in the gardens of Tol Eressëa, where he trod upon "the shadowy lawns unseen", loving Alalminórë the best. Whenever his piping is absent for long months, the Gnomes believed that he had "gone heart-breaking in the Great Lands," where many people in far regions would hear his piping during the dusk that night when Tinfang would "play beneath a goodly moon and the stars go bright and blue".[3]

When Eriol spoke to Vairë about hearing 'dream-musics', and she replied that it was Tinfang, who had not been heard for many nights. In many days afterwards, Eriol heard Tinfang many dusks in starlight and the gleam of the moon.[3]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The name Tinfang is probably Gnomish, and Christopher Tolkien gives the meaning of "fluter", a cognate of Qenya timpinen.[7]

Later the meaning is given as "star-beard", from tinu ("spark, little star") + fang ("beard").[8]

In Noldorin, Gelion is related to the Ilkorin word gelion ("bright"), however it is glossed as "merry singer, surname of Tinfang".[9]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

Tinfang predates the earliest Legendarium, first appearing as a "leprawn" in the 1914 poem Tinfang Warble and then in the 1915/1916 poem Over Old Hills and Far Away. His fluting is associated with stars, either kindling the first one, or making them shimmer.[4]

He appears as an obscure figure in The Book of Lost Tales, with Eriol listening to his music. Vaire suggests that he lingers mostly in the Great Lands, suggesting that he can easily traverse between Tol Eressea and the mortal lands.[4]

In a crossed out note, Timpinen was the son of King Tinwelint and Queen Gwendeling, and brother of Tinúviel; after Tinwelint was enchanted, Timpinen and Tinúviel "long after joined the Eldar again, and tales there are concerning them both, though they are seldom told".[10] Even after this rejected notion, Tinúviel's brother becomes Tifanto,[11][note 1] before becoming Dairon, whose musical talent is compared to Tinfang's;[5] Tinfang's remaining mentions are associated with Daeron.[4]

In the second typed draft of The Lay of Leithian, Warble was quickly amended to Gelion, becoming a surname rather than an epithet; while nothing else of his appearance here changed, the names of Dairon and Ivárë were changed to Daeron and Maglor. In the Lay of Leithian, there is no mention of his fay nature, but his fluting still "kindles the pale firstling star", reflecting the first poem.[12]

The last reference to Tinfang was only by name in The Quenta, where Daeron was said to be "the greatest of the musicians of the Elves, save Maglor son of Fëanor, and Tinfang Warble".[13]

Inspiration[edit | edit source]

Tinfang represents typical fairy-like elements, such as moving from faery to the mortal world, and enchanting the mortals, sometimes to the point of madness.[4]

Piper of Dreams by Estella Canziani

Tolkien first coined the name for the poem Tinfang Warble , but the character is barely defined here. Its visual equivalence would be soon taken from Estella Louisa Michaela Canziani's picture Piper of Dreams, in which a child plays the pipe for some fairies. The image was widely reproduced by the Medici Society in the same year, and was quite prevalent among the English troops during the Great War.[14]

Notes

  1. The names are probably cognates of the same elements; cf. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part I, Tinfang and J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part II", Tifanto

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "IV. The Chaining of Melko", Over Old Hills and Far Away, pp. 108-10
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "IV. The Chaining of Melko", p. 94-5
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Dawn Walls-Thumma, "Tinfang Warble" dated 1 October 2022, Silmarillion Writers' Guild (accessed 23 February 2023)
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "I. The Tale of Tinúviel", p. 10
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian: Canto III (Beren's meeting with Lúthien)", p. 174, line 503
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Beren and Lúthien, "List of Names [in the original text]"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entry SPÁNAG
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entry "GYEL"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "IV. The Chaining of Melko": "Notes and Commentary", p. 107-10, Note 1
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "I. The Tale of Tinúviel": "Notes and Commentary", p. 50
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian: Canto III (Beren's meeting with Lúthien)", p. 181-2
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: [Section] 10"
  14. John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War (2003), "4. The Shores of Faërie"