Gothic

From Tolkien Gateway

Gothic was the language of the Goths; the earliest recorded Germanic language,[1][2][3] it is now extinct and left no descendants. As a Germanic language, Gothic was related to Old English and Old Norse.

Gothic was the first language that J.R.R. Tolkien studied for his own pleasure. He also disovered modern historical philology in Gothic.[4] Around 1910 or later, Tolkien had bought his tutor Joseph Wright's Primer of the Gothic Language from a school-friend (who had mistaken it for a Bible Society product). He had been fascinated by Gothic and started "converting" words of other Germanic languages into Gothic script, which he wrote in his book, and signed as Ruginwaldus Dwalakōneis (gothicized "Ronald Tolkien"). Tolkien was also aware of the tragic history of the Goths.[5].

Gothic may have given an impulsion in the first development of Qenya. Tolkien even attempted to reconstruct some parts of the language and such elements survived in Taliska, the language he created for the Edain of the First Age. He also composed a full poem, Bagmē Blōma "The Flower of the Trees" in Gothic.[6] Tom Shippey suggests that Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire stayed in Tolkien's mind and that The Gothic History of Jordanes translated by C.C. Mierow was probably one of the most interesting Latin histories that Edward Gibbon had used.[7] Jordanes was a latin-speaking German of Gotic descent who wrote a history of the Goths in latin.[8] Tolkien also bought all volumes of Hermann Schneider's Germanische Heldensage and wrote that Gothic was studied "as a main source of the poetic inspiration of ancient England and the North".[9]

According to Lisa Star, Tolkien also devised a tengwar mode for Gothic which is known to exist, but remain unpublished to date.[10]

Gothic names in Tolkien's legendarium[edit | edit source]

Since in The Lord of the Rings Old English represents Rohanese, Tolkien used Gothic to represent the earlier language of the Northmen of Rhovanion in accordance to the similarity between these languages.[2] However, in reality Old English was not directly related to Gothic as the way Rohirric was to the language of the Northmen; therefore Tolkien's simulation does not reflect exactly the relationship between these languages but rather their similarity. As a consequence, the names of the early kings and princes of the Northmen are of Gothic origin.[2][11]

Tolkien also used names of Gothic and Frankish origin that are still in use or appear in real-world history for first-names of old Hobbit families, especially those of Fallowhide origin, such as the Tooks and the Bolgers.[12] One example from the Bolger family tree is Odovacar, the name of a 5th century ruler of Italy of Germanic descent. In addition, Tolkien also used the names Roderic, Alaric, Theodoric and Athanaric in the earliest version of the Brandybuck family tree[13], which are of Gothic origin.[14] Roderic, Alaric, Theodoric and Athanaric are the names of kings of the Goths.

It is noteworthy that many Gothic names, which were used by Tolkien can be found with the same or similar spelling in Mierow's translation of Jordanes' History of the Goths. Among those are Vinitharius, Alaric, Theodoric, Athanaric and Odoacer.[15]

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

References

  1. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, Chapter 1 Lit. and Lang., Lost Romances, 3rd edition, p. 16
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan", "Notes", note 6
  3. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, Chapter 1 Lit. and Lang., Lost Romances, 3rd edition, p. 18
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 163, (dated 7 June 1955)
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 272, (dated 20 July 1965)
  6. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, Chapter 8 On the Cold Hill's Side, Of Birch Hats and Cold Potions, 3rd edition, page 316
  7. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, Appendix A Tolkien's Sources: The True Tradition, 3rd edition, p. 396
  8. Miryam Librán Moreno: J.R.R. Tolkien and Jordanes, Littera Aperta 1 (2013), pp. 65-6
  9. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, Chapter 1 Lit. and Lang., Lost Romances, 3rd edition, p. 20
  10. Lisa Star, "A List of Tolkien's Unpublished and Slightly Published Manuscripts" dated 1 August 2002, Tyalie Tyelellieva website (archived) (accessed 2 January 2012)
  11. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, Chapter 1 Lit. and Lang., Lost Romances, 3rd edition, p. 18
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation", p. 1135
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "III. The Family Trees", BR 1, p. 99
  14. Miryam Librán Moreno: J.R.R. Tolkien and Jordanes, Littera Aperta 1 (2013), p. 65
  15. Charles Cristopher Mierow, "The Gothic History of Jordanes", Internet Archive (accessed 22 February 2024), pp. 73 XIV.79, 91 XXVIII.142 and 119 XLVI.242