The Appendix on Languages

From Tolkien Gateway
The Peoples of Middle-earth
  1. The Prologue
  2. The Appendix on Languages
  3. The Family Trees
  4. The Calendars
  5. The History of the Akallabêth
  6. The Tale of Years of the Second Age
  7. The Heirs of Elendil
  8. The Tale of Years of the Third Age
  9. The Making of Appendix A
  10. Of Dwarves and Men
  11. The Shibboleth of Fëanor
  12. The Problem of Ros
  13. Last Writings
  14. Dangweth Pengoloð
  15. Of Lembas
  16. The New Shadow
  17. Tal-Elmar

The Appendix on Languages is the second chapter of The Peoples of Middle-earth, which describes the complex evolution of the material that would become Appendix F, published in The Lord of the Rings.


Originally this material was to be included in the Prologue; since the Prologue was at first referred to as a Foreword, Christopher Tolkien labeled the first version F*.[1]:24 Subsequent versions of this material were relegated to the appendices so Christopher labeled these versions F1 through F4, with the subsection "On Translation" labeled A.

F* was originally prefatory information that would follow the original "Forward: Concerning Hobbits". The text begins by stating that the story was written for those interested in Hobbits, especially J.R.R. Tolkien's friends, the Inklings. The work then veers into a discussion of the Hobbits' language, the Common Speech, and moves onward to the languages of Elves, Men, Orcs, and Dwarves. Christopher believed that his father intended a dedicatory preface but was swept "involuntarily" into writing about languages. Realizing that the result was an unsatisfactory combination, Tolkien put this text aside. Later he would use elements of it in Appendix F and the Foreword to the First Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring. Christopher included part of the First Edition Foreword to show how the material of F* was used.[1]:19-28

F1, titled "Notes on the Languages at the end of the Third Age", was a rough manuscript with many emendations. F2, titled "The Languages at the end of the Third Age", followed F1 so closely with but minor changes that Christopher only included the latter. However, F2 is of great interest to readers because it contains much information that was later excluded from the final version of Appendix F[1]:28-29 (the published version is only about one-third as long as F2).[1]:73 The text of F2 is printed with notes and commentary by Christopher. Some points of interest include:

  • The term Lembi ("Lingerers") is used instead of Sindar, indicating that F2 was written prior to mid-1950.[2]
  • In F2, the people of Númenor spoke Noldorin or, among high lords and men of wisdom, Quenya.[1]:31 Christopher commented that it was extraordinary that in F2 the Númenóreans did not retain their own Mannish language.[1]:63
  • The chief power of Three Rings was to defend the Eldar living in Middle-earth from change, withering, and weariness. From the time of their forging to the end of their power at the close of the Third Age the Eldar changed no more in a thousand years than Men did in ten; this applied to their languages too.[3]
  • The word mathom is related to the word máthum used in Rohan, meaning "treasure" or "rich gift".[4]
  • The Elvish Baranduin that the Hobbits changed into Brandywine was, for a time, refashioned as Elvish Malevarn and Hobbitish Malvern, but then was reverted to the earlier form.[5]
  • "Shire" was originally a translation of Hobbitish Sūza-t while in Gondor the word Sūza was applied to divisions of the realm (I.e. the fiefs of Anórien, Ithilien, Lebennin, etc.).[6]
  • The word tharni was an old word for "quarter" and was used by the Hobbits for "Farthing". The current word for a quarter or a "fourth part" was tharantīn. In Gondor a tharni was a silver coin that was one-fourth of a castar (in Noldorin the canath was one-fourth of the mirian).[6]
  • The family name "Hornblower" in Hobbitish was Raspūta. The family name "Took" in Hobbitish was Tūc, which the members of that family claimed came from an old word tūca that meant "daring".[7]
  • The female name "Lobelia" was in Hobbitish Hamanullas.[8]
  • The Common Speech word for a "bag" was labin and the name "Baggins", in Hobbitish Labingi, was probably connected. "Bag End" was, in Hobbitish, Labin-nec.[9]
  • "Bolger" is Anglicized from the Hobbitish Bolgra. The Common Speech bolg- is much like English "bulge".[9]
  • The name "Frodo" in Hobbitish was Maura, an uncommon name in the Shire.[10]
  • The name "Meriadoc" in Hobbitish was Chilimanzar. Tolkien chose "Meriadoc" as the translation because the abbreviation of Chilimanzar was Chilic, which meant "gay or merry".[10]
  • The name "Peregrin" in Hobbitish was Razanul, which was shortened to Razal with the meaning of a small red apple.[10]

In the general commentary on F2, there was mention of a note dated 9 February 1942 that specified:

  • Language of Shire = modern English
  • Language of Dale = Norse (used by Dwarves of that region)
  • Language of Rohan = Old English
  • "Modern English" is llingua franca spoken by all people except for a few secluded people and ill-used by Orcs

Christopher noted that this solved the problem, left from The Hobbit, of why the Dwarves of that story had Norse names – they were translations of the language used in Dale that was as Norse-like as the Common Speech was Modern English-like.[1]:70

In a final comment on F2, Christopher noted that almost all of the exemplifications of Westron names were excised from the final Appendix F. Whether this was because Tolkien felt that explaining the intricacies of translation was unsuitable or because of the constraints on space for publication is unknown.[1]:72

Christopher interjected a passage from a letter Tolkien wrote on 3 August 1943 for it revealed that as late as this date Tolkien still considered the Common Speech to be mostly Elvish in origin. Nine months later when Tolkien wrote the section of Faramir's discussions on language Common Speech would be mostly Mannish with Elvish influences.[1]:73

The third text, F3, was a typescript that reduced F2 to one-third of its length but did add some elements from F*.[1]:73 F3 introduced a more complex account of the Elves in Mirkwood and Lothlórien, while at the start retaining the notion that the language of Númenor was Noldorin.[1]:74 However, Tolkien retyped a portion of F3 and it was here that the language Adûnaic was inserted. He also revised and expanded the section on the Runes or Cirth.[1]:75

A new title, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", was devised for F4, which Christopher dated to 1951. It is in this version that the terms Sindar and Sindarin finally appear.[1]:78 Tolkien added the only words known of the languages of Sauron's allies - múmak, Variag, and Khand, and introduced the new race of Trolls that only appeared in the Third Age - the Olog-hai (with two early versions, Horg-hai and Olg-hai, subsequently rejected).[1]:79 Following F4 Christopher says were four more texts of Appendix F, none of which added any new material except for a translation of the Orc-curse uttered by one of Pippin's guards in The Two Towers chapter, "The Uruk-hai".[11]

Regarding the second section of Appendix F, "On Translation", Christopher identified two texts, which he labeled 'A' and 'B'. In A, Tolkien reinstated part of the discussion on names that had been removed in the transition from F2 to F3, with some notes on the curious names found in Buckland. In B, Tolkien included even more material from F2. Christopher concluded his discussion of the history of Appendix F by noting that even the copy sent to the printer contained many emendations, and he believed that had his father not been facing severe space constraints the form of Appendix F would have been considerably different.[1]:80-81