I recently read The Silmarillion for the first time and not without some apprehension. I had found the later half of The Two Towers a bit of a drag, and I worried that in The Silmarillion, Tolkien would let fly with all of his most tedious impulses. I had been listening to The Silmarillion Seminar by The Tolkien Professor. I wanted to experience the book for myself, but I was worried that practically every person involved said that they had failed on their first attempt to read the book, including the professor. When the professor admits the book is a slow the first go-round, it is only natural to worry a little.

All that being said, I was delighted by it. Far from Tolkien at his most tedious, The Silmarillion, I felt by the end, was Tolkien at his best: Tolkien as world creator. If I grew bored with Frodo and Sam in The Two Towers, I never grew bored with Middle-Earth. That place posessed a depth that left all other fantasy worlds looking shallow by comparison. And The Silmarillion is about Middle-Earth much more than it is about any of its characters. Few characters (outside the angelic Valar) appear in more than one chapter, though a few make memorable impressions in their alotted space. I am thinking especially of Beren and Lúthien, Lúthien in particular, but also Túrin Turambar. And we mustn't forget Ungoliant. The real power of the book however is the epic scope and depth. We have in The Silmarillion something like the Old Testament of Middle-Earth, and it holds a similar power. (And yes, there is even a "begets" section, though it only lasts a few paragraphs. You will be forgiven for skipping it.)

I have been sufficiently enthused that I've been spending the past couple of days this week learning bits and pieces of Quenya, or "Ancient Elvish," one of two languages Tolkien created for the elves of Middle-Earth. (The other is Sindarin, and is essential modern Elvish.) I am, of course, no expert after this time. On the contrary, I've learned how difficult it is.

My first effort was to try for something really cool that, nonetheless, doesn't appear in Quenya within the book, so I went for the coolest scene in the whole series. That's right, Gandalf's speech holding off the balrog at the bridge in Khazad-dûm. What will immediately come to your mind is "You shall not pass," but that's not what I went for. I went for, "Servant of the Secret Fire."

I wasn't happy with secret, but Tolkien peeps out there will know this is a reference to the "Flame Imperishable." This is the life-force by which Eru (God) grants life to all living things in Middle-Earth. In other words, it's Middle-Earth's version of the Christian Holy Spirit. (So, yes, Gandalf is telling the Balrog to back off, because he is a servant of the Holy Spirit. Depending on your religious beliefs, that is either way cool or very lame.)

So, with that in hand, my first attempt was:

oira nárevandur

Which is something like eternal flame-servant.

That wasn't quite right though, in more ways then one. For one, seems to say that it's the servant that is eternal, not the flame. And eternal and imperishable are not really synonyms, are they?

So, effort two was:

náre ilfirindur

Which is more like "Servant of Immortal Flame."

But, again, immortal and imperishable are not quite equal, so I have now settled on:

náre ufiriëndur

Which is "Servant of Flame Undying."

I think in this case I have all the words correct, but I'm not 100% certain I have the grammar totally right. I have found translations that are otherwise, but they don't justify or explain their choices, and I can't find their words in any of the Quenya or Neo-Quenya (post-Tolkien extensions to Elvish) resources that I possess. Which means I'm not going with them.

Other bits I have done. I decided that Wizard of Oz was :

Oswa Istari

Which is Oz's Wizard, though I could see a case for using the genetive rather than the possessive mode.

And I decided to create Elvish names for myself and my wife. We are Kevin and Amber, and of course the easiest thing to do would be to just try to transliterate the two words into Tengwar (the Elvish alphabet.) But, from what I've read in Tolkien, that's actually not a very Elvish thing to do. The Elves do not, in The Silmarillion or anywhere else, transliterate words or names. If they need a name for something, they give it a name themselves.

Thus, the dwarves are, well, dwarves in 'Common.' They call themselves Khazad. The Elves aren't having any of that. The Elves call them Gonnhirrim (Masters of Stone) or Naugrim (Stunted People), depending on how nice they feel like being to them. In that spirit, I thought the more appropriately Elvish thing to do would be to look up the original meaning of the two names and then come up with proper Elven names. That is, names that represent the meaning of the thing being named, rather than a hopeless effort to reproduce sounds.

Amber first, because it was easiest. The name 'Amber' is Arabaic for, you guessed it, amber, a honey-colored gemstone that comes from fossilized tree-resin. There is no Quenya word for amber, so I practiced a little creative license and went with:


That is, "honey-colored jewel."

Kevin was harder. The name 'Kevin' is Gaelic for, depending on the translation, "(gentle/handsome/kind) birth." I went with:


That is, "born beautiful."

If I may say so myself.


Together, we are Vanyánan ar Liswamírë.

I have tengal runes for all these, but I don't feel like attaching the images.

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