Archive for the ‘Green Books’ Category
Welcome to our weekly live webcast — TORn TUESDAY — now on the 5th part of our ongoing series of discussions on the History of the Dwarves who undertake the Quest of Erebor. Today we talk about BIFUR, BOFUR and the immensely overweight and endearing BOMBUR (Go #TeamBombur on Twitter!). Bring your questions and join us LIVE for a fascinating chat about how these characters are all intertwined.
Join us for TORn TUESDAY every week at 5:00PM Pacific: brought to you by host Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway and producer Justin “No Podraces in Eriador” Sewell — as we discuss the unique characteristics of each Dwarf. We shall learn how they fit into the larger history of Tolkien’s legends — and what Peter Jackson & WETA did to help us distinguish these rough and tumble travelers from each other (using more than just colored hoods). Our innovative live show includes worldwide fans who join us on the Live Event page with a built-in IRC chat (affectionately known as Barliman’s Chat room). Be part of the fun and mischief every week as we broadcast *live* from Meltdown Comics in the heart of Hollywood, U.S.A.!
NEXT WEEK: the grand finale of our series — THORIN OAKENSHIELD!
Follow Cliff ‘Quickbeam’ Broadway on Twitter: @quickbeam2000
Posted in Barlimans, Characters, Fans, Green Books, Headlines, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Cast News, Hobbit Movie, James Nesbitt, Miscellaneous, Stephen Hunter, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, TheOneRing.net Community, TORn TUESDAYS Live!, William Kircher
Last weekend, the Hall of Fire crew examined the confrontation between Gandalf, Theoden and Grima (plus much more) as we discussed the Two towers chapter The King the Tale of the Golden Hall. For those who couldn’t attend, here’s a log.
And remember, tomorrow (May 25 at 6pm EDT) we’ll be discussing Isildur and examining to what extent he was the shaper of the Third Age. (more…)
Posted in Barlimans, Green Books, Hall of Fire, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, The Two Towers
…The boy nodded his understanding. “Can I ask you something?” The Jedi Master nodded. “What are midi-chlorians?” Wind whipped at Qui-Gon’s long hair, blowing strands of it across his strong face. “Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside within the cells of all living things and communicate with the Force.”…
…”Use the Force, Luke.”…
…Raistlin lifted his thin, frail hand and allowed the spell component he had taken from his pouch to fall slowly from between his fingers onto the deck of the boat. Sand, Tanis realized. “Ast tasarak sinuralan krynawi,” Raistlin murmured, and then moved his right hand slowly in an arc parallel to the shore….
…”The One Power,” Moiraine was saying, “comes from the True Source, the driving force of Creation, the force the Creator made to turn the Wheel of Time.”…
Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo.
There seem to be almost as many ways of representing magic as there are fantasy writers. Role-players know the whole system with mages, spell components, spellbooks, the language of magic, etc. Jordan fans can tell you the ins and outs of the One Power, complete with a discourse on the varying characteristics of saidar and saidin, and the innumerable levels of strength among Aes Sedai. And Star Wars geeks (a word I use with love, considering that I myself am a dyed-in-the-wool geek!) were stunned when Lucas started explaining the universe-balancing Force with microscopic middlemen, instead of with the innate power of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. What ties them in common is that they each have a system, a framework with rules and laws almost more complicated than those of physics. Mages lose their spells after one casting, and must rest and recommit the words to memory before casting again. Aes Sedai spend years in training, because abuse of the One Power can too easily lead to death… and evidently you’ve got to be well-stocked on single-celled symbionts (is that even a word? My spellchecker sure doesn’t like it) to even make a dent in the Force. Fantasy writers delight in coming up with their own, hopefully brand-new systems, to give their books that added twist, that spark that no other sword-swinging Elf-hopping kender-singing dragon-flying books have. But what about Tolkien? Where is the system? What are the rules which govern the making of Rings of Power, which delineate the powers and limits of Istari, of Maiar, of Valar? He never talks about a framework or physical laws; we only see the results of the power’s use. Where does the power come from?
“It’s wonderfully quiet here. Nothing seems to be going on, and nobody seems to want it to. If there’s any magic about, it’s right down deep, where I can’t lay my hands on it, in a manner of speaking.’
‘You can see and feel it everywhere,’ said Frodo.
‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘you can’t see nobody working it…I would dearly love to see some Elf-magic, Mr. Frodo!”
These passages between Sam and Frodo in Lórien are just about the only overt use of the word ‘magic’ in all of Lord of the Rings. Sam’s feeling, as it usually is for most of us, is that if ‘you can’t see nobody working it,’ then it must not be the real stuff. But I think Tolkien had another image in mind. He seems to have taken his love of nature and the natural order of things to such an extent that he would rather not impose an unnatural system of rules governing a supernatural power–what we term magic. Instead, it seems clear that Tolkien regarded extraordinary power as part of the natural birthright of individual beings, and as such, therefore, the exercise of that power was simply part of the settled order of events. Not magic, but just the use by each individual of the power vested in him or her–to the best and highest of his or her own abilities, be they the greatest of the great or the smallest of the small. And in fact, he regarded the traditional definitions of the word “magic” as tantamount to the evil Machine that tears up the normal fabric of nature.
Beorn by Lelia
Think about it. We at Green Books are constantly getting questions from readers so accustomed to other systems that they almost demand a system in Tolkien. “What were the exact powers of the One Ring?” “Does the magic in Lothlórien come from the Elves or vice-versa?” “What can Elrond do with his Elven-ring?” “How does Gandalf do magic?” We do the best we can to elucidate, but the plain truth of the matter is, Tolkien just doesn’t make rules. He expects us to accept at face value that Celebrimbor and his cohorts “forged” the Three Rings, that Fëanor “wrought” the Silmarils and contained within them the light of the stars of Varda, that Elrond, Gandalf, and Galadriel “use” their rings in some vague way for the protection and enhancement of their lands (in the cases of Elrond and Galadriel) and for the furtherance of their tasks (in the case of Gandalf). Even “What are the powers of Beorn? Why is he the only being in Middle-earth who can shape-change?” Well… because he just was. That was his individual power. Tolkien didn’t set out to create magicians who could manipulate a supernatural force. He created individuals who knew how to use their naturalpowers–and he delineated the difference between those who use their power for the sake of creation and those who use it merely for the sake of control.
Tolkien believed that human beings are endowed with creativity in order to share in God’s power of creation. He called this “sub-creation” and felt that he was making the most of his abilities in this line through his writing. It follows that the characters in his books would do the same. So everyone is endowed with his or her own abilities, and since he’s not limited to real human beings, but is free to imagine beings with greater powers of creation, the result is powers that to us are supernatural, but to him are merely the result of that being’s art. I am speaking, of course, of the wise and wonderful Elves. The forging of the Elven-rings is the best example, but their spellbound swords and beautiful works of cooperation with Dwarves also come to mind. A reader (thanks, Andróg!) sent me the exact quotation that details the nature of the Elves’ power, and, indeed, the difference between this power and “magic.” Letter 131 states: “Their ‘magic’ is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations; more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation.” There you have it. Art for Art’s sake, and my favorite part–”product and vision in unflawed correspondence.” In other words, if they could think it (vision), then they could do it (product). No tiresome mechanics, no industrialized machines–just pure, unadulterated Art: sub-creation. Ultimately, what we would call magic is not, in Middle-earth, any such thing. It is simply the natural powers of created beings proceeding from them in yet another spiral of creation. And we know this power is inherent because Tolkien stated as much. The same Letter tells us: “By [the use of the word ‘magic’] I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents–or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of domination; bulldozing the real world, or coercing other will.”
So Tolkien divides power into two headings: The natural kind, proceeding from the desire of the being to sub-create, and ‘magic:’ a deliberate use of devices or machines with a corrupted motive. And in the use of the former, he stands alone in his system of creation. No other fantasy writer that I know has gone so far as he has with the Elves, given beings power that emanates as naturally as a flowing spring. True, there are other authors whose magic-users have innate talent, abilities, or senses not available to “ordinary” folks–but these special abilities are usually in existence in order to take advantage of an outside power: the Force, the One Power, or the generic, vague mysticism of “magic.” Tolkien’s Elves have no need of even the appearance of such supernatural forces, because the force of sub-creation is in them already, without any augmentation.
A pet musing of mine is to wonder how this “sub-creation” applies to beings besides Elves, Valar, and Maiar. Don’t bombard me with letters about Gandalf’s magic words, either, because he was a Maiar, and a badass, to boot, and could do whatever he wanted, with words or without ‘em, in any language he pleased. I’m talking about mortals, now. Aragorn son of Arathorn. Faramir of Ithilien. Samwise Gamgee. I believe very deeply that this power of sub-creation extended very thoroughly to mortals of ‘uncorrupted motive,’ even if the results weren’t always what we would call ‘magical.’
“Now he is a marvel, the Lord Elfstone: not too soft in his speech, mind you, but he has a golden heart, as the saying is; and he has the healing hands. ‘The hands of the king are the hands of a healer,’ I said; and that was how it was all discovered. And Mithrandir, he said to me: ‘Ioreth, men will long remember your words,’ and…”
So spake Ioreth, wise woman of Gondor, and we know it to be true. Aragorn showed his healing powers many times, but never to greater effect than when he healed Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry of the Black Breath during the last days of the war.
“At last, less than a mile from the City, a more ordered mass of men came into view, marching not running, still holding together.
The watchers held their breath. ‘Faramir must be there,’ they said. ‘He can govern man and beast. He will make it yet.’”
Our darling Faramir, a man of lore, yet scarcely less doughty in arms than his brother, and with a stern yet merciful attitude towards those under his command and in his power, had a gift for governance.
“Inside [the box] was filled with a grey dust, soft and fine, in the middle of which was a seed, like a small nut with a silver shale.
‘What can I do with this?’ said Sam.
‘Throw it into the air on a breezy day and let it do its work!’ said Pippin.
‘On what?’ said Sam.
‘Choose one spot as a nursery, and see what happens to the plants there,’ said Merry.
‘But I’m sure the Lady would not like me to keep it all for my own garden, now so many folks have suffered,’ said Sam.
‘Use all the wits and knowledge you have of your own, Sam,’ said Frodo, ‘and then use the gift to help your work and better it.’”
That last line sums up my entire feelings on the subject of mortals and sub-creation. Aragorn used athelas to help him in his healing, but undoubtedly part of the virtue of it sprang from his own hands. Faramir was versed in the lore and history of men, but he used his knowledge wisely and to good effect, being a good captain of his men and, in time, a steward and prince of his people. And our sweet Sam had a positive gift for growing things, no matter how much he was helped at that juncture by the gift of the Lady Galadriel.
Here’s the stickler: Just because the results aren’t conventionally ‘magical,’ doesn’t mean that a talent isn’t a gift of sub-creation. Any being, immortal or no, Elven or Human or Holbytla, who uses his or her inclinations and abilities to the fullest, and never forgetting that uncorrupted motive, is exercising his “inherent inner powers or talents”–a very personal form of magic that cannot be discounted. So many times in this dreary world we fall short of what we would like to accomplish with our abilities, through sloth or other impediments. Tolkien showed us not only otherworldly Elves whose gifts run to what we would consider outside the settled order of nature, but also very mortal characters who simply used their ordinary powers to the best and fullest extent. And the result, when compared with the many shortcomings and failings of human beings in this world, is very magical indeed.
Posted in Green Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, Sean Astin, Tolkien
Barliman’s Chat Last weekend, the Hall of Fire crew examined the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen. Belatedly, for those who couldn’t attend, here’s a log. (more…)
Posted in Barlimans, Green Books, Hall of Fire, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, Return of the King
Most people think Frodo is the true hero of The Lord of the Rings. To put it another way: It is accepted by nearly all readers that the novel is about Frodo. It’s his quest, his burden, he’s the focus. The little blurbs in magazines that are designed for the non-initiate read like this: “The story of a hobbit, Frodo Baggins, who is sent to destroy an evil Ring of power…” Sound like a good pitch? Not quite.
The main character is really Samwise Gamgee, though you may not know it. I’m telling you now, it’s all about Sam.
You can safely argue Frodo Baggins should be the centerpoint of the tale. In The Hobbit Bilbo had the limelight for an entire book, and no one came close to grandstanding him (except maybe Smaug). Seems like Tolkien intended to chronicle the history of the Baggins family; first through Bilbo’s adventures–then with Frodo inheriting more adventures than he bargained for.
Posted in Green Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, Out on a Limb, Sean Astin, Tolkien
Art by J.R.R. Tolkien for “The Hobbit”
Sometimes TheOneRing is viewed as a movie-only website and that just isn’t true. While we don’t write as much in-house material as we once did in our Green Books section
(which is full of gold and mithril and worth mining) we still try to represent as much of the wide and far ranging J.R.R. Tolkien fandom as possible with our all-volunteet staff.
So it is a real pleasure to help publicize events like the 3rd Conference on Middle-earth and its Part 2 scheduled for 2014 in Westford, MA. The word is getting out now to declare that the conference is currently accepting papers. Below is the full press release with links, some of which show how many decades back the event reaches:
The 3rd Conference On Middle-earth, Part 2, to be held March 28 – 30, 2014
in Westford, MA, USA, is currently soliciting papers, presentations, paper proposals, and panel proposals from persons with scholarly interest in any aspect of the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Suggested topics are: J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, influences on Tolkien, other works based on Tolkien’s writing, criticism, teaching Tolkien in the classroom, the books’ impact on oneself and/or the world, the films and the film industry, the music, the art, the fannish side of this universe and its impact, and anything you can imagine on topic. For examples of previous papers and panels, see the programming for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd conferences: 1st Conference, 2nd Conference, and 3rd Conference.
A few areas of interest are:
• The languages of Middle Earth: how Old English (including Anglo-Saxon riddles), the Eddas, etc. influenced TLOTR.
• Elements of northern European myths that appear in TLOTR.
• The impact of World War I on Tolkien and his writing.
• The impact of The Hobbit and TLOTR on 1960s and 1970s popular music.
• Artistic visions of Middle-earth.
• The astronomy of Middle-earth. [For example, when is Durin's Day?]
• The geography of Middle-earth.
• The geology of Middle-earth.
• The flora and fauna of Middle-earth.
• The clothing of Middle-earth both from the books and the films.
• The food of Middle-earth.
• The poetry and songs of Middle-earth.
Only members of the 3rd Conference On Middle Earth, Part 2, will be able to present and participate. Once papers and proposals have been accepted, the presenter/panelist will need to join the conference (the sooner the better, before rates go up), if they are not already members. If an author cannot be present, then arrangements can be made for a third party to read the paper. However, as indicated, the authors must be members of The 3rd Conference On Middle-earth, Part 2.
Paper Proposal: Please email a 250-word abstract including the presentation title, your name, e-mail address, your mailing address and phone number, or alternately a second e-mail address. The maximum reading time for the finished paper is 30 minutes, roughly 2000 words, though it may be less. We will confirm receipt of proposal by e-mail.
Panel Proposal: Please email the panel name and a 250-word abstract. Please include the panel title, the panel chair (who may be one of the presenters), e-mail address, the mailing address and phone number, or alternately a second e-mail address of each presenter. The receipt of proposal will be confirmed by e-mail.
Submit your proposal to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline for Submissions: You may submit a proposal up through Tuesday, 31 December 2013. Participation is limited, so submissions may close early—so it’s best to get a proposal in sooner rather than later.
NOTE: Confirmation of receipt of submissions does not guarantee acceptance for presentation.
Check out http://www.3rdcome.org for more information on the conference.
Posted in Events, Fans, Green Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lectures & Education, Tolkien
Last weekend, the Hall of Fire crew delved into the Two Towers chapter the White Rider. Belatedly, for those who couldn’t attend, here’s a log. (more…)
Posted in Barlimans, Green Books, Hall of Fire, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, The Two Towers, Tolkien
Bilbo set against Smaug by Ringer Skaan.
Last night I stumbled on this very clever post
on TheOneRing.net’s boards. In it, user Skaan suggested that the promotional picture of Bilbo sprawled atop Smaug’s hoard could offer a guide to the size of Jackson’s version of Smaug (the Magnificent).
Well, we also saw Smaug’s head buried in that selfsame pile. So the size of the coins gives us a basis for comparison. (more…)
Posted in Green Books, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, The Hobbit, Tolkien
It is one of the first things you learn in the craft of writing. Mediocre dialogue is instantly forgotten–but brilliant dialogue lives forever in the mouth of your audience.
You know those finely crafted little moments you always remember from a movie or play? Even if you don’t see the performers again the brightest or funniest quips will linger on. The best movie dialogue has a way of becoming oft-heard bon mots relished among water cooler conversation.
The same goes for literature but often in broader measure. The most impressive wordplay remains within your psyche long after you put the book down. When the rubber meets the road, it’s how a great writer is elevated above the ordinary herds.
Indeed one of the first things you learn about J.R.R. Tolkien is that his work is ripe with just such powerful language. His wonderful ability to play with tone, color, and emotion made it easy for me to select the following from The Lord of the Rings. These are my favorite one-liners (or two-liners), that stand out as having a striking impact. Consider this collection a literary sampler akin to “Tolkien’s Greatest Hits.”
Lord knows that the Professor himself would frown upon the idea, yet I present them playfully and respectfully. Whenever I read and encounter these moments I am forever impressed with intensity, humor, or remembrance.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Most bittersweet line:
“I have quite finished, Sam,” said Frodo. “The last pages are for you.”
Best exclamation of joy:
“Ass! Fool! Thrice worthy and beloved Barliman!”
Most perfect description of beauty:
Young she was and yet not so. The braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost; her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth, and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night; yet queenly she looked, and thought and knowledge were in her glance, as of one who has known many things that the years bring.
Most poetic description of the weather:
The weather was grey and overcast, with wind from the East, but as evening drew into night the sky away westward cleared, and pools of faint light, yellow and pale green, opened under the grey shores of cloud. There the white rind of the new Moon could be seen glimmering in the remote lakes.
Most shocking moment:
But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard’s knees, dragging him to the brink. He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss.
Most gruesome encounter:
Then Pippin stabbed upwards, and the written blade of Westernesse pierced through the hide and went deep into the vitals of the troll, and his black blood came gushing out.
Most colorful analogy:
“Troubles follow you like crows, and ever the oftener the worse.”
Best example of friendly competition:
“Forty-two, Master Legolas!” he cried.
Most powerful moment of rage:
Then he charged. No onslaught more fierce was ever seen in the savage world of beasts, where some desperate small creature armed with little teeth, alone, will spring upon a tower of horn and hide that stands above its fallen mate.
Best invitation to dinner:
“You shall come home with me! The table is all laden with yellow cream, honeycomb, and white bread and butter.”
Saruman- ”For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colors!”
Gandalf- ”I liked white better.”
Farmer Cotton found Frodo lying on his bed; he was clutching a white gem that hung on a chain about his neck and he seemed half in a dream. “It is gone forever,” he said, “and now all is dark and empty.”
Most gothic description of evil:
Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing.
Most shrewd political advice:
“He uses others as his weapons. So do all great lords, if they are wise, Master Halfling.”
Single best piece of advice:
“Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”
Single funniest line:
“…What’s taters, precious, eh, what’s taters?”
Funniest exchange between two characters:
Éomer- ”…For there are certain rash words concerning the Lady in the Golden Wood that lie still between us. And now I have seen her with my eyes.”
Gimli- “Well, lord, and what say you now?”
Éomer- ”Alas! I will not say that she is the fairest lady that lives.”
Gimli- ”Then I must go for my axe.”
Most beautiful dream sequence:
As he fell slowly into sleep, Pippin had a strange feeling: he and Gandalf were still as stone, seated upon the statue of a running horse, while the world rolled away beneath his feet with a great noise of wind.
Most enigmatic historical allusion:
“Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!”
Strongest statement of gender equality:
“In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen.”
Most romantic kiss:
And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.
Most exciting call of alarm:
AWAKE! FEAR! FIRE! FOES! AWAKE!
Most intimidating description of geography:
Ever and anon the furnaces far below its ashen cone would grow hot and with a great surging and throbbing pour forth rivers of molten rock from chasms in its sides. Some would flow blazing towards Barad-dûr down great channels; some would wind their way into the stony plain, until they cooled and lay like twisted dragon-shapes vomited from the tormented earth.
Most beautiful sunset:
But in front a thin veil of water was hung, so near that Frodo could have put an outstretched arm into it. It faced westward. The level shafts of the setting sun behind beat upon it, and the red light was broken into many flickering beams of ever-changing colour. It was as if they stood at the window of some elven-tower, curtained with threaded jewels of silver and gold, and ruby, sapphire and amethyst, all kindled with an unconsuming fire.
Most insidious falsehood:
“Our friendship would profit us both alike. Much we could still accomplish together, to heal the disorders of the world.”
Most spectacular moment of destruction:
Towers fell and mountains slid; walls crumbled and melted, crashing down; vast spires of smoke and spouting steams went billowing up, up, until they toppled like an overwhelming wave, and its wild crest curled and came foaming down upon the land.
Most moving speech on the battlefield:
“But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him.”
Most Shakespearean dialogue:
“Stir not the bitterness in the cup that I mixed for myself,” said Denethor. “Have I not tasted it now many nights upon my tongue, foreboding that worse lay yet in the dregs?”
Most wonderful hobbit irony:
Then there was Lobelia. …and there was such clapping and cheering when she appeared, leaning on Frodo’s arm but still clutching her umbrella, that she was quite touched, and drove away in tears. She had never in her life been popular before.
Two moments that surely inspired the 60’s hippie counter-culture:
1. “Cast off these cold rags! Run naked on the grass, while Tom goes a-hunting!” … The hobbits ran about for a while on the grass, as he told them.
2. All that day they walked about in the woods with him, singing, and laughing; for Quickbeam often laughed. … Whenever he saw a rowan-tree he halted a while with his arms stretched out, and sang, and swayed as he sang.
Passage of utmost triumphant rapture:
And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
Line that always, always makes me weep uncontrollably:
There still he stood far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-earth, and the sound of them sank deep into his heart.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Many of you certainly have your own take on what qualifies as the “most humorous,” “most shocking,” etc., and that’s fine too. This pursuit is a matter of taste, perhaps, but you cannot deny the foundation: Professor Tolkien showed his passion on every page, with every turn of phrase. Of his labors he wrote in a 1950 letter to Milton Waldman:
… It was begun in 1936, and every part has been written many times. Hardly a word in its 600,000 or more has been unconsidered. And the placing, size, style, and contribution to the whole of all the features, incidents, and chapters has been laboriously pondered.
No better insight can be given towards understanding the perfection of his tastes in authorship. Here is the major facet that most assuredly elevates him and his body of work. We, his eager readership, are indeed blessed with his remarkable and thoroughly romantic word craft.
Much too hasty,
Follow Cliff “Quickbeam” Broadway on Twitter: @quickbeam2000
This article was first published on August 8th 2000 in Green Books. In an effort to introduce new Tolkien fans to our nearly 14 years of archived content, we will be publishing articles like this on a regular basis. We hope you enjoy it!
Posted in Green Books, Hobbit Book, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, Out on a Limb, The Hobbit, Tolkien
In his first of many articles for our worldwide community, Tedoras, long-time audience participant on our TORn TUESDAY webcast brings us an illuminating discussion on something that fascinates the inner-linguist in us all: taking the very Euro-centric names and words Tolkien invented and reforming them into other languages! How do foreign-language translators deal with Tolkien’s legendarium? Read on for some keen insights! Take it away, Tedoras….
By Tedoras — special to TheOneRing.net
In recent years, and especially following the release of the first installment of The Hobbit films, Latin America and China have both become major sources of Tolkien fandom. While we often associate the works of Tolkien with the English-speaking world, the international nature of modern Ringerdom cannot be ignored. The Spanish and Chinese-speaking markets have undeniably helped in making An Unexpected Journey the fourteenth highest grossing film of all time. An historical challenge with Tolkien’s works, however, is how best to translate them. Whether in film or literature, translators have struggled and debate for years on how translate the names of people and places without losing the original sound and meaning that the Professor clearly intended. The process of de-anglicizing these nouns is further complicated because not only must English-language etymology be considered, but also that of Middle-earth’s many distinct tongues.
In Middle-earth, we find a strong correlation between sound and meaning that is particularly evident in the context of “soft” or “hard/harsh” names. For example, the word “Shire” conjures up visions of a distinctly British pastoral community — in essence, one notes a favorable and pleasant sense simply from reading the word. In contrast, “Dol Guldur” is composed of hard consonants and more guttural vowels which denote a rather negative air. Another popular theme is the use of alliteration; it is no mere coincidence that Bilbo Baggins lives in Bag End. As you will see, the biggest problem in translating proper nouns is deciding whether to maintain the original sound or meaning intended by the author, when often both cannot be kept.
It just so happens that Chinese and Spanish are two languages I study, so, in homage to the large Latin American and Chinese Tolkien-fan base around the world, I have decided to present some translations of proper nouns from The Hobbit. While these translations certainly highlight the many different ways Tolkien’s works can be translated, they also provide some important insight into Middle-earth (and some unintended laughs along the way).
I first present some Spanish translations of proper names.
These translations reflect an effort to keep the original meaning of a word, rather than its sound. However, because of its close relationship with English, Spanish allows for the pronunciation of many words in their original form.
This is of course our favorite hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Interesting here is the translation of the surname. In Spanish, “bolsón” is the augmentative form of “bolsa,” which literally means “bag.” A “bolsón” is simply a large bag or backpack, yet in translation it is used to convey the “bag” in Baggins.
Bardo el Arquero
Bard the Bowman is, in Spanish, literally Bard the Archer. In this case, we note a loss of alliteration in translation. It may seem trivial, but alliteration very much shapes how we view a character. The strong “b” sound in Bard’s English title provides him with a bold, confident aura. In a way, the Spanish version tries to make up for this loss by means of assonance and the repetition of the “o” in Bardo and “Arquero.”
Bill Huggins is one of our favorite trolls. His surname is of particular interest; in the translation, we find the Spanish word “estrujón,” literally “squeeze/press” or “bear hug.” There are two aspects to this translation: first, if we take the “bear hug” approach, then you will notice how “hug” is also present in his English surname (Huggins); and secondly, from the Spanish name one is immediately aware that this character must be strong and large.
Piedra del Arca
The Arkenstone can be interpreted many ways in Spanish. “Arca” can refer to a chest (as in of treasure) or to an ark (as in Noah’s). Either translation lends an antiquarian, more mystical nature to the stone.
In Spanish, the Shire is known rather literally as a “region” or “province”. This name was translated out of necessity, for in Spanish the “sh” sound does not typically exist. Personally, I find this name lacking of the novelty of “Shire.”
The Spanish name for “Bag End” is rather odd. We find Bilbo’s surname used to represent the “Bag” in his aforementioned smial, but where one expects to find “end” there is the Spanish “cerrado” (literally “closed”). I am at a loss as to how to properly account for his translation; I will note, however, that the name flows much better as translated than if any variant of “end” had been used instead.
I find the Spanish name for the Misty Mountains very descriptive. Of note here is “nubladas” (literally, “cloudy/overcast”, from “nube” cloud). While “misty” and “cloudy” both denote mystery, the Spanish name is particularly foreboding; the verb “nublar” means “to darken/to cloud” and has a negative and ominous connotation in Spanish. This is of course an apt warning of the Misty Mountains.
The Spanish version of the “Long Lake” is very evocative of its English translation. Both exhibit an alliterative nature and are composed of two one-syllable words. This is, perhaps, exemplary of an ideal translation, if ever there were such a thing, as neither an ounce of meaning nor sound is lost.
Next I present some Chinese translations of proper names.
Before continuing, however, I must note a few important characteristics of the Chinese language for those who have no experience with it. Unlike Spanish, Chinese is much more concerned with the preservation of sound. The Chinese have a long tradition of translating words such that they are phonetically similar to their native language-form. Here are two examples: first, the Chinese name for Germany is deguo (de, because of the German Deutschland, and guo meaning “country/nation”). While the character de has literal meaning (“virtues” or “ethics”), in this context it is used simply because it sounds like the “de” in Deutschland. Another example is the translation of the English name Michael; the Chinese form, maike, literally means something along the lines of “overcome wheat”. Yet, again, the Chinese in this instance forgo meaning in favor of sound. Thus, as you will see, the majority of translations involve preserving sound in Chinese. Yet looking at what potential literal translations of the names yield is a rather funny and interesting task.
#1 (huo bi te ren)
This is the Chinese form of “hobbit.” It can literally be translated as “quickly compare special people.” This name, oddly enough, recognizes one truth: the unique and special nature of hobbits. Whether conveyance of this meaning was intended or not by the translator, I am not sure, though.
#2 (gu lu mu)
As you might have guessed, this is Gollum in Chinese. The literal meaning of this name is very odd: it can be translated as “nanny guru.” It does imply Gollum is old (which is true) and beholding of some secret knowledge, as a guru is (also, perhaps, true).
#3 (zhong tu shi jie)
The Chinese name for Middle-earth is an example where meaning is carried over sound. It literally means “middle earth/soil world”. However, another translation of “zhong1 tu3” is “Sino-Turkish,” though, of course, that is not the intended meaning.
#4 (bierbo bajinsi)
This is Bilbo Baggins—and a very difficult name to translate, too. The first name cannot really be translated at all. However, the surname is quite interesting; one translation could be “long for gold” which, although perhaps not applicable to Bilbo himself, is a rather pertinent note on the story as a whole.
#5 (gan dao fu)
As it sounds, this is Gandalf. The translation I like most for his name is “willing path man,” for, as we know, Gandalf is an instinctive wanderer; they do call him The Grey Pilgrim, after all.
#6 (si mao ge)
Smaug’s name is also very apt for his character. I translate this name as “careless spear,” which reflects his wantonly destructive nature.
#7 (you an mi lin)
The Chinese form of Mirkwood is another rare instance where meaning is favored over sound. This name literally means “gloomy jungle.” The dark and ominous connotation of the Chinese form is, in my opinion, much more powerfully negative than even the original English.
#8 (tuo er jin)
Lastly, I decided to include Tolkien’s Chinese name because it is oddly appropriate for the Professor. The name can be translated as “entrusting you with gold,” which I interpret in two ways: first, this can be seen as a reference to The One Ring, and, second, it can refer to Tolkien’s gift of his writings to us (his literary “gold,” if you will). Again, any intent on the part of the translator is impossible to know.
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Last weekend, the Hall of Fire crew discussed the story of Earendil and Elwing, and their momentous voyage that obtained the help of the Valar against Morgoth. Belatedly, for those who couldn’t attend, here’s a log. (more…)
Posted in Barlimans, Green Books, Hall of Fire, Other Tolkien books, Silmarillion
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Posted in Barlimans, Green Books, Hall of Fire, J.R.R. Tolkien, Languages, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, The Two Towers, Tolkien