Tolkien Reads Elvish Poetry (and Giveaway Results)

Book Giveaway Christian Fantasy

As perhaps fitting for the holidays, I’ve run two giveaways this month, which have just closed. Jenni Noordhoek won Letters from Father Christmas (my random number generation seems to love you, Jenni), and Elizabeth Baxter won Burning Dawn. Congratulations to Jenni and Elizabeth!

Thanks to everyone who participated…I wish I was able to give books to you all! I have more giveaways planned for the future, so if you enjoy speculative fiction, keep an eye out for upcoming book offers.

And this seems a perfect time to share a bit of Tolkien miscellany I recently found, one I think the Tolkien enthusiasts who frequent this blog will enjoy. It’s a recording of Tolkien reading (in the Quenya language) the Elvish poem Namárië that Galadriel recites in Lord of the Rings. There’s something impressive in how fluidly he reads his invented language.


  • Mary Ruth Pursselley
    December 16, 2011 - 12:44 pm · Reply

    *shakes head* I’ve always dreamed of writing my own language for one of my story worlds. The more I work on it, though, the more I realize just how humongous the amount of information there is wrapped up in a spoken language. Well, maybe someday.
    I loved this recording, though. You’re right, he sounds so comfortable and at ease with the language. After hearing that I don’t think I could settle with less for a language of my own invention. 🙂

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 19, 2011 - 12:25 pm · Reply

      Mary, I’ve toyed with the idea writing my own language also, but I’m not sure I have the necessary grasp of linguistics to make sound legitimate. At most, I’ve done a smattering of words to add flavor to the story. As you said, there’s a huge amount of information that goes into creating a functional language. Yet I think it would be interesting to learn, so it remains on my someday list. 🙂

  • Bethany A. Jennings
    December 16, 2011 - 2:10 pm · Reply

    That video is impressive! I have a growing language for my books, but spoken readings or recitations take a lot of effort. I have to both pronounce the words correctly, act out the scene with the right emotion, and do it fluidly, all at the same time. It requires an intimate knowledge of what the words mean, so you can really *mean* them when you speak. It’s a lot of fun, though!

    I know Tolkien worked on Elvish for years and years…I think it was a huge driving force of Middle-Earth as a whole. He was a linguist, after all! I don’t have his passion for language, but there is a lot of satisfaction in having an invented language and being able to speak it. 🙂

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 19, 2011 - 12:27 pm · Reply

      Bethany, I’m impressed that you have a language well underway! And you’re right, to speak it with proper tone, inflection, and meaning takes things to a whole new level. For someone with Tolkien’s background, I suppose it didn’t take quite as much effort as it would for the rest of us.

      • Bethany A. Jennings
        December 19, 2011 - 2:55 pm · Reply

        Yes, Elvish seems both effortless and vast. My language is not half as well thought-out as Tolkien’s masterpieces! I invent words for it as I go, or sometimes in “packs” (like once when I invented all the words for human anatomy, like arms, legs, nose, head, etc). Elvish feels so DEEP, like it’s really been around for thousands of years. It truly feels like an ancient language. Mine feels quite first-generation. 🙂

        • Sarah Sawyer
          December 21, 2011 - 4:55 pm · Reply

          The whole of Middle Earth feels deep to me, a rich and vast history and culture. He invested in its creation for many years, and you can certainly tell.

          Developing words in packs makes sense to me–it seems like it would help with consistency. I’ve coined a few words here and there as needed, taking care, of course, to derive them from the roots of the same language group. But I haven’t really delved into any serious language building yet.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 19, 2011 - 12:29 pm · Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Maria! Seeing things like this that gives me a fresh perspective on Tolkien’s genius. His books and languages were the labor of a lifetime, but the results were spectacular.

      • Maria Tatham
        December 19, 2011 - 2:49 pm · Reply

        Yes, they were! Whenever I think of him, I don’t see the Lidless eye or ring or Frodo, the landscapes he created deftly, landscapes in which to live. I see russet valleys, green trees, mountains with luminous summits.

        On another note his use of Gollum providentially, to keep Frodo safe as well as destroy the ring was a stroke of genius.

        Hope you’re having a happy week, Sarah!

        • Sarah Sawyer
          December 21, 2011 - 4:50 pm · Reply

          Lovely description! I agree his world was as vivid as his characters and plot, and the imagery tends to live on in the mind.

  • TheQuietPen
    December 20, 2011 - 10:05 pm · Reply

    Elvish is a lovely blend of some of the loveliest parts of old Norse, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon–coupled with some beautiful things of his own creation! Plus, I love Tengwar–sort of a fancy combination of Arabic script and Cyrillic. Linguistics is one of my loves, after writing, and I think I might make up a language of my own, but I’d be worried about copying Tolkien. Thanks for the link! It was a great listen.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 21, 2011 - 4:48 pm · Reply

      I can tell you have a passion for linguistics, and I’m sure that comes in handy for a fantasy writer. 🙂 The written form of his language is beautiful, almost like artwork in itself.

      If you’re inspired to invent a language, I would say go for it. Given that you do have an understanding of linguistics, I’m guessing you could come up with your own without mimicking Tolkien. After all, you bring your unique background and imagination to the task.

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