Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Geste part 5

For those who haven't seen my occasional posts on Tolkien's other work, this should be fairly self-explanatory...

It is quite simply, a very different kind of Book Spoiler. To try and encourage those of us who seldom, or never, brave the world of the Reading Room to look deeper into all that Tolkien created. At the moment we are going through extracts from the Lay of Beleriand, which covers the story of the mortal Beren and his beloved elven Lady Lúthien. Two lovers in whose footsteps Arwen and Aragorn later walked.

I'll give some explanation of what is going on, and feel free to comment any way you like, ask questions, note the poetic style, the imagery, the story line, tell us if you hate it, find it boring, fall into hysterical weeping.. anything really. And if you've discovered some exciting nugget of information yourself, feel free to add it!

Well, without further hesitation, I thought I'd just throw you straight in this week and give you a chance to explore the poetry for its own sake before I give you some information as to what it's all about. Tolkien's words alone are enough to give you a sense of atmosphere!

In Wizard's Isle still lay forgot,
enmeshed and tortured in that grot
cold, evil, doorless, without light,
and blank-eyed stared at endless night
two comrades. Now alone they were._________2570
The others lived no more, but bare
their broken bones would lie and tell
how ten had served their master well
There in the dark they wrestled slow,__________2620
remorseless, snarling, to and fro,
teeth in flesh, gripe on throat,
fingers locked in shaggy coat,
spurring Beren who there lying
heard the werewolf gasping, dying._____________2625
Then a voice he heard: 'Farewell!
On earth I need no longer dwell,
friend and comrade, Beren bold.
My heart is burst, my limbs are cold.
Here all my power I have spent
To break my bonds, and dreadful rent
Of poisened teeth is in my breast
I now must go to my long rest
Neath Timbrenting in timeless halls
Where drink the gods, where the light falls
Upon the shining sea.' Thus died the king
As elvish singers yet do sing.


So sad....

so, what's going on?

Well, I'll start with where the scene is set.

The 'Wizard-isle' is also known as 'Tol-in-Gaurhoth' - The Isle of Werewolves.

It was originally 'Tol Sirion', an island in the middle of the river Sirion, on which the elf Finrod Felagund (Galadriel's brother) built the first Minas Tirith - which literally means 'Tower of the Guard'. A tower that watched over the western pass of Beleriand to protect it from attack by Morgoth or his servant Sauron.

Alas. In the late First Age it was captured by Sauron who held it himself for about ten years. He inhabited the tower instead of destroying it, filling it with his dark malice and the filthy, evil servants at his command.

Meanwhile, Beren enlisted the help of the dispossessed Finrod to go on the quest to Angband to snatch a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown. He hoped, as I'm sure you know by now, that by doing this he would win permission to take Lúthien's hand. The story is fairly familiar in many ways. It mirrors the path that Frodo and Sam take in LOTR.

Dressed in the guise of Orcs (heard that one before?) they passed through Anfauglith. Anfauglith was originally the plain of Ard-galen -literally the 'Green-Region'-, between the Elvish realms of Beleriand and Morgoth's Angband stronghold. It was a beautiful grassland in which the Elves set up their camps during their siege of Morgoth's lair. One dreadful day, which was to be known as 'Dagor Bragollach' - the Battle of Sudden Flame - Morgoth sent rivers of flame pouring out from Angband which destroyed the Elvish armies and turning Ard-galen into a desert.

"Thus Ard-galen perished ... and it was called Anfauglith, the Gasping Dust. Many charred bones had there their roofless grave..."
(Quenta Silmarillion 18 - Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin)

That reminds me of the plains of Dagorlad (or 'Battle Plain') outside Mordor that Tolkien describes as having the detritus of Mordor vomited all over it. Nasty!

In a reversal of Frodo's fortunes, it was while dressed as Orcs that Beren and Fingon were captured. And Sauron held them in the pits of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, surrounded by "...werewolves; fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he [Sauron] had imprisoned in their bodies" (The Silmarillion, 19 Of Beren and Lúthien).


Alas in a mortal irony Finrod is killed by Sauron's minions - or perhaps simply by the dread nature of his captivity - in the very tower that he created to keep Sauron out.

But what of Beren? Has his quest to reach Angband and the Silmarils failed too?

Well, as Beren lies in the dark dungeons of Sauron's Isle, Lúthien becomes aware of a darkness creeping over her heart. Her mother Melian tells her that this is a sign of Beren's capture. So the Elven Lady travels northward to find him, but gets tangled in her own adventures. Then comes Huan the Hound of Valinor:

Thus Huan spake, who never before
had uttered words, but twice more
did speak in elven tongue again:
'Lady beloved, whom all Men,
whom elfinesse, and whom all things
with fur and fell and feathered wings
should serve and love--arise! away!
Put on thy cloak! Before the day
comes over Nargothrond we fly
to Northern perils, thou and I.

And so she makes her way to Tol-in-Gaurhoth to try to rescue her beloved, with Huan in tow to aid her fight against the fell beasts of Sauron's making.....


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Tolkien's home: 20 Northmoor Rd, Oxford

9:32am (UK)
Suburban House Where JRR Tolkien Wrote the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Is Listed by Heritage Minister Andrew Mcintosh

DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT News Release (152¼04) issued by the Government News Network on 23 November 2004

A comfortable 1920s eight bedroom house in the suburbs of Oxford is to become a Grade II listed building, Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh announced today.

Despite having no special architectural qualities, the house is to get the extra protection from alteration or demolition that listed building status confers, because of its historical importance.

For it was there – between 1930 and 1947 – that Prof. JRR Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and virtually all of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, recently voted the ’most popular book in Britain’ in a BBC survey.

Andrew McIntosh said:

“Buildings are usually listed because of their fine architecture or unique design. But we can also give protection to buildings that have historical association with nationally important people or events. Professor Tolkien’s house in Oxford is a fine example of this.

“The house is largely unaltered since Tolkien’s time, with original doors, doorhandles and ornate window catches. As such it is an important part of our national heritage, and worthy of the additional layer of protection that listing brings.”

Notes to Editors

1. The house – at 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford – was built in 1924 by Fred Openshaw, a local architect, for Basil Blackwell, the owner of Oxford’s famours bookshop. JRR Tolkien lived in the house from 1930 to 1947 and is known to have written The Hobbit and most of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the drawing room. The interior plan, as well as numerous features, survives unaltered except for the removal of a wall between the former study and drawing room (by Prof. Tolkien) in order to increase the size of his study, presumably to accommodate the increasing number of reference books required to write his work. The main purpose of listing a building is to ensure that care will be taken over decisions affecting its future, that any alterations respect the particular character and interest of the building, and that the case for its preservation is taken fully into account in considering the merits of any redevelopment proposals. The listing covers the whole of the building. Any significant changes to exterior, interior or within the curtilage of the building would require listed building consent. The listing is not restricted to features mentioned in the list description.

2. The criteria for listing are set out in Section 6 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG15). This can be found on this web page: http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm–planning/documents/page/odpm–plan–606900.hcsp

Press Enquiries: 020 7211 6276¼6272

Out of hours telephone pager no: 07699 751153

Public Enquiries: 020 7211 6200

Internet: http://www.culture.gov.uk

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

2-4 Cockspur Street

London SW1Y 5DH


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Geste part 4

A very different kind of Book Spoiler....

From the Geste of Beren and Luthien:

Imagine the scene... a ragged, forlorn, weary Beren chances upon a maid, dancing on a hillock... and is lost.

Of finding, (lines 687 to 700):

"The wind dies; the starry choirs
leap in the silent sky to fires,
whose light comes bitter-cold and sheer
through domes of frozen crystal clear.
A sparkle through the darkling trees,
a piercing glint of light he sees,
and there she dances all alone
upon a treeless knoll of stone!
Her mantle blue with jewels white
caught all the rays of frosted light,
She shone with cold and wintry flame,
as dancing down the hill she came,
and passed his watchful silent gaze,
a glimmer as of stars ablaze."

... and then in lines 1210 to 1223 after Beren is banished from Doriath;

of losing:

"The murmurs soft awake once more
about the woods, the water roar
past the great gates of Thingol's halls;
but no dancing step of Lúthien falls
on turf or leaf. For she forlorn,
where stumbled once, where bruised and torn,
with longing on him like a dream
had Beren sat by the shrouded stream
Esgalduin the dark and strong,
she sat and mourned in a low song:
'Endless roll the waters past!
To this my love hath come at last,
enchanted waters pitiless,
a heartache and a loneliness.'"

What are your thoughts on the passages? Any comments are welcome.

A couple of thoughts about Beren falling in love with Luthien. (these mostly come from a friend of mine who's walking me through his favourite passages bit by bit - it's really thanks to him that you get these posts at all, I haven't got a copy of the Lays of Beleriand yet.. *hangs head in shame*)

on falling in love:

And now his heart was healed and slain
with a new life and with new pain.

Lines 555/6

I like that interpretation of Love.. exquisite pain, that brings life and slays
at the same time.

He gazed, and as he gazed her hair
within its cloudy web did snare
the silver moonbeams sifting white
between the leaves, and glinting bright
the tremulous starlight of the skies
was caught and mirrored in her eyes.

It's good to remember, at this point, that Tolkien chose to have the names Beren and Luthien engraved upon his tombstone, beneath his own name and the name of his wife.

I am reminded of a comment made by Thomas Hardy of Tess Durbyfield...

"She influenced me..."

And yet, she was his own creation!

It testifies to the amazing power that words have, and how majorly a created world can affect its creator.

JRRT said (like many authors) that his characters

just took over. Remember his comment about Strider?

"But I met a lot of things on the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlórien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were the Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure." ~ Letters 163 #216-7

it's almost as if he was the one on the adventure...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Friendship Quotes

Altaira's Birthday Mathom

This just happens to be my birthday, and true to TORN tradition, I’ve prepared a special mathom just for all of you.

As I pondered whether to parody or limerick, roast or hug, it occurred to me that the most important thing about TORN to me is the friendships I’ve made along the way (not to start a hug-fest or anything, Draupne and Fingon would kill me ;-)). So I decided to gather up quotes from LOTR that mentioned friends.

Piece of birthday cake, you say! But, true to the essence of our beloved Professor, there are scores of references to friendship in LOTR. I had forgotten how many times our heroes refer to each other as dear friends. Thus, I was forced to narrow it down to twenty-five.

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite references to friendship in LOTR, along with a few images of friends I’ve made along the way. (looks both ways, and at the risk of getting whacked on the side of the head, hugs everyone)!

1) Frodo (The Shadow of the Past): “O Gandalf, best of friends, what am I to do? For now I am really afraid.”

2) Gildor (Three is Company) “Be careful, friends!” cried Gildor laughing. “Speak no secrets! Here is a scholar of the Ancient Tongue. Bilbo was a good master. Hail Elf-friend” he said to Frodo.

3) Gildor (Three is Company) “If you demand advice, I will for friendship’s sake give it... take such friends as are trusty and willing”

4) Gildor (Three is Company) “I name you Elf-friend, and may the stars shine upon the end of your road”

(Two towers Oscar party-goers)

5) Frodo (A Shortcut to Mushrooms) “I’ve been in terror of you and your dogs for over thirty years, Farmer Maggot. It’s a pity: for I’ve missed a good friend."

6) Merry (A Conspiracy Unmasked) “You can trust us to stick to you, through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”

(ROTK Oscar Party-goers)
7) Guess who? (The Old Forest) “Hop along my little friends, up the Withywindle.”

8) (Flight to the Ford) “[Frodo] saw his friends’ faces more clearly again, and a measure of new strength and hope returned.”

9) Gandalf (The Council of Elrond): “..and Shadowfax departed.. but a great friendship has grown between us, and if I have need he will come at my call.”

10) Elrond to Frodo (the Council of Elrond): “Though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador and Hurin, and Turin, and Beren himself were assembled together your seat should be among them.”

11) Elrond to the Fellowship (The Ring Goes South): “You will meet many foes, some open, and some disguised; and you may find friends along your way when you least look for it.”

12) Legolas (The Riders of Rohan): “Come, you shall sit behind me, friend Gimli. Then all will be well and you need neither borrow a horse nor be troubled by one… Gimli was lifted up behind his friend and he clung to him, not much more at ease than Sam Gamgee in a boat.” (Marquette group)

13) Treebeard to Merry & Pippin (Treebeard): “Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost forever now.”

14) Treebeard to Merry & Pippin (Treebeard): “Of course, it’s likely enough my friends, likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents.”

15) Aragorn to Gandalf (The White Rider): “In one thing you have not changed, dear friend, you still speak in riddles.”

16) Theoden witnessing the reunion of the three hunters with Merry and Pippin (The Road to Isengard): “It cannot be doubted that we witness the meeting of dear friends... The days are fated to be filled with marvels.”

17) Legolas to Treebeard (The Voice of Saruman): “I should dearly love to journey in Fangorn’s wood. I have made a bargain with my friend that, if all goes well, we will visit Fangorn together – by your leave…” “Any Elf that comes with you will be welcome,” said Treebeard. “The friend I speak of is not an Elf. I mean Gimli.” “Hoom! This is a strange friendship!”

18) Treebeard referring to Merry & Pippin (The Voice of Saruman): “I shall miss them. We have become friends in so short a while that I think I must be getting hasty. They shall remain friends as long as leaves are renewed.”

19) Frodo to Sam about what to do after the Ring is destroyed (The Passage of the Marshes): “But Samwise Gamgee, my dear hobbit – indeed, Sam my dearest Hobbit, friend of friends – I do not think we need give thought to what comes after that.”

20) Frodo to Faramir (Journey to the Cross-roads): “Most gracious host, it was said to me by Elrond Halfelven that I should find friendship upon the way, secret and unlooked for. Certainly I looked for no such friendship as you have shown. To have found it turns great evil to good.”

21) Eomer to Aragorn (The Battle of the Pelennor Fields): “Twice blessed is help unlooked for, and never was a meeting of friends so joyful,” and they clasped hand in had. “Nor indeed more timely,” said Eomer. “You come none too soon, my friend. Much loss and sorrow has befallen us.” “Then let us avenge it ere we speak of it,” said Aragorn, and they rode to battle together.”

22) Gandalf & Gwaihir (The Field of Cormallen): “Twice you have born me, Gwaihir my friend,” said Gandalf. “Thrice shall pay for all, if you are willing. You will not find me a burden much greater than when you bore me from Zirak-zigal, when my old life burned away.” “I would bear you,” answered Gwaihir, “whither you will, even were you made of stone.”

23) Aragorn (The Steward & The King): “A day draws near that I have looked for in all the years of my manhood, and when it comes I would have my friends beside me.”

24) Pippin (Many Partings): “I wish we could have a Stone that we could see all our friends in and that we could speak to them from far away.”

25) Gandalf to the Hobbits (Homeward Bound): “As for you my dear friends you will need no help. You are grown up now. Grown indeed very high; among the great you are, and I have no longer any fear at all for any of you.”

(Maori bone carving - gift from a friend)

Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings. It must always be given, it cannot be bought for oneself.

Altaira - if you want me to remove any pictures, do let me know!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Tolkien's Anglo-Saxon poetic links

Originally posted on Theonering.net on 6th November 2003

Feeling Anglo-Saxon? It's Tolkien Trivia Time!

What to look at today... Hmm now, let me see. *Amatire rummages in an old rose-wood casket full of scrolls and old leather bound books* Genealogy? no... Geography? hmm not today... "On fairy stories"? maybe I'll leave that for next week.... Elvish? yeeks no! Aaaaahhhhh perfect! I've found just the thing.

*blows the dust of a small green volume*

Anglo Saxon poems!

Now let me ask you a question. Does this look familiar to you?

Hwaer cwom mearg? Hwaer cwom mago? Hwaer cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwaer cwom symbla gesetu? Hwaer sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune! Eala burnwiga!
Eala þeodnes þrym! Hu seo þrag gewat,
genap under nihthelm swa heo no waere.

Yes? No? Well in case you didn't already know. that is Old English. Pretty much the earliest written language known in Britain. (There are smatterings of Viking Runes, but they are contemporary or later, and of course theres Gaelic and Welsh, but they were not written down until much much later either. There is a possiblilty that a handful of rock-carvings on stones in the neolithic are in actual fact a basic written language, but no one is sure.... personally I reckon that they were just the doodles stone-age man made when he was on his mobile phone. No. Anglo-Saxon is almost definitely the first written language we know of in Britain.)

Now I expect that poem raises three questions in your mind. Firstly: What in the world does that mean? Secondly: How do I even pronounce it?! And thirdly: What if anything does that have to do with Tolkien?!

Well, lets see if by answering the first two questions, I can inadvertantly answer the third.
Hwaer say that out loud, speak it phoenetically. What does it sound like to you? if you said where give yourself a gold star!

That is the main key to pronouncing Old English. You say it phoenetically, (just be thankful youre not the one having to spell that! Sheesh! If I have ever found a word more un-phoenetical I certainly can't think of it now!) and you pronounce every letter. So no silent Consonants or Eees here people! (if you were an Anglo-Saxon, those last two words would have been pronounced as 'heeruh pee-owp-luh' make sense?) Also, if you come across an unfamiliar letter such as: 'þ' you pronounce it as a 'th' like in 'there' or 'that'.*

cwom well it looks a lot like 'come' and it is the same basic root word, but in this case it is often translated as 'is.' Confused? I know I am!

mearg** this means 'horse' believe it or not.

Now most consider this whole sentance to be in the past tense, so the translation goes like this:

Where is the horse gone? or What has become of the horse? which gives a better translation to the root word cwom as 'become' instead of 'is'

Have you got a good idea so far? Ok so let's fly through the rest of it.

Hwaer cwom mago? translated as "What has become of the warrior**?"

The other words are:

maþþumgyfa = 'giver of gifts/treasure,' symbla = 'feast/feasting,' gesetu = 'seat/ceremonial seat or dwelling,' sindon = 'are,' seledreamas = 'hall-joy/delight of the hall ,' Eala = 'Alas!' beorht = 'bright,' bune = 'cup/chalice/goblet,' burnwiga = 'chainmailed-warrior,' þeodnes* = 'Prince,' þrym = 'splendidness/illustriousness/brilliance,' Hu = 'how,' seo = 'that,' þrag = 'time,' gewat = 'departed,' genap = 'grow dark/to become (suddenly?) obscured,' nihthelm = 'night's onset/the shadow of night,' swa = 'thus/so/as/consequently,' heo = 'darkness,' no = 'by no means/not,' waere = 'to be/was'

Are you beginning to think that this sounds familiar?


Well let me give you a hand.

It comes from an Old English poem called The Wanderer. Lines 92-96 to be exact. The E-online Wanderer file gives us this information.

"The poem known as The Wanderer appears in The Exeter Book, an anthology dating from the third quarter of the 10th century (Thats from 950-975AD), though the poems in it may be considerably older."

This is what the original looks like.

So what is the full translation?

***"Where is the horse gone? Where the young rider?
What has become of the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats at the feasting gone?

Where are the merry sounds in the hall?
Alas, bright chalice! Alas, the knight and his hauberk!
Alas, the glory of the king! How that hour has departed,
And vanished under cover of darkness, as if it had never been."

Now do you see? Yes, these are almost exactly the same words that Theoden speaks in the film of the Two Towers (or if you want to be picky, the words that Aragorn speaks to Legolas and Gimli when describing the people of Rohan to them).

See TTT The King of the Golden Hall:

"[Aragorn] began to chant softly in a slow tongue unknown to the Elf and Dwarf; yet they listened, for there was strong music in it.
'That, I guess, is the language of the Rohirrim,' said Legolas; ' for it is like to the land itself; rich and rolling in part, and else hard and stern as the mountains. But I cannot guess what it means save that it is laden with the sadness of Mortal Men.'"

That is a really good description of Anglo-Saxon poetry. More often than not they were laments, or if they spoke of great deeds - such as the story of Beowulf - they were still 'laden with sadness' as Legolas says. And his description of the sound of the language is spot on in my opinion, Old English is very definitely rolling and hard at the same time!
Let's go on.

"'It runs thus in the common speech' said Aragorn, 'as near as I can make it.
Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?'"

So now you know where the good Professor got that particular poem from. If we needed any more proof that he was a big fan of Old English and Anglo-Saxon culture, (aside from the fact that he was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University!) you can't get any better than this!

I think that Tolkien has taken the original lines of the poem and expanded on their meaning much better than a direct translation does.

Well, I have waffled for long enough. Any questions, comments, debates, mistakes noticed or requests for next week as ever are welcomed and appreciated.

(*So Theoden's name if written correctly would probably be þeoden/þeodnes and means 'Prince')
(**notice that the words for warrior and horse are similar. Perhaps because one was rarely seen without the other? In fact another translation gives the word mago the meaning 'young rider').
(***notice there is no word for "the" in the original Anglo-Saxon poem.)

Todays Tolkien Trivia Time was brought to you by "Ping" nose cleaner, for an all round drunken goon-show shine.