Conversing With Elves: A Crash Course on Tolkien’s Elven Language and Runes

Conversing with Elves - Tin Evangelista

If there’s any one sure way to impress the opposite gender, it’s through knowledge. And, naturally, there’s no knowledge more seductive than Middle Earth lore. For those who have been living under a rock for the last fifty years, and are ignorant of hobbits, orcs, and internet Golum memes, Middle Earth is the fictional realm of world-renown British author and god of fantasy nerds, J.R.R. Tolkien.

It is the setting of some of the most beloved fantasy novels of our times, The Lord of The Rings trilogy, and its 300-page prequel, The Hobbit. 

Tolkien’s world has had a massive influence on pop culture, from a hugely successful board game (Dungeons and Dragons) to spin-offs, spoofs, block-buster movies, and even the inclusion of the word ‘hobbit’ in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

But before getting sucked into any new demesne, it is helpful if one is familiar, or at least has a working knowledge of, the language and the way of writing. Brilliantly crafting dozens of languages, dialects, and runes for Middle Earth, the exact number unknown, Tolkien has created not simply a playground in which his characters could roam and the dramatic events of his epics unfold, but a unique history and culture which help shape and mould his creations. 

And as diverse as his creations are, so are his languages. To the race of man, he bequeathed several unto them, perhaps the most notable being the following: Taliska, Adunaic, and Soval Phare or Common Speech. Amongst the dwarves, their secret language was known as Khuzdul, and to their race was given Iglishmek, a kind of sign language. Before Groot from Guardians of The Galaxy, Tolkien had his own talking tree, the Ents, and they spoke in Entish. The orcs spoke in Morgoth, and even Lord Sauron and his posse had their own lingo known as The Black Speech.

Here is a look into Quenya, originally known as Elfin, and spoken by the High Elves. It was first compiled in the Quenya Lexicon by Tolkien himself at the tender age of 23. Influenced by Finish, Greek, and Latin, Quenya has an esoteric feel about it that makes it perfect for conversing with your friends without any fear of eavesdroppers understanding.  It is similarly wonderful for throwing insults at people who won’t know what hit them.

Below are a list of common Quenya phrases and suggestions as to where it would be useful to utter them.

1. Áva quetë! (Be quiet!) – Useful when in Henry Sy, and a noisy group of hooligans forget that they are in a library, not a Roman Coliseum.

2. Alámenë (Go with our blessings) – Useful when someone volunteers to be the mediator for the class in asking the professor to move the test date.

3. Nátyë necindo (You are insane) – Useful when the professor claims that his test is easy.

4. Faica umbar! (Poor fate!) – Useful when the results of the test are released by the professor.

5. Melin tirië hendutya sílalë yá lalat (I love to see your eyes shine when you laugh) – Useful when gazing adoringly at a picture of Ryan Gosling.

6. Man carnet? (What did you do?) – Useful when friends are grinning mischievously and the realization kicks in that one’s Facebook page was left open to hacking.

7. Eca, a mitta lambetya cendelessë orcova (Go French-kiss an orc) – Useful when conversing with someone irritating.

As mentioned previously, Tolkien did not only create languages, but runes as well. Tengwar or Feonorian letters are Elven runes that differ depending on the dialect spoken. Since Quenya was discussed previously, the Tengwar mode that shall be dealt with is still Quenya.

One cannot say, after perusing this article, that he is completely familiar with Tolkien lore. To learn more the runes, is a good site to visit. And for more useful phrases, do check this website out. 

But if a deeper understanding of the workings of Middle Earth is not desired, then this article has hopefully sufficed in leaving the reader with a little bit more knowledge on one of this generation’s most scintillating subcultures.

Stephanie Pagdanganan

By Stephanie Pagdanganan

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