Cunning linguistics

From a conversation with Jen this morning:

R: Did you know the correct English plural for the word dwarf is dwarfs with an F?
J: Not …V-E-S, then?
R: No—although, when he was writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien, as an expert in linguistics, decided the word would be far more common in Middle Earth, so would have been corrupted through everyday usage. So he made a point of spelling the plural …V-E-S.
J: I dare say, after working that out, writing the rest of the book will have been a cinch.

Elf questionnaire


An elf towards the end of the Third Age yesterday.

Jen and I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy on Blu-ray over the weekend. Half-way into The Fellowship of the Ring, I thought of a pretty crap joke, viz:

Q: What's the main cause of death for elves?
A: Blowing out the candles on their birthday cakes.

…Elves are immortal, you see. Thousands of candles. Over-exhaustion.

Please yourself. I told you it was a crap joke. But I didn't let that put me off trying to tell it to Jen…

Me: Do you know what the main cause of death is for elves?
Jen: Pixie-matosis.

Damn! That is so much better than my joke.

Later, as the Fellowship of the Ring were being attacked by thousands of goblins in the Mines of Moria, Jen wondered what in Middle Earth they all ate.

Orc luncheon meat, I suggested.

Still not as good as pixie-matosis, though. Dammit!

Tolkien nerdish

Sunday Times: X-rated Tolkien: it's not for the kiddies

A darkness is once again descending on JRR Tolkien's fabled land of Middle-earth. An unfinished work completed by the writer's son is such a departure from the world of hobbits that it may merit an X-certificate.

The manuscript for The Children of Hurin, to be published next spring, contains incest, suicide and a multitude of violent deaths. Any film version is likely to have restricted audiences because of the subject matter.

Christopher Tolkien has spent the past 30 years working on the epic tale that his father began in 1918 while on leave from the army. JRR, who was recovering from trench fever contracted during the battle of the Somme, later abandoned the work.

Much of Tolkien's abandoned work was published many years ago in the book Unfinished Tales. I have to say, it's a stonking tale, and it's a real shame he never got to finish it. I don't know why his son felt the need to finish it, as the published (albeit unfinished) version stands on its own two feet.

Anyway, be that as it may, I've just had a thought. Excuse me while I completely nerd-out for a few bullet points (I read an awful lot of Tolkien in my youth, don't you know?):

  • The Children of Hurin goes by the full, made-up-Tolkien-language title Narn I Hin Hurin (literally The Lay of the Children of HurinLay meaning poem in obsolete English). So, the word Narn means poem (or poetic tale) in made-up-Tolkien-language;
  • Tolkien's best friend was C.S. Lewis, but Tolkien got somewhat pissed off with Lewis because Lewis kept nicking his ideas;
  • C.S. Lewis's poor excuse for a Tolkien-rip-off fantasy land was named Narnia;
  • … I reckon Lewis based the name Narnia on Tolkien's word Narn—so Narnia would mean The Land of Poetic Tales.

Well, that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.

(OK, I know, I'll get my coat.)

See also: A Rather Curious Number