J. R. R. Tolkien's lord's prayer and hail mary

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Syntactical and Etymological Analysis
By H. K. Fauskanger

Bibliographical Abbreviations
Etym. – The Etymologies (in LR:347-400)

GL – The Gnomish Lexicon (in Parma Eldalamberon #11)

Letters – The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

LotR – The Lord of the Rings

LR – The Lost Road

MC – The Monsters and the Critics

MR – Morgoth's Ring

PM – The Peoples of Middle-earth

QL – The Qenya Lexicon (in Parma Eldalamberon #12)

RGEO – The Road Goes Ever On (second edition)

RS – The Return of the Shadow

SD – Sauron Defeated

UT – Unfinished Tales

VT – Vinyar Tengwar

WJ – The War of the Jewels

J.R.R. TOLKIEN'S LORD'S PRAYER AND HAIL MARY IN QUENYA: Syntactical and etymological analysis
[This analysis was originally published in Tyalië Tyelelliéva #18. Shortly afterwards, another analysis appeared in Vinyar Tengwar #43. The authors of the latter analysis were able to draw on various other Tolkien manuscripts that occasionally throws some light on the more obscure features of the Quenya text. Some information from this article has been added – in brackets and with red letters – to my own analysis. Otherwise, my original published text remains virtually unaltered. Those who want to compare this study to the Vinyar Tengwar article may download a PDF version of the relevant issue from this URL:


1. Introduction
J.R.R. Tolkien was a man of faith, and in subtle ways his beliefs and philosophical notions were reflected in his narratives. "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work," he noted in 1953, "unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision" (Letters:172). Still there are no direct or explicit references to Christianity or Catholicism in LotR, or for that matter in The Hobbit or The Silmarillion. It has, however, long been known that Tolkien made a Quenya translation of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This, of course, does not mean that he planned to insert this prayer into his invented world; the long ages of Middle-earth supposedly far predated the time of Jesus, so this would be historically impossible even within the fictional context. Rather we should see this translation as a confirmation of Tolkien's statement that to him, it was the invented languages and not the fictional history that was the primary thing: "The invention of languages is the foundation. The 'stories' were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows" (Letters:219).

Some have contended that Tolkien's languages are so inextricably bound up with his fiction that they literally would not make any sense if removed from the Middle-earth setting, the languages as such being dismissed as nothing but figments of "literary art". Such a view, however, seems to represent a sad diminishing of Tolkien's efforts, as well as a profound lack of appreciation for the infinite flexibility of Language. On occasion, Tolkien himself might modestly dismiss his languages as "nonsense" or a "mad hobby" (MC:239, Letters:8), but in reality he did know the nature and potential of his work: He noted about his languages that they "have some existence, since I have composed them in some completeness" (Letters:175, emphasis added). Hence they could in principle be used to translate any text, even if the text as such had no direct connection to the narratives or the invented world. And as can now be seen, Tolkien did produce at least one such translation: a Quenya version not only of the Pater Noster or Lord's Prayer, but also of the Ave Maria or Hail Mary. The two are written consecutively and may well be considered one work. This is presently the sole known example of Tolkien rendering into one of his languages a text not originating with himself.

Why did Tolkien translate these prayers? It seems quite unlikely that he actually used the Quenya versions in his own worship. In Vinyar Tengwar #32, where Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick Wynne presented their own Quenya version of the Lord's Prayer (made before they got to see Tolkien's translation), Hostetter in his editorial observed: "Translations of the Lord's Prayer have enjoyed a long tradition as representative texts for use in side-by-side comparisons of various languages." But since Tolkien apparently never made any efforts to have his Quenya-language Lord's Prayer published, it does not seem that he intended it to be a general "sample" of the language. Most likely he wrote down these texts for no more profound reason than his own amusement – which should not, however, be taken as an indication of a frivolous attitude towards these prominent religious texts. The translation as such was probably serious enough, all the more so since these prayers would be important to Tolkien as a Catholic.

Quenya texts as substantial as this one rarely appear. If we limit the scope to what is more or less LotR-style Quenya, the only substantial texts (as opposed to isolated words or short or unconnected sentences) that have been available so far number no more than three or four. They are Namárië in LotR (and RGEO:66-67), the latest version of the Last Ark poem in MC:221-222, Fíriel's Song in LR:72, and Cirion's Oath in UT:305, 317. Fíriel's Song is not even quite LotR-style Quenya, and Cirion's Oath consists of only two sentences. The addition to our corpus of the 73-word Lord's Prayer/Hail Mary text, which may even be post-LotR, must therefore be seen as an important event, justifying a quite thorough analysis.

The analysis here offered is organised into three parts. The first, relatively brief part will simply establish a Text to be analysed. In this case, Tolkien's handwriting is luckily quite legible and unambiguous, with only a few uncertain points (such as the distribution of spaces). I will (summarily) try to justify the readings I prefer, often based on examples of Quenya that were published earlier.

The next part, the Syntactical/Analytical Commentary, will match the texts with typical English versions and analyse the Quenya versions word by word, but yet within the textual context: This is where observations regarding syntactical relationships within the text will be set out.

The Lexical/Etymological Commentary constitutes the final and by far the longest part of this analysis, providing detailed studies of the individual words, organised alphabetically. Here I will discuss how these words relate to material that has been published earlier, and try to infer what history and etymology Tolkien may have imagined for the various words and elements. Still, this is not to be taken as a mini-version of a Quenya Etymological Dictionary; while I will sometimes go into greater detail than a mere technical analysis of the text before us might seem to warrant, I will try to maintain the connection with the text itself. So to ensure easy referencing, nearly all of the entry-heads cite the word in the exact form it has in this text, including any inflectional or pronominal endings – which are then discussed in that same entry, or in the case of endings occurring repeatedly, cross-referenced to the entry for another word exemplifying that suffix. (A few suffixed elements that occur repeatedly in the text are however given separate entries, if that seems convenient, but no attempt is here made to be entirely consistent regarding such details of the presentation. Hence you will find a separate entry for the pronominal ending -mma our, whereas the ending -lya thy is discussed in the entry for esselya thy name.) The discussion of various technical oddities will be worked into the Lexical Commentary wherever it is convenient; thus there is a discussion of some of the strange aorists occurring in these texts in the entry for the word care, simply because this word provided a good opportunity to discuss the normal aorist formation and its apparent diachronic development. By using concrete words and forms found in the texts as the starting-point for such discourses, I hope to avoid making the discussions needlessly abstract.

At the end will be found a Summary recapitulating the major new insights provided by this text. Here I will slip into a perspective that is "practical" rather than strictly academic: I tend to be mindful about the needs of people who want to write or compose in Quenya themselves, since many aspire to do this, usually being very anxious to stay within the framework of Tolkien's system and not distort or dilute it.

The discussions below will involve extensive comparison with earlier published sources. These will normally be referred to by book (denoted by the common abbreviations) and page. However, in the case of two sources, I shall simply refer to them by name with no further references. They are:

Namárië: Also known as Galadriel's Lament, this is by far the longest Quenya text in LotR, occurring in The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, near the end of chapter VIII ("Farewell to Lórien"), beginning: Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen...

The Cormallen Praise: The praise received by the Ringbearers on the Field of Cormallen in The Return of the King, Book Six, chapter IV ("The Field of Cormallen"). The parts we shall here refer to are these: Daur a Berhael, Conin en Annûn! ... A laita te, laita te! Andave laituvalmet! ... Cormacolindor, a laita tárienna! (Cf. SD:47.) The first exclamation is in Sindarin, the two others are Quenya. Letters:308 provides these translations: "Frodo and Sam, princes of the west, glorify (them)." – "Bless them, bless them, long we will praise them." – "The Ring bearers, bless (or praise) them to the height."
NOTE: In the following discussions, the asterisk * is prefixed only in the case of genuinely unattested forms or sentences (wrong forms are marked with a double asterisk). "Primitive" or ancestral forms quoted by Tolkien himself, that he often asterisked, must actually be counted just as authoritative as the "attested" forms. These fictional "reconstructions" are not here asterisked, but are simply referred to as "primitive" or "ancestral". A distinction is here made between "unattested" or "reconstructed" forms and sentences, which are marked with *, and "deconstructed" words, that are marked with the symbol # instead. The latter is used in the case of word-forms that are not "constructed" but simply isolated from the attested form, e.g. #indóme will isolated from indómelya thy will. However, mere grammatical affixes isolated from the main word are usually not so marked, since they do not appear as independent words anyway; the symbol # is only used in the case of endings that cannot be isolated with full confidence.

Though I normally regularize the spelling of Tolkien's languages, especially in my own compositions, I have here retained the spelling used in the sources for the sake of academic accuracy. Thus there is here some inconsistency regarding such variant spellings as k or c, q or qu and the use of the diaeresis.

2. The Text
Tolkien wrote his text on a piece of stationery (hence the words "From Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, Merton College, Oxford" at the top). The text of the prayers is not written in quite modern letters, but in a medieval-style script, Tolkien apparently amusing himself by producing something with the look and feel of an "ancient manuscript". More specifically, he appears to have imitated a hand historically used for Anglo-Saxon. The most peculiar feature of this style of writing is the shape of the letters s and r, that look more like modern-day r and p, respectively (for instance, the words sí ar "now and" in the middle of the second-to-last line of the manuscript are written in a way that to a modern reader would rather suggest "rí ap"). Instead of regular commas Tolkien uses dots, and instead of full stops normally what looks like a modern colon; a regular full stop is however found following the word emmen.
I shall base my analysis on the following reading of Tolkien's text:
Átaremma i ëa han ëa · na aire esselya · aranielya na tuluva · na care indómelya cemende tambe Erumande : ámen anta síra ilaurëa massamma · ar ámen apsene úcaremmar sív' emme apsenet tien i úcarer emmen. Álame tulya úsahtienna mal áme etelehta ulcullo : násie : Aia María quanta Eruanno i Héru as elye · aistana elye imíca nísi · ar aistana i yáve mónalyo Yésus : Aire María Eruo ontaril á hyame rámen úcarindor sí ar lúmesse ya firuvamme : násie :
In the manuscript, four words occurring at the end of a line are divided by a hyphen, the word continuing on the next line: massa-mma, ú-sahtienna, món-alyo, firu-vamme. It seems certain that the hyphens divide the words simply because of lack of space and should not otherwise be included. (In the case of firu-vamme, the hyphen is quite large and elaborate, but since it intrudes in the middle of a morpheme – the future-tense ending -uva – there can be no regular division here.)

The text above certainly is not the only possible reading. The distribution of spaces is vague; ëa han and as elye could be read as single words (ëahan, aselye). [VT43 prefers the one-word reading aselye.] A few of the accents (indicating long vowels) are unclear; if they are there at all, they are obscured by descending elements of the letters above. Imíca may also be read ímíca, both i's being long. When I read yáve with a long á, it is primarily because all other sources have a long á in this word and related words (yáve fruit by itself in LR:399 s.v. yab and as the last entry in the Silmarillion Appendix; cf. also yávië for autumn, harvest in LotR, Appendix D). There just might be an accent above the a here as well, merged into the letter above; however, without the help of other sources I would probably have read yave, and that may be the actual reading here [so in VT43]. Á hyame could very well be read as one word, áhyame; I prefer reading á as a separate word because this imperative particle is not directly prefixed to the following verb in our very few other examples, such as á vala rather than *ávala in WJ:404. [VT43 agrees with me in reading á hyame.]

The manuscript itself provides definite clues to the dating. For one thing, since this is on Merton College stationery, it cannot be earlier than 1945 (when Tolkien moved from Pembroke to Merton). The spelling of the Quenya text is also interesting: we repeatedly have c rather than k, and the word quanta "full" provides an example of qu rather than q. Students of Tolkien's languages will know that in the pre-LotR period, Tolkien usually wrote q, k rather than qu, c (indeed the name of the language itself was spelt "Qenya"). Various philological clues, discussed in detail in the Lexical Commentary below, seem to suggest that this text is not younger than the LotR Appendices (in particular, see the entry for the word ilaurëa concerning the element aurë). This takes us to 1955 or later, but not later than 1959-60 (when a certain phonological feature, found in the Etymologies of the thirties but apparently abandoned in the text before us, seems to have been re-instituted – see the entry care in the Lexical Commentary). The word #massa (rather than masta) for bread also points to the fifties; see the entry massamma. Instead of the word ontaril for mother, begetter we might have expected *nostaril based on a last-minute change Tolkien did in the final volume of LotR (SD:73); this may suggest that our text (slightly?) predates this minute change. If we date this text to 1955, we shall probably not err much. It may be a little earlier, but not much: the word ëa occurring in this text does not seem to have entered Tolkien's mythos before 1951 (see LR:338, MR:7, 31 regarding Ëa or as a name of the universe). The word #ála "do not" incorporates -la as a negative element "not", but "possibly soon after the publication of The Lord of the Rings", Tolkien abandoned this element (see VT42:32). He reintroduced it in the last years of his life, but this text is certainly older than ca. 1970. All things considered, it seems quite unlikely that Tolkien made these translations earlier than 1951 or later than 1955.
3. Syntactical/Analytical Commentary: The Textual Context Analysed
Átaremma i ëa han ëa ·

Our father who art in heaven,

It is not quite certain that this traditional English wording of the prayer actually corresponds to the Quenya text, though it certainly begins with the words "our Father who art...": Átaremma "our father", sc. #átar "father" (other sources have atar with a short a) + -mma "ours", with a connecting vowel -e- slipped in between the noun and the ending to avoid an impossible consonant cluster. This ending -mma denotes an exclusive "our"; átaremma is not used for "our father" when his children are talking about him among themselves (that is *átarelma), but when they are addressing another party that is not among his children: In this case, it is the father himself that is being addressed. i "who", relative pronoun. ëa "is" or "exists", han a hitherto unknown word that according to the normal English wording of the prayer ought to be the preposition "in" (though it is wholly dissimilar to the normal word for "in", mi). See the Lexical Commentary for further discussion of this word. [VT43 argues that han means "beyond".] The second ëa would correspond to "heaven". If this is a noun, it would have to be equated with , the well-known Quenya name of the created universe, despite the fact that in the text before us it is not capitalized. This word is a surprising choice as a translation for "heaven"; Tolkien did not even use it when translating "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" a few lines down. If han is a preposition, it would seem to somehow describe Eru's position in relation to Eä, and in light of the normal wording of the prayer, Eru must in some sense be "in" Eä. Perhaps han may mean something along the lines of "permeating"? Yet in what precise sense Eru is present within Eä was something of a mystery even to the inhabitants of Middle-earth, as is evident from the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (MR:322: "How could Eru enter into the thing [Eä] that He has made, and that which He is beyond measure greater? ... He is already in it, as well as outside...but indeed the 'in-dwelling' and the 'out-living' are not in the same mode... So may Eru in that mode be present in Eä that proceeded from him"). Of course, when trying to interpret a translation of a text that belongs to our world rather than Tolkien's invented world, attempting to glean information from his mythos may be beside the point. Perhaps Tolkien simply meant to say something like *"our Father who is in (?) the universe". It should be noted, though, that there is an old Gnomish text that seems to feature a preposition han = "above" (see the relevant entry in the Lexical Commentary below for reference). If this is what han means here, Tolkien would seem to have rephrased "who art in heaven" to "who art above the universe", perhaps because people within his mythos "did not conceive of the sky as a divine residence" (Letters:204; cf. the entry Erumande in the Lexical Commentary).

Another, even more ingenious interpretation could be that Tolkien here did not translate "who art in heaven", but substituted another Bible-based phrase, namely God's self-designation "I am that I am" or "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14; Hebrew `ehyeh `asher `ehyeh). Could Tolkien have re-phrased the first line of the prayer as *"our Father who art that thou art"? This would allow us to interpret ëa as a verb in both of its occurrences. If this is so, han would have to mean something like *"that" or *"that which". However, this theory seems difficult to maintain, even apart from the fact that a devout Catholic would hardly feel free to significantly rephrase the Lord's Prayer. If i ëa han ëa is to mean *"who art that thou art", the second ëa would be expected to include a second person pronominal ending (probably -lye), but no such suffix is present. Moreover, such an interpretation would require that ëa can be used as a copula (like ), but our few examples hint that this is not so. The verb ëa (also spelt ) may be translated "is", but we have no example of it being used to connect a subject with a noun or an adjective; rather it means "exists", and so Tolkien translated it in at least one case (VT39:7). Hence in Cirion's Oath (UT:305, 317) we have the sentence i Eru i or ilye mahalmar , "the One who is above all thrones": Eru exists in this sublime position; or ilyë mahalmar "above all thrones" may here be seen as an adverbial phrase rather than a predicate. No matter how we interpret the precise syntax, this example indicates that ëa rather than is used for "is" when a subject is to be connected to a prepositional phrase denoting a position. It seems most reasonable, then, to assume that Átaremma i ëa han ëa is another example of this, and that this means something along the lines of *"our Father who is in Eä" (though the precise meaning of han, that we take to be a preposition of some sort, must remain as uncertain as the spatial relation between Eru and Eä). [VT43 takes i ëa han ëa as meaning "who is beyond Eä", which would certainly not be a direct translation of "who is in heaven". If this is the correct interpretation, it is still surprising that the second ëa is not capitalized as or Ëa, to identify it as a proper name.]

Átaremma i ëa han ëa provides a new example of the word order used in a relative phrase. Here we have subject + relative pronoun + verb + prepositional phrase. On the other hand, the wording i Eru i or ilyë mahalmar eä in Cirion's Oath inverts the order of the verb and the prepositional phrase, placing the verb at the end (much like in a German relative phrase, but in Cirion's Oath the verb is actually not absolutely final; there is an adverb tennoio "for ever" following it). Carrying the word order used in Cirion's Oath over to the Lord's Prayer would produce *Átaremma i han ëa ëa, the first ëa being a noun (Eä, the universe) and the second a verb "is, exists". Perhaps Cirion's Oath displays the more normal word order, the Prayer using an alternative wording to avoid two ëa in sequence. In a highly inflected language like Quenya, the word order would typically be quite free anyway. It may be noted that the sole relative sentence in Namárië – the words tellumar, yassen tintilar i eleni, literally "domes, which-in twinkle the stars" (RGEO:66-67) – has the verb tintilar "twinkle" immediately following the relative pronoun ya "which" (here inflected for plural locative: yassen). This quote was from the "prose version" of Namárië in RGEO; the "poetic" version in LotR does not have the noun tellumar "domes" immediately in front of the relative pronoun, but still agrees that the verb follows immediately after the relative pronoun. This would be the same word order as in Átaremma i ëa... "our Father who is..." It would seem that Quenya does not have a fixed word order in relative sentences, but typically the verb may follow immediately after the relative pronoun, as in the phrases Átaremma i ëa and tellumar, yassen tintilar.

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