This website contains archives of the Tolkien Discussion Group from 2009 to early 2013.

The discussion group continues to meet
in Second Life in Alqualonde the Swanhaven. Contact AelKennyr Rhiano in Second Life.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The 1985 Hobbit Movie from Russia

Don't think of it as a "movie."  That will only lead to disappointment.

Think of this as a video of a stage performance of The Hobbit.  In fact, the more I look at it, the more convinced I am that this is based directly from a stage performance.

I don't speak Russian, but you don't really need the words.
Here are the scenes:
   2:57 Bilbo meets Gandalf
   6:19 The Dwarves arrive at Bilbo's house
  20:36 Travelling
  23:56 The goblin's cave
  33:45 Gollum
  44:50 Forest with spiders
  49:07 Laketown
  51:26 Approaching the Lonely Mountain
  54:30 Bilbo finds the Arkenstone,  and talks to Smaug
  59:22 Smaug at Laketown
  59:55 Using the Arkenstone to negotiate
1:01:54 The Battle of "Five" Armies (though only three appear in this version)
1:03:01 Thorin's last words
1:05:15 Farewells
1:07:38 Happily ever after

If you were writing a script for a stage performance of The Hobbit - with a community theater or high school  budget - which scenes would you include?  How would you handle the special effects (Smaug, invisibility?)  How would you handle the size differences among the races?

Friday, September 27, 2013


I sometimes read the stats for my website.
Do I even want to know the story behind this one?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quenya Language Class

I am now consolidating my Quenya Language course to one website.  Read the entire course at


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sentences in Khuzdul (Dwarvish)

 «Khuzdul Words «        Dwarvish Index          
Everything we know about forming sentences in Khuzdul comes from one war cry and four isolated verbs.  That is to say, we know practically nothing!

known examples:
Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu! "Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!"

felek:  to hew rock
felak:  a stone-cutting tool, also to use such a tool

salôn, sulûn:  to descend swiftly (used of rapids on a river)

gunud:  to dig underground
Khazâd means “Dwarves,” ai (shortened from aya) means “upon”, and mênu means “you” (plural pronoun, accusative case).  Notice that there is nothing in this sentence that explicitly means “are”!  Apparently, in Khuzdul, as in some other languages, the form “____ ____” can be used to mean “____ is _____.”

That suggests that the inscription on Balin's tomb:  Balin Fundinul uzbad Khazaddûmu – traditionally translated "Balin son of Fundin, Lord of Moria." might equally well be translated “Balin, son of Fundin, is Lord of Moria.”  Under the circumstances, maybe “was Lord of Moria” would be more appropriate.

However, we still don't know how to form any other sentences, or how to use the few verbs we know.  I regret to tell you that the information we need just doesn't exist.
 «Khuzdul Words «        Dwarvish Index        
mirrored from Tolkien Language Discussion site

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Illustrations for Ainulindalë

Rajani sent me these links.

Fanart/comic of the Ainulindale.
(Click on the first picture in each page to make it bigger, and then keep clicking on it for each next panel.) 
Pretty much perfect.

Forming Khuzdul (Dwarvish) Words

 « Khuzdul Language «        Dwarvish Index         » Khuzdul Sentences »     

Each basic idea in Khuzdul is represented by a group of consonants (most often 3 consonants).  This is called the “stem.”  Nouns, verbs, and other words are then formed by adding vowels in appropriate patterns, and sometimes adding a prefix or suffix.
Kh-Z-D (stem for “Dwarf”  Notice that “Kh” is one consonant sound.)
Khuzd (Dwarf)
Khazâd (Dwarves)
Khuzdul (Dwarvish)
As noted in the lesson on Writing Dwarvish, “Th,” “Dh,” “Sh,” “Zh,” “Kh,” and “Gh” are each a single consonant in Dwarvish.

This system of consonant stems is typical of Hebrew, Arabic, and related languages.  A dwarf would probably look at the English words
wake (present tense verb)
woke (past tense verb)
awake (adjective)
and conclude that English has a “stem” W-K, designating the state of being awake.


What are the patterns for converting a root to a usable word?  We can figure out a few patterns, but often the analysts are guessing, based on one or two known Dwarvish words.

Following Ardalambion's notation, let us represent the consonants of a 3-letter root by the numbers 1, 2, and 3.  Using Kh-Z-D as an example: 1=Kh, 2=Z, 3=D.
stem: 1-2-3

singular noun: 1u23  (frequently)

Kh-Z-D (stem for “Dwarf”) → Khuzd (a Dwarf)
B-N-D (stem for “head”) → bund (a head)
R-Kh-S (stem for “orc”) → Rukhs (an Orc)
plural noun:  1a2â3 (frequently)

Kh-Z-D (stem for “Dwarf”) → Khazâd (Dwarves)
T-R-G (stem for “beard”) → tarâg (beards)
R-Kh-S (stem for “orc”) → Rakhâs (Orcs)
Other known plurals, such as shathûr (clouds) and bizâr (valleys) do not follow this pattern exactly.
a person, place, or thing characterized by the root:  1a23ûn

Th-R-K (speculated to be the stem for “staff”)Tharkûn (Gandalf's Dwarvish name, speculated to mean “staff-man”)
N-R-G (stem for “black”)Nargûn (Mordor)
one who does:  a1a2â3 (based on one example)

Z-Gh-L (speculated to be the stem for “make war”)Azaghâl (name or nick-name speculated to mean “warrior”)
adjective:  frequently 1a2a3 or 1i2i3

B-R-Z (stem for “red”) baraz (red)
N-R-G (stem for “black”)narag (presumed adjective “black”)
S-G-N (presumed stem for “long”) → sigin (long, used of a plural noun)
Does that mean adjectives for singular nouns are 1a2a3, and adjectives for plural nouns are 1i2i3?  No one knows for sure.  Several known adjectives do not fit either pattern.
adjective, patronymic, genitive: suffix -ul

Khuzd (a Dwarf) → Khuzdul (Dwarvish)
Fundin → Fundinul ([son] of Fundin)
When the root has only two consonants, then often (though not always), use those as letters 2 and 3 of the pattern.

Z-N (stem for “shadow, dimness”) → uzn (a shadow) (singular noun: 1u23)
Z-N (stem for “shadow, dimness”) → azan (shadows) (plural noun:  1a2â3) (Why not azân?  Possibly the second vowel appears short because it is in a compound word, Azanulbizar, Dimrill Dale. No one knows for sure.)
For nearly every one of these “patterns,” there are examples of words that do not fit the pattern.  Take everything with a grain of salt!


Ardalambion has a listing of all the known Dwarvish words, from all of Professor Tolkien's writings and letters.

 « Khuzdul Language «        Dwarvish Index         » Khuzdul Sentences »     
mirrored from Tolkien Language Discussion site 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Khuzdul – The Dwarvish Language

 « Dwarf Runes «        Dwarvish Index         » Khuzdul Words »   

This material is mostly based on Ardalambion's analysis. 

Dwarvish is a difficult language to study – not least because we have very little information about it. Don't expect to be conversing fluently in Dwarvish. Tolkien simply didn't leave enough information about the language.

Tolkien explained that the Dwarves kept their own language private , and learned the languages of neighboring folk when dealing with non-Dwarves. Even the names we know for Dwarves – Gimli, Thorin, Balin, etc. – are not those Dwarves “true,” private, Dwarvish names, but rather “public” names, mostly in the Human style.  (The one exception seems to be the Petty Dwarves in the Silmarillion, or perhaps only Mîm the Petty-Dwarf – if “Mîm” is in fact his private name.  Azaghâl (Silmarillion, Chapter20) and Gamil Zirak (Unfinished Tales) could be descriptive nicknames, rather than true private names.)

We do know a number of Dwarvish place names.  Most of what is known about the Dwarvish language comes from place names.  We also have one war cry:  Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu! "Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!", and the inscription on Balin's tomb:  Balin Fundinul uzbad Khazaddûmu, "Balin son of Fundin, Lord of Moria." 


The two original Dwarf cities in the Blue Mountains were named Tumunzahar (translated into Sindarin Elvish as “Nogrod”) and Gabilgathol (translated into Sindarin Elvish as “Belegost,” Great Fortress).  We do not know the Dwarvish names for the cities at the Lonely Mountain or the Iron Hills.  “Erebor” is Sindarin Elvish (for “Lonely Mountain”); I can't imagine Thorin's Dwarves using the Elvish name “Erebor” for their home. 


Internal History 

The Vala Aulë, creator of the Dwarves, invented a language for them, and taught this language to the first Dwarves.  The Dwarvish language changed only slowly with time.  Tolkien stated that, even in the Third Age, Dwarves from any part of Middle-Earth could easily understand each other's spoken language. 

Dwarves found the first Humans; the early Human language was influenced by Khuzdul, as well as by the languages of Elves who did not relocate to Aman.  The Human language of Númenor (Adûnaic) has strong similarities to Khuzdul. 

 « Dwarf Runes «        Dwarvish Index         » Khuzdul Words »   
mirrored from Tolkien Language Discussion site 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Download Some Dwarvish Fonts

 « More About Dwarf Runes «        Dwarvish Index          » Khuzdul Language »  

Are you looking to download some fonts for Dwarf Runes?  These are good places to start:

Keep in mind that the people compiling these fonts don't always  distinguish between the runes we have been learning (Cirth, from Appendix E of Lord of the Rings), the runes on Thror's Map in The Hobbit, and runes from any other generic fantasy dwarves.

From those sites, here are some of the more useful fonts:

Angerthas Moria”
classic look

The “Cirth Erebor” set 
classic look
This is the font I have used for my examples.
Be aware that the characters do not correspond directly to the keyboard.

handwritten (brushstroke) look

informal look
Has phases of the moon in place of the numerals.

Angerthas Moria” (a different "Angerthas Moria" font)
informal look


Here are runes in Thror's Map style.  
Dwarf Runes”
 classic look, incomplete alphabet 

Moon Runes” handwritten (brushstroke) look
A complete alphabet, though not all the numerals are in rune-style  

Tolkien Dwarf Runes” handwritten  (blobby-pen) look
incomplete alphabet 

Thror's Map uses Anglo-Saxon Runes, so consider just downloading an Anglo-Saxon Rune font. Most of these are "complete" alphabets, but not all the letters may correspond to characters found on Thror's map.
The lower-case letters are more likely to be "standard" characters, with variant forms in the capitals.  The C/K character on Thror's map might be in the C, c, K, or k position.


Just for fun, here are a couple of fonts with "ordinary" letters in a runic-looking style.

 « More About Dwarf Runes «        Dwarvish Index          » Khuzdul Language »  

mirrored from Tolkien Language Discussion site 

Friday, September 13, 2013

More About Dwarf Runes

  « Dwarf Runes «       Dwarvish Index        » Download Fonts » 
      » Khuzdul Language »   


Writing with a Pen, and Some Extra Characters for Writing English

The distinctive shape of "runes" derives from carving the runes.  Straight lines are much easier to carve than curves.  When carving runes on wood, vertical lines can easily be cut across the grain of the wood, but horizontal lines (along the grain) are likely to either split the wood or be difficult to read. We don't know how much early Dwarves carved on wood, but we do know the practice was common among early northern Europeans, whose runes Tolkien used as models.

However, when someone writes with a pen in a runic script, those constraints no longer apply.  We do have some of Professor Tolkien's thoughts on what his runes would look like when written with a pen.

In The Treason of Isengard (History of Middle Earth, volume VII), Christopher Tolkien describes  some notes his father made "from the period shortly before the beginning of the Lord of the Rings -- more or less contemporary with the Quenta Silmarillion," discussing runes.  At this point, Professor Tolkien was thinking primarily of Elves using runes, but we know, from the Book of Mazarbul found at Balin's tomb in Moria, that Dwarves did sometimes write their runes on paper.

I here add the written forms of the runic letters to my previous charts.  Most of the letters are shown in two versions, one approximating more closely the original runic shapes, and one showing a more "handwritten" effect.

Tolkien continued to revise his runic alphabet after these notes were made, so not all the letters  published Appendix E to Lord of the Rings, have "written" versions.  I think you will probably be able to easily fill in the missing letters, if you use these forms.

The pale green lines show the "base line" for lining up letters, just like the lined paper I learned on in elementary school.

This is what a passage looks like in these letters (Christopher Tolkien's handwriting):

 Don't worry about how it translates.  It uses a slightly earlier version of which sounds are associated with each letter.  (Also, it is in Sindarin Elvish.)  I include this to show you how the letters look.

(I am not sure how Professor Tolkien derived some of those letters.  A few of those look strange to me.  And I am pretty sure it is wrong that the second form for Û is identical to the form for N.  But that is how Professor Tolkien wrote it, or at least how Christopher copied it.)


In the same notes, quoted in Treason of Isengard, are included some additional characters Professor Tolkien modified to represent sounds in English.  In particular, English has more variations in vowel sounds than any of the languages of Middle Earth.

  « Dwarf Runes «       Dwarvish Index        » Download Fonts » 
      » Khuzdul Language »   

mirrored from Tolkien Language Discussion site

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

10th Annual Tolkien Conference at UVM - Lectures

« Photos « 

April 5-7, 2013
University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 

Once again, Lihan reports on her favorite geeky weekend.
I do not have all the speakers' names recorded. 

This year, the conference was canceled when the university cut off its funding.  Then, at the last minute, the conference was re-formed, without funding and without a keynote speaker.

This year's theme was Hobbits.

Friday night 

we had Open Mic Fireside Reading, complete with a video of a burning fire.  Everyone read favorite Tolkien passages out loud.

Then we watched “The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey.”

Saturday Lectures

Hobbit Society – Martha Monsonn

Tolkien modeled some aspects of hobbit society on the Warwickshire villagers of England of the late 19th century.  The foods mentioned in The Hobbit were all common in that time, though most were invented earlier.  But we should remember that not all aspects of hobbit society are identical to 19th century England.

In The Treason of Isengard, Christopher Tolkien describes a “typical hobbit of the Shire” – the prototype of Peregrin Took and Fredegar Bolger -- as “cheerful, nonchalant, irrepressible, commonsensical, limited, extremely fond of creature comforts.”

The Prologue to Lord of the Rings tells us “The Shire at this time had hardly any ‘government’. Families for the most part managed their own affairs.”  This is similar to early Germanic culture.

We know that the Shire had a money economy, since coins are mentioned several times.  We do not know whether those coins were minted by hobbits, or whether they came in trade from other parts of Middle-Earth.

Since Dwarves prefer buying, rather than growing, their food supplies, it is easy to imagine major trade between the Shire and Dwarves, especially the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains.

Hobbit families are “patrilineal.”  That is, family names are passed down in the male line.  However, hobbit women exercise nearly equal authority to hobbit men, within a family.  The role of head-of-family typically passed from the eldest male to his wife, and then to their oldest son.  In some cases, a daughter, or a daughter's husband inherited the role of head-of-family.

We have descriptions of hobbit birthday parties.  We know almost nothing about hobbit weddings – though surely a hobbit wedding must include a large party.  Apparently, hobbits have no organized religion.

Anachronism in Farmer Giles of Ham

One of the aspects of The Hobbit which the Tolkien children least liked was “chummy” tone of some of the passages.  In “Farmer Giles of Ham,” Tolkien had the opportunity to write a lighthearted story, without talking down to his audience

“Farmer Giles of Ham” is one of Tolkien's few fantasy stories which is not set in the “Middle-Earth” universe.  The humans in Farmer Giles in many ways resemble hobbits.

The story is a carefully crafted mash-up of eras and genres, and full of inside jokes.  It starts by treating Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, a notoriously inaccurate document, as if it were serious history.  Knights from French courtly romances of the 12th century and firearms from the 17th century coexist with 3rd century kings.  The wimpy dragon, the inadvertent hero who tames –  rather than kills – the dragon, and the bumbling – rather than scary – giant could not have appeared earlier than the 19th century “literary” fairy tales, which sometimes poked fun of their genre.

Tolkien knew history, including linguistic and literary history, very well, and would not have done this accidentally.

Farmer Giles uses a blunderbuss.  The first firearms in Europe appeared in the 14th century; blunderbusses in the 17th century.  The name “blunderbuss” comes from the Dutch, “donderbus,” meaning “thunder gun.”  There was a small version of a blunderbuss appropriately called a “dragon.”  The definition given by “the four wise clerks of Oxenford” is in fact a direct quote from the modern Oxford English Dictionary.

"A blunderbuss is a short gun with a large bore firing many balls or slugs, and capable of doing execution within a limited range without exact aim. (Now superseded in civilized countries by other firearms.)"

Tolkien himself wrote a few definitions for the Oxford English Dictionary, and knew the editors – the “four wise clerks.”

On another level, Tolkien knew that anachronisms were themselves “historical” -- that genuine old folk tales often acquired anachronisms as they were passed on from century to century.  Sir Gawain, a 5th century knight of King Arthur, goes off to the Holy Land to fight the Saracens.  Christian priests wander in the Mabinogion  lands of the Welsh gods and goddesses.

Syzygy:  Being an Alignment of Astronomical Bodies – Kristine Larson

In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien uses the phases of the moon to mark the time of the protagonists' journey, and to compare the dates of events taking place in different locations.  Tolkien worked out those moon phases carefully and accurately, based on an actually calendar (for the year 1942, leaving out a lunar eclipse of that year, and making adjustments for the dates in the Middle-Earth calendar).

There is some element of plausibility to “moon letters” as described in The Hobbit – writing which can only be read by the light of a certain phase of the moon.  The polarization of moonlight varies, depending on the phase of the moon.

The moon phases in The Hobbit are not so accurate.  In the first edition, the moon's phase when the Dwarves meet the trolls doesn't fit with the moon's phase when Elrond reads the moon runes.  Also, Bard sees the moon rising in the east, only two days after Durin's Day (when the rising moon would still be hidden by the rising sun).  Tolkien's attempts to revise the chronology only made matters worse.  He was, at the time, using 28 days as the length of the lunar cycle.

In The Hobbit, the Dwarvish New Year starts on “the first day of the last moon of Autumn.”  This day is called “Durin's Day” if the moon and sun are seen together, that is, if the tiny crescent of a new moon no more that 24 hours old is observed.  {The lecture included a description of “solar,” “lunar,” and “soli-lunar” calendar systems, which I won't repeat here.  Modern people remain interested in observing the first crescent of a new moon because each month in the Islamic begins at the observed (rather than merely calculated) appearing of the new moon.}  The current record for youngest new moon seen with the unaided human eye is 15.4 hours old.  In order for the Dwarves to observe the new moon of Durin's Day, they would need an unobstructed view of the western horizon, with clear air.  The distant Misty Mountains might have, in fact, been in the way.

Are Dwarves Not Heroes?

The speaker discussed, very rapidly, a number of journals and reports summarizing Tolkien research.

Another main point of this lecture was that any “fact” about Tolkien's opinions or thought process needs to be considered in its context.  For example, Tolkien's scorn for Shakespeare is often quoted; however, his comments were taken from a debate, in which he was assigned to defend the anti-Shakespeare position.  Likewise, Tolkien's comment that there is no relation between the One Ring and Wagner's Ring – beyond “both rings were round” – was written in response to one ill-informed reviewer.

The paper takes its title from the question of whether Tolkien's Dwarves reflect an anti-Semitic attitude.  Tolkien describes the Dwarvish language as having elements borrowed from Semitic language family (Hebrew, Arabic,and related languages).  The Dwarves have also suffered a diaspora, maintain their own secret language, and, um, have notable beards – which may be taken as resemblances to Jews, or perhaps to popular stereotypes of Jews.  So, when the narrator in The Hobbit says,

“There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.”

is that a subtly anti-Semitic comment?  On the other hand, both Thorin Oakenshield, and Dáin (who killed the father of Bolg) are portrayed as heroic.  And Tolkien, snubbing a German publishing house, spoke of Jews as “that noble race.”  So the case for antisemitism is not strong.  In all cases, it is important to keep track of when, and in what context, Tolkien made various comments.

Physicality in The Hobbit

The speaker makes a distinction between “high,” formal language, which lends itself to describing noble, dignified behavior, as opposed to “low,” coarse, earthy language, which lends itself to describing undignified or comedic behavior.  “High” language typically uses simile; “low” language typically uses physical description.

Tolkien uses both forms in The Hobbit.  The trolls are described:  

“they were fighting like dogs, and calling one another all sorts of perfectly true and applicable names in very loud voices. Soon they were locked in one another’s arms, and rolling nearly into the fire kicking and thumping, while Tom whacked at them both with a branch to bring them to their senses —”

In constrast, Elrond's description take the form:

“He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.”

The last 6 chapters of The Hobbit (from 14 on, starting with the destruction of Lake Town) Tolkien admits were more strongly influenced by the Silmarillion, which he was writing at the same time.  From the meeting with Elrond, and especially in the last 6 chapters, the “high” style predominates, there is less coarse comedy, and less physical description.  However, we do still see Bard emerging from the lake with his hair dripping, and Bilbo suffering a head-cold in Laketown.


Springlering Hobbit Festival