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Old 09-10-2014, 06:41 PM   #1
Alfirin
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Ori's writing

Greetings,

I'm wondering if anyone here could answer a little question that's been bothering me

In LOTR when Gandalf reads the account of the death of Balin and the rest of the Moria reclamation party. He makes mention that is in written in "a bold hand, using an Elvish script", by which Gimli identifies that the writer must be Ori. My question is as follows

1. by "an Elvish script, does Tolkien mean Ori was actually writing in Elvish (presumably Sindarin) or simply using Elvish letters to write in some other language, presumably Westron, since I'm not sure it is POSSIBLE to write Kuzdul using Elvish characters. I'm not sure you can write Westron in them either, but maybe you can (like how many Eastern European languages can be written using either the Roman or Cyrillic alphabet)

2. If the former, why would he write a message like that in Elvish? Ori is old enough to predate the Dwarf/Elf reconciliation, so while he might know Sindarin or Quenya (for trade reasons, or as part of a classical education) I doubt it's his first language (though the fact that Gimli can identify him from this means he must have done it fairly regular. Any friendly party coming in who might read it would presumably be more dwarves so one would assume you would want to make the message as easy to read as possible, which would presumably mean Kuzdul would be the tongue of choice. Even Weston would be a better choice than Sindarin since it seems to be sort of the lingua franca of interspecies trade and hence, the most readable by any party.
Quenya seems even less likely than Sindarin, I might be the language of scholars and the learned, but few common people of ME still seem fluent in it. If part of the reason for writing the message was to warn any future interlopers into Moria of the danger, writing it in Quenya would be a bit like a castaway on an island sending a message in a bottle written in Classical Latin.

NOTE: if my mind is playing tricks on me, and the whole "Elvish" script thing is found only in the BBC radio version (where I know I heard it) please ignore this question.
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Old 09-10-2014, 07:09 PM   #2
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When Gandalf says "an Elvish script," he means just that--an Elvish script, i.e. writing system.

As near as I have ever been able to tell from the Appendices, Elvish letters (script) was the main writing system of Middle-earth in the Third Age, and its use was more-or-less parallel to the use of Westron as the common tongue. And, if I have had the right impression all these years, the Book of Mazabul was in the Common Tongue*.

Thus, it follows, the various Dwarves writing in it might have used either the Runes, which were especially familiar to them, or the Elvish letters, which were the common way of writing that language.


*It really HAS to be the Common Tongue that is in the Book of Mazabul, for a couple reasons: 1. Gandalf is not fluent in Khuzdul, as evidenced by his remarks outside the Doors of Moria that he would have to call on Gimli if he were to need words in that tongue, and 2. Khuzdul was not, especially in these later days, apparently something that the Dwarves shared much--if at all--with outsiders. Granted, the logbook of the expedition was hardly intended to be sent to George, Allen, & Unwin for mass printing, but it does seem to have been intended as a record that COULD be shared with anyone who might come, either to find the Kingdom in splendour, or as a record of their failure as the case ultimately ended.
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Old 09-10-2014, 07:14 PM   #3
Galadriel55
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No, the script part is definitely there. I have no idea why. Maybe to sound fancy and official - we still have a lot of Latin present in mottos of fancy official places - but why be so official in such quantities with your own kin and kind? Especially since this bunch was very, hmm, nationalistic. All I can say is that I've tried reading a language written with the wrong script, with various combinations of languages and scripts. Trust me, it is not an experience you'd want to do repeatedly. It's a pain in the neck trying to decipher simple words. So if Ori wrote in Kuzdul using Elvish characters, just why would he make life so difficult for his readers?

Edit: xed with Form. Hey! Good to see you around!
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Old 09-10-2014, 08:01 PM   #4
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Ok so you DO use Tengwar to write Westron. Thanks, that clears a lot up.

It sounds like the book of Mazabul was probably written in both' That Gandalf specifies Ori's bit is in Tengwar indicates there are bits that are not.

In fact, now that I think of it I rather suspect Ori's was one of the few bits that was and was like that because he was writing in a hurry. The older parts of the book, from when the Dwarves ruled probably ARE in Kuzdul, as would befit a history of Moria. As a book designed to be a chronicle of the kingdoms history, the scribes would probably REQUIRE it be written in the Ancient Runes of their people (much as some official scientific papers (like the one describing a new species) are still written in Latin (or Greek, or Hebrew). On the other hand, Ori's notes would be more along the lines of a quick scribble. In which case, he probably WOULD use Tengwar since it is curvier, and therefore probably a bit faster to write in (much as many people can write in cursive faster than they can print) It would be a bit like the situation in Dynastic Egypt. Hieroglyphics were really more for monuments and official documents. For day to day messages, a scribe would be using Heiratic (or later Demotic) Egyptian which is much simpler.
And I can sympathize, Galdriel55 . I still remember my sister breaking down in tears when, as part of learning French in high school, she decided to bring in the copy of Babar our Grandfather brought back from Paris where he was over there in WWII to read to the class....and finding she couldn't because Jean de Brunhoff wrote all the text in Babar in his own cursive (actually I think the books STILL is printed that way; I never checked) Or when I tried to read a 1920s or so book in German, from the time when it was still common to print them in Gothic/Blackletter script ( I can't read German anyway, but with a modern one I probably could have looked up enough words to make it out)
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Old 09-11-2014, 06:21 AM   #5
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Just a small tangent about the Common Tongue:

I may be confusing things and missing a few details, but did the Hobbits not also speak it (and therefore write it)? Did they also use Tengwar? If so, did Bilbo not have to lean the alphabet when he studied Elvish (and taught it to Frodo)?
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Old 09-11-2014, 07:29 AM   #6
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The actual letter forms he probably knew but he may have had to learn to apply them to different sounds. I don't think hobbits would have developed their own writing system.
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Old 09-11-2014, 09:06 AM   #7
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I also seem to noticed that when Hobbit writing is shown, it often appears to be a different, somewhat, shorter chubbier form of writing than the form most elves seem to prefer. Assuming this is actually the case (as opposed to a flourish by Tolkien or one of the later interpreters) Bilbo might not have recognized them when learning Elvish (again sort of like learning cursive after print, or "casual" Hebrew after the formal kind)
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Old 09-11-2014, 12:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Alfirin View Post
I'm not sure it is POSSIBLE to write Kuzdul using Elvish characters. I'm not sure you can write Westron in them either
Well, I'm reminded of the Ring inscription of which Gandalf tells Frodo "The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor."

If Mordorish (or whatever the proper name of the language is) can be written in Elvish script, then I'm tempted to think *any* language can.
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Old 09-11-2014, 04:04 PM   #9
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In a late text titled Of Dwarves And Men it is said: 'Now the Common Speech, when written at all, had from its begining been expressed in the Feanorian Script.'


The text goes on to say that in the Third Age some Dwarves had been obliged to learn to read the Common Speech as written:

Quote:
'... and many had found it convenient to learn to write it according to the then general custom of the West. But this they only did in dealings with other peoples. For their own purposes they (as has been said) preferred the Runes and adhered to them.'

'Therefore in such documents as the Book of Mazarbul -- not 'secret' but intended primarly for Dwarves, and probably intended later to provide material for chronicles -- they used the Runes. But the spelling was mixed and irregular. In general and by intention it was a transcription of the current spelling of the Common Speech into Runic terms; but this was often 'incorrect', owing to haste and the imperfect knowledge of the Dwarves; and it was also mingled with numerous cases of words spelt phonetically (according to the pronunciation of the Dwarves) -- for instance, letters that had in the colloquial pronunciation of the late Third Age ceased to have any function were sometimes omitted.'

JRRT, Of Dwarves And Men, The Peoples of Middle-Earth
There are a few footnotes I'm not quoting here.

Although if any parts of this don't square with something in The Lord of the Rings (something that I can't recall at the moment perhaps), then for myself I would give weight to The Lord of the Rings rather.
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Old 09-11-2014, 07:59 PM   #10
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By the way, you can see Ori's script -- he does employ the tengwar -- in the pictures Tolkien himself made of parts of these pages. JRRT made them look like burnt and torn pages, and I think the illustrations are now being published in an anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings.

You can find them in some books that contain Tolkien's illustrations too... or at least one of them.

So we have torn and burnt pages of both runes and Feanorean characters, and I think 'page III' (again with respect to Tolkien's illustrations of the 'pages') has runes and also a line of tengwar.
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Old 09-11-2014, 08:15 PM   #11
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I doubt that Ori would know Sindarin, let alone Quenya, and if he did, what purpose would he have for writing in them rather than his first tongue? It's probably more of a writing style thing, as he may shape his letters similar to that that the elves do.
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Old 09-11-2014, 09:10 PM   #12
Galin
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Well, Ori wrote in the Common Speech, using the tengwar.

Short version
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