Translations from the Anglo-Saxon

Eleanor Simmons, Society Lembas Rep (as well as Secretary 2009-10 and Publicity Officer 2013-15, and Society Hero), uses her linguistic skills to bring us her renderings of two Old English poems.

As anyone familiar with the original poems will note, these are neither wholly literal translations and nor do they pretend to more Anglo-Saxon than fairly loose alliteration – but this too shall pass.

Deor

Noble Weyland knew pain and exile
Beset by snakes and beleaguered with hardship
Sorrow and longing and the winds of winter
These were his sole companions,
After Niðhad set the hero in cruel bonds.
But that has passed. This too shall pass.

It was her own fate, not the fall of her brothers
That deepened Beadohild’s despair.
She knew without a doubt she was pregnant
And there was no escape
This too shall pass.

Who has not heard of Mæðhilde’s mourning?
The long grief of the lady of the Geats
So sorrowful a love that robbed her of sleep
But that has passed.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
The men of the Maerings, as many can tell
But that has passed.

Eormanric’s wolfish thoughts were revealed
As he ruled the Goths, a savage king.
How many warriors sat, mired in misery
Wishing only that the kingdom be overthrown?
But that has passed.

A man sits bleakly, bereft of song
His mind shadowed, he see too well
His enduring lot, his oppression unending.
He may think that throughout this world
The wise Lord wishes change
He gives great glory to many men
True honour, and to some a deal of harm

For my own self I will speak.
I was for a time the poet of the Heodings
And dear to my lord. Deor I was named.
I had a good position and a gracious lord,
For many years, yet Heorenda,
Skilled in songmaking, received the rights
That my loving lord had once gifted me.
But that has passed. This too shall pass!

The Cuckoo Riddle

Before I was born my parents fled,
Unmourned and unliving, they left me for dead.
But a kindly cousin came to my rescue
She wrapped in me in rich garments
She sheltered and cherished me
As a guest among strangers, my spirit grew great
And under her wing, I thrived.
It was my nature.
My dear protector fended for me until I could fly free.
And travel further than she could dream.
She lost her own sons and daughters for her kindness.

A Tolkien Calendar: Part 1

Joe Bartram, also known as Gandalf, our President since 2014, here presents the first in his monumental four-part series on the calendars of Middle-Earth, in which he establishes a calendar for the Society.

As I write these words, it is by my own reckoning, Mersday the 19th of Afteryule, in the year 8077 of the Shire Calendar. Now, I don’t expect you to take my word for it, but with any luck I have piqued a spark of attention with this uncharacteristically bold statement. If not, then I pray you bear with me for a little longer, and it is my hope that I will be able to engage your interest with what follows.

For those not familiar with the terminology, that was my estimate of today’s date using the old Hobbit calendar system commonly in use at the end of the 3rd Age, at the time of the War of the Ring. In the established and current form, that date would be the 9th of January in the year 2015CE of the Gregorian calendar. Those of you that are still fully awake will have noticed that the presence of a year in that date indicates something rather more than an alternative calendar system, but also a calculation for the amount of time elapsed since the events described in Tolkien’s Legendarium.

This perhaps requires a little explanation. At some point in the famous mists of time – but most likely at a Taruithorn meeting sometime last year – I idly speculated how long ago the events of the War of the Ring took place. To my utmost surprise the spark took, and the ensuing conversation conflagrated beyond all expectation into an argument of the sort where minutiae are argued to the hilt, and baseless conjectures defended as if they were the defendant’s firstborn. After much back and forth, something like a consensus was brokered, and replete with the ideas of an assembled fandom, I returned home and stared scribbling timelines. The rest, as they say, is history. Or at least, obscure fan blog.

For those not in the know, Tolkien considered that Arda (the physical world that includes Middle Earth) was not a realm in another place (as most fantasy worlds are), but rather a realm in another time. Specifically, he considered the events he described to have taken place during an imaginary period at some point in the Earth’s distant past. We can thus interpret the world that Tolkien invented as an alternative history, which might be seamlessly integrated into our own past. For the Pratchett fans among us, think of this as the famous trousers of time in reverse – a synapsis of histories, blending seamlessly from imagination into history.

Given this consideration, we might decide to play a kind of detective game, using the clues left scattered within the Professor’s Legendarium to connect the imaginary world of Middle Earth to our own tangible history. We could then take the Professor at his word, and accept the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as dramatized translations of documents he found in the Red Book of Westmarch, the last remnant of that forgotten time. The Silmarillion then, is Christopher Tolkien’s attempt to unify his father’s disparate notes on other documents contained therein, the original Red Book by this time being lost, or otherwise unavailable to him. Tempting as it might be, I fear that suspending all disbelief would merely increase our confusion. In order to really analyse the Legendarium for any purpose, we must accept it as a work of the imagination that evolved over many decades, and of which we have only fragmentary records available to us, none of which form a complete picture of the world at the fullness of its development.

Still, perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. Before we discuss the messy details of dating the events contained in the Legendarium, it would be wise to first establish a little context. In that interest, let’s talk about those peculiar day and month names, and of Tolkien’s calendars. If you’ve ever delved into the appendices to the Lord of the Rings (or indeed any of the ancillary literature), you’ll know that Tolkien’s genius for obscenely indulgent duplication of effort extended beyond his languages and into other realms – the names of characters, maps, and family trees apparently composed of clonally-reproducing men. Of all of these however, the Professor’s calendar systems really takes the biscuit.

part1-figure1

Figure 1: The evolution and divergence of calendar systems in Middle Earth. Dates primarily refer to the founding or fall of states, e.g. of Númenor in SA32 and SA3319 respectively. The exceptions are FA310, TA2060 and TA2160. FA310 is the approximate date of first contact between the Edain and the Eldar, and reflects the earliest date at which men might have adopted an elven reckoning. TA2060 reflects the adoption of the Steward’s reckoning, after Mardil the Steward’s two-day adjustment of the millennial calendar deficit in the previous year. Finally, in TA2160 Hador the Steward made a further one-day adjustment of the calendar to compensate for the remaining 8-hour millennial deficit.

Tolkien invented at least four calendars that have been recorded, each of which seems to have existed in several permutations, and which were used by diverse peoples at different times in the history of Middle Earth. In the most general terms, these represent gradual evolution from the elven system, which was founded upon a deep connection to the seasonal rhythms of the Earth, to a more human (or indeed, Hobbitish) affair drawn from agricultural and lunar cycles. Thus we see a transition from the Rivendell calendar (which, it must be said, likely represents a highly derived state of affairs, even among the Eldar) with a few long seasons, to a Shire calendar of twelve short months that a modern reader would be able to relate to.

It must be said that most of the evolution of calendars that occurred among the Dúnedain (in Númenor and then in Gondor) was mere housekeeping, minor changes according to use and to deal with the deficit produced to carry over changes when new reckonings began. As such, I’m not going to waste space on such minutiae here. Even taking this into consideration, the sheer repeated effort and depth of consideration that went into the effort is quite remarkable. For context, have a look at the chart documenting the evolution and use of calendar systems in Middle Earth.

So of all these calendar systems, why did I pick a Shire Calendar for the use of the society? Firstly, of course it would be remiss of me in my duties as Society Hobbit to choose any alternative. On a more rational note, the Shire Calendar is simply the closest to our own Gregorian system, and hence the easiest to work with. Unlike some of the other systems on offer, the Shire Reckoning had the same number of days to a year (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds), with the difference being carried over in an identical leap-year system (an extra day every fourth year, except the last in a century). It is also tidy – the twelve months were all of the same length (thirty days), with the difference being made up by five special days – three around midsummer, and two at midwinter. In the Shire calendar, the first (Yule 2) and last (Yule 1) days of the year, as well as midsummer’s day and two days either side (the Lithe days) belonged to no month, while in leap years, the extra day came directly after midsummer, and was called the Overlithe. Furthermore, the Hobbits, being the right-minded people they were, found that the shifting of week day names with respect to dates of the month unsightly, and introduced the “Shire Reform” to compensate. Under the reform, midsummer’s day (and, in leap years, the Overlithe) had no weekday name, and so the hobbit year always began on the first day of the week (Sterday) and ended on the last (Highday). This was a most useful innovation for an easily-confused people – as an easily confused person myself, I naturally approve.

The Hobbit week of seven days can readily be reconciled with our own, running from start to finish as Sterday, Sunday, Monday, Trewsday, Hevensday, Mersday and Highday. But there is more here than might immediately meet the eye. That the Hobbit week days match closely our own is obvious, but Tolkien – ever the conscientious philologist – never settled for mere approximation. Instead, the week names (and their archaic cognates) are intended as alternative etymologies for our own Germanic week names.

For example, Tuesday comes from the Old English Tīwesdæg or “Tiw’s day”, in reference to the Germanic god Tiw or Tyr. However, the archaic Hobbitish name given by Tolkien is the clearly-divergent Trewesdei, suggesting an alternate etymology. As it happens, the Professor provides the etymology for us, being a translation of the Quenya Aldëa, tree-day (Sindarin Orgaladh). The stem in this case is alda, Quenya for tree (Sindarin galadh). The same philological attention to detail can be found in the hobbit month names. Having assigned Old English as the translation of the language used by the ancestors of the Rohirrim, it was logical the early Hobbits would have shared these names when they lived in the same region of the world. However, once the Hobbits migrated west over the misty Mountains, their language diverged, eventually becoming the Common Tongue, represented by modern English. Consequently, the month names are Tolkien’s extrapolation of how the Old English months might have evolved with the language into modern English, had they not been replaced by Latinate names. Thus, Sol-mōnaþ (sol month) becomes Solmath.

Table 1: the Hobbit calendar

Calendar Duration in days
Yule 2 1
Afteryule 30
Solmath 30
Rethe 30
Astron 30
Thrimidge 30
Forelithe 30
1 Lithe 1
Midsummer’s day 1
Overlithe 1 (leap years only)
2 Lithe 1
Afterlithe 30
Wedmath 30
Halimath 30
Winterfilth 30
Blotmath 30
Foreyule 30
Yule 1 1

This process is called “back-formation”, in which a novel word is generated by removing a suffix or prefix from an existing one. In English, an example is the formation of the relatively recent verb “resurrect” from the much older Latinate noun “resurrection”. Taken more broadly, Tolkien included many of these retro-engineered items of linguistic fluff in his Legendarium. Thus, “The Man in the Moon Stayed up Too Late”, the song disastrously performed by Frodo at the Prancing Pony, is intended to represent an older (and more complete version) of the modern children’s song “Hey Diddle Diddle”, more commonly known as “The Cow Jumped over the Moon”. Similarly, the idiom “make hay while the sun shines” is a worn-down version of Goldberry’s injunction to the Hobbits to “make haste while the sun shines” in the Fellowship.

This can readily be reconciled with Tolkien’s idea of Middle Earth as an imaginary part of our own history. In all these examples, Tolkien’s supposed roots act as alternative histories for the phrases or poems alluded to, which are thus worn-down fragments of the originals in his alternative, imaginary history. From Númenor as Atlantis, to the goblin king Golfimbul and the sport of golf, these bind Middle Earth ever more firmly to our own history. Back formation may even be more widespread than is typically appreciated. In The Road to Middle Earth, Tom Shippey suggests that many of the poems and passages Tolkien created within his Legendarium represent the Professor’s attempt to write imaginary roots for passages he found in Old Norse or Old English texts, especially in Beowulf.

Returning to the calendar systems, I have perhaps thus far failed to communicate the richness of imagination that went into generating the full range of cultures in the Legendarium. Consider the Hobbit week, for example. In the Appendices, Tolkien states that the Hobbits likely acquired their weekday names from the “Men in the North”, which were in turn translations of those used by the Dúnedain. It is not entirely clear from the context whether “men in the north” refers to the peovple of Rhovanion, where the Hobbits dwelt before their great westward migration, or to the people of Eriador on the other side of the Misty Mountains. However, Tolkien also states that this likely occurred “two thousand years or more before the end of the Third Age”, or before about Third Age (TA) 1000. According to Karen Wynn Fonstad’s The Atlas of Middle Earth the westward migration didn’t begin until TA1050, so it seems likely that the Hobbits adopted their weekdays when they yet dwelt in the upper vales of the River Anduin. I have found Fonstad’s sources to be impeccable in all other matters, so I am willing to trust her on this matter.

If this is the case, then the Hobbit weekday names would have originated in Gondor, while the rest of their calendar represents an adaptation of that used in the fragmented princedoms of Arnor in the north. This is somewhat surprising, as Tolkien states in the same passage (Appendix D) that in their wandering days the Hobbits had no week, suggesting memory of the names were retained over the centuries of wandering. However, I have likely devoted enough space here to the subject, and will leave it up to the reader to devise a solution to that particular enigma.

Now, having reached this point in the thought process, it would be almost trivially easy using the information available to us to calibrate a Shire calendar for this year to our own Gregorian one. However, having come this far it, it would be criminally negligent of me not to take the line of inquiry to its logical conclusion, and assign a year as well as a date. All of which brings me back to the question discussed at the beginning of this article – how long ago were the events of the War of the Ring (and, by extension, the entire history of Middle Earth)? This is the question that I’ll be addressing over the course of the next three articles.

Silver Jubilee

The Society’s Senior Member since the founding, Lord Morgoth himself (as well as Society Demi-God), Dr Martin Grossel reflects on 25 years of Taruithorn in his contribution to the Anniversary issue.

It has been a very great pleasure to have been associated with the Tolkien Society over the last 25 years if only in a minor capacity. It is a considerable achievement to have sustained an active, non-sporting University society over such a long period of time.

Particular highlights, of course, include the annual Banquets which have always been a pleasure to attend and are remarkable because of the number of former members who continue to support them, often accompanied by their families. Such long-term loyalty is very special and in my experience unknown in other Universities. Furthermore the catering and decoration provided by members has always been a huge success.

The various commitments of my professional life have often limited my ability to attend meetings on a regular basis but I have always enjoyed the Trials (though the activities of both Morgoth and Sauron were clearly misunderstood by the Court!) and I am sure all of those who were present will remember Morgoth’s Matches! There also used to be vacation trips by members in the summer and it was a great pleasure to catch up with a group who were walking in the Lake District several years ago.

Other events worthy of particular mention include the Reduced Lord of the Rings performances and the range of visiting speakers that the Society has been able to attract over the years.

I wish the Society every continued success and congratulate all those who have contributed to its achievements to date.

Taruithorn’s 25th

To start off the 25th Anniversary issue, the Society’s Creatrix, Sarah Wells, remembers the Society’s founding.

Twenty-five years?  Already?  Can’t be, it’s only (looks at watch). Oh.

I suppose other people are filling the pages of this venerable magazine with where the time all went to, so I shall look instead at where it all came from.  The story of Taruithorn starts, of course, rather more than twenty-five years back.  Our parent body, the Tolkien Society, had been gathering yearly in Oxford since 1974; I had been making my own pilgrimages to Oxford as part of this since I was 9.  There had been a few attempts at starting an Oxford Tolkien Society over the years, none very large or long-lived, and now remembered only as faint rumours.  In any case, there was no local Smial or University society when I came up in 1988, an impressionable fresher but veteran Tolkien fan.

I can still remember the pleasure of discovering the Geek Ghetto in my first Freshers’ Fair; it was clear there would be no shortage of like-minded people.  Naturally I signed up for at least half the clubs there, and it wasn’t many weeks before I was sure that Tolkien was not, after all, entirely without honour in his own country.  A year later, therefore, having found my feet, my confidence, and a decent supply of good friends to help out, I circulated a few posters, booked a room, and lit the fuse.
The rest is either in the Archives, or too scurrilous to repeat, at least until the 125th anniversary comes round!

25th Anniversary issue!

Hello all! I’m Amrit, your new Editor as of the last AGM. The Society’s been incredibly busy recently with preparations for our 25th Anniversary event a couple of days ago, which I’m glad to say went brilliantly. At the event, we also released the much-awaited (hopefully) 25th Anniversary issue of Miruvor. The issue is now available to download as a PDF here. If you would like a print copy, please contact the Society at taruithorn@gmail.com.

The new issue had enormous amounts of new submissions from members, and drew on some material already published on this blog. I hope to, over the next couple of months, publish all the articles therein as blog posts. Hopefully the issue’s publication should inspire plenty of you to write more lovely articles for us – I hope I’ll be able to publish another print issue before my time as editor is up! Remember that submissions are always welcome, just send them to the Editor’s account at miruvor.editor@gmail.com.

As a start on converting the issue into blog posts, here I include my editorial from the Anniversary issue:


Well, welcome all! In case you hadn’t gathered, this is the 25th Anniversary edition of Miruvor!

The story of this issue began at last year’s AGM, when, Lord Morgoth having suggested (and started making plans for) an event for the 25th Anniversary at our Erebor banquet the previous week, the idea of an Anniversary edition was first mooted. Now, two years ago, Miruvor metamorphosed into a blog (taruithornmiruvor.wordpress.com), to which any submissions since then have been posted, and this is the first printed issue since that time. At our later committee meetings, we decided to ask old members to contribute commemorative articles for what was rapidly becoming a very special issue – professionally printed, A4, full colour – as we added more and more components to the Anniversary Party since we realised that, being in a College, we couldn’t provide the catering. Considering that we originally feared we’d struggle to fill a 24-page A4 magazine, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the number of submissions far exceeded our hopes.

There’s a lovely mixture of articles within – as well as the commemorative, we have essays, fanfiction, poetry, visual art, reports on Society activities, even a crossword! In fact, my grand plan to designate a Tengwar letter to each category of article to facilitate the location of articles on interest in the contents page has failed somewhat precisely due to the range of articles received – there were articles that defied categorisation, hence the Other category (7)!

As for the future of Miruvor, I hope that the consistent badgering current members have received about producing articles for this issue has lodged the need to write deep in our minds, and that another issue won’t be long coming. In fact, several members submitted more articles than I could include in this issue, so we’re already part-way there. I’ll endeavour to produce another issue before my time as Editor is up, but in any case, the blog exists, and will continue to exist – I’ll post all articles from this issue on the blog a few weeks after the issue is released, and new submissions will continue going on there. If anyone’s inspired to write by anything here contained, please do so, and send them to me at miruvor.editor@gmail.com! Furthermore, do feel free to contact me with criticism, praise, rage, joy, madness, or any other reaction to the volume you’re holding.

My thanks go to all of our contributors, especially to Joe for tirelessly chasing submissions for weeks on end, to Lynn for our wonderful cover design, and to Claire, my predecessor, for starting the production of this issue and for managing the Miruvor blog from which much of this issue’s content was shamelessly taken. Well, here it is, do enjoy, I hope I’ve not utterly failed in its production, any mistakes contained herein are certainly my fault. Since you’re all reading this at or after the Anniversary Party, I hope that went well. Enjoy this issue, (and the rest of your lives), may the Society continue to flourish,

Amrit

Miruvor Editor

Mornington Spotlight – The Parallel Shift

Everyone is taking their roles terribly seriously this year, apparently. Here we have  a new column by Martha Buckley, Mornington Crescent rep:

Welcome to Miruvor’s weekly Morning Crescent digest, the Mornington Spotlight. Join me as we celebrate and explore some of the history and tactics of this great game of skill, intelligence, and random events. Each week I shall explore a particular move or station, illustrate a practical example of its use, and set a teasing conundrum for the improvement of our society players.

Continue reading

Tolkien the modernist? The origins of The Hobbit

by Anahita Hoose:

On Friday of Second Week, Trinity 2013, Taruithorn were privileged to hear Dr Mark Atherton give a talk with the provocative title ‘Tolkien the modernist? The origins of The Hobbit‘. Mark, an English tutor at Regents Park College, has written a book on this subject, There and Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit, which sounds like a fascinating study. Continue reading

News From Wrexham

by Paulina Pejka, Wrexham Rep:

Dear All!

As the Society’s new Wrexham Rep I am obliged to keep you informed as to what is happening in the place so closely tied with the Society and its history. (No, really, I am obliged – I’ve been mandated to do so for not showing up to the committee meeting despite
saying that I will). So, in a few words, let me summarise some of the most important recent events:

Continue reading

Hades

by Anna Vaninskaya:

Hard grows the leaf on marbled tree.
Still hangs the bird upon the air.
Smooth to the shrinking mortal touch
Seems the high rail of that broad stair.

Fretted and filigreed it curves,
Its carven beasts stare down amazed
As you climb up the tall, worn steps,
As you turn back – dizzied and dazed.

Above you spins the stony vault,
Below the stair is lost to sight.
No one is here to speak a word,
No one to make the burden light.

Only the unknown craftsman’s face
Dispersed through every leaf and flower
Of that accursèd balustrade
In this eternal marbled tower.

Baker’s Dozen

by Anna Vaninskaya:

One day God came to Man and said:
Behold!
You have the writer’s pen and painter’s brush,
To people’s eyes and ears you can unfold
New worlds I’d never thought of in my rush.

Your efforts are indeed worthy of praise,
The name of Sub-creator you deserve,
I think that you have earned a little raise:
I’ll make you God and the results observe.

So Man went forth to ply his new-found trade…
But it was lunchtime, he suppressed a yawn,
And rested on the first day in the shade,
Then made himself an awful rose of dawn.

He dabbled first in wars, and then in newts,
He raised up mountains and cast down the hills,
He harrowed hell and he gave speech to mutes,
He tore up his great heap of unpaid bills.

So slipped a week by, God knocked on the door.
And what have you been up to? He inquired.
But Man was lying passed out on the floor,
A Smirnoff in one hand. The chap was tired!

God left him sprawling, and surveyed his work:

Before him stretched as far as eye could see
Some wilting clocks on rocks, some kosher pork
Half-eaten on a plate, some cups of tea
Brewed à l’anglaise, some houri virgins shy,
Playing a game of hide and seek among
Half-finished Roman arches, and some sly
Investment bankers flying to Hong Kong.

I tell you, God was not amused that day.
He stormed back to the house and thundered out,
Thou fool! What meant thou by this child’s play?
Durst thou my awesome will and power to flout?!

But Man was long since gone – he’d left a note
Pinned to the table by a three-pronged fork,
En route he’d nicked God’s many-coloured coat
And in its place he set a crumbled cork.

God took that short note up with trembling hand,
He had not seen its like in all his days.
It merely said, with modesty, Dear Friend,
I move, like you, in quite mysterious ways.