In presenting the matter
of the Red Book, as a history for people of today to read, the whole of the
linguistic setting has been translated as far as possible into terms of our own
times. Only the languages alien to the Common Speech have been left in
their original form; but these appear mainly in the names of persons and places.
The Common Speech, as the language of the Hobbits and their narratives, has inevitably been turned into modern English. In the process the difference between the varieties observable in the use of the Westron has been lessened. Some attempt has been made to represent these varieties by variations in the kind of English used; but the divergence between the pronunciation and idiom of the Shire and the Westron tongue in the mouths of the Elves or of the high men of Gondor was greater than has been shown in this book. Hobbits indeed spoke for the most part a rustic dialect, whereas in Gondor and Rohan a more antique language was used, more formal and more terse.
One point in the divergence may here be noted, since, though often important, it has proven impossible to represent. The Westron tongue made in the pronouns of the second person (and often also in those of the third) a distinction, independent of number, between 'familiar' and 'deferential' forms. It was, however, one of the peculiarities of Shire-usage that the deferential forms had gone out of colloquial use. They lingered only among the villagers, especially of the West-farthing, who used them as endearments. This was one of the things referred to when people of Gondor spoke of the strangeness of Hobbit-speech. Peregrin Took, for instance, in his first few days in Minas Tirith used the familiar forms to people of all ranks, including the Lord Denethor himself. This may have amused the aged Steward, but it must have astonished his servants. No doubt this free use of the familiar forms helped to spread the popular rumour that Peregrin was a person of very high rank in his own country.1
It will be noticed that Hobbits such as Frodo, and other persons such as Gandalf and Aragorn, do not always use the same style. This is intentional. The more learned and able among the Hobbits had some knowledge of 'book-language', as it was termed in the Shire; and they were quick to note and adopt the style of those whom they met. It was in any case natural for much-travelled folk to speak more or less after the manner of those among whom they found themselves, especially in the case of men who, like Aragorn, were often at pains to conceal their origin and their business. Yet in those days all the enemies of the Enemy revered what was ancient, in language no less than in other matters, and they took pleasure in it according to their knowledge. The Eldar, being above all skilled in words, had the command of many styles, though they spoke most naturally in a manner nearest to their own speech, one even more antique than that of Gondor. The Dwarves, too, spoke with skill, readily adapting themselves to their company, though their utterance seemed to some rather harsh and guttural. But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much of the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.
Translation of this kind is, of course, usual because inevitable in any narrative dealing with the past. It seldom proceeds any further. But I have gone beyond it. I have also translated all Westron names according to their senses. When English names or titles appear in this book it is an indication that names in the Common Speech were current at the time, beside, or instead of, those in alien (usually Elvish) languages.
The Westron names were as a rule translations of older names: as Rivendell, Hoarwell, Silverlode, Langstrand, The Enemy, the Dark Tower. Some differed in meaning: as Mount Doom for Orodruin 'burning mountain', or Mirkwood for Taur e-Ndaedelos 'forest of the great fear'. A few were alterations of Elvish names: as Lune and Brandywine derived from Lhûn and Baranduin.
This procedure perhaps needs some defence. It seemed to me that to present all the names in their original forms would obscure an essential feature of the times as perceived by the Hobbits (whose point of view I was mainly concerned to preserve): the contrast between a wide-spread language, to them as ordinary and habitual as English is to us, and the living remains of far older and more reverend tongues. All names if merely transcribed would seem to modern readers equally remote: for instance, if the Elvish name Imladris and the Westron translation Karningul had both been left unchanged. But to refer to Rivendell as Imladris was as if one now was to speak of Winchester as Camelot, except that the identity was certain, while in Rivendell there still dwelt a lord of renown far older than Arthur would be, were he still king at Winchester today.
The name of the Shire (Sûza) and all other places of the Hobbits have thus been Englished. This was seldom difficult, since such names were commonly made up of elements similar to those used in our simpler English place names; either words still current like hill or field; or a little worn down like ton beside town. But some were derived, as already noted, from old hobbit-words no longer in use, and these have been represented by similar English things, such as wich, or bottle 'dwelling', or michel 'great'.
In the case of persons, however, Hobbit-names in the Shire and in Bree were for those days peculiar, notably in the habit that had grown up, some centuries before this time, of having inherited names for families. Most of these surnames had obvious meanings (in the current language being derived from jesting nicknames, or from place-names, or (especially in Bree) from the names of plants and trees). Translation of these presented little difficulty; but there remained one or two older names of forgotten meaning, and these I have been content to anglicize in spelling: as Took for Tûk, or Boffin for Bophîn.
I have treated Hobbit first-names, as far as possible, in the same way. To their maid-children Hobbits commonly gave the names of flowers or jewels. To their man-children they usually gave names that had no meaning at all in their daily language; and some of their women's names were similar. Of this kind are Bilbo, Bungo, Polo, Lotho, Tanta, Nina, and so on. There are many inevitable but accidental resemblances to names that we now have or know: for instance Otho, Odo, Drogo, Dora, Cora, and the like. These names I have retained, though I have usually anglicized them by altering their endings, since in Hobbit-names a was a masculine ending, and o and e were feminine.
In some old families, especially those of Fallohide origin such as the Tooks and the Bolgers, it was, however, the custom to give high-sounding first-names. Since most of these seem to have been drawn from legends of the past, of Men as well as of Hobbits, and many while now meaningless to Hobbits closely resembled the names of Men in the Vale of Anduin, or in Dale, or in the Mark, I have turned them into those old names, largely of Frankish and Gothic origin, that are still used by us or are met in our histories. I have thus at any rate preserved the often comic contrast between the first-names and surnames, of which the Hobbits themselves were well aware. Names of classical origin have rarely been used; for the nearest equivalents to Latin and Greek in Shire-lore were the Elvish tongues, and these the Hobbits seldom used in nomenclature. Few of them at any time knew the 'languages of the kings', as they called them.
The names of the Bucklanders were different from those of the rest of the Shire. The folk of the Marish and their offshoot across the Brandywine were in many ways peculiar, as has been told. It was from the former language of the southern Stoors, no doubt, that they inherited many of their very odd names. These I have usually left unaltered, for if queer now, they were queer in their own day. They had a style that we should perhaps feel vaguely to be 'Celtic'.
Since the survival of traces of the older language of the Stoors and the Bree-men resembled the survival of Celtic elements in England, I have sometimes imitated the latter in my translation. Thus Bree, Combe (Coomb), Archet, and Chetwood are modelled on relics of British nomenclature, chosen according to sense: bree 'hill' chet 'wood'. But only one personal name has been altered in this way. Meriadoc was chosen to fit the fact that this character's shortened name, Kali, meant in the Westron 'jolly, gay', though it was actually an abbreviation of the now unmeaning Buckland name Kalimac.
I have not used names of Hebraic or similar origin in my transpositions. Nothing in Hobbit-names corresponds to this element in our names. Short names such as Sam, Tom, Tim, Mat were common as abbreviations of actual Hobbit-names, such as Tomba, Tolma, Matta, and the like. But Sam and his father Ham were really called Ban and Ran. These were shortenings of Banazîr and Ranugad, originally nicknames, meaning 'half-wise, simple' and 'stay-at-home'; but being words that had fallen out of colloquial use they remained as traditional names in certain families. I have therefore tried to preserve features by using Samwise and Hamfast, modernizations of ancient English samwís and hámfoest which corresponded closely in meaning.
Having gone so far in my attempt to modernize and make familiar the language and names of Hobbits, I found myself involved in a further process. The Mannish languages that were related to the Westron should, it seemed to me, be turned into forms related to English. The language of Rohan I have accordingly made to resemble ancient English, since it was related both (more distantly) to the Common Speech, and (very closely) to the former tongue of the northern Hobbits, and was in comparison with the Westron archaic. In the Red Book it is noted in several places that when Hobbits heard the speech of Rohan they recognized many words and felt the language to be akin to their own, so that it seemed absurd to leave the recorded names and words of the Rohirrim in a wholly alien style.
In several cases I have modernized the forms and spellings of place-names in Rohan: as in Dunharrow or Snowbourn; but I have not been consistent, for I have followed the Hobbits. They altered the names that they heard in the same way, if they were made of elements that they recognized, or if they resembled place-names in the Shire, but many they left alone, as I have done, for instance, in Edoras 'the courts'. For the same reasons a few personal names have also been modernized, as Shadowfax and Wormtongue.2
This assimilation also provided a convenient way of representing the peculiar local hobbit-words that were of northern origin. They have been given the forms that lost English words might well have had, if they had come down to our day. Thus mathom is meant to recall ancient English máthm, and so to represent the relationship of the actual hobbit kast to R. kastu. Similarly smial (or smile) 'burrow' is a likely form for a descendant of smygel, and represents well the relationship of Hobbit trân to R. trahan. Sméagol and Déagol are equivalents made up in the same way for the names Trahald 'burrowing, worming in' and Nahald 'secret' in the Northern tongues.
The still more northerly language of Dale is in this book seen only in the names of the Dwarves that came from that region and so used the language of the Men there, taking their 'outer' names in that tongue. It may be observed that in this book as in The Hobbit the form dwarves is used, although the dictionaries tell us that the plural of dwarf is dwarfs. It should be dwarrows (or dwerrows), if singular and plural had each gone its own way down the years, as have man and men, or goose and geese. But we no longer speak of a dwarf as often as we do of a man, or even of a goose, and memories have not been fresh enough among Men to keep hold of a special plural for a race now abandoned to folk-tales, where at least a shadow of truth is preserved, or at last to nonsense-stories in which they have become mere figures of fun. But in the Third Age something of their old character and power is still glimpsed, if already a little dimmed; these are the descendants of the Naugrim of the Elder Days, in whose hearts still burns the ancient fire of Aulë the Smith, and the embers smoulder of their long grudge against the Elves; and in whose hands still lives the skill in works of stone that none have surpassed.
It is to mark this that I have ventured to use the form dwarves, and so remove them a little, perhaps, from the sillier tales of these latter days. Dwarrows would have been better; but I have used that form only in the name Dwarrowdelf, to represent the name of Moria in the Common Speech: Phurunargian. For that meant 'Dwarf-delving' and yet was already a word of antique form. But Moria is an Elvish name, and given without love; for the Eldar, though they might at need, in their bitter wars with the Dark Power and his servants, contrive fortresses underground, were not dwellers in such places of choice. They were lovers of the green earth and the lights of heaven; and Moria in their tongue means the Black Chasm. But the Dwarves themselves, and this name at least was never kept secret, called it Khazad-dûm, the Mansion of the Khazâd; for such is their own name for their own race, and has been so, since Aulë gave it to them at their making in the deeps of time.
Elves has been used to translate both Quendi, 'the speakers', the High-elven name of all their kind, and Eldar, the name of the Three Kindreds that sought for the Undying Realm and came there at the beginning of Days (save the Sindar only). This old word was indeed the only one available, and was once fitted to apply to such memories of this people as Men preserved, or to the making of Men's minds not wholly dissimilar. But it has been diminished, and to many it may now suggest fancies either pretty or silly, as unlike to the Quendi of old as are butterflies to the swift falcon—not that any of the Quendi ever possessed wings of the body, as unnatural to them as to Men. They were a race a high and beautiful, the older Children of the world, and among them the Eldar were as kings, who now are gone: the People of the Great Journey, the People of the Stars. They were tall, fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finarfin; and their voices had more melodies than any mortal voice that now is heard. They were valiant, but the history of those that returned to Middle-earth in exile was grievous; and though it was in far-off days crossed by the fate of the Fathers, their fate is not that of Men. Their dominion passed long ago, and they dwell now beyond their circles of the world, and do not return.
one or two places an attempt has been made to hint at these distinctions by an
inconsistent use of thou. Since this pronoun is now unusual and
archaic it is employed mainly to represent the use of ceremonial language; but a
change from you to thou, thee is sometimes meant to show,
there being no other means of doing this, a significant change from the
deferential, or between men and women normal, forms to the familiar.
2This linguistic procedure does not imply that the Rohirrim closely resembled the ancient English otherwise, in culture or art, in weapons or modes of warfare, except in a general way due to their circumstances: a simpler and more primitive people living in contact with a higher and more venerable culture, and occupying lands that had once been part of its domain.
Note on three names: Hobbit, Gamgee, and Brandywine.
Hobbit is an invention. In the Westron the word used, when this people was referred to at all, was banakil 'halfling'. But at this date the folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk, which was not found elsewhere. Meriadoc, however, actually records that the King of Rohan used the word kûd-dûkan 'hole-dweller'. Since, as has been noted, the Hobbits had once spoken a language closely related to that of the Rohirrim, it seems likely that kuduk was a worn-down form of kûd-dûkan. The latter I have translated, for reasons explained, by holbytla; and hobbit provides a word that might be a worn-down form of holbytla, if that name had occurred in our own ancient language.
According to family tradition, set out in the Red Book, the surname Galbasi,
or in reduced form Galpsi, came from the village of Galabas,
popularly supposed to be derived from galab- 'game' and an old element bas-,
more or less equivalent to our wick, wich. Gamwich
(pronounced Gammidge) seemed therefore a very fair rendering.
However, in reducing Gammidgy to Gamgee, to represent Galpsi,
no reference was intended to the connexion of Samwise with the family of Cotton,
though a jest of that kind would have been hobbit-like enough, had there been
any warrant in their language.
Cotton, in fact, represents Hlothran, a fairly common village-name in the Shire, derived from hloth, 'a two-roomed dwelling or hole', and ran(u) a small group of such dwellings on a hill-side. As a surname it may be an alteration of hlothram(a) 'cottager'. Hlothram, which I have rendered Cotman, was the name of Farmer Cotton's grandfather.
The hobbit-names of this river were alterations of the Elvish Baranduin
(accented on and), derived from baran 'golden brown' and duin
'(large) river'. Of Baranduin Brandywine seemed a natural
corruption in modern times. Actually the older hobbit-name was Branda-nîn
'border-water', which would have been more closely rendered by Marchbourn; but
by a jest that had become habitual, referring again to its colour, at this time
the river was usually called Bralda-hîm
It must be observed, however, that when the Oldbucks (Zaragamba) changed their name to Brandybuck (Brandagamba), the first element meant 'borderland', and Marchbuck would have been nearer. Only a very bold hobbit would have ventured to call the Master of Buckland Braldagamba in his hearing.
The Return of the King