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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Ring Poem

To start things off, while I slowly finish the first page of Chapter One, here is the famous Ring Poem:

Tres Anuli sub caelo Regibus Eldaribus,
Septem in cavernis saxeis Dominis Nanis,
Novem condemnatis ad mortem Mortalibus,
Unus Domino Atro in sede atra
In Terra Mordoris ubi Umbrae iacent.
Unus Anulus omnes regere, Unus Anulus omnes invenire,
Unus Anulus omnes conferre et in tenebris vincire
In Terra Mordoris ubi Umbrae iacent.



  1. "Dwarvenibus" - here's a critical option: to just translate "dwarfs" to Latin OR accept the analogy between dwarfs and dwarves and produce a similar effect in Latin, OR do what you have done here and create a new word "dwarves". Or go and grab some Greek term (maybe latinized) just to provide some peculiarity to the name.

  2. Agree with the above -- isn't the Latin for "dwarf" nanus?

    You're going to have to do this for just about all non-Sindarin/Quenya/Khuzdûl proper names in the text since none of them are the "real" names of the person, place or thing in question. For example, Frodo is the only prominent hobbit whose name is not explained in Tolkien’s Appendices to The Lord of the Rings. In his letters Tolkien states that it is derived from Old English fród meaning 'wise by experience'. A character from Norse mythology called Fróði is mentioned in Beowulf, where it is rendered in Old English as Froda. Tolkien did mention he changed final a's to final o's in male Hobbit names.

    So to translate Frodo, you need a name meaning 'wise by experience' from a language that relates to Latin as Old English relates to English, possibly Archaic Latin.

  3. Yes, dwarf would be nanus. However, I would disagree that the names must be translated by meaning... after all, we don't typically employ such a practise when translating the Classics, and retain Achilles (or Akhilleus, in some cases) even in English. However, for a name such as 'dwarves' which arises from an adjective, and has a proper word in Latin, I think it is best to employ what Latin has. Same might be done for Elves, find the best word that exists for a fay or spirit. For Frodo, keep it a third. Frodo, Frodonis, Frodoni, Frodonem, etc. However, if you would follow the last poster's advice, you would probably end up something along the lines of Peritus, I believe. That means technically wasted or destroyed, but can also mean 'used to and experienced.' Nonetheless, I will stand by using the names with proper Latin endings.

    However, I disagree with certain elements of the translation, and I wonder... since it is a poem, why not translate into proper metre, say, hexameters, or the metre of elegy? That might serve better if you are trying to go 'true' Latin. Nor do I think that 'suis' is needed for 'their'... that is well enough implied that a seperate mention of it is redundant in Latin. Nor, for that matter, does 'atrium' quite give the sense that Tolkien is giving. These are cavernous king-halls. I think something better can be constructed from this.

    I am curious, Mike, what is your training in Latin?

  4. @ Daniel - The reason I suggest translating non-Sindarin, non-Quenya, and non-Khuzdûl names is that this was Tolkien's approach in the sense that the conceit of TLotR is that it is an English translation of a document written in Westron. For example, "Meriadoc Brandybuck" is an anglicized translation of Merry's "real" Westron name Kalimac Brandagamba; likewise Samwise Gamgee - Banazîr Galbasi, etc.

    Sometimes Tolkien merely anglicised without translating; for example the hobbit surname Tûk (of no particular meaning) he rendered "Took". In these cases I would suggest doing what you suggest and simply latinizing the word.

    A stylictic choice, I guess. Really interesting conversation and best of luck to Mike in his project!

  5. I've got about two and a half years of latin training, this year I'm doing more private studies with a Professor at my university in Toronto (York). As for the comments:

    I do in fact plan to latinize the names (i.e. keep the names but add the endings). I do want them to be recognizable to someone who's read tolkien. Sometimes this doesn't work out so well. Bag End as a third diclension noun- i.e. Bagis Endis, just sounds stupid to me. Hence why I went with Pera Extrema from Earendilyon's aborted translation. Someone did point out in the post above that it's inconsistant, and I'll admit to that, but it's a choice between either being consistent and at times having a name sound idiotic or being inconsistant but having the name work and sound well. It's a tough call to make, but that's the decision I've come to in some cases.

    Regarding Nanus- agreed, I could use it, but then again I do also want to go for some recognition here. As for the word for elf- when I looked it up it had other connotations like nymph, faerie- which isn't the sense that I get from the books, and with the word having so many other connotations, I decided to invent the adjectives instead. Kind of gives the translation it's own feel in the way that Dwarves was different when Tolkien did it.

    The translation is a mix of classical and neo-latin, so sometimes I do not adhere to a purely Roman sense of things and choose to invent words. It recently got rehabilitated as a language after all and is no longer considered dead.

    As for suis, I'll omit it since you're right it is redundant and I'll find a better word besides atrium.

    I'll admit, I am horrible at meter in poetry, in latin or english, so maybe you could explain to me what hexameters or the meter of elegy is?

  6. I'm not too sure myself but here are my comments:

    For "who rule under the sky" I was thinking it should be more a present, active participle - so regentibus to get that sort of relative clause aspect in the translation instead of just kings under the sky.

    "Atrium" is second declension so the ablative would be atriis. I also think you could just have atriis lapidis without the factis. It's sort of like a genitive of description, but having factis there works as well.

    With the parts starting Unus Anulus - It sounds to me that they would be translated as relative clauses of characteristic. So maybe a qui and subjunctives throughout instead of the infinitives.

    I also think having it have a metrical effect would bring out the poetry of the passage a lot more since that's what Latin poetry is based off. A few of the lines seem very un-poetic, but I don't really have any suggestions as to how to fix that - in particular 2 and 4.

    I think this is a really cool project and I'd like to see where it ends up! Good luck!

  7. I would agree with those who suggest nanus (itself from Greek nannos) for "dwarf"; surely nanus is at least as appropriate a "translation" for khazad as is "dwarf"? Turning to the modern Romance translations of Tolkien as a guide ... well, the Spanish Tolkien translations certainly use "enano", a derivative of Latin nanus. Likewise for the adjectival form, a Latinate "nanicus" would seem appropriate. (And as for worrying about keeping terms "recognizable to someone who's read Tolkien" ... well, in which modern language are we expecting our reader to have read Tolkien? And if we're making a Latin translation anyway, shouldn't we expect Latin terms?

    The term for "elf" is, admittedly, trickier. Nympha would hardly suit, nor even I think would fata. Yet "elf" (or even "elfus") seems just a relatively boring adaption from English -- for all that the modern Roman languages tend to do just that. But this seems insufficiently _philological_ for a Tolkien translation, IMO. :) I would be strongly tempted to invent a Latin 3rd declension i-stem like "albis" which, had Latin borrowed the most likely Proto-Germanic word ancestral to English "elf" (though historically, it didn't!) is almost certainly how the borrowing would have appeared (IMO). To me this would seem a suitably Tolkienish solution -- though mileage and opinions may vary! Likewise, for an adjectival form, a simple "albicus" would also seem appropriate (IMO).

    Generally, for name translations, I would tend to follow the guidelines in Tolkien's own "Nomenclature" tract, prepared specifically as an aid to translators (and conveniently published in the Hammond-Scull "Reader's Companion".

    I also like the suggestion to recast the Ring Verse in Latin hexameter. :) I myself made an effort at recasting the Ring Verse in Old English alliterative metre (, which required some reworking, but I liked the result, anyway. Appropriately Virgilian reworking of Tolkien's verse would be ... maddening to produce, I expect :) but pretty darned cool!