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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–
1973)—more than just a fantasy author
J.R.R. Tolkien created many languages. He wrote in one of his letters that
his now famous tales of Middle-Earth (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, etc.)
grew from these languages, rather than the languages being created for the
use in the stories.
Quenya, the language represented here is one of two Elven languages (the other
being Sindarin). Quenya, or High-Elven, is the most prominent language of the
Amanya branch of the Elvish language family. Tolkien compiled the “Quenya Lexicon,”
his first list of Elvish words, in 1915 at the age of 23 and continued to refine
the language throughout his life. Quenya is based mainly on Finnish, but also
has elements of both Greek and Latin.
Tolkien also created a number of different alphabets for his languages.
To take a short
look at the history of the orthography – decades ago, when J. R. R. Tolkien wrote
his fantasy book series: The Hobbit and The Lord of the
Rings, he described a race of Elves possessing a rich history, language and
culture. Not all Elves spoke the same language. The most important languages
were: Quenya (the language of the High-Elves) and Sindarin (the language
of the Grey-Elves). Early in their history they devised an alphabet for writing
their languages. The oldest Elvish alphabet was the Tengwar of Rúmil. Later
Fëanor of the Noldor, inspired by the alphabet of Rúmil, created a revised writing
system. The Fëanorean alphabet was designed to be an orderly phonetic writing
system for use with pen or brush.
were represented by letters called tengwar. There are 24 primary Tengwar letters.
The letters were organized into four series or témar.
Each series was used to represent sounds created by different parts of the mouth.
Series I and II were almost always used for dental and labial sounds. Series
III was generally used for either palatal or velar sounds and series IV for either
velar or labiovelar sounds, depending on the phonology of the language represented.
These four series were further broken down into six grades or tyeller. Each
grade was used to represent sounds created by different ways that air flows through
the mouth and nose. Grade 1 and 2 were used for voiceless and voiced Plosives.
Grade 3 and 4 were used for voiceless and voiced fricatives. Grade 5 was used
for nasals. Grade 6 was used for semi-vowel consonants. Each Tengwar letter was
assigned a phonetic value determined by its position in this grid. People speaking
different languages would often redefine this grid, so
only a few of the letters had a fixed phonetic value.
All of the primary letters were composed of (at least) two elements: a vertical
stem or telco (representing air) and a curved bow or lúva (representing voice).
There were also numerous additional letters that supplemented the standard Tengwar
primary letters. These additional letters did not necessarily follow any symbol
In the earliest
forms of the Tengwar, vowel sounds were represented by symbols called tehtar.
The Tehtar symbols were placed above and below (and sometimes
inside) the Tengwar letters. There were five standard Tehtar symbols, representing
the five most commonly used vowel sounds (a, e, i, o & u).
They were most frequently placed above the Tengwar letters. (Tolkien used this
style when creating most of his Quenya, Sindarin, and English language Tengwar
inscriptions.) But both the number of vowel symbols used, and where they were
placed depended largely on the preferences of the people using this alphabet.
Later forms of Tengwar used additional letters to represent individual vowel
sounds. This ‘full’ form was developed by the Grey Elves living in Beleriand,
and was therefore referred to as the Mode of Beleriand.
Tengwar became a
very flexible writing system that was easily adapted by many different races
to their languages. Unfortunately, since it was so flexible it
was possible to have several different versions of it for each and every language.
Also, over the centuries, a great deal of shorthand developed. Since Tengwar
can be so easily modified, customized and mutated, most people in Middle-Earth
devised their own version. A more detailed outline of the Tengwar and the languages
it’s used for (from which part of the above extract was taken and adapted) can