The Lord of the Rings – Appendix F: II. On Translation

At long last we reach the end of this portion of the quest, the final subsection in The Appendices, and the last of The Lord of the Rings.

As we have learned, the entirety of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is known to us as being passed down in translation from the Red Book of Westmarch, or simply the Red Book.  As Tolkien tells us, “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 evolved over the millennia through various European languages to eventually become English.

This subsection, then, is concerned with that evolution, dealing in different dialects and in different linguistic styles from there to here.  Essentially this is the Professor’s playground, wherein he explains how it is he came to translate this story for us from the Red Book.  In the telling, that’s where this story becomes real for us, transcending the span from either fiction or history into myth and legend.

He speaks about how the enemies of the Enemy revered the older tongues and used them while taking great pains to hide themselves, Aragorn himself being of note here.  He speaks of how the Dwarves readily adapted to their company, and how Orcs and Trolls simply spoke as they would.  He compares the idea that to speak of Rivendell as Imladris is the same as to refer to Winchester as Camelot, excepting that we know for certain of Rivendell due to a lord of renown having still dwelt there.

Mostly the task of translation was from Hobbitish to English, as one would expect, and the pains Tolkien took to do this are laid out with care in this subsection with relation to older tongues than English, such as Frankish or Gothic.  Of course, he discusses how he translated the other languages as well, the detail of which is too great to recopy here.  Again, that problem of summarizing a summary.  He spends an extended portion discussing the names of Hobbit, Gamgee, and Brandywine, being of central importance to the story, and being of the knowledge that Hobbit is an invention.

Beyond this point, all that remains are the Index, the Maps, and various footnotes, which we will not cover for obvious reason.

For those following along in the quest, next week’s post will be the unofficial postscript to The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo’s Last SongThe Silmarillion awaits beginning the next week after.  I will post my review of The Lord of the Rings this week, not as part of the regular quest.  As a reminder, if you want to join in at any time, you can find the syllabus at my Silmarillion Blues project page.

Here endeth The Appendices and The Lord of the Rings.

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