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Glǽmscrafu Tolkien's linguistic cellar

No dedicated reader of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien can ignore the essential part of the linguistic element in the shaping of his fictional world, and the influence on his writing of his professional state as a philologist. Philology can be defined etymologically as the love of words, and in this way Tolkien was the utmost philologist. The sound shape of language was evidently to him a chief source of aesthetic delight; it is meaningful that he sometime spoke of it in words arousing the idea of relishing a fine dish. So in the essay English and Welsh (published in the collection The Monsters and the Critics), when telling of the satisfaction he found in the study of certain languages just for themselves he incidentally noted that a more appropriate word would have been to "taste" them. In an important letter to W. H. Auden (n° 163 in Humphrey Carpenter's edition), he described his encounter with Finnish like an oenologist: " It was like discovering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me".

We set up our little linguistic cellar in Glǽmscrafu - The Glittering Caves - to allow you to taste this too. All Tolkien readers will have met names, phrases, short texts in some of his invented languages, but getting the gist of their style and above all their sound may prove uneasy. We also wish to give a small overview of certain languages of this world that left their mark on him and provided inspirations: Old English, Gothic, Old Norse, Finnish, Welsh and Latin. Each language is illustrated by a set of texts together with recordings in MP3 format. For Tolkien's constructed languages we give a large sample of published texts; in the case of some poorly represented languages we sometime had to resort to mere wordlists. For natural languages, we give a selection of prayers together with literary texts significant to Tolkien, and when appropriate some of his own compositions in these languages. The translations we give are not necessarily literal.

To open one language’s general page, with the list of all samples with references, click on the corresponding tab. To go to texts and records, move your mouse and put the pointer on the tab to unfold the list and choose. We hope you will enjoy the visit!

Thanks to Petri Tikka who helped us to build the pages about Finnish and recorded the sound files attached to them.

Thanks to Didier Willis who encouraged and supported us during the making of the site.

Thanks to Cédric Fockeu who hosts it as a wing of his own website JRRVF.

Bertrand Bellet and Benjamin Babut, July 10th 2006


Quotations of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, Édouard Kloczko, Christopher Gilson, Patrick Wynne, Rhona Beare, Thomas Alan Shippey, Charles Kennedy, Elaine Treharne, André Crépin, Régis Boyer, François-Xavier Dillmann, Gabriel Rebourcet, Keith Bosley, Pierre-Yves Lambert, Gwyn Jones, Thomas Jones are under the copyright of their publishers.

Last update of the site : 2006, August 9th.
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