The Elvish PostPosted: 2 March 2011
Ever wanted to write your name in Elvish?
I always admired Tolkien’s fabricated languages; especially the Elven ones, Quenya and Sindarin, which are based on two of the most beautiful sounding tongues in the world; Finnish, and Welsh. But I’ve been really taken in by the strange beauty of Tengwar, written Elvish, and the rather clever way in which it can be used to write almost any words you can think of.
I must admit I’ve gotten quite obsessed with transliteration this week. I started with a poem I wrote a while back which a friend translated into Elvish for me; then I started transliterating names. It’s an oddly addictive hobby, and one that you can pick up quite quickly as there is a lot of good information out there.
If you fancy trying it yourself, here’s how you do it.
Step One – Obtain a Tengwar Font
There are many Elvish-looking fonts out there, but to end up with something which means something rather than just looks pretty you will need the correct Tengwar font.
Dan Smith was the creator of the system to which most Tengwar fonts adhere. You can download several different styles from the links on his web site. I personally prefer Tengwar Sindarin.
Step Two – Learn the Alphabet
Tengwar runes cover the normal range of consonants that you may be used to. However, there are also characters for sounds which appear often in the Elvish languages, such as ‘dh’ or ‘th’. Also, you may find that a consonant at the end of a word may require a different rune than a one at the beginning.
When you’ve downloaded and installed the font you should find a help document of some kind which will tell you which keys create which letter of the Tengwar alphabet. In the chart above, I’ve marked the keys for each letter in red.
Step Three – Learn the Writing System
This is the tricky part, and there are a few general rules to follow.
1. Elvish words are separated into syllables; e.g. MI-CHAE-L, A-ME-LIE or SU-SA-NNA.
2. They are (in most cases) written with only consonants; e.g. David would become D-V-D.
3. Vowels are added with a single dot or dots, a flourish or a dash above the appropriate consonant.
4. Where a word begins with two vowels or ends with two, for example in the name EIleen, you would write the first and/or last letters as additional runes; a short vertical line (known as a carrier) with the appropriate vowel flourish above it.
5. Double consonants, such as in the name ColeTTe, are written as one letter with a line or bar underneath it.
6. Silent vowels at the end of words such as the E in GracE are signified by placing a dot underneath the last consonant.
7. The letter Y is always written as a silent vowel; as two dots underneath the letter, unless it is the first letter in the word, as in SaYbera.
8. The letters Q and R each have two different runes. These two different types are at the beginning of a word e.g. Rachael, and at the end, e.g. OscaR.
9. A soft C sound as in AliCe should be written as an S (this is because the C rune in spoken Elvish is hard).
10. If my explanation has completely confused you (which is likely!), there is a much better tutorial page here which I found very useful.
Step Four – Practise!
Trying to transliterate lots of different words into Tengwar will help you get used to the different ways in which the words are formed. You might like to look at examples of written Elvish for inspiration; there are lots of wonderful examples here.
Picture credit: Ae Adar Nín by D. Daniel Andriës