Forum: Languages in Arda

Discussing: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

@$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

OK, we all know they do it, but what words would be in keeping with Professor Tolkien's world? Old English? Norse? Celtic? Don't want to be accused of modernisms within my work. Also, I need am innocuous phrase in Sindarin, something like, "And he shut the door." Any suggestions? RubyG

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Sticky subject, and one I've actually thought of . I don't know the particulars for (as Spock would say) "Colorful metaphors" in M-e, but you could always use some creative writing to get around it. My motto: "When in doubt, use creative writing to get around it." For example: Aragorn raised his eyebrow in surprise, barely hearing the Sindarin oath Legolas muttered as he slammed the door. Okay, so that 's not my best writing, but you get what I mean? Cheryl

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

As Cheryl said, you can use ways to avoid mentioning the actual word, or you can try coming up with something appropriate yourself. One I like myself is "Balrog's Balls", which Jay (I think) used in one of her fics.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Innocuous phrase translation… ‘And he shut the door.’ _Ar e sôl i fên._ This uses the attested form found in The King’s Letter (_Ar e anira …_ - ‘And he desires…’) _ sôl_, however, is a theoretical form reconstructed (by the experts – not me!) from _hollen_ - adj. ‘closed’. Ithildin *(

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

One I like myself is "Balrog's Balls", which Jay (I think) used in one of her fics. OMG, thats too funny! Good idea, though. Cheryl

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

One I like myself is "Balrog's Balls", which Jay (I think) used in one of her fics. That's a great one! Or, you could use "Orc Spit"... - Barbara

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Obscenities and vulgarities are fairly universal. I mean... a f**k is a f**k, and it's even old English, as are s**t and p**s and c**t and most of the best vulgar/obscene ones. I wouldn't say those are modernisms, and in fact most of those are attested in sources of considerable antiquity. Tolkien didn't use them, sure, but you couldn't call them "modernisms", at any rate. The real challenges are the blasphemies that make up the most colorful curses in real life sources. Damn, hell, christ, jesus, etc., as well as all the more colorful constructs that come out of that menagerie-- the most colorful oaths are most definitely non-middle-earth. Simple substitutions of M-e "deities" are problematic at best-- Tolkien says explicitly that there is no "religion" there, and no churches, so saying "by the Valar!" really, really lacks the impact of a well-timed "Oh for Christ's sake!", conveying nothing of the exasperation or slightly foul-mouthedness of the RL one. (Remember, it's in the Ten Commandments not to take the Lord's name in vain, and yet it has been done, to the exasperation of the very religious, since Roman times. c.f. 'zounds' and 'sblood' and similar Shakespearean references to the wounds of Christ. There is no similar prohibition against cussing out the Valar, and indeed most of the (non-Elvish) inhabitants of M-e seem not to know their names or really even be aware that they exist.) In fact, in pre-modern times, it was really only the blasphemous curses that were really offensive. The vulgarities and obscenities were far more tolerated than they are now, and indeed many of them didn't take on taboo status until the Victorian era. [There were worse words they used in Middle English, I know that. My ME teacher was on a one-woman campaign to bring them back. There were some great ones in there...] I'd think there's really no need to create elaborate constructs for the simple vulgarities. (Though, it's fair to say that certain things probably were approached differently-- ie, Elves wouldn't understand what the big deal was about f**k because they don't view the sex act in the same way, and the Rohirrim would probably think of horsesh*t in different terms than we do...) It's the blasphemies that are really wanting, and very difficult to replace well. Just as cursing in a foreign language you barely understand lacks power (I wandered around spain saying a certain dirty word for days before I finally looked it up and was, shall I say, chagrined. Hey, the natives used it every other word! I'd thought it roughly equivalent to "shucks"!), making up blasphemous curses really doesn't work well. "Oh by Ulmo's Teeth" is just going to sound dumb when you really wish your character could let rip a good "Sweet Mother of Mercy!"or something similarly pithy and, sadly, AU. I also think that simply mentioning that another character has cursed tends to lead to abuse, with people throwing that in all over the place. It also lacks impact. If a character is cursing, I want there to be a good reason for it, and I want it to come across vividly. Having to not repeat what the character says removes much of the impact from the scene. So, I tend to want to steer clear of doing that more than is absolutely necessary. Really, if you can't curse in your character's voice, you may be better off not cursing at all. (humorous side note-- after dragging my non-fan boyfriend to RoTK for the second time, he came out of the theater and said, "You know, there were five or six times in there when I half-expected Frodo to look up and just say 'aw, f**k me'. I think that was what was missing from that movie...")

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Great post, DL7 (humorous side note-- after dragging my non-fan boyfriend to RoTK for the second time, he came out of the theater and said, "You know, there were five or six times in there when I half-expected Frodo to look up and just say 'aw, f**k me'. I think that was what was missing from that movie...") Hmm...*soapbox rearing it's ugly head* that's one of the many things I liked about the LOTR movies. Don't get me wrong, when mad I can cuss like a sailor but I get kind of tired of all the cussing that goes on in movies these days. I liked it when LOTR, (which definitely had it's f***!! moments!) chose not to say it anyway. Okay, before I start something I really don't want to start, I'm going to stop now. *stepping off soapbox* Cheryl

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I say LoTR, the Movie(s), kind of couldn't cuss. Tolkien didn't cuss. I don't have the quote to cite, but somewhere he mentioned Orc-speech, and said he had represented it by the basest sorts of lower-class speech he could think of, but he'd omitted the cussing because that was 'best left to the imagination' or something to that effect-- in short, this is a family establishment and we don't talk like that in here. I think the movie adaptation crew at least understood that much. Yes, they changed a lot of other stuff, but if they'd added cussing... well, you can't really justify it. It is not in the canon, it would violate the grandiose tone of the movie, and there's not really any reason for it. Except that the dialogue is occasionally stilted without it. And, say what you will about the movies, you've got to admit, not cussing was the least of their problems with the dialogue. (Just kidding. Maybe.) Anyhow. Back to my diatribe. On the whole, the fantasy genre kind of follows suit. Tolkien wrote in an elevated style, which thankfully most writers know better than to try to duplicate (often imitated... never duplicated). But they don't really go in for the realistic, urban, nitty-gritty dialect stuff either. (Some may, I don't know. But I keep thinking of the (admittedly, Sci-Fi parody) movie Galaxy Quest, where the Spock-like character is made to endlessly repeat "By Grabthar's hammer, you shall be avenged!" And so on.) I guess what it boils down to is that Tolkien didn't cuss, and if you want to write cusses, you're not going to sound like Tolkien, and if you want to sound like Tolkien, you're not going to cuss. Big elaborate attempts to avoid jarring people with your cussing will result in some fairly cumbersome oaths; avoidance weakens your prose. So I'd advise following your ear. If it sounds like something your character would say, then go for it. As my sarcastically non-fantasy-fan boyfriend says, dialogue just doesn't sound real without the occasional cuss word. I mean, you've got disasters and hardships of universal, gargantuan proportions going on, and your hero's not even allowed one good roaring cuss? But then again, he's not your hero, he's someone else's. You've got canon Eomer, standing there on the Pelennor, his uncle and sister dead (he thinks), his people slaughtered (red dew, man), and then he sees the black sails coming up, which he thinks are pirates come to destroy them all, and he doesn't let out one little bleep? Nope. In canon, he laughs. So... If you think about it, a lot of our popular culture is sort of hooked on swearing. Instead of saying something meaningful, you can resort to something offensive. Often, characters curse when they really should react in a deeper way. This only gets inflated in fantasy-type fiction where the author wants to put in a cuss word but has to invent one, which just sounds phony, and puts a big old hole in the dialogue. But there are also times when cussing is, indeed, warranted. Like, Eomer hits his thumb with a hammer. If he doesn't roar out something PG-13 or higher, he's not a real character. But don't you think it's more poignant when he laughs at the black sails? If he'd said "aw, [vulgarity], we are so [obscenity]ed" it really wouldn't be much of a memorable moment. (Not that it was included in the movie either way. But I digress.) So, I will conclude my diatribe (for so it wound up being, sorry) by saying that really, it just has to sound right, like all of your dialogue, and like all of your dialogue, it should be used to maximum effectiveness. If it makes a scene more powerful (either funnier or more moving or more dramatic or whatever) to have the character cuss, then do it! But don't do it just to fill space, or it'll just dilute what you're trying to get across. Elaborate constructs can be funny. Use them if you want to be funny. But for the love of Grabthar, don't destroy a serious scene by putting a ludicrously invented oath into it. It just feeds the bad-fantasy cliches that get me mocked by people like my boyfriend. ;)

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I'll tackle the phrase a bit, too. I mainly agree with what Ithildin had except for the conjugation of the verb "sól." The desired phrase "and he shut the door" is past tense which is formed by adding the suffix "-ant" onto the verb before conjugating it to match with the subject, in this case "he." So the verb we would start with is "sólant." After that is gets kinda tricky, mainly stemming from the fact that I don't know if "sól" is an a-stem verb or an i-stem verb. If it's an i-stem verb, "sólant" is as far as you need to conjugate to mean "he closed." However, if it's an a-stem verb, NT->NN through a mutation making the verb stem "sólann" and then it is followed by the suffix "-a" making the whole thing come out to "sólanna" for "he closed." Unfortunately, I don't have a referance for which way the verb goes. Anyone? It should also be noted that if it turns out to be an i-stem verb, there's a possibility that the L will get doubled. But that's a minor mutation that occurrs on an irregular basis. Berz.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I think the movie adaptation crew at least understood that much. Yes, they changed a lot of other stuff, but if they'd added cussing... well, you can't really justify it. It is not in the canon, it would violate the grandiose tone of the movie, and there's not really any reason for it. Except that the dialogue is occasionally stilted without it. And, say what you will about the movies, you've got to admit, not cussing was the least of their problems with the dialogue. (Just kidding. Maybe.) I totally agree. I guess I was only saying that it was nice to give my ears a break for once, in a movie theatre. Cheryl

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions! Don't plan on making Frodo a potty mouth, or Pippin to turn all bling-bling. Just needed a little reassurance that I was headed in the right direction. Yes, it is difficult to fling a good exclamation without a diety thrown in there, isn't it? I knew hebrew school was good for something. Of course, most of the best ones I learned standing in the cafeteria line at school. You can't even send somebody to h**l in ME, can you? Somehow, "Go to the Halls of Mandos, you little dweeb!" just doesn't have the same impact. Just have to stick with the OE standbys. One question though: Does a balrog even have balls? And who ever got close enough to do the research on that one? As to my other request: Geez, and I thought German was difficult! If the line 'he shut the door' does not translate, anything simple will do. Just don't want the phrase to be sounding all elvish, if you get my meaning. RubyG

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

But there are also times when cussing is, indeed, warranted. Like, Eomer hits his thumb with a hammer. If he doesn't roar out something PG-13 or higher, he's not a real character. So I'm not a real character? That's a bit of a worry! ;-) Avon

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Don't plan on making Frodo a potty mouth, or Pippin to turn all bling-bling. Just needed a little reassurance that I was headed in the right direction. Your welcome One question though: Does a balrog even have balls? And who ever got close enough to do the research on that one? My guess would be Glorfindel. Or, I suppose Gandalf may know too... Cheryl

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

>I'm not a real character? You're not Eomer, are you? (You're right, i didn't explain what I meant by that very well.) I don't know you well enough to know that, if I were writing you and made you hit your thumb with a hammer, you wouldn't cuss. My point is that characters have to behave consistently, in a believable manner. Whatever sounds right, they have to say. Perhaps you're the sort of person who hits her thumb with a hammer, drops the hammer, shakes your hand, grits your teeth, and hops around without making any noise except maybe hissing through your teeth. That doesn't sound like Eomer to me. (Not how I write him. Opinions may vary. Tolkien never described a situation like that, so we're left to our own imaginations.) Perhaps you're the sort of person who hits her thumb with a hammer and shrieks wordlessly. That doesn't sound like Eomer either. (I just can't picture him shrieking. He might bellow...) Perhaps you're the sort of person who hits her thumb with a hammer and lets loose with a stream of heartfelt nonsense words, because you don't cuss. (This is another thing that gets lost when people start making up cuss words. There are characters who would say "aw jeepers" instead of "aw jesus", and that's significant. That's a very vivid character moment. The sort of person who's going to go to elaborate lengths not to actually cuss-- that should be preserved. But if you're making up *all* the words... well, it's wellnigh impossible to convey that distinction.) Eomer doesn't sound right if I have him jumping up and down going "darn, darn, darn, heck, shoot, crap, sugar!" (Does it sound right to you?? Even if I substitute Old English near-cusses?) It also doesn't sound right if he puts the hammer down, puts his uninjured hand to his chest, and declaims: "By the spit of the Orcs I have slaughtered and the hooves of Bema's huntsmen, that was painful." (Now that, right there, is realism in dialogue. ) It just seems to me that he's the type who would let one rip. Possibly to his chagrin, if someone who wouldn't appreciate it were standing there. He is an honest and straightforward character who is not given overmuch to restraint or meekness, as I have understood him. Certainly, translated to modern English, he is not an "aw heckfire" kinda guy. I will here allow that my example isn't the best, however, because that would be a situation where you could simply describe what he said instead of actually quoting him, without really weakening the dialogue, because that's a situation where the reader can strongly empathize and will probably fill in, in her own imagination, what it seems right to her for him to have said. So if you change the above to something a little less visceral than hitting one's thumb with a hammer, to which more complex reactions would be warranted, my examples would probably work a little better. Say, his horse throws a shoe {or your tire goes flat} and he's already late. What does he say? a) "Firefoot, why has this happened now? This is most inconvenient!" b) "Oh, phooey." c) 'a stream of curses in Rohirric.' d) "Felarof's teeth!" e) "Ah, s**t." I mean, which one sounds like him to you? (edit-- I myself might use any of three of the above... but it would depend on the scene. I wasn't meaning to say that the cuss word is the only real choice. It depends on how you interpret the character and what you're trying to get across.) Certainly, if you are not a person who ever cusses, your characters are not likely to do so either. But it's something to consider. Certainly, it is possible to convey a great deal of detail without cusses, depending on your writing style. But it really depends, and sometimes people aren't consistent with their own writing voices when it comes to dialogue in general and cussing in particular. I would concur that in many places where modern scriptwriters insert an obscenity, it is not called for, and a more pithy comment would do. However, I would also argue that they're simply imitating life, and that is not simply a modern tendency-- I've been researching the English Civil War (the one with Cromwell and Charles II, 1643ish) and most of the quoted primary sources are grousing about how foul-mouthed the Royalist soldiers are. People have always cussed; it's just that the literary classes have not always recorded that, and popular entertainment is much more widely disseminated and preserved now. I'd just plead for a little realism in dialogue, or at least thought to stylistic considerations. If you're making things up, try to imagine how people would really say them. Why do people cuss? Because they're powerful words. I try not to cuss when I talk unless it's warranted-- if you reserve it to a situation when it's really called for, the impact is far stronger. (I heard my father say the F-word for the first time when I was twenty. I sure paid attention.) It conveys strong emotion, it conveys depth of feeling, it conveys strong crudity, it conveys that politeness has been discarded... it can convey a great spectrum of things, depending on how it is used, and what specifically is said. As a spacefiller, however, it's probably more trouble than it's worth. ;) I know I'll be paying a lot closer attention in my own writing from this out, though-- I hadn't really devoted much thought to it, before, but simply went with whatever came out of the character's mouth. I am worse than many. But I've certainly enjoyed thinking this through here. Good topic! Hope I haven't hijacked it. -- B.

 

 

Re: innocuous phrase translation

The verb is reconstructed from the adjective for ‘closed’ in the phrase _Fen Hollen_. Helge Fauskanger had it conjugated as an i-stem verb: _hol-_, inf. _heli_ (with the note that it could well be 's' instead of 'h'). Sadly, I’m not nearly bright enough to conjugate verbs on my own, so I use his list of conjugated verbs from Ardalambion. He’s using the same format as seen in verbs such as _ tol-_ 'come'. _hôl_ might be a safer choice for ‘closed’ though. The ‘s’ form makes sense to me, but it’s not attested. Ithildin *( edit: If the line 'he shut the door' does not translate, anything simple will do. Just don't want the phrase to be sounding all elvish, if you get my meaning. RubyG you don't want elvish? oh, sorry. lol. ithildin *(

 

 

Reply to dragonlady

You know that really was just a joking remark... though I will admit I do get tired of the implication everyone swears; my friends, workmates and relatives do exist. I don't actually agree that Eomer would necessarily swear but that's a point we could discuss fruitlessly. Everyone has their own opinions of the Ardaverse and it is an awfully big sandbox to play in. Personally I find it jolts me totally out of the story when someone does make Tolkien's characters use swear words but that can only ever be my point of view - and I don't have to keep reading. Often I don't. To me if Tolkien didn't have his characters swear then that is how it is and I get frustrated by how often, in lots of areas writers feel they have to make characters do something - because that's how it is in RL. I sometimes think that that usually only works if you are narrowly defining RL but even on a broad definition I don't think M-e is RL, however I know everyone has their own definition of M-e - from Roman Wales to unlocated, untimed fantasy. IDIC, each to their own. Avon

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

Oh, I know it was joking, but it made me realize that part of my argument was undeveloped. >each to their own Yes. What's important is that the writer do what sounds right and is faithful to the character as she envisions him. But I couldn't just say that in so few words! ;) I had to have multiple-choice because that's more amusing.

 

 

Reply Ithildin Re: innocuous phrase translation

Ithildin, NO! I do want elvish, I just don't want the original sentence in English to sound elvish! I wanted something simple, "He shut the door", "The tea water is boiling", "These tights make my shorts ride up something fierce", things that we say every day. (OK, maybe not the tea water line). Listening to Elrond, Arwen and Legolas, you get the idea that EVERYTHING is full of portent and history. Not so for folks in the Shire. I have a handy little Elvish-English dictionary, (very useful on the bus), but I didn't want to offend any of my fellow fans by botching the translation. Thank you, Thank you very much! RubyG

 

 

Re: Reply Ithildin innocuous phrase translation

Oh, now I understand. lol! And I agree, the Elves had to have every day conversation too. I hope the little sentence proves helpful. And I hope the translation is passable, I'm still learning. Those verbs are so tricky, and sometime we don't even know what category they fit into. My hat is off to anyone (like Berz !) who can conjugate them. Ithildin *(

 

 

Re: Reply Ithildin innocuous phrase translation

Heh... I don't think your hat would be so far off if you knew how long it took me to do that. Past tense in Sindarin is freaking weird. I've never studied a language that conjugated it in quite the same way. But, my real-life-language experience is limited to native English-speaking, high school French, and a random semester of Japanese. Linguist, I am not. Thanks much for the referance on the i-stem. ^_^ Guess that would make it "sólant," then. In fact, I made a mistake (I think) if it had been an a-stem. It would have come out to "sólanne" rather than "sólanna." I think... honestly, I'm not entirely sure about that. There's something about the past tense changing vowels in verb-endings to E though. As I said... freaking weird... Trevado na sídh! ^_^ Berz.

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

What a great discussion. Don't have a lot of time to respond here, so this will be short. We were playing LOTR movie-verse trivial pursuit last semester, and I got the question, "What three words did Theoden say as they were standing on the battlements of Helm's Deep watching Saruman's army approach?" I did not recall the words, so I suggested, "Oh, f-k me." Anyway.... Swearing and the lack thereof has always been a challenge. I have generally gone with cursing out the deities when necessary, and I think I had Beornings in "Boundaries" using "bloody that" and "flaming this." In "Ice and Fire" no one cursed at all, since I had a hard time seeing the Noldor swearing like sailors. Turin sounded like a complete SOB at times, especially in that section in the appendix of UT where he tells off those two Elves who had come from Cirdan to warn King Orodreth in Nargothrond of all hell breaking loose. I don't have my books on me, but I think it is a great section of conveying insult without cursing. It sounded beautiful and completely captured the feelings of Turin and the Elves, much better the way it was written than if Turin had simply said, "You motherf-ers..., take a hike." There was also Thingol's insult to the Dwarves that incited his murder, but again, can't quote cause I haven't my books on me.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Swearing is one of my few vices, but I usually side-step this whole issue by writing things like: '[name] cursed under his breath' or '[name] muttered a curse' or '[name] cursed fluently and with great gusto'.

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

We were playing LOTR movie-verse trivial pursuit last semester, and I got the question, "What three words did Theoden say as they were standing on the battlements of Helm's Deep watching Saruman's army approach?" I did not recall the words, so I suggested, "Oh, f-k me." ROFL! That'd be my reaction. Cheryl

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I've done the same as Altariel suggests, using terms such as ...string of orcish pleasantries she suggested to otherwise fill his time ... and ...snarling description of his ancestors... or from the POV of the non-swearing character ...trying to decipher the inventive phrases or something like this ....question prompted another round of critical descriptions and creative suggestions. “You know that last one isn’t possible,” he interjected when she paused for a breath. Now silent, she glared at him, her anger diffusing as she saw concern and confusion in him. “I have seen it.” She finally responded, admitting at his look of disbelief, “but they were not all living.”

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

along those lines, Eomer could question the legitimacy of the hammer's birth, possibly that its parents were related, or suggest an unnatural relationship between the hammer and anvil. ....lots of fun ways to get your point across.... when you reply to your own post in a thread does that mean you've had one coffee too many?

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

It has been suggested to me by a colleague who hails from across the Pond that, since The Shire is a stand-in for England anyway, colorful phrases that are popular there, could be incorporated. As Gandalf falls, he could cry, "Oh, bugger! Aragorn could call Boromir's suggestion to go to Gondor, "bullocks!" Merry could tell Pippin to "Stop looking at that bloody black ball!" And Sam could tell Gollum to "Sod off!" Any more? RubyG

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I like Sulriel's creative suggestions, but at times gleefully tapdancing around the cussing calls more attention to it than is warranted. IMO. It depends, again, on the scene. As for RubyG's... Well, yes, those are more Tolkienesque in that they're British rather than American, but... those are indeed quite offensive words in British English-- and really, the issue remains the same: either you're cussing or you're not. "Bugger" is a word for a male homosexual act. "Bollocks" are testes. "Bloody" is a reference to the wounds of Jesus. And "sod" is another word for "sh*t". Britishisms are possibly less jarring than Americanisms, to be sure, but simply because those words are not offensive in American doesn't mean they're not cusses. They are. The same rules apply to them as to any of the more trans-atlantic cusses: use with care!!

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Any more? "Arse"? "Pants"?

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

"What three words did Theoden say as they were standing on the battlements of Helm's Deep watching Saruman's army approach?" "Is this it?" (I think. Of course, he followed that up by several more words...) In terms of the question at hand, I try to keep my characters' swearing in terms of "so and so swore softly" or something that doesn't give the actual words. It's simpler, doesn't stand out like "Shit" or any other of the venerable four-letter words do, and it can get the job done. I've been known to use "bloody", although on the one occasion it occurs, I did get nailed for it by someone who said it sounded too modern; I got around that in another story by modifying and then translating the term into OE for a Rohirric character. Funny how everything sounds better and less modern if it's put in a dead language, and no one batted an eye. ;-) In terms of blasphemy, despite the lack of religious practice *in the West*, Mablung does invoke the Valar for protection once in TTT, which indicates there's a possibility of swearing "by the Valar" or using that term in a way that would equate out to a sort of blasphemous utterance. Certainly, the king's taking the name of "Lord of the West" in Númenor caused a lot of problems precisely because it was a title reserved to the Valar, and so it was, in a sense appropriate to M-e, a sort of blasphemy, right at the heart of the kingdom. So I wouldn't go so far as to say that just because there is no organized religious practice in western M-e in the Third Age, that there is no sense of what we would call a blasphemous or irreligious sentiment. We know the Haradrim are said to have "worshipped" Sauron, that prior to the corruption of Númenor, Meneltarma was the site of a regular devotionary practice, and that later, Sauron's temple occupied that very site for obvious reasons. The Elves sing to Elbereth and revere her in terms that in other worlds seem likely to be called "religious". The sentiment is there, both in the incidents and also the language Tolkien uses, therefore behind the text, one suspects that the blasphemous curses are also lurking. Whether we are able to portray them in a way that is believable for the characters and context *and* doesn't sound silly in English and which preserves a sense of what they mean is another story entirely. I'd not rule out the possibility, but I do think it's difficult, and should be used sparingly. To me, part of writing swearing in M-e is recognizing that in situations where meaning is at stake or in dispute, the characters *don't* see this as an opportunity to curse. By implication, that, to me, moves cursing to the realm of insignificance—not that horrible things might not be happening, but the character has nothing truly meaningful to say of it *to others*, other than a purely personal expression of distress.

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

A very thoughtful and interesting post, Dwim! Mablung does invoke the Valar for protection once in TTT Good. I wasn't sure whether Tolkien had done this, but I always thought that an expression like "by the Valar" would be appropriate for ME (under the proper circumstances, of course...not said lightly like we bandy about blasphemies in the modern world.) Certainly, the king's taking the name of "Lord of the West" in Númenor caused a lot of problems precisely because it was a title reserved to the Valar, and so it was, in a sense appropriate to M-e, a sort of blasphemy, right at the heart of the kingdom. And very deliberately done, in a kind of "in your face" sort of way... pushy Men! You know, I hadn't thought of this, but Elessar is referred to as King of the West somewhere (if you're interested, I can try to find the reference -- it was *not* used by Faramir at the coronation)... Never considered the possibility before reading your post, but I wonder if the Valar would consider that blasphemous, like in Númenor? (Of course, in this case I'm pretty sure it was someone *else* calling him that, not that he took that title for himself...) Very thought-provoking post! Thanks, Dwim! - Barbara

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

Elessar is referred to as King of the West somewhere "With that they parted, and it was then the time of sunset; and when after a while they turned and looked back, they saw the King of the West sitting upon his horse with his knights about him; and the falling Sun shone upon them and made all their harness to gleam like red gold, and the white mantle of Aragorn was turned to a flame. Then Aragorn took the green stone and held it up, and there came a green fire from his hand." RotK, Many Partings. Also a couple of times in the Appendices.

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

Thank you, Altariel! (Edit: ) So it appears to be the narrator... and I'm sure that Tolkien could arrange some special dispensation from the Valar to avoid the taint of blasphemy! - Barbara

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

So it appears to be the narrator... and I'm sure that Tolkien could arrange some special dispensation from the Valar to avoid the taint of blasphemy! (Sub)Creator's privilege!

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

You know, I hadn't thought of this, but Elessar is referred to as King of the West somewhere (if you're interested, I can try to find the reference -- it was *not* used by Faramir at the coronation)... Never considered the possibility before reading your post, but I wonder if the Valar would consider that blasphemous, like in Númenor? (Of course, in this case I'm pretty sure it was someone *else* calling him that, not that he took that title for himself...) That's right, he is called that, and I like your "in text" explanation of attributing that title to the narrator. Personally, I'm inclined to attribute this to inconsistency on Tolkien's part as both LOTR and the Silmarillion narrative evolved. I'm not sure when the Akallabeth achieved its final form, but that detail strikes me as something that could've been added later, after reconsidering large chunks of the Silmarillion in light of The Lord of the Rings. Certainly the record of the names of the Kings of Númenor has to date to somewhere after 1960, since it's said to be "of the same period" as the Aldarion story, of which the date 1965 is mentioned for a typescript, though who knows how long it took before the story reached a form where Tolkien thought a typescript worthwhile to produce. Very thought-provoking post! Thanks, Dwim! You're welcome.

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

I was rereading the Narn i hin Hurin, which is one of my favorites (I need a Turin nuzgul and have none, so feel free to fire any at me any time, and I will love you forever), and I noted that while no one curses as we know it, Turin has a scathing tongue and fires off some fantastic insults. He calls Brodda, "You son of dastards, thief, slave of slaves!" To Brandir he says, "What lie have you begotten in your malice, Club-foot? Would you slay us then with foul words, since you can wield no other weapon?" A few paragraphs later, he continues, "It is a lie of your own vile mind, to drive my wife witless, and now me. You limping evil -- would you dog us both to death?" And in the moments before he kills Brandir, he delivers the best one yet: "Nay, Glaurung (the dragon) you shall find, and breed lies together. You shall sleep with the Worm, your soul's mate, and rot in one darkness!" When Mablung comes up to him afterwards, Turin says to the Elf, "Go back to Doriath, and may winter shrivel it! A curse upon Menegroth! And a curse upon your errand." Lest you think Turin only has a sharp tongue when stressed, read the appendix of the Narn in UT. There are some real gems back there. Two Elves who say they are of Finarfin's people arrive to warn Orodreth, king of Nargothrond, that he should bar the gates of Nargothrond and maintain stealth and secrecy, or Morgorth will destroy it. Turin does not think highly of this idea. Keep in mind everyone is having a quiet counsel with the king and it's all diplomatic and calm until Turin opens his mouth. "A man's name is his own," he says to one of the Elves, "and should the son of Hurin learn that you have betrayed him when he would be hid, then may Morgoth take you and burn out your tongue." Though I have no idea what "runagate" means, it is probably not a compliment For Turin continues, "And if, as it seems, I must bear the hate of Morgoth because of the valor of my father, shall I also endure the taunts and ill-bodings of a runagate, though he claim the kinship of kings? I counsel you: get you back to the safe shores of the sea." So while there is no cursing as we would know it -- though I am sure if this was written in modern parlance Turin might have said to assorted people, "You motherf-, may you rot in hell" -- M-e inhabitants do have means to transmit the same sentiments. As writers, we must attempt to find ways to express those sentiments as eloquently as did Tolkien without swearing like sailors.

 

 

Re: Reply to dragonlady

"You son of dastards, thief, slave of slaves!" I worked briefly for a little publishing company that produced a book called Shakespeare's Insults, which was a collection of all the insults that appeared in the works of Shakespeare (e.g. (I hope I remember this right), "The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!"). It would be fun to have the M-e equivalent - and no, I'm not volunteering!

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I'm discovering this thread late... Britishisms are possibly less jarring than Americanisms I personally find them less jarring because I hear (and say) them everyday (not literally). But I don't think bollocks (or bollox, don't ask) would sound right coming from an American accent. Similarly, I think you need an Aussie accent to pull off 'G'day mate'. I think American swear words are less offensive than British ones, at least in my (limited) experience. On the subject of made up swear words, I would love to say 'Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish' at some appropriate moment, but said moment usually doesn't involve enough though to get it in. Nic

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I dunno if this has been mentioned, but I was just going through UT and noticed that in a note on p. 317 (footnote to "Cirion and Eorl") it mentions that it was lawful only for the King of Numenor to invoke Eru in an oath. It was a big deal that Cirion did in his response to the Oath of Eorl, and it was a big deal again when Elessar repeated it when Eomer renewed the oath. So, if any of your characters say Eru at any point, you'd better have a darn good explanation!! Especially since the Valar seem to be more prone to smiting etcetera than any of the current deities, depending on your interptetation.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

it mentions that it was lawful only for the King of Numenor to invoke Eru in an oath. splutter... but this thread isn't about that kind of oath. The Oath of Cirion and Eorl is a solemn binding of political entities, and they reverently call on Eru to witness it, not a "Oh, I hit my thumb with a hammer and need to say something forceful" kind of oath. If all your merchants swear their contracts 'Eru strike me if I don't perform as specifiied herein', then you might get into trouble. This is not to say that Eru's name would be used casually in swearing with no consequences (if only charges of blasphemy from your neighbors), just that the prohibition only seems to relate to contractual oaths. Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

To second Gwynnyd, an oath in M-e usually refers to a legal contractual agreement, but though I can think of no textual examples, probabaly also refers to cursing in frustration. For instance, "Feanor dropped his anvil on his foot and yelled an oath" would be a very different invocation of that word than "Feanor swore an oath to pursue anyone who posessed a Silmaril." The former is an exclamation and the latter binds him legally to doing what he said he will do. The use of the word has not changed in modern uses. You can mutter an oath (or probably yell one) if you drop an anvil on your foot. Most people in colloquial English won't use it in that context, but it's correct. When you testify in court, you swear an oath to tell the truth, which is a legal agreement to do so and if you lie and someone finds out, the state can prosecute you for perjury. Very different meanings of the word.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

For instance, "Feanor dropped his anvil on his foot and yelled an oath" would be a very different invocation of that word than "Feanor swore an oath to pursue anyone who posessed a Silmaril." The former is an exclamation and the latter binds him legally to doing what he said he will do. but consider that Feanor (to follow your example) was strong enough, powerful enough to face the 'gods' themselves. He walked and talked with them daily. He slammed the door in Melkor's face, Fingolfin faced Melkor in personal combat and gave him a crippling injury before he was killed. They knew the Valar personally and I think that makes a difference. I think, from their perspective, if you dropped a hammer on your foot and said "d*mn it!" you would expect the hammer to ?? pop on over to Melkor's place and you would have to find a new hammer. It seems to me that oaths meant something more in M-e than they do here and that may be why we see a lack of cursing. Someone above quoted Turin. - wonderful stuff - but Turin was NOT a 'good guy' ... "killed orcs, men and elves" while he was an outlaw.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I was the one who quoted Turin. It seems to me that oaths meant something more in M-e than they do here and that may be why we see a lack of cursing Maybe they would not have said something like, "Oh, Holy Eru," but there is no evidence to support that either way. However, even if you write Turin off as "not a good guy" (and that is debateable and is a discussion in and of itself on "good" v. "bad" in Arda), there still remains evidence in the Silmarillion that anyone, if mad enough, will curse. I actually have Morgoth's Ring in front of me at the moment, not the Silm, but it will serve since most of it parallels the Silm text. Anyway, Tolkien wrote, "many of [the Noldor] repented of the road and began to murmur, especially those that followed Fingolfin, cursing Feanor and naming him as the cause of all the woes of the Eldar." How they phrased said curses will ever be a mystery for fanfic writers to unravel if they so choose, but it is clear they were angry and saying ugly things about Feanor. And they were good people who had just reached the end of their rope. It is possible that First Age Elves did not invoke the names of the Valar for the reason you said -- they knew them personally. But there are other ways to phrase curses that don't necessarily invoke deities. "I hope that guy rots in eternal darkness," or something like that. Turin was fond of calling people he was angry at thralls or slaves. But third age characters far removed from the Valar -- that is anyone save Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman, and maybe Elrond -- might invoke their names. Could be a social class thing as well. Someone of a higher class, like Denethor say, might not do so since it is bad manners, but someone of a lower class, say Beregond, might. It is not stated anywhere in the text that I remember, nor have I yet read anything where it is expressly stated they didn't. It might be in volume of HoME I've not yet read, I don't know...

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Maybe they would not have said something like, "Oh, Holy Eru," but there is no evidence to support that either way. IMHO, I doubt Tolkien’s Elves would have said anything like that. I don’t know if this passage has been quoted yet in this thread, but this is from the part about wedding ceremonies in LACE: Quote: ********** For this blessing there was a solemn form, but no mortal has heard it; though the Eldar say that Varda was named in witness by the mother and Manwe by the father; and moreover that the name of Eru was spoken (as was seldom done at any other time). Laws and Customs of the Edar (HoME X): (bold emphasis mine) ********** I guess the use of the term ‘seldom’ does leave some room for interpretation there. LACE pertains primarily to the Noldor, but I think many parts of it were intended to apply pretty much across the board to all Elves. And, of course, the other races might have different opinions on the matter. Ithildin *(

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

I think the quote I cited from Unfinished Tales echoes that-- it was NOT LEGAL for anyone but the King to invoke Eru. I doubt that the lower classes would do so out of bad manners, if it was illegal.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

Just because it's not legal doesn't mean it's not done. It's not legal to smoke pot in the United States or drink when you're under 21, but it is not like people don't do that. Whether M-e societies are more law-abiding than modern is anyone's guess (probably not -- it's not exactly legal to pull a sword on someone in Tirion, but Feanor seemed to think it a good idea anyway), but there you have it. Enforcing such a prohibition would be a huge pain, since there can be no solid evidence and if your defendant didn't shout it in front of 1000 people, probably very few witnesses.

 

 

Re: @$#%$&$*%^#^ in ME

But these are the kinds of gods that destroyed islands for blasphemy. Note that there are no lawyers, nor are there police in M-e. Obviously their justice system does not work as ours does. But, at this point, we're quibbling about how seriously you take the creator of a fantasy world. As Tolkien wrote it, i don't think anyone would violate that ban. Given that when Cirion swore that oath, all present trembled-- strikes me that if you heard fisherwomen talking like that, you wouldn't react like that. But still. It can't be answered. If you think that the inhabitants of M-e didn't obey laws that they knew wouldn't be enforced, then that's your vision of it. Not mine. We'll have to agree to disagree.

 

 

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