Without Young, or the Curious Fanon of Pen-Neth: 1. An Essay

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1. An Essay

For many of us, the appeal of Tolkien lies in a shared love of language - we understand that his invented languages came first and that the stories evolved to give them life. He delighted in the making of his languages, frequently revisiting and revising them, and often indulged in discourses mimicking those he had composed for real languages. Thus, it should not surprise us that a word formulated in one era of his thought should return later with another meaning and entirely new etymology. Such is the case with pen.

The oldest example of pen appears in Lord of the Rings as ben-adar 'fatherless' (pen is lenited to ben as part of a prepositional phrase that functions as an adjective):
Iarwain Ben-adar, we called him, oldest and fatherless. (1)
However, Tolkien reinvented the word (probably forgetting that he had previously used it to mean 'without') in a later composition. In 'Quendi and Eldar' (dated 1959-1960), pen resurfaces as a derivative of KWEN, and has the meaning 'one'. This is no doubt the source of the phrase pen-neth 'young one' that is often found in fan fiction. However, Tolkien's examples show this incarnation of pen as a suffix, not a prefix.

It was no whim that placed pen as a prefix in the first case and a suffix in the second. 'Without' is a preposition and Sindarin does not leave prepositions dangling at the end of a phrase or sentence. In fact, the Sindarin preposition is more likely to become part of the word that follows it:
Annon edhellen, edro hi ammen! (ammen 'for us' is composed of an 'for', which becomes am before men 'we', according to rules of Sindarin phonology) (2)

le nallon sí di-nguruthos (di-nguruthos 'under the shadow of death') (3)
The syntax of 'one' is more complex. In Sindarin, nouns usually follow the adjective, and this is undoubtedly the root of the confusion - one would expect pen neth, literally translated as 'one young'. However, pen is an exception, as Tolkien explains:
Derivatives of *KWEN were limited to the sense: pronominal 'one, somebody, anybody' and to a few old compounds that survived... .

As a pronoun, usually enclitic, the form pen, mutated ben, survived. A few compounds survived, such as rochben 'rider' (m. or f.), orodben 'a mountaineer' or 'one living in the mountains', arphen 'a noble'. (4)
In the first paragraph, it would seem that pen as an affix is limited to compounds, and a separate pronoun, 'one' remains that would presumably precede the adjective (as would other pronouns). In the second paragraph, Tolkien clarifies that indeed, both the pronoun and compounded affix exist. However, the pronoun is enclitic, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as follows:
Designating a word so unemphatic as to be pronounced as if part of the preceding word, and sometimes attached to it (5)
Thus, in practice, though the pronoun remains a word in itself, it has become more suffix than stand-alone pronoun. As an enclitic, pen would most likely yield words similar to the compounds given by Tolkien in the above excerpt: nethben; tithemben (from tithen 'little' - np becomes mb in compound); gaerphen 'dreadful one'; gorben (from gorn 'impetuous' - rnp becomes rb in compound).

In conclusion, it is fair to assume that pen-neth and its variants are unlikely, being a combination of the syntax of the first instance of pen and the meaning of the second. Nothing published by Tolkien during his lifetime proves that pen can mean 'one', but a posthumously edited and published essay not only attests to this connotation but also describes its usage. That work implies that pen should in this case be attached as a suffix. As for the employment of pen as a hyphenated prefix, Lord of the Rings gives both example and definition. If pen-adar means 'fatherless', then the meaning of pen-neth must follow in kind. A host of fictional Elves would be most grateful if we ceased to call them 'youthless'. (6)



(1) LOTR, Book II Chap 2 p 258, pub Houghton Mifflin

(2) Ibid, Book II Chap 4 p 299

(3) Ibid, Book IV Chap 10 p 712

(4) The War of the Jewels, 'Quendi and Eldar' p 376 pub Houghton Mifflin

(5) The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th Ed, Oxford University Press 2002

(6) Additional sources consulted: David Salo, A Gateway to Sindarin, University of Utah Press 2004; Helge Fauskanger, Ardalambion, 'Sindarin: The Noble Tongue'.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: erunyauve

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Critical Essay

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/01/07

Original Post: 01/01/07

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Comments

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Without Young, or the Curious Fanon of Pen-Neth

Adaneth - 02 Jan 07 - 4:49 AM

Ch. 1: An Essay

I know enough about linguistics to appreciate this, and I wish I knew enough to be able to keep all the lenition and such straight in Tolkien's languages!

Ah, the messes we get in with our pidgin-Sindarin.  Smile

Thanks for the correction--

Adaneth

Without Young, or the Curious Fanon of Pen-Neth

oshun - 02 Jan 07 - 11:57 AM

Ch. 1: An Essay

Thanks! The reason why I use Sindarin references sparingly and only from limited sources (usually David Salo).

Without Young, or the Curious Fanon of Pen-Neth

Gwynnyd - 02 Jan 07 - 4:54 PM

Ch. 1: An Essay

(clears throat)

Well! I am very glad I never used 'pen-neth' anywhere.

Um, what would you suggest if someone wanted to say "young one" correctly?

Gwynnyd

Without Young, or the Curious Fanon of Pen-Neth

erunyauve - 03 Jan 07 - 5:15 AM

Ch. 1: An Essay

>>I wish I knew enough to be able to keep all the lenition and such straight in Tolkien's languages!

I think it's easier to spot than it is to use, and as usual, Tolkien changed his mind from time to time, so we get some unexpected examples from the corpus.  

Without Young, or the Curious Fanon of Pen-Neth

erunyauve - 03 Jan 07 - 5:28 AM

Ch. 1: An Essay

>>The reason why I use Sindarin references sparingly and only from limited sources (usually David Salo).

He's done a lot for those of us more interested in Sindarin than Quenya.  I realise that a lot of his work is theoretical, but he is careful to note that and to explain how he came to his conclusions.  For our purpose, as fan fiction writers, we're often in the same position he was in when he did the translations for the films - the corpus just doesn't exist, and we have to resort to what we do know of Sindarin and Quenya to fill in the gaps.

Without Young, or the Curious Fanon of Pen-Neth

erunyauve - 03 Jan 07 - 5:36 AM

Ch. 1: An Essay

>>Um, what would you suggest if someone wanted to say "young one" correctly?

I think 'nethben' would be the likely result.  I sort of quibbled over whether 'one' would usually be found in compound, and I think that's what Tolkien intended by 'enclitic'.


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