Bilingual Silmarillion Reread

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread, Part 4

So far in the Bilingual Silmarillion Reread, I’ve made it up through Chapter 2 of the Quenta Silmarillion. (See the last post, Part 3.) The Valar have established the world and built the Lamps to light it, only to have them torn down by Melkor. Yavanna’s upped the lighting game by creating the Two Trees, while Tulkas has driven off Melkor for the time being. Meanwhile, Aulë’s made some Dwarves, only to have Ilúvatar make him put them to sleep until after the actual planned-for Children of Ilúvatar show up.

Which would be in Chapter 3, which I’ll talk about now!

Chapter 3

This being the chapter where the Elves show up, I’m rather partial to it. But it does raise a lot of questions.

  1. For a pack of demigods so anxious to meet the Children of Ilúvatar, they sure do a lot of minding their own business rather than actually looking for them. Yavanna, Oromë, and Ulmo seem to be the only ones who give half a fuck about keeping an eye on Middle-Earth in person.
  2. So did Ilúvatar just drop a ready-made elf population at Cuiviénen, then? How many?
  3. How long did it take for them to start figuring out how to make little elves?
  4. How long was it between their awakening and when Oromë finally found them?

I’ve known for a while now that the whole concept of time is pretty haphazard in the earliest, pre-Sun/pre-Moon days of Middle-Earth. So the timespans we’re dealing with here still aren’t very clear at all.

That said: I really like the passage in this chapter about Varda making the stars. And how it’s described as the greatest work since the making of Arda itself, just to underscore exactly how important Varda is to the mythos here.

This is also the chapter that gives us the first sign of the Balrogs, and the making of the Orcs. Which led Dara to raise a question: if Elves have fates as laid out in the Music, does this mean some Elves were fated to give rise to the Orcs? Do Orcs have fates?

But back on the concept of how fast time does or does not flow at this point, Oromë must surely be able to ride really fast. How long does it take him to high-tail it back to Valinor with the word about the Elves? (“WE GOT MOVIE ELF SIGN!”) Does he get impatient with how long it takes to move a whole host of Elves across Middle-Earth to Valinor? And how many Elves are we talking at this point?

Language Notes

“Cuiviénen”, the name of the place where the Elves awaken, totally looks French to me.

I find it good practice to periodically try reading a sentence in the French translation aloud. And, as with the prior multi-lingual reads I’ve done, reading the French right after reading the equivalent passage in English does help my reading comprehension.

In this chapter, I started paying more attention to the differences in semi-colon usage between the original and the translation. Dara actually discovered that it’s just a thing that semi-colons are used way less often in French, which would explain why the translator did some rearranging of sentences to account for removing them.

Varda is called Tintallë the Kindler in English. In French, this becomes “Celle Qui Donne La Lumière Aux Étoiles”, or She Who Gives The Light to the Stars.

Relatedly, I like the word “étincelante”, which means “shining”, used in the description of Menelmacar’s belt.

This is a phrase that stood out for me in the French: “… car ils ne connaisaient encore aucune autre créature douée de la parole ou du chant.” Meaning, “… for as of yet they had met no other living things that spoke or sang.” Which is of course in the part where it’s described how the Elves named themselves the Quendi, “those who speak with voices”.

There’s an interesting connotation difference with the Ring of Doom, where the Valar meet to hold their counsels, being called Le Cercle du Destin in French. “Doom” is being used here in the sense of “fate”, I think. But it’s still quite the connotation in Tolkien, given how The Lord of the Rings features Mount Doom so prominently.

The same sort of connotational difference shows up when Mandos issues his take on the whole idea of letting the Eldar come to Valinor. In the English, he says “So it is doomed.” Again, ‘doom’ in the sense of ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’. But in French, the line given is “Malheur à nous”.

And that’s definitely a darker connotation. When I look up “malheur” in my dictionary of choice, it defines the word as meaning “adversity” or “misfortune”. In short, at least in the French, Mandos is being a lot more blatant in how bringing the Eldar to Valinor is going to fuck them all up.

Last linguistic note: the term for the Avari (the “Unwilling”) in French is “Révoltés”. Yet another interesting connotational nuance, as this word means “rebels”. A rather stronger term, I daresay, than just “the people who are unwilling to do the thing”.

Additional Notes

I do so like Varda making the Valacirca as a particular fuck-you to Melkor. 😀

Angband is mentioned here (and Sauron!), and I remember that name as the game that was an offshoot of Moria. Which was in turn a cousin of Nethack.

And now, what new proper nouns do we have that end in -ë?

  1. Tintallë
  2. Alcarinquë
  3. Elemmírë
  4. Soronúmê
  5. Helcaraxë (oh hey yeah the Grinding Ice!)
  6. Ingwë
  7. Finwë
  8. Elwë
  9. Olwë
  10. Lenwë (a father of Denethor but NOT the same Denethor that shows up in Gondor much later)

Since it’s really short, let’s also cover Chapter 4, shall we?

Chapter 4

Before this re-read, I’d forgotten that this chapter is in fact so short.

The idea of Elwë being struck dumb and still for years at the sight of Melian does not strike me as the stuff of great romance. Maybe the two of them communed telepathically? Regardless, they’re the parents of Lúthien, so it’s all good!

Next post: more about the elves and the journey to Valinor!

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