Welcome back to my Bilingual Silmarillion Reread! Previous posts in this series are Part 1 and Part 2.
In this post, I’ll begin talking about the Quenta Silmarillion, the part of the book that deals with the First Age of Middle-Earth. This is the section that has all my major favorite bits, too. But I’ll get to those in due time!
I’d completely forgotten that Tulkas shows up at the start of this chapter, which makes Melkor panic and bail. It’s also deeply amusing to me that after all the Overwatch that gets played in this house, I’m now picturing Tulkas as the Reinhardt of the Valar. 😀 I mean, he’s big, combative, prone to laughter, and blond. He’s totally Reinhardt.
(And now I need fan art of him yelling “HONOR! GLORY! TULKAS TULKAS TULKAS!” Possibly also of him punching Melkor, played in this scenario by Reaper, while yelling “BEER!”)
I really like the passage where Yavanna raises the Two Trees. There are some nice pieces of art depicting the trees in this post of Jeff LaSala’s Silmarillion Primer on Tor.com… but they’re pieces that just focus on the Trees. I want to see Yavanna actually raising them, in her greatest act of power in all of this book.
A few things came to my mind on this read-through that I hadn’t considered before, while dealing with the original English:
One, the Valar must rest at times. I wonder if this is part of their actual natures, or an artifact of their taking physical forms. The latter seems likely to me.
Two, I found myself considering the various pair-offs that the Valar settle into. Do they get the idea from what Ilúvatar envisioned for his children? Or were any of their pairings prior to going down into Arda? Did Manwë and Varda date before they built the world, or did they have a workplace romance?
Relatedly, some of the Valar are siblings! E.g., Oromë and Nessa, Mandos and Lorien and Nienna. This implies some parentage going on aside from “Eru sang them all into being.” Or does this mean they were sung into being in the same verse of the Great Music?
When I mentioned this to Dara, she had a nice idea about harmonious themes and counter-themes as spousal pairs. I thought this could be extended to work musically for siblings as well, though perhaps not in the same way as spouses. With siblings, I envision more “variations on the same theme”.
Three, coming through this chapter this time, another thing that stood out for me was HOLY HOPPING AINUR SO MANY SEMI-COLONS. This stands out for me way more now, now that I’ve written a few novels of my own. And now I have a better idea of where my own overuse of semi-colons came from, and why my editor at Carina Press (HI DEB) had to make me yank approximately four million of them out of drafts of the Rebels books.
Here are the things I noticed in the French:
I began to note a bit more rearranging of sentences on the part of the translator. And a lot fewer semi-colons.
A word that stood out for me was “démentit”, where it’s mentioned that Melkor hates Tulkas forever after Tulkas drives him off. I recognized the word from SuperMemo, but here, it’s used in the phrase “ne se démentit jamais”, which means more along the lines of “never let up” rather than “deny/contradict” (which was how I’d encountered the word before).
“Les Terres du Milieu”: oh look, a proper noun! This is the translation of Middle-Earth, and as near as I can tell, it literally means “the lands of the middle”. Interesting that the term is in fact plural.
A fun side effect of reading this text in French is all of Tolkien’s diacritics standing alongside all the diacritics that occur naturally in French. ALL THE ACCENT MARKS. ALL OVER THE PLACE. I think what the French translation lacks in semi-colons, it makes up for in diacritics.
One of the alternate names for the hill where the Two Trees stand is Corollairë. I found myself oddly torn between wanting to read this as “corollary” in English or “corollaire” in French. It’s a bit tough for me to remember that the Quenya pronunciation for this name resembles neither the English nor the French. As I understand it, it should come out more like “cuh-ruh-LIE-reh”.
(Side note here: I do like this name better than the primary name given for that hill, Ezellohar.)
And lastly, I noted that one of Oromë’s titles is “le Dompteur des Fauves” in French. which is a translation of “tamer of beasts”. I noted that the French specifically capitalized this, too, where the English does not. And I had to fight to keep myself from reading it as “dumpster fire”, which is totally not fair to Oromë!
This is my favorite chapter in the early stretches of the book, not only because of it showing us the origin of the Dwarves, but also because of the chance to see Aulë and Yavanna as spouses. I always adore the idea of Aulë just being all “I wanna make people just like Dad!” And I also rather adore that Yavanna gives him some shit about it later, too.
Plus, we get to see her being proactive to protect her animals and plants from Dwarves and Elves and Men. Bonus for the hint of the coming of the Ents, as well!
It’s a nice mental image to picture a tearful-eyed Aulë lifting his hammer, only to have Ilúvatar reach over to stop him. I can imagine the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves looking on in sudden fearful hope.
Of course, I must also wonder when Aulë gets around to making the Mothers of the Dwarves. (Because even though this book does pretty well in terms of notable women, female Dwarves are still non-existent.)
And I do like the last exchange between Aulë and Yavanna in this chapter. They really play well as spouses in those short paragraphs for me. (heart)
I had a bit more linguistic fun with the translation in this chapter. The first interesting thing that stood out for me was how Ilúvatar uses “tu” with Aulë, which I would expect. To my surprise, though, Aulë uses “tu” in answering him!
Which tells me that the translator’s intent was very likely one of father-son interaction, as opposed to a lord and a vassal.
“Les Sept Pères des Nains”: The Seven Fathers of the Dwarves
“Le Constructeur”: What the Dwarves call Aulë
Yavanna describes Eru as “miséricordieux”, which struck me as quite the mouthful of a word. The first half suggests “misére”, which I knew. But I don’t know “cordieux”. When I posted about this on Facebook, the one useful reply I got was in regards to a particular kind of dagger used to deliver mercy killings. Wikipedia also gives me a reference to a part of a folding church seat, and that seems like a related word but with a very different meaning. Given how Yavanna’s talking about Eru with this word, I expect the idea here is more along the lines of the church seat version of the word, rather than the dagger! (Otherwise, I’d think she’d have some really interesting suppressed thoughts about her creator!)
Lastly, I noted that in the final conversation between Yavanna and Manwë, he uses “tu” with her. But none of her replies involved pronouns, so it was unclear whether she’d use “tu” back to him. My suspicion would be yes, but as of this point in the book, I can’t confirm that.
Final note, particularly after the earlier commentary, I gotta giggle about the huge number of proper nouns that end in ë in this book. I think I’ll have to keep a running tally. As of the end of Chapter 2, so far we’ve got:
- Ainulindalë (it’s a section name, it counts!)
- Eönwë (bonus extra umlaut!)
Next post: oh hey, look! Elves!