Friday, March 25, 2011

Let's Visit - Ardalambion

Continuing along the vein of what seems to have become Academia Fridays, I'm stepping away from video games for a moment and venturing into the world of high fantasy/sword and sorcery.

From The Website - For the complete ignorants: Once upon a time - from 1892 to 1973, to be exact - there lived a man by the name of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In 1937 he published a children's book, The Hobbit, that sold quite well. [...] In 1954-55 Tolkien finally published the ultimate fantasy novel, the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Following Tolkien's death his son Christopher edited and published a constructed mythology, The Silmarillion, from his father's manuscripts. This provided the "historical background" for the two other books. Together these books describe an entire imagined world, complete with geography, demography, history - and languages. The languages are absolutely crucial.

Why study these languages? In my essay Tolkien's Not-So-Secret-Vice, found on this website, I list several possible reasons: "The very fact that no real Elvish grammars written by Tolkien have been published makes it a fascinating challenge to 'break the code'. Or it may be pure romanticism, a special form of literary immersion: By studying the Eldarin languages, you try to get closer to - indeed into the heads of - the immortal Elves, fair and wise, the Firstborn of Eru Ilúvatar, teachers of mankind in its youth. Or, less romantically, you want to study the constructions of a talented linguist and the creative process of a genius engaged in his work of love. [...]  though people have been studying Tolkien's languages quite seriously for decades, I found that there was relatively little information about these languages on the net. What there was turned out to be mostly amateurish, incomplete, inaccurate and outdated, or in one case - namely Anthony Appleyard's work - very concentrated and technical, excellent for those who are already deep into these things, but probably difficult to absorb for beginners. This lack of good information on the net was all the more surprising considering that the Tolklang list has as much as seven hundred subscribers, more than the regular Tolkien list! So I set out to make a site devoted to Tolkienian linguistics. An attempt is here made to extract the purely linguistic information from the published writings and present it in a form that is hopefully easily accessible.  (Excerpt from the lengthy page By way of explanation...)

A Few Thoughts of My OwnOh Ardalambion ... where do I even begin?  The average person casually surfing the internet for information on Tolkien would probably pass this website by without much of a thought. No one, after all, will ever accuse it of looking attractive, professional, or even reliable at first glance due to its use of eye searing green, red and yellow lettering over a mottled field of electric blue and navy. Appearances, my friend, are not everything.  Turned off by its looks, this hypothetical surfer would have thoughtlessly passed over what is quite possibly the most valuable resource around for J.R.R. Tolkien's languages.

I will admit from the get-go that my love of this website is tinged more than a little by a heaping dose of nostalgia.  When the first Lord of the Rings movie reached theaters almost ten years ago, I was only slightly interested in the trilogy.  I had read the Hobbit a few years prior and loved every second of it, but for some reason reading the trilogy itself was like trudging through thigh-deep mud.  That all changed with Peter Jackson's interpretation of the saga.  Coming out of the theater I was so invigorated by what I'd seen that I shut myself in a room and plowed through the entire series in a day and a half.  That taken care of, I hit the net fully determined to learn everything and anything there was to find about Tolkien's languages and the tengwar writing system.  Leaving tengwar for another day, let's focus on the languages.  Imagine how disappointed I was to discover an utter dirth of reliable knowledge available on the interwebs.  Most websites repeated the same lines about Quenya being high elven and Sindarin being grey elven, but they had little to offer beyond that.  Ardalambion, a site I'd previously dismissed, on second-look proved to be a completely different story.

My warm, fuzzy feelings for this site in no way change the fact that it is undeniably valuable to any Tolkienian linguistic enthusiast.  Home to a Norwegian gentleman named Helge Kåre Fauskanger, this website is clearly a labor of love.  Unlike most LotR sites that sprang up in the wake of Peter Jackson's films, Fauskanger's site is truly scholarly in nature.  Moreover, it was in existence well before 2001 and remains an active site when many have been long since abandoned.  Most people generally know Ardalambion for it's Quenya Course which introduces you to high elven through a series of twenty downloadable lessons and exercises.  This course is indeed singularly impressive, but it alone does not define the website.  I've never had a knack for learning new languages, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating them from afar.  For this alone I am tremendously thankful for Mr. Fauskanger's website. Below are a couple of links that continually stir my interest.  Maybe you will find something there that excites your imagination as well.

Newest Content - 21 December 2010
Practical Neo-Quenya [downloadable file] - "my comments and observations on the largest Neo-Quenya translation project I (or anyone?!) has ever undertaken, the rendering of the entire Johannine corpus of the Bible into a form of Quenya."
Items of Interest
The Writings of St. John [downloadable file]- "a Neo-Quenya translation of the entire Johannine corpus"
The Qenya Lexicon Reviewed"comments on Tolkien's earliest Elvish wordlist, as published in Parma Eldalamberon #12"
The Evolution from Primitive Elvish to Quenya - "A Comprehensive Survey. (This treatise [...] attempts to list the sound-changes that occurred as High-Elven was evolving from the earliest forms of Elvish. This is a revised, updated and expanded version, edited by Vicente Velasco and incorporating his extensive annotation on my original treatise (still available as an RTF file)."
Reconstructing the Sindarin Verb System -"The Reasoning Underlying the Suggested Conjugation"
 Image: Ardalambion 

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