Tolkien Gateway

Letter 347

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 347
RecipientRichard Jeffery
Date17 December 1972

Letter 347 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

This letter is a reply to several questions, mostly linguistic in nature, asked by Richard Jeffery.

Question one: Concerning the phrase Pedo mellon a minno on the Doors of Durin. Jeffery asked whether "friend" could mean "friendly, like a friend". Tolkien replied that Gandalf's explanation was the correct one.

Question two: Concerning the names of the Kings of Gondor and Arnor. All the Quenya names end in a consonant, like Sindarin would do, but the names of the descendants of Castamir (Sangahyando and Angamaitë) end with a vowel. Jeffery asks whether this was a deliberate choice, to make the names sound more aggressive. Tolkien replies that Quenya names permitted consonants (especially dentals) at the end. While Sangahyando and Angamaitë might have been warrior names, names such as Rómendacil, "East-victor", were no less aggressive, albeit more political.

Question three: About the use of Quenya by Elendil, a man, and the use of Sindarin by Gil-galad, a Noldo. Jeffery thought this odd, as Quenya was introduced to Men by the Noldor. Tolkien replies that after the Doom of Mandos, the Noldor adopted Sindarin, and adapted their names. On the other hand, in Númenor Quenya was used as a language of lore and prestige, and so too in Gondor. By the end of the Third Age, there were more Men than Elves, and more speakers of Quenya in Minas Tirith than anywhere else in Middle-earth. Westron was the official language, and Sindarin was used to be polite.

Question four: A short question about the connection between the Tengwa tyelpë and the Sindarin word celeb. Tolkien confirms this connection, and goes on to tell about the skill of the Teleri with silver.

Question five: A question about the etymologies of Aragorn and Arathorn. Jeffery proposed the etymologies "Tree-king" and "Two-tree-king". Tolkien dismissed both, and explains why.

  • Aragorn: Despite Aragorn II's obvious connection to the White Tree of Gondor, this is not the case for Aragorn I, after whom the former was named. Tolkien goes on that not all king-names in the line of Arthedain can be translated. He does not translate the name.
  • Arathorn: Jeffery here proposed -ath, but Tolkien clarified that it did not come from Quenya atta ("two"), but from an old dual. The Two Trees were made and owned by the Valar, and there was no need to name a Man after them. Arathorn's name is translated as "Eagle-king".

Tolkien concludes the letter with a lament that he cannot provide more linguistic material, nor produce more legends. He then apologizes for the late reply - Jeffery had sent his letter on August 14th, and comments that the Oxford University's Residents' List spells his name "Jeffrey" rather than "Jeffery", and mentions he is almost always referred to as "Tolkein".