All the king’s horses and all the king’s men… – Michael Martinez’ J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth

by Sep 28, 2001Other News

“Bilbo’s “Translations from the Elvish” thus represents a blank canvas which Tolkien had to fill as the years went by. “Quendi and Eldar”, “Osanwe-kenta”, and “Orcs” (not to mention The Silmarillion itself) are thus all part of the more ancient works Bilbo translated and preserved. Bilbo was thus a master linguist, and his hand must be perceived in every story which is derived from the Red Book.”
This is the third in a series of articles exploring previously unpublished texts about Middle-earth. The ‘Osanwe-kenta’ text is closely identified with J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Orcs’ essay and ‘Quendi and Eldar’. But there may also be a connection with the much later ‘Shibboleth of Feanor’.

Here is an excerpt from Michael’s Sept. 24th Suite101 article:

“Osanwe-Kenta” is an interesting though somewhat confusing essay. Christopher Tolkien believes it was composed at the same time as “Quendi and Eldar” (circa 1959), most of which was published in The War of the Jewels. “Quendi and Eldar” is a collection of short essays providing the etymological development of certain words the Elves used to name themselves and other peoples, or to refer to individuals in some way.

The primary text is laden with historical notes and anecdotes which reveal far more about early Elvish history than some of the passages in The Silmarillion. Unfortunately, the “Quendi and Eldar” material is not wholly compatible with The Silmarillion. And though we understand that Christopher Tolkien’s editorial decisions impacted the Silmarillion text considerably, the discrepancies between these two bodies of work go well beyond possible editorial errors.

“Quendi and Eldar” is sub-titled “Origins and meanings of the Elvish referring to Elves and their varieties. With Appendices on their names for other Incarnates.” “Osanwe-kenta” is sub-titled “Enquiry into the Communication of Thought”. And if the stipulated subject matter of these two works is not disparate enough, a third body of writings is also associated with them: the essay on the origin of Orcs, published in Morgoth’s Ring, with an introduction on page 415 that mentions both “Quendi and Eldar” and “Osanwe-kenta”.

Christopher published the essay on Orcs first as part of the “Myths Transformed” collection of his father’s later writings, in which the cosmology for Middle-earth was gradually expanded and revised toward excluding some of the oldest traditions dating back to 1916 and 1917.

The connection between “Orcs” and “Quendi and Eldar” lies in the opening to Appendix C of “Quendi and Eldar”, where Tolkien writes:

…The Orcs of the later wars, after the escape of Melkor-Morgoth and his return to Middle-earth, were neither spirits nor phantoms, but living creatures, capable of speech and of some crafts and organization, or at least capable of learning such things from higher creatures or from their Master. They bred and multiplied rapidly whenever left undisturbed. It is unlikely, as a consideration of the ultimate origin of this race would make clearer, that the Quendi had met any Orcs of this kind, before their finding by Orome and the separation of Eldar and Avari.

Christopher writes: “No doubt my father was led from his words here ‘It is unlikely, as a consideration of the ultimate origin of this race would make clearer…’ to write that ‘consideration’…. And that is the the essay on Orcs, which Christopher provided in Morgoth’s Ring with what has to be one of the most confusing and debilitating preambles in the history of literary scholarship.

Please click on the link below to read the rest of the article.


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