Some Like Elvis, Others Prefer Elvish
by Christy Karras
(from: The Salt Lake Tribune)
There was nothing obviously unusual about this group of teenagers: they wore the latest styles, slouched and looked a bit nervous, like most teenagers do.
But the unusual became apparent as soon as they opened their mouths, greeting each other with a cheerful “Ma’ Govanna.”
That means “Well met,” the standard greeting in Elvish, in case you weren’t paying attention to the elves during the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
The Big ManThis was the second meeting of the Tolkien for Teens group, held the last Thursday of every month at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Sandy. The kids meet to discuss the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and learn more about his imaginary world, Middle Earth. They will also be learning the language Tolkien invented, which has its own script, grammar, vocabulary and dialects.
Wearing a long green dress and a floral wreath in her hair, teacher Connie Trump addresses the group. “Tolkien made the language up first and then he made the worlds to go with it,” she says. “The most complete are the elves, because those are the ones he loved the most.”
She reminds them that they are supposed to have read the books. “I’m not going to spoon-feed it; we’re going to dig deeply into it,” she said.
Trump has read each book 17 times and has seen the first “Lord of the Rings” film 34 times, the second, 10 times. She began collecting books and other Tolkien-related items decades ago as a teenager, long before the author’s current surge in popularity. Among her rare finds are a book written in Elvish and a recording of Tolkien himself reading an Elvish poem. She has studied the language for years.
Trump’s 16-year-old daughter, Chelsea, whose Elvish name is Galanna, is also fluent in Elvish. Wearing a long cloak similar to her mother’s, she steps to the front of the room and draws the alphabet’s curvaceous letters one by one, explaining as she goes. The kids inscribe them for the better part of the hour. “I love it; it’s so pretty,” whispered a girl with streaked hair and lots of jewelry to a friend.
The kids betray sulky teen stereotypes by concentrating deeply, whispering rarely and asking lots of questions. It is easy to forget how eager to learn teenagers can be if the subject is something that interests them — especially if it’s their idea.
After class, Trump is mobbed by students asking questions. In her day job, she corrects student papers at Butler Middle School. She is happy the movies (despite their badly spoken Elvish) have given kids a rewarding new world to explore at a time when their lives can be difficult.
“They all need it, whether it’s art or dance or music or communing with these books. They need something to pull them out of the doldrums,” she said.