Discovering Your Elvish Name

October 4, 2012 — 19 Comments

Most readers of Mere Inkling are either fans of C.S. Lewis and his fellow Inklings, or writers interested in similar topics such as adventure, virtue, imagination, and spirituality. In light of that, and the fact that the finale of the trilogy won Oscar for Best Film, I assume the vast majority have seen “The Lord of the Rings.”

When you watched the films, with whom did you most identify? Ladies had options from warriors, to counselors, to royalty. Likewise for the men. Then there were the different races of Middle Earth . . . did you cast yourself as human, elf or dwarf? Or perhaps, as a modest, earthy hobbit? (I hope there weren’t too many who identified with the orcs, and if you did, I’d suggest an appointment with your local therapist.)

If the notion of living a long, peaceful life, studying the arts and enjoying God’s creation inspires you, then it may be you possess a kinship with the Elvish soul. And if you do (or even if you’re merely curious) there is a wonderful website where you can learn not only how to speak your name in the Elf tongue, but also to write it in the Elf script.

J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis’ treasured friend, was at heart a philologist. Few people have ever lived who shared the intensity of his love for language. Not everyone knows though, that the matchless realm of Middle Earth with its timeless sagas grew neither from a vision for the heroic story nor out of the visualization of any of its vibrant inhabitants. No, the seeds of the most renowned fantasy realm ever envisioned, were planted and watered by Tolkien’s love of language.

It was primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of ‘history’ for Elvish tongues. (J.R.R. Tolkien, Forward to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings).

Tolkien’s passion for the languages of Middle Earth is legend. Today, other linguists continue to study, document and teach the sophisticated system. Tolkien’s creation was so complex that it resulted in the creation (and evolution) of several languages—distinguished by both history and geography. In the same way, Tolkien was not content to settle for a single version of text with which to pen these musical dialects. He created no fewer than three styles, with Tengwar being most familiar. (You can download these and related fonts here.)

So, how exactly do you discover your Elvish name?

There have long been “random generators” for Middle Earth-sounding names. The generator at one site renders my Elvish name as Eöl Séregon, which does sound fairly distinguished. (Who knows whether or not it means anything?) These programs may satisfy the curiosity of the passing surfer seeking random oddities. However, for those who respect the love Tolkien invested in his linguistic progeny, this will never suffice.

Fortunately, there is an amazing website, overseen by a bona fide lover of languages. Moreover, his site is devoted to maintaining the integrity of Tolkien’s Elvish tongues. (And many of us who are writers are similarly enamored with language itself, making this a worthwhile domain to visit.)

The host of Quenya101 embraced the tongue so completely that in college he even took lecture notes in the language! Today he teaches Quenya through his website and other means. Although there’s a long waiting list (that can be circumvented, I believe, by donating to the site) he will actually translate names into Quenya. Note that I said “translate.” This is no mere transposing of letters.

He does not waste his time with transliterations. He actually applies the etymology of your given name to rendering the very same meaning in the Elvish language. For good measure, he provides a Tengwar rendition of your Elvish name. (It may be that he has already translated your name and has it posted at the site.)

Here’s how it works, as illustrated by my own name. Fortunately, my father’s name has also been translated, so I am seeking the Quenya for “Robert (son of) Charles.”

Robert

From: Germanic name Hrodebert.

Meaning: Bright fame, derived from the Germanic elements

     hrod ”fame” and beraht “bright”.

Quenya: Calialcaro

     (calima+alcar+[o] = bright+splendour, glory+[masculine names suffix])

Charles

From: Germanic name Karl, which was derived from the same Germanic word. However, an alternative theory states that it is derived from the common Germanic element hari

Meaning: Karl means “man” & hari means “army, warrior”

Quenya: Nér (nér = man) or Ohtatyaro (ohtatyaro = warrior)

So, henceforth you may address me as Calialcaro Ohtatyaro!

It is encouraging to see people keeping alive the vision and wonder of Middle Earth. The same is true for Narnia, of course, though you cannot really compare the purpose. These magical realms were both created by geniuses. It is a divine coincidence that these men, with major differences in their temperaments and imaginations, were lifelong friends.

Discovering your unique Elvish name can establish a dramatic connection with an imaginary, but at the same time gloriously real, realm.

19 responses to Discovering Your Elvish Name

  1. 

    Hell yeah!!! What an outstanding article and of course thank you very much for the compliments and indication here of my dear Quenya101 abode.

  2. 

    My heart seems to lie somewhere between the Dwarves and the Hobbits, when it comes to the races of Arda. I identify strongly with both, which seems to put me in a minority.

    I do love the other races, too, and there’s naught to beat the Elven tongues for beauty. Tolkien’s love of languages is, to me, the most amazing aspect of his amazing work.

    • 

      The earthiness of the dwarves and hobbits is appealing. I could handle the female hobbit’s feet, but once I learned that Dwarvish women also have beards, well . . .

      • 

        You make me giggle! But I don’t think the dwarf-women having beards is canon. I am pretty sure Tolkien leaves it an open question. Prattchetean Dwarven women have beards, but, well, that’s Pratchett. It was funny the way they chose that explanation in the films, though.
        I am ruminating a post on Tolkien’s Dwarves and why I love them so much, so I won’t give you an essay on it here. I will merely add…

        “The world is grey, the mountains old,
        the forge’s fire is ashen-cold.
        No harp is wrung, no hammer falls.
        The darkness dwells in Durin’s halls.
        The Shadow lies upon his tomb,
        In Moria, In Khazad-dum.
        But still the sunken stars appear
        In dark and windless Mirrormere.
        There lies his crown in water deep
        Till Durin wakes again from sleep…”

        And yes, that is from memory. ;)

      • 

        Why didn’t anyone ever encourage me to memorize a passage so captivating..?

  3. 

    The Rangers of the North…protecting a dying but still vibrant civilization and the memories associated with it…hoping against hope for restoration…I feel the exact same way about the West and my role in it.

  4. 

    I’d love to be Elvish – but fear they are just too ‘other’. I suspect I’m more hobbitish, but then I am fairly short and do live in NZ… (Just for the record – feet not hairy).

    What are the odds of Tolkien and Lewis being friends?!

  5. 

    The C.S. Lewis Foundation cordially invites you
    to join us for an evening with
    Laurence Harwood, C.S. Lewis’s godson.

    Hosted by the C.S. Lewis Foundation & the Southern California C.S. Lewis Society

    Claremont, CA
    Saturday, OCTOBER 6, 2012
    from 7 – 9 p.m.

    Laurence Harwood, OBE, FRICS, will share recollections about his godfather, C.S. Lewis. Recounting memories from early boyhood up through his adulthood, Harwood will provide a rare glimpse of Lewis in the setting of home and family.

    Date: October 6, 2012
    Time: 7 – 9 p.m.
    Location: The Green Room at Platt Campus Center in Harvey Mudd College, CLAREMONT, CA 91711
    Cost: FREE

    We hope to see you there!
    R.S.V.P. by October 3rd.
    by emailing to intern1@cslewis.org.

    (NOTE: I AM SO SORRY I DIDN’T THINK TO LET YOU AND YOUR READERS KNOW ABOUT THIS SOONER. BUT IF YOU CONTACT THEM RIGHT AWAY, I’M SURE THEY’LL LET YOU COME! Jessica)

  6. 

    From the first site, I am Maeglin Elanessë (Hobbit name: Todo Hardbottle). I haven’t gone through the Elvish tutorial on the other site!

  7. 

    I would definitely consider myself an Elf at heart.The Elves have always been my favorite. I love nature and feel at peace among the trees and stars. Not to mention I have a longbow. I need to practice more though. Lord of the Rings is the most epic thing ever. :) Great article.

    • 

      A longbow, huh? Good skill to have, especially if one of those EMPs should throw us back into a “medieval” epoch. And you’re doing this voluntarily, I know, since the English law only requires two hours of weekly longbow training for men over fourteen. I’m sure it’s a wonderful way to get in the mood for writing heroic fantasy!

  8. 

    Totally interesting post and comments! I think of myself as a woman descended from Numenoreans, but a non-noble, perhaps an artisan whose family learned from elves.

    The ability to name is a gift of God to man, and so names have inherent significance, and should be handled with care. Not that I think you haven’t done this — I see you all enjoying yourselves and that is good!!

    :0)

  9. 

    As long as we get to be anything we want to be, how about one of Shadowfax’s family? :) I always wanted to be a horse when I was younger, and that is one splendid horse!

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