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1147An experiment in translation

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  • endorendil
    May 23 6:05 PM
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      While I have ruled efforts at translation _into_ Tolkien’s languages out as suitable topics for this list, the recent news:

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noble-smith/jrr-tolkien-reveals-the-t_b_5373529.html

      that a recording of J.R.R. Tolkien’s remarks in Rotterdam in 1958* is being prepared for publication, and particularly the detail that Tolkien recites some Elvish verse in it, presents an opportunity for what I think would make an interesting experiment, one that will give a truly scholarly value to such efforts. Namely, this news, and the pre-publication of the English text/translation of Tolkien’s verse, presents us with an opportunity to make something like a controlled experiment in Quenya translation, allowing us to judge just how close it is possible for others to approach how Tolkien himself would render a given text in Quenya, before his Quenya text is actually published.

      I would therefore like to invite any and all interested parties to submit to this list (using this thread, please) their Quenya translation of the following English text from Tolkien’s speech:

      "Twenty years have flowed away down the long river
      And never in my life will return for me from the sea.
      Ah, years in which, looking far away, I saw ages long past
      When still trees bloomed free in a wide country.
      Alas, for now all begins to wither in the breath
      of cold-hearted wizards.”

      Two stipulations: I already know Tolkien’s own Quenya rendering of this (or at any rate, a best guess at it as gleaned from listening to the unrestored, 56-year-old reel-to-reel recording), so 1) I will of course not be participating in the experiment myself; and 2) nor will any of those whom I know or am able to discern also already know the Quenya rendering.

      And please, give your translation careful thought, and feel free to discuss and hash them out with each other, either on list or off. In this way, when the Quenya verse is published later this year, we’ll have the rare opportunity to see just how close the best efforts of others at Quenya translation can come to Tolkien’s own.



      Carl Hostetter

      * On March 28 of that year. A brief excerpt from the remarks is found in Carpenter’s _Biography_, pp. 225-26; and a rather detailed account by René van Rossenberg, who discovered the recording in 1993, was published in _The Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference_, pp. 301-9 (Mythlore 80/Mallorn 30; 1995). Neither account includes any excerpt from Tolkien’s Quenya. See also the “Chronology” volume of Scull and Hammond’s _J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide_, pp. 522-23.


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