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484Re: Kalevala & Qenya

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  • cgilson75
    Sep 18, 2003
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      Pavel Iosad wrote:

      "A further twist is added by the fact that the Finnish word
      [_kulta_ 'gold'] is one of the numerous loans into Finnish from very
      early Germanic, such as _rengas_ < *_xrengaz_ 'ring' and _kuningas_ <
      *_kuningaz_ 'king', the latter not infrequently also occurring in the
      Kalevala. Tolkien would certainly have known this, and he might have
      encountered this particular word even before the _Kalevala_, as I
      imagine these Finnish loans would be mentioned in Germanic philology
      courses."

      This does seem like something Tolkien would have learned about while
      at Oxford; so the sequence of events is worth bearing in mind. His
      original course of study was in the Classics, and what he was
      learning as a pupil of Joseph Wright in 1912 were "the elements of
      Greek philology" (Biography, chap. 5). After taking his Honour
      Moderations exam in 1913, he was advised to switch his studies to the
      English school, where he took up Old Norse as his special subject
      (Bio. chap. 6). So the instruction Tolkien received in Germanic
      philology would have been primarily between 1913 and 1915.

      Tolkien had read Kirby's translation of the Kalevala probably during
      his last year at King Edward's. He may still have been hoping to
      find a Finnish edition of the poem when he discovered that the
      library at Exeter College had a copy of C. N. E. Eliot's _Finnish
      Grammar_, soon after arriving at Oxford in 1911 (see
      http://www.elvish.org/resources.html#TolkienInfluence_anchor ). He
      clearly studied this grammar in great detail, and presumably worked
      through the longer excerpts from the Kalevala that are included at
      the end of the book (Runo XXXVI, lines 319-346; XVI, 151-384; and XL,
      113-244).

      Incidentally, the first of these excerpts is the account of
      Kullervo's death, and includes the words _terävä_ 'sharp' and
      _lapsi_ 'child', the proposed inspiration for Q _tereva_ 'piercing,
      acute, shrill, sharp' (QL) and _lapse_ ' babe' (Etym.). The third
      excerpt is about the invention of the harp, and includes
      the word _kantelo_ (a variant of _kantele_ 'harp'), clearly
      contributing to QL _kantl 'a large harp' (<< _kantil_ 'a small harp')
      and _kantele_ 'harping, (repetition)'; though I think the partial
      homophony with Latin _cantare_ 'to sing, chant' and its cognates may
      have contributed to Tolkien's adaptation of this Finnish word.

      [Pavel:] "By the way, we might hazard a very, very, very cautious
      guess that _rengas_, which is also a standard example of this
      Germanic-Finnic interaction, could be an influence (I am wary of the
      word 'source') for some Qenya words, which are to be found in PE12:80
      s.v. RINI-. While _rin (nd-)_ 'year, circle', has a rather distant
      relationship to _rengas_ in form, it certainly has a similar meaning.
      The words _rinkalenda_ 'anniversary', _rinko (o)_ 'disc, circle,
      orb'_, and the erased _rinku (û)_ 'Orb of the Moon', also
      mentioned in PME in a different form, show a closer affinity."

      The other side of this Germanic-Finnish connection is also worth
      considering. The Old English cognate is _hring_ 'ring, circle,
      cycle, orb' and the Old Norse _hringr_ 'ring, circle', words Tolkien
      would have encountered when first learning and reading in these
      languages while still at King Edward's. A cognate is not attested in
      Gothic, a lack that would have attracted Tolkien's attention, during
      the period when he was filling in the gaps in the Gothic lexicon through
      comparative extrapolation, using what he had learned from reading
      Wright's _Primer of the Gothic Language_ around 1908 or 1909. From
      the OE & ON cognates Primitive Germanic *_xringaz_ could be inferred,
      and Gothic *_hriggs_.

      But I also agree with Pavel that in this case we should be cautious.
      If the ultimate motive behind an external influence on Qenya is the
      appeal of a particular association of sound and sense embodied in the
      form that inspires it, then we may not need to look further than
      modern English _ring_ for Tolkien's source, since this is just as
      close in sound to the Qenya forms _rin_, _rinko_, etc., as OE
      _hring_, ON _hringr_ or Finnish _rengas_.

      Of course this group does display other influences. Thus the second
      component of _rinkalenda_ is _kalenda_ 'of the day; daily', which
      occurs under the root KALA 'shine golden' alongside _kalende_ 'a
      special day, festival'. The last seems clearly inspired by Latin
      _kalendae_, the term for the first day of the month, though the KALA
      words may also have been influenced by Latin _calere_ 'be warm or
      hot, glow', and its relatives. The second element of _rinku_ is
      _kuu_ (uu == u-macron) 'Crescent Moon', presumably inspired by Finnish
      _kuu_ 'moon'. This is another word Tolkien could have learned from
      Kirby's translation of the Kalevala, since _Kuutar_ 'the Daughter of
      the Moon' is translated there in a list of proper names at the end of
      the poem.

      This rather nicely illustrates just a few of the multiple layers of
      inspiration that were integrated in Qenya already when it was
      documented in QL. It is fascinating to peel back some of those
      layers and possibly glimpse what affected Tolkien during the years
      before this, when we know he was already continually inventing based
      on the many languages he encountered.

      Christopher Gilson
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