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5RE: [Lambengolmor] Welsh _Annwn_, Sindarin _Annûn_

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  • Pavel Iosad
    May 30, 2002

      Carl wrote the following excellent essay:

      (Is it to appear in _Words and Devices_, as I hope?)

      >A relationship has long been suggested between the name _Annwn_ of the Welsh
      >underworld and the Sindarin word _Annûn_ 'Sunset, West', isolated from the
      >name _Henneth Annûn_ 'Window of the Sunset' (LR:659) and cognate with Q.
      >_Andúne_ 'West' (as in Galadriel's Lament) ‹ see for instance _An
      >Introduction to Elvish_ p. 72 s.v. _Annûn_. Certainly the phonetic shapes of
      >the two names are strikingly similar; and an association of W. _Annwn_ with
      >a land to the west is firm in the mythology.

      As a matter of fact, I believe the Western asociation is of quite a lot of significance still

      >The first thing to note here is the spelling _annwfn_ (the form that
      >acutally occurs in "Pwyll"): In Welsh, as in Sindarin, final _-fn_ became
      >_-n_ in the later language. The second thing to note is that W. _Annwfn_
      >'hell' is derived by Jones (and at least at this time by Tolkien) from a
      >primitive form meaning 'bottomless', cognate with Greek _abyssos_, (our
      >_abyss_). The derivation is from a pair of confused primitive forms meaning
      >'bottom' and 'deep', prefixed with a negative element (syllabic *_n-_ >
      >Greek _a-_): 'bottomless'.

      However, may it be noted that the realm of _Annwfn_ as portrayed in _Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed_ is of no association to 'hell' at all. Conversely, Tolkien expressed deep appreciation of the portrayal of the Otherworld in PPD, vide MC:172-3. All of the Otherworld in the first four branches of _Y Mabinogi_ (as well as the rest of this magnum opus) has nothing to do with 'hell', and is in fact largely a leftover from the pre-Christian Celtic archetypes (vide especially _Manawyddan Fab Llyr_). Therefore I think that the association of _Annwfn_ and hell as you outlined is more of a philological device (i.e. word-play) rather than an actual mythological association.


      >The deep parallels in form, meaning, and mythological significance between
      >W. _Annw(f)n_ 'hell' and S. _Udûn_ 'hell' are far more striking than the
      >surface similarity between W. _Annwn_ and S. _Annûn_ 'Sunset, West', but are
      >discoverable only by philological exploration. Just the sort of exploration
      >that Tolkien himself would have loved, I think!

      Indeed! However, I would still insist that it is of hardly any mythological significance, though certainly most interesting as a quirky derivation.


      I don't have info on _Arawn_, but I would suggest a third association - _Rhiannon_ vs. _Rían_ (and earlier _Rhían), V:383 s.v. RIG-). _Rhían_ is said to stem for RIG-, carrying the idea of "crown". The few sources that I have uniformly identify _Rhiannon_ as stemming from the word for 'mistress' (e.g. Guyonvarc'h Ch.-J., Leroux F., La Civilisation Celtique). I hope there's something on it in Morris-Jones! It is also intersting to note that Rhiannon is the mother of the archetypal hero Pryderi (which in the text iteslf is identified as _worry_, though I don't know if this is a folk etymology or not - I need Morris-Jones, I need Morris-Jones <stomp stomp>), while Rían is mother to Tuor the mighty, whose name points to a warrior hero unequivocally ('vigour-strength', according to V:394 s.v. TUG-). Though of the heroes of the First Age Húrin would be closest to Pryderi (cf. Húrin's behaviour in _The Wanderings of Húrin_ in X:251-310 and _Manawyddan Fab Llyr_ in the part when Manawyddan and Pryderi take up differernt crafts), the archetype of a hero is still present in Tuor. I do not think this connection improbable as well.

      Thanks Carl for the enlightening essay!

      Pavel Iosad pavel_iosad@...

      'I am a philologist, and thus a misunderstood man'
      --JRR Tolkien, _The Notion Club Papers_
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