617_Fëa_ and other metaphysical words
- Jan 13, 2004Regarding the prayers published in VT-43, 44, Boris Shapiro wrote:
> I gather that Tolkien was inclined (at least in his, pardonI think you are right in saying that Tolkien wrote the prayers in his
> me, *mature* years) to confine his practice of Quenya to texts of
> definite internal position,
"mature" years, but not in the sense that you mean.
It is clearly noticeable that when Tolkien took up the _Silmarillion_ again
after he finished _The Lord of the Rings_ (the "Later _Silmarillion_",
edited and published by Christopher Tolkien in X and XI), he was
deeply interested in spiritual and religious matters (this is
specially seen in X). In this sense he was in his "mature" years, and
the life of the elves, their decreasing earthly joy and increasing
"spirituality" with years described in those extended chapters of the
_Silmarillion_ (read especially "Laws and Customs among the Eldar"), may be
compared with the change of mood between the "younger" versions of the
_Silmarillion_ and that one. ("Younger" as the author was when he wrote
them, if you take my meaning.)
We may also notice that in those years he felt some interest in
combining some Christian features with his sub-creation, as clearly
seen in the "Old Hope" told by Andreth, the incarnation of Eru so much
evoking the figure of Christ: "They say that the One will himself enter
into Arda, and heal Men and all the Marring from the beginning to
the end" (X:321). I think that the Catholic prayers in Quenya are maybe
due to such interest.
Now back to linguistics: This personal interest is also reflected in
the Elvish tongues, and specially on Quenya. The Quenya lexicon was
enlarged about the fifties with a good deal of religious,
philosophical, eschatological... metaphysical terms (although I don't know
if this is a good way to classify them, but I don't either know a
better English word).
Some are quite famous, as _estel_ ('hope'), well known to LR readers
as a name of Aragorn, but it actually does not occur in the "story" of
LR, since emerged only at the final stages of writing the Appendixes
(XII:269-270). We may compare this term _Estel_ (and its previous
form, _Amin_) with the terms _estel_ and _amdir_ more deeply explained
in X:320, a text dated to the late fifties (see C. Tolkien's
foreword to the "Athrabeth", X:304). Also in the Appendixes emerges
the word _óre_, translated as 'heart' or 'inner mind', but with a far
more complex meaning (cf. "Notes on _Óre_", VT41:11-19).
To this list of famous words we can add _Eä_ ('be, exist', in somewhat
demiurgic sense), that emerged in the D version of Ainulindalë
(c.1951) and moreover occurs in the prayers (VT43:7).
But there are also terms like _erdë_, _hrávë_, _hröa_... and others that
arose in the composition of the philosophical texts related to the
_Silmarillion_ in the fifties, with this same metaphysical ground (see
the Appendix to the Index of X:470-471).
I must remark that _fea_ has surprised me. I believed that it should
be an old word, since it is the base of _Fëanor_, a name that arised
long ago. But after checking my books I noticed that this term _fea-_
acquired a spiritual sense also in this time (or little before, at
least). In Etym. it meant 'radiant' (Q. _Feanáro_ == 'radiant sun',
Etym. sv. PHAY-), a more physical meaning.
And this has lead me to search the history of such a word. The other
place from which we know the word _fea_- is _Fëantúri_ (the collective
name of the Valar Lórien and Mandos). And it comes also from a change
for _Fanturi_ in the "Later _Silmarillion_" (X:145).
_Fantur(i)_ was their name since the Lost Tales, however there the
root _fan_- was not related at any rate to the spirit, but to
dreams and absence of consciousness (hence Lórien was _Olofantur_ the
Vala of dreams and sleep, and Mandos _Vefantur_, the Vala of death).
It came from the root FANA- (PE12:37).
Later this _fan_- changed its meaning to 'cloud'. See Etym. under
SPAN- ('white'): "_fanya_, _fána_ cloud. ... _Fantur_ ... _Nurufantur_
'Death-cloud-lord' ... _Olofantur_ 'dream-cloud-lord'". It may be
remarked that the root PHAY- from which N. _féanor_ and Q. _feanáro_
came was merged (at least in Noldorin) with this SPAN-. Both their
meanings are related to whiteness, clear light.
Although _Feanáro_ and _Fanturi_ were changed in meaning (and in the
case of _Fanturi_ also in form), the term _fanya_ 'cloud' remained in
Quenya, as occurs in the _Namárië_. But then the etymology was elaborated,
and to some extent also acquired a metaphysical sense:
(Explaining the Sindarin _Fanuilos_:)
"_Fana_- is an Elvish element, with primary meaning 'veil'. The S.
form _fân_, _fan_- was usually applied to clouds ... In Quenya,
however, the simple word _fana_ acquired a special sense. Owing to the
close association of the High-Elves with the Valar, it was applied to
the 'veils' or 'raiment' in which the Valar presented themselves to
physical eyes." (RGEO:74)