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850_Asëa_ and _athelas_

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  • F. Str�m
    Nov 13, 2005
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      On p. 580 in _The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's
      Companion_, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull writes:
      "_athelas_ in the noble tongue [...] In the following
      paragraph Aragorn gives the corresponding name of the
      plant in Quenya, _asea aranion_ 'leaf of kings'."

      The Sindarin name is discussed on p. 183:
      "Athelas [...] The first element is problematic;
      according to Arden R. Smith, an unpublished etymology
      connects it with Quenya _asea_, as in _asea aranion_
      'kingsfoil' (but if so, _athelas_ = 'leaf-leaf')."

      The translation 'leaf of kings' does not seem to be
      attested. The only translation of _asea_ that I know
      of is the one quoted by William C. Hicklin on the
      art.fan.tolkien newsgroup:
      <http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.books.tolkien/browse_thread/thread/34fc7f494c7ff868/3fad9c3c879f5a2c?lnk=st&q=athelas+hicklin&rnum=1&hl=en#3fad9c3c879f5a2c>

      "Christopher Tolkien and I have had an ongoing discussion about the origins of
      this word. It plainly contains -las 'leaf'. It is possible (but entirely
      speculative) that what Tolkien had in mind at that time (1938-39) was the Old
      English word aethele 'noble, royal.' This would translate 'kingsfoil,' near
      enough. At any rate, a very late note (1970 or later) says that Asea (cf.
      Aragorn, 'asea aranion') was the name in Quenya, regularly adapted and
      compounded with -las in Sindarin. The plant was known to the medical
      loremasters of the Noldor. The root is *ATHAYA, 'helpful, kindly,
      beneficial.' "

      From this it would seem that _asea_ is in fact an
      adjective (perhaps substantivized) meaning *'beneficial'
      and that the 'leaf'(or 'foil') part is understood in the
      Quenya name:_asea [?lasse] aranion_, 'the beneficial
      (leaf) of kings'. But perhaps there are other explanations
      as well.

      /Fredrik
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