- Jan 7, 2006In 'The Fellowship of the Ring', LR book II, chapter 2 'The Council of
Elrond' the Sindarin name of Tom Bombadil is given by Elrond: "Iarwain
Ben-adar we called him, oldest and fatherless".
Taking "oldest and fatherless" as the literal translation of _Iarwain
Ben-adar_, the first form has been analyzed e.g. by David Salo and Helge
Fauskanger as the adjective _iaur_ and a suffix _-wain_ denoting the
"It so happens that we may also have the superlative form of _iaur_ "old";
during the Council of Elrond, the Sindarin name of Tom Bombadil was given
as _Iarwain_, meaning "Eldest". The ending _-wain_ would seem to be the
superlative suffix. Why not _*Iorwain_, with the normal monophthongization
_au > o_? (David Salo answers, "Because you are looking at the direct
descendant of a form like *_Yarwanya_ (perhaps, I am not sure of the exact
form of the final element) in which the vowel was in a closed syllable."
('Sindarin, the Noble Tongue' by Helge Fauskanger:
The idea of a superlative expressed by an ending occurs partially in
earlier writings by Tolkien, but usually the resulting form is not really
a superlative but only an augmented form and acquires a superlative
meaning in combination with a genitive. For example, in the _Gnomish
Grammar_ (PE11) we find
_gwandra_ 'beautiful' _gwandrodron_ 'more beautiful' _gwandronta_
and the _Early Qenya Grammar_ (PE14) has
"The superlative is expressed by the comparative with prefixed article
(...) followed by the genitive plural adjectival or partitive in _-�nen_ -
the latter especially of collectives, as:
_i-ner i-t�ralda 'n-Noldolion_ 'the tallest man of the Gnomes' " (PE14:48)
A similar construction seems to be employed in the phrase _elenion
ancalima_ (LR book IV chapter 10), in Letters:278 _an-_ is glossed a
"superlative or intensive prefix".
While the _Etymologies_ show ample evidence of intensifying prefixes which
are apparently related to the Quenya _an-_ (see e.g. my article
no superlative suffix is described.
Thus, an adjectival ending which literally expresses a superlative without
a following genitive would seem unusual. Furthermore, the suggested suffix
_-wain_ has not been linked to any other intensifying suffix or prefix
seen elsewhere. In Lambengolmor message #642 Bertrand Bellet has suggested
that the relation _iaur > Iarwain_ seems similar to the development _naur_
> _Narwain_ "new-fire = January" and that hence _Iarwain_ might beliterally "old-new"
In the the _Reader's Companion_, RC:128 a quote from a (yet) unpublished
draft letter dating from 1968 is provided: "Iarwain = old-young,
presumably as far as anybody remembered, he had always looked much the
same, old but very vigorous."
This is a rather striking confirmation of Bertrand's analysis and explains
why _Iarwain_ is apparently so different from the structure of superlative
constructions glimpsed elsewhere.
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