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877On _Iarwain_

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  • Thorsten Renk
    Jan 7, 2006
      In '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
      superlative.

      "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:
      <http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/sindarin.htm>)

      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_
      'exceedingly beautiful'

      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
      <http://www.phy.duke.edu/~trenk/elvish/intensification.html>),
      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 be
      literally "old-new"
      (<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lambengolmor/message/642>).

      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.

      Thorsten Renk
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