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County Editions of the Middle-earth Legendarium

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  • Travis Henry
    [I m approving this for the list, but I ask that any further discussion of the project be conducted off list. I am myself very dubious about the value and
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2007
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      [I'm approving this for the list, but I ask that any further discussion of the project be conducted off list. I am myself very dubious about the value and chances for success of such a project, other than as a mental exercise for those keenly interested in English regional dialects. Tolkien himself chose his nomenclature and the speech manners of his characters with an eye towards English regional (and class) dialects, and disrupting or supplanting this scheme with another seems, well, really beside the point, certainly for this list. Perhaps this is the time and occasion for someone to create a list dedicated to the topic of translating Tolkien? CFH]

      Tolkien was interested in the dialects of England. Besides using dialect words in the Middle-earth Legendarium (even "baggins" is a Warwickshire dialect word for "packed lunch"), he was a member of the Yorkshre Dialect Society from 1920 to 1938 and wrote the foreword to A New Glossary of the Dialect of the Huddersfield District by Walter E. Haigh.

      There is a movement in England to recognize these varieties as regional languages in their own right. See for example, the Lost in Translation project which teaches Norfolk Traditional English in Norfolk schools: http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1737459,00.html. I would like to see the Middle-earth Legendarium used as a vehicle to preserve and cultivate the traditional dialects of England. The ideal would be to publish a localized County Edition of the Middle-earth Legendarium for each of the thirty-nine traditional counties of England (reference map: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_counties_of_England). Each edition would be translated into the dialect or dialects of that county. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings would be the priority, though other works in the Legendarium, such as The Silmarillion and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil could be added if interest warranted. The idea would be to pack in as many rich local words and
      sayings as feasible into the story, even archaic words that are no longer used, like was done the recent Scots translation of the Bible. This series would be following in the footsteps of other minority language translations of the Legendarium, such as Faeroese, Basque, Catalan, Galician, and Luxembourgish (with Irish apparently forthcoming: http://www.evertype.com/gram/hobad.html).

      Tolkien explicitly stated that the Shire of the Hobbits is evocative of the County of Warwickshire in 1897. In this series, the Shire would be evocative of other English counties. However, even the Warwickshire Edition would be quite different than the Standard English version of the Legendarium, since it would be entirely in Warwickshire Traditional English (except for the parts of the books that are in languages other than Westron). The text of each edition would include several different registers or varieties of each county's speech. The narrator's voice in the books would be in a "literary standard" of the main traditional dialect of the county...even if such a standard had to be invented expressly for this series. Though none of the text would be in Standard English, there would be a variety of registers used to represent differences between formal Westron (of the Gondorians and the Bagginses) and the broad rustic Westron of Samwise. Depending on
      the dialect diversity of the county, the speech of Merry and Pippin could be represented by two different local varieties, since they are from two different "folk-lands": Buckland and Tookland. The selection of which local varieties to use would be based on the location of Buckland (east of the Shire) and Tookland (in the southwestern part of the Shire) as compared to the location of varieties within the county. Likewise, the dwarves' Westron speech could be represented by whatever local variety is (or was) typical for miners, metalworkers, or similar laborers, such as Pitmatic in the County Durham Edition.

      Each of the translations would even have redrawn maps, with the labels redrawn in traditional dialect. Likewise, there would be new modes of futhark, cirth, and tengwar invented to represent each dialect, and these would be included in place of Tolkien's Standard English modes in maps and charts in the books.

      As members of this list are aware, Tolkien invented a fictive translation scheme whereby the Mannish languages of Middle-earth are translated into latter-day languages so that they appear more familiar to the reader. Translated languages include:
      Westron = Modern English
      "Middle Westron" (of the Yellowskin book) = Middle English
      "Old Marish-hobbitish" = (Old) Welsh
      Fallohide Hobbit given names = Frankish (a variety of Old High German)
      "Bree-landish" = Eastern Brythonic (the variety of the British Celtic language spoken in Logria, before it became "England")
      The Northern language (including the Dwarves' outer names) = Old Norse
      Mark-speech and "Old Hobbitish" = Old English
      The early Northman language of eastern Rhovanion = Gothic
      A few hobbit names of Elvish origin are translated as Latin or Frenchified Latin names, such as Gerontius, Paladin, and Peregrin.

      Though most of the above-listed equivalencies would remain the same in the County Editions, a few would change, depending on the specific linguistic situation of each county. For example, in the counties of the North-of-England, Cumbric and North Brythonic forms would be used for Bucklandish and Bree-landish names; the "Middle Westron" of the Yellowskin Book would be given Northern Middle English forms; and Mark-speech and "Old Hobbitish" would be represented as Old Northumbrian. For southwestern English counties, there'd be Cornish, South-Western Brythonic, South-Western Middle English, and Old West Saxon, respectively. Most importantly, Englished Westron place names would be remade based on the toponymy of each county. For example, "Mickleburg" would become "Muckleburgh" in the Durham Edition of The Silmarillion. Tolkien's Guide to the Names in the Lord of the Rings would be a key resource.

      Tolkien loved England and her dialects. It would be wonderful for his works to be a vehicle for the enlivening of the various flavors of English.


      All the best,
      Travis Henry

      Here is a sample of what some of the translations might look like:

      Yorkshire Edition [(-) indicates a part of the word that I don't know the dialect equivalent for]

      Eru, the One > Eru, t' Ean
      Baggins > Baitins "a packed meal, contents of a lunchbox", since Tolkien 'translated' the antediluvian Westron name <Labingi> as 'Baggins', the Warwickshire dialect word for 'bagged lunch'. This would be a controversial translation since it might be better to retain the element "bag".
      The Marish > T� Moss
      The Old Bridge > T' Owd Brig
      Mickleburg > Micklebrough
      Norbury > Norbrough
      Farmer Maggot > Farmer Mawk
      barrow-(wight) > barugh-(-)
      Sack(ville) > Poke(-)
      Scary > Scar or Scaur
      Rushey > Seavey
      Bridge(fields) > Brig(-)
      kings(foil) > coneys(-)
      Brandy(wine) > Brunt(-)
      Variag of Khand > Wigging of Khand. Though <Variag> is said to be an actual word of in a language of the Men of Darkness, "wigging" (the dialect's preservation of "viking") might be used for "Variag" since the historical "varyags" were Russo-Norse vikings in the service of the Byzantine emperor. I realize this would be a controversial translation.
      Appledore > Appersett
      Standelf > Stain(-)
      Redhorn > Raw(-)
      Eastemnet > Owstemnet
      Easterling > Owsterlin
      Fallow(hide) > Blake(-)
      Falls of Rauros > Foss of Rauros
      Isengard > Isengarth
      Oat(bar)ton > Haver(-)ton
      (Hoar)well > (-)keld or kell
      Heather(toes) > Ling(-)
      Rivendell > Rivengill

      Northumberland Edition:

      hobbit > hobbig. "Big" is a Northumberland word for "build". "Hobbit" is supposed to a worn-down version of "Old Hobbitish" "hol-bytla" (meaning "hole-builder"). Since the Northumbrian dialect has a stronger Norse element than Standard English, the Northumbrian translation of Old Hobbitish <kud-dukan> and Westron <kuduk> could be "hol-byggja" and "hobbig". This would be rationalized by the influence of the Northern language on the speech of the Middle Andiun. Tolkien even stated that such influence occurred, such in the name of the Rohan's King Gram, with <gram> borrowed from the Northern (=Old Norse) language.

      Baggins > Battens. A Northumbrian translation could make a philological pun using the Northumbrian word for 'feed well'.

      The Blue > Thi Blee (the mountains to the west of the Shire)

      Michel Delving > Muckle Delvin

      Norfolk Edition

      The Hobbit > Thur Hobbi'
      The Shire > Thur Sheer
      great spider > gri' spoider
      The Prancing Pony > Thur Prancin' Haarby
      Hollin > Hulverlan

      Cumberland Edition:

      halfing > hawflin
      Frogmorton > Paddickmworton
      Fallowhide > Blakehide

      Michel Delving > Meikle Delvin
      Little Delving > Laal Delvin
      Scary > Skerr
      The High Hay > T' High Dyke
      The Old Bridge > T' Auld Brig
      The Marish > T' Moss
      The Three Farthing Stone > T' Three Fardin Stean

      Midgewater > Mawkwater
      Rivendell > Ryvengill
      The Misty Mountains > T' Rowky Fells (or T' Daggy Fells)
      goblin > boggle
      Goblin-gate > Boggle-yat
      The Great Goblin > T' Girt Boggle
      Goblin-town > Boggle-wohl
      Falls of Rauros > Force o' Rauros
      Isengard > Isengarth

      gorcrow > dambcrow
      Eru, the One > Eru, t' Yan
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