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_Fëa_ and other metaphysical words

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  • Helios De Rosario Martinez
    ... I think you are right in saying that Tolkien wrote the prayers in his mature years, but not in the sense that you mean. It is clearly noticeable that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 13, 2004
      Regarding the prayers published in VT-43, 44, Boris Shapiro wrote:

      > I gather that Tolkien was inclined (at least in his, pardon
      > me, *mature* years) to confine his practice of Quenya to texts of
      > definite internal position,

      I think you are right in saying that Tolkien wrote the prayers in his
      "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)
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