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  • BertrandBellet75@aol.com
    In The Fellowship of the Ring , LR book II, chapter 2 The Council of Elrond we learn the Sindarin name of Tom Bombadil from Elrond s mouth: Iarwain
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2004
      In 'The Fellowship of the Ring', LR book II, chapter 2 'The Council of
      Elrond' we learn the Sindarin name of Tom Bombadil from Elrond's mouth: "Iarwain
      Ben-adar we called him, oldest and fatherless".

      "Ben-adar" is evidently "without-father", and the first element must be
      related to the PQ stem *PEN "lack, be without" that Tolkien refers to in X:375.
      Hence we have a prefix or a preposition _pen_ "without", and the whole phrase
      _pen-adar_ is taken as an epithet adjective "fatherless", with usual lenition.
      But _Iarwain_ is trickier.

      Helge K. Fauskanger propounds in his article "Sindarin - the Noble Tongue" on
      Ardalambion (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/sindarin.htm) that it is a
      superlative as Elrond's comment - which is plainly a gloss - suggests. I shall quote
      a brief extract.

      ....... 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." I don't feel much wiser,
      but then I am not so deep into Eldarin phonology as David is.) .......

      Indeed, both Quenya and Old Noldorin show no long vowels before consonant
      clusters, and this restriction may well go back to the earliest stages;
      reconstructions of primitive words by Tolkien obey this rule, it is certainly active in
      Q and must have been at an early stage of S: compare _nár_ "fire, flame"
      (S:435, V:374) and _Nárie_ "June = sunny, fiery" with _Narquelie_ "October =
      fire-fading" (LR App. D) and _Narsil_, the name of Elendil's sword (LR passim,
      S/435, Letters:426 n° 347), and in S _naur_ "fire, flame" (LR book II ch. 4,
      S:435, V:374) and _Nórui_ "June = sunny, fiery" (LR App. D) with _Narbeleth_
      "October = fire-fading" (LR App. D), where the alternation au / ó vs. a reflects an
      earlier â vs. a.

      In S however, a name like _Círdan_ shows this rule is no longer active, so
      _Iarwain_ must be an old word, indeed almost a linguistic fossil. It is also
      suggested by the alternation which displays a shift in quality as well as in
      quantity, mirroring the change of â > open ô characteristic of the S branch and
      that must have occurred early. In the conceptually earlier Noldorin, it was
      generally completed already at the Old Noldorin stage as seen in the Etymologies.

      For one thing, it implies that deriving a *living* superlative suffix _-wain_
      from Iarwain is venturesome; we have no proof that it would be still
      productive. But as a matter of fact I wonder if _Iarwain_ is a superlative at all...
      Actually there is an exactly parallel situation in Narwain "new-fire = January"
      vs. naur "flame", which suggest that _-wain_ is more a form of "new" than a
      superlative suffix. We have what seems to be a perfect cognate of the S month
      name in the Q _Narvinye_.

      (Side-note: For historical reasons this cannot be a true common inheritance
      from CE: there were neither Sun nor Moon yet in Middle-Earth during the Great
      March, so the Eldar cannot have reckoned time in days and months as they were
      to do later. More probably the name was coined in parallel in the two languages
      by the Noldor: they may have imagined a Q name, then reconstructed what its
      CE ancestor would have been, and finally deduced the S form, a bit like what
      they did for personal names. Thus, even if historically there was no CE ancestor
      of the Q and S names of January, linguistically it is as if there had been

      Hence, in my opinion, _Iarwain_ would rather come from an old copulative
      compound _*jarwinjâ_ made of the primitive words _*jârâ_ "old" (Q _yára_, S
      _iaur_; S:433, UT:384, V:358, 399) and _*winjâ_ "new" (Q _vinya_, S _#gwain_; LR
      App. D, UT:176, X:67, see also V:399 for similar words with a different meaning
      in earlier conceptions of Tolkien), with the vowel shortening I alluded to
      above. What would be its meaning? Well, "old-new" could be a way to say "ageless",
      which is exactly what Bombadil is, and not too far from "oldest", a
      side-sense that could have developed in Sindarin - unless Elrond's gloss was only an

      (Side note: I used the treble # to mark that the S word is deduced, it does
      not actually occur isolated)

      Bertrand Bellet
      Language has both strengthened imagination and been freed by it. Who shall
      say whether the free adjective has created images bizarre and beautiful, or the
      adjective been freed by strange and beautiful pictures in the mind ? - J.R.R.
      Tolkien, A Secret Vice

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