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_Asëa_ and _athelas_

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  • F. Str�
    On p. 580 in _The Lord of the Rings: A Reader s Companion_, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull writes: _athelas_ in the noble tongue [...] In the following
    Message 1 of 11 , Nov 13, 2005
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      On p. 580 in _The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's
      Companion_, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull writes:
      "_athelas_ in the noble tongue [...] In the following
      paragraph Aragorn gives the corresponding name of the
      plant in Quenya, _asea aranion_ 'leaf of kings'."

      The Sindarin name is discussed on p. 183:
      "Athelas [...] The first element is problematic;
      according to Arden R. Smith, an unpublished etymology
      connects it with Quenya _asea_, as in _asea aranion_
      'kingsfoil' (but if so, _athelas_ = 'leaf-leaf')."

      The translation 'leaf of kings' does not seem to be
      attested. The only translation of _asea_ that I know
      of is the one quoted by William C. Hicklin on the
      art.fan.tolkien newsgroup:
      <http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.books.tolkien/browse_thread/thread/34fc7f494c7ff868/3fad9c3c879f5a2c?lnk=st&q=athelas+hicklin&rnum=1&hl=en#3fad9c3c879f5a2c>

      "Christopher Tolkien and I have had an ongoing discussion about the origins of
      this word. It plainly contains -las 'leaf'. It is possible (but entirely
      speculative) that what Tolkien had in mind at that time (1938-39) was the Old
      English word aethele 'noble, royal.' This would translate 'kingsfoil,' near
      enough. At any rate, a very late note (1970 or later) says that Asea (cf.
      Aragorn, 'asea aranion') was the name in Quenya, regularly adapted and
      compounded with -las in Sindarin. The plant was known to the medical
      loremasters of the Noldor. The root is *ATHAYA, 'helpful, kindly,
      beneficial.' "

      From this it would seem that _asea_ is in fact an
      adjective (perhaps substantivized) meaning *'beneficial'
      and that the 'leaf'(or 'foil') part is understood in the
      Quenya name:_asea [?lasse] aranion_, 'the beneficial
      (leaf) of kings'. But perhaps there are other explanations
      as well.

      /Fredrik
    • Arden R. Smith
      ... Strictly speaking, that s true. It s really just an extrapolation, based on the gloss of _athelas_ as kingsfoil and the transparent meaning of _aranion_
      Message 2 of 11 , Nov 13, 2005
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        On Nov 13, 2005, at 3:20 PM, F. Ström wrote:

        > The translation 'leaf of kings' does not seem to be
        > attested.

        Strictly speaking, that's true. It's really just an extrapolation,
        based on the gloss of _athelas_ as 'kingsfoil' and the transparent
        meaning of _aranion_ 'of kings'.

        > "Christopher Tolkien and I have had an ongoing discussion about the
        > origins of this word. It plainly contains -las 'leaf'. It is possible
        > (but entirely speculative) that what Tolkien had in mind at that time
        > (1938-39) was the Old English word aethele 'noble, royal.' This
        > would translate 'kingsfoil,' near enough. At any rate, a very late
        > note (1970 or later) says that Asea (cf. Aragorn, 'asea aranion') was
        > the name in Quenya, regularly adapted and compounded with -las
        > in Sindarin. The plant was known to the medical loremasters of the
        > Noldor. The root is *ATHAYA, 'helpful, kindly, beneficial.' "

        Interesting. I was unaware of this. The unpublished etymology that I
        cited derives _athelas_ and _asea_ from a similar form (though spelling
        TH with thorn), but unfortunately leaves it unglossed. This etymology,
        incidentally, is considerably earlier than that mentioned by Bill
        Hicklin, dating from sometime between the publication of the first
        edition (1954-55) and the publication of the second edition (1965).

        ***************************************************
        Arden R. Smith erilaz@...

        Perilme metto aimaktur perperienta.
        --Elvish proverb

        ***************************************************
      • F. Ström
        ...
        Message 3 of 11 , Nov 14, 2005
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          --- "F. Ström" <frestro@...> skrev:
          > The translation 'leaf of kings' does not seem to be
          > attested. The only translation of _asea_ that I know
          > of is the one quoted by William C. Hicklin on the
          > art.fan.tolkien newsgroup:
          >
          <http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.books.tolkien/browse_thread/thread/34fc7f494c7ff868/3fad9c3c879f5a2c?lnk=st&q=athelas+hicklin&rnum=1&hl=en#3fad9c3c879f5a2c>

          The URL in my post was editorially changed, but the
          reference to the "art.fan.tolkien" newsgroup was not
          updated to "rec.arts.books.tolkien" along with it.

          [Quite right; sorry! The link you sent originally didn't work for me, so I googled it myself, and didn't notice the discrepancy. CFH]

          Forconvenience I quote the first post by William C.
          Hicklin as well:

          <http://groups.google.se/group/alt.fan.tolkien/browse_thread/thread/7b7287d31cfa1e77/bdb4b12467dc0ad1?lnk=st>

          "The herb was known to the Noldor, who termed it
          "athea" from *ATHAYA 'helpful, kindly, beneficial.' A
          later sound shift rendered it "asea" (cf. Aragorn's
          "asea aranion" in "The Houses of Healing.") In
          Middle-earth the word was converted into regularized
          Sindarin form as athe- plus -las 'leaf.'"

          /Fredrik
        • F. Strÿfffff6m
          On his Addenda and Corrigenda page to RC (http://bcn.net/~whammond/addenda/readers.html), Wayne Hammond writes: On the Lambengolmor forum,
          Message 4 of 11 , Dec 2, 2005
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            On his 'Addenda and Corrigenda' page to RC (http://bcn.net/~whammond/addenda/readers.html), Wayne Hammond writes:

            'On the Lambengolmor forum, message 850 [...], Fredrik Ström correctly comments that our gloss asëa aranion 'leaf of kings' is not attested in Tolkien's writings. In message 851, however, Arden R. Smith defends this translation as an extrapolation from the gloss of athelas 'kingsfoil' in an unpublished etymology by Tolkien together with 'the transparent meaning of aranion "of kings"'.'

            What Arden wrote was:
            >The unpublished etymology that I cited derives _athelas_ and _asea_ from a
            >similar form [..] but unfortunately leaves it unglossed

            I think no-one queries the translation *'of kings'. However, in the light of Tolkien's gloss on _athea_ (regularly > _asea_ after the change of Q. _th_ > _s_ described in 'The Shibboleth of Feanor' [XII:331]), I'm not sure that the translation *'leaf' should be defended (and I don't think Arden said so, either). I think that the note on RC:183 is correct except for the parenthesis, '(but if so, _athelas_ = ''leaf-leaf'')', since the attested etymological connection between _athe-_ and _asea_ does not imply that _athe-_ means 'leaf'. In the note on RC:580 ll. 2-3 from bottom, perhaps one should substitute Tolkien's actual gloss ('beneficial') for 'leaf' (or simply omit the words 'leaf of kings')?

            /Fredrik



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • William Cloud Hicklin
            You know, I ve felt guilty for the better part of a decade for my unthinking and unauthorized posting of that snippet on Usenet- especially since soon
            Message 5 of 11 , Oct 26, 2006
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              You know, I've felt guilty for the better part of a decade for
              my unthinking and unauthorized posting of that snippet on
              Usenet- especially since soon therafter the copyright-law war
              erupted with the Salo/Star/Fauskanger axis. Fortunately it seems
              that it hasn't spread that far, since even Arden appears to have
              been unaware of it (although it has turned up in a couple of
              online "encyclopedias").

              In any event, it's out, and surely there would be no harm if Wayne
              Hammond and Christina Scull were to use it, since they carry the
              Imprimatur.

              I suspect that _asea aranion/athelas_ is one of those Q-S pairs
              that aren't literal translations. Now, I'm no linguist; but we
              can at least be certain that _asea_ and _athe-_ are equivalent
              elements, and, as Frederik points out, that the Quenya assumed
              or omitted the leaf-element. Or, viewed the other way around,
              that the leaf-element was added by the Exiles when they formed
              their Sindarin equivalent (acc. to the late note, the plant was
              known to the medical loremasters of the Noldor- with no
              indication whether the Sindar were aware of its properties, or
              even if it was native to Middle-earth). The snippet's wording
              has _asea_ regularly > _athe-_, "compounded with _-las_," which
              to me suggests that the _-las_ element only entered with the
              Sindarin conversion. Why would this be? Another note cited by
              Wayne and Christina indicates that only the leaves were used,
              which may be relevant. Or perhaps the linguistic loremasters
              found "athe" alone to be ugly?

              [Tolkien wrote in his note on "Stress" in Section I of Appendix E
              that words in which the stress falls on the third syllable from the
              end -- e.g. _Denethor, Fëanor_ -- "are favoured in the Eldarin
              languages, especially Quenya." It seems natural then that the
              medical loremasters of the Noldor, whose native tongue was
              Quenya, would expand _athe-_ to the more euphonious (not to
              mention distinctive) _athelas_. PHW]

              One might speculate whether "aranion" was a pre- or post-
              Downfall Numenorean addition ("balm" > "kingsbalm"), since the
              specific association of healing with the King appears to have
              been theirs, not the Elves'. This leads to yet another
              question- whether Ad/CS _kingsfoil_ followed or in fact underlay
              the hypothesised Num. addition of _aranion_ .

              -- William Cloud Hicklin

              > I think no-one queries the translation *'of kings'. However,
              in the light of Tolkien's gloss on _athea_ (regularly > _asea_
              after the change of Q. _th_ > _s_ described in 'The Shibboleth
              of Feanor' [XII:331]), I'm not sure that the translation
              *'leaf' should be defended (and I don't think Arden said so,
              either). I think that the note on RC:183 is correct except for
              the parenthesis, '(but if so, _athelas_ = ''leaf-leaf'')',
              since the attested etymological connection between _athe-_ and
              _asea_ does not imply that _athe-_ means 'leaf'. In the note on
              RC:580 ll. 2-3 from bottom, perhaps one should substitute
              Tolkien's actual gloss ('beneficial') for 'leaf' (or simply omit
              the words 'leaf of kings')?
              >
              > /Fredrik
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