Re: _Asëa_ and _athelas_
- On Nov 13, 2005, at 3:20 PM, F. Ström wrote:
> The translation 'leaf of kings' does not seem to beStrictly 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 theInteresting. I was unaware of this. The unpublished etymology that I
> 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.' "
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.
- --- "F. Ström" <frestro@...> skrev:
> The translation 'leaf of kings' does not seem to be<http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.books.tolkien/browse_thread/thread/34fc7f494c7ff868/3fad9c3c879f5a2c?lnk=st&q=athelas+hicklin&rnum=1&hl=en#3fad9c3c879f5a2c>
> attested. The only translation of _asea_ that I know
> of is the one quoted by William C. Hicklin on the
> art.fan.tolkien newsgroup:
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:
"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.'"
- 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 aI 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')?
>similar form [..] but unfortunately leaves it unglossed
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- 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
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
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')?