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Mee and Ni

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  • DiegoSeguí
    Hello, According to Ake Bertenstam s Chronological Bibliography of the Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien : http://www.forodrim.org/arda/tbchron.html an earlier
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 23, 2006
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      Hello,

      According to Ake Bertenstam's 'Chronological Bibliography of the
      Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien':

      http://www.forodrim.org/arda/tbchron.html

      an earlier version of the poem 'Princess Mee', included in 'The
      Adventures of Tom Bombadil' (1962), had been published as 'The
      Princess Ni' in 'Leeds University Verse 1914-1924'.

      I do not have access to the 1924 version, but the later text as
      published in ATB relies on a pun upon the names 'Mee' and 'Shee'
      and the personal pronouns 'me' and 'she': the protagonist,
      Princess Mee, sees her own reflection on the water, and calls it
      'Princess Shee'.

      Now, this pun is absent if the name is the obscure 'Ni' instead
      of 'Mee', and the whole structure of the piece may be affected,
      if it matches the latter text's. But it is striking that 'Ni' so
      much resembles the various forms of the 1st sg. personal pronoun
      in Tolkien's invented languages, examples of which can be found
      everywhere, from _nin·insta mai_ 'I am well aware' in the GL
      (PE11:52) to _nin_ 'for me' in the Namárië, and so on.
      Especially, the Early Qenya Grammar, dating from the same period
      as the poem, includes _ni-_, _nîmo_ (nom.), _ni_ / _nit_ (acc.),
      _nin_ / _nímon_ (gen.), etc. (PE14:52-3, 85-6).

      Is it possible that Tolkien was making a private pun in his
      poem? Note that 'Leeds University Verse' included two other
      works by Tolkien, namely 'An Evening in Tavrobel' and 'The
      Lonely Isle'; both have obvious relations with his mythos, so
      perhaps this conjecture is not too far-fetched.

      Maybe the full text of the earlier version would shed light on
      this. Any thoughts?

      Regards,

      Diego Seguí
      Córdoba, Argentina

      [I can shed no further light on this, other than to note that
      Hammond and Anderson's _Bibliography_ also mentions that
      "Leeds University Verse 1914-24" (B5, pp. 283-4) contains
      'The Princess Ni' ("a precursor of 'Princess Mee' ") and states
      that "None of these poems has been reprinted".

      Perhaps one of our collection-oriented list members has a
      copy of "Leeds University Verse" and can shed some light on
      the issues Diego raises? -- PHW]
    • Beregond. Anders Stenström
      ... It does not match closely. The old version is much shorter, six four-line stanzas. What is similar is the described finery: gossamer shot with gold , and
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 27, 2006
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        Diego Seguí wrote about "Princess Mee" and "The Princess Ni":

        > I do not have access to the 1924 version, but the later text as
        > published in ATB relies on a pun upon the names 'Mee' and 'Shee'
        > and the personal pronouns 'me' and 'she': the protagonist,
        > Princess Mee, sees her own reflection on the water, and calls it
        > 'Princess Shee'.
        >
        > Now, this pun is absent if the name is the obscure 'Ni' instead
        > of 'Mee', and the whole structure of the piece may be affected,
        > if it matches the latter text's.

        It does not match closely. The old version is much shorter, six
        four-line stanzas. What is similar is the described finery: "gossamer
        shot with gold", and slippers of "fishes' mail" occur in both poems.
        Like the later version, the earlier one also has an intricate
        rhyme-scheme (each group of three stanzas goes: aabc cbdd effe).

        > But it is striking that 'Ni' so
        > much resembles the various forms of the 1st sg. personal pronoun
        > in Tolkien's invented languages, examples of which can be found
        > everywhere, from _nin·insta mai_ 'I am well aware' in the GL
        > (PE11:52) to _nin_ 'for me' in the Namárië, and so on.
        > Especially, the Early Qenya Grammar, dating from the same period
        > as the poem, includes _ni-_, _nîmo_ (nom.), _ni_ / _nit_ (acc.),
        > _nin_ / _nímon_ (gen.), etc. (PE14:52-3, 85-6).

        The title above the poem is printed "THE PRINCESS NI", and
        in the contents table it is the same, but with small capitals
        following the initals. In the text, however, the name of the
        princess (occurring twice, both times as a rhyme on "she") is
        not _Ni_ but _Ní_.

        > Is it possible that Tolkien was making a private pun in his
        > poem? Note that 'Leeds University Verse' included two other
        > works by Tolkien, namely 'An Evening in Tavrobel' and 'The
        > Lonely Isle'; both have obvious relations with his mythos, so
        > perhaps this conjecture is not too far-fetched.

        In the older poem there is no mirror-motif, and the potential
        pun would thus not have much point.
        It is perhaps more likely that _Ní_ had originally no
        intended interpretation, and that Tolkien's recognition that
        it could be taken as a 1st singular gave rise to an elaboration
        of the poem, eventually resulting in the substitution of _Mee_
        for _Ní_.

        Meneg suilaid,

        Beregond

        [The fact that the name of the princess in the poem is _Ní_
        (with acute accent) makes me wonder -- perhaps Tolkien
        _was_ making a private Elvish pun, but not the one Diego
        proposed. The Gnomish Lexicon s.v. _nîr_ (2) 'woman' com-
        pares the Qenya cognate _nî_, and perhaps Tolkien used
        this as a convenient monosyllabic name of appropriate
        meaning (if only to him!). Q _nî_ does not appear in QL as
        a separate entry, though in the form _-ni_ it is well attested
        there as a feminine ending: _ettani_ 'female cousin', _haruni_
        'grandmother', _heruni_ 'lady', _hestani_ 'sister', _kuruni_
        'witch', _veruni_ 'wife', etc. -- PHW]
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