The Quenya Corpus

The most important samples of Sindarin are listed in the article on this language, but there is no corresponding list of Quenya material in the Quenya article. This outrageous lack of symmetry should certainly be remedied! Therefore, we will here attempt to list the main sources for what we think we know about High-Elven and mention most of the published samples of the language. The sources should, however, be split into two categories: 1) the early material, that does not always have full authority because of Tolkien's frequent and sometimes substantial revisions, and 2) the samples of Tolkien's more developed form(s) of Quenya found in LotR and other sources (mainly post-LotR stuff). This early material is often referred to as "Qenya", since this was the way Tolkien spelt the word Quenya until he revised the spelling while working on LotR. (Note, though, that this revision as such was not a substantial change: it merely affected the way the "original" Tengwar writing is transcribed into our own letters.)

I: Samples of "Qenya"

Jump down to LotR-style Quenya

These are the most important samples of "Qenya", various early material that may not have full authority because of Tolkien's later revisions:

- The contents of the Qenyaqetsa or Qenya Lexicon, a list of some six hundred primitive Elvish roots and thousands of "Qenya" words derived from them, written about 1915. See LT1:246. The Appendices in LT1 and LT2 mention many words from the Qenya Lexicon. It demonstrates that many words known from later Quenya go back to the very beginning, but it often contradicts the phonology and the established vocabulary we know from LotR-style Quenya. Some words from the Qenya Lexicon can be "salvaged" into Tolkien's more developed forms of the language, with phonological adaption where needed; other early vocabulary items are best ignored. - A few Qenya words are also mentioned in the Gnomish Lexicon, written about 1917. The contents of the Gnomish and Qenya Lexicons are published in Parma Eldalamberon #11 and #12, respectively.

- The poem Narqelion. A fragment of the poem was published by Humphrey Carpenter in his work J. R. R. Tolkien - A Biography, page 83: Ai! lintulinda Lasselanta / Pilingeve suyer nalla qanta / Kuluvi ya karnevalinar / V' ematte sinqi Eldamar. No translation survives, but the words lasselanta "leaf-fall, autumn" and Eldamar "Elvenhome" are known from LotR-style Quenya. The word qanta is misread "ganta" in Carpenter's book; no Quenya (or "Qenya") word begins in g. (Qanta, later spelt quanta, means "full".) Likewise, sinqi appears in the garbled form "singi" in Carpenter's book. The entire poem has later been published in Parma Eldalamberon and Mythlore. It was dated "November 1915, March 1916" and may be the oldest Elvish text that has been published so far. It is undoubtedly one of the earliest Elvish texts Tolkien ever wrote.

- A few short sentences found in "The Book of Lost Tales": Tulielto! "They have come!", I·Eldar tulier "the Eldar have come", I·kal' antulien "Light hath returned" (LT1:114, 184). These sentences seem to have been written very early (before 1920).

- Oilima Markirya, "The Last Ark", a poem given in two versions, in MC:213-214 and MC:221-223. (Actually there is also a third version, in MC:220-221.) The language of the first version(s) of the poem is very different from the Quenya of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Many years after writing Oilima Markirya, probably during the last decade of his life, Tolkien made a new version of this poem, the one in MC:221-223. This was a virtual translation of "Qenya" into Quenya as he now thought the language had been. This translation demonstrates that LotR-style Quenya is a language very different from Tolkien's earliest "Qenya" - indeed the two languages would probably be mutually unintelligible, though they share the same phonetic style and a number of lexical items.

- Sí qente Feanor, a Qenya text of ca. 60 words published in Parma Eldalamberon 15:32, beginning: néri ur natsi nostalen máre... Tolkien did not include any translation; the Parma editors tried to provide one, but their interpretation must in parts be very speculative, since some of the vocabulary employed does not appear elsewhere.

- Nieninque, a short poem given in MC:215-216: Norolinde pirukendea / elle tande Nielikkilis, / tanya wende nieninquea / yar i vilya anta miqilis. / I oromandin eller tande / ar wingildin wilwarindëen, / losselie telerinwa, / tálin paptalasselindëen. "Tripping lightly, whirling lightly, thither came little Niéle, that maiden like a snowdrop (Nieninqe), to whom the air gives kisses. The wood-spirits came thither, and the foam-fays like butterflies, the white people of the shores of Elfland, with feet like the music of falling leaves." This poem is written in the same language as Oilima Markirya above. Hence it does not tell us very much about the grammar and vocabulary of LotR-style Quenya. This poem was written no later than 1931, well over twenty years before the publication of LotR.

- Earendel (sic, not Eärendil, though the i-form is used in the poem itself), a short poem given in MC:216: San ninqeruvisse lútier / kiryasse Earendil or vea, / ar laiqali linqi falmari / langon veakiryo kírier; / wingildin o silqelossëen / alkantaméren úrio / kalmainen; i lunte linganer, / tyulmin talalínen aiqalin / kautáron, i súru laustaner. "Then upon a white horse sailed Earendel, upon a ship upon the sea, and the green wet waves the throat of the sea-ship clove. The foam-maidens with blossom-white hair made it shine in the lights of the sun; the boat hummed like a harp-string; the tall masts bent with the sails; the wind 'lausted' (made a windy noise)." Same language and dating as Nieninque above.

- The "Koivienéni" sentence: Eldar ando kakainen loralyar Koivienenissen mennai Orome tanna lende i erenekkoitanie (with some variant versions) - "The Elves were lying long asleep at Koivienéni until Orome came thither that he might awaken them." The sentence was found in Tolkien's manuscripts in the Marquette University Archives. This sentence, as well as the following one, were probably written at some point in the thirties when Tolkien's ideas about Quenya were still not very refined (note "Koivienéni" for Cuiviénen).

- The "Two Trees" sentence: Valar empannen Aldaru mi kon-alkorin ar sealálan taro ar sílankálan ve laure ve misil (once again with some variant versions). Found on the same sheet of paper as the "Koivienéni" sentence. Untranslated, but probably meaning something like *"the Valar planted the Two Trees in a blessed garth, and they grew tall and shone like gold [and] like silver". These two sentences (Koivienéni and Two Trees) were published in Vinyar Tengwar #27.

- The "Arctic" sentence: Mára mesta an ni véla tye ento, ya rato nea - "Good-bye until I see you next, and I hope it will be soon." This is not stated to be Quenya, but "Arctic" - a sample of a language used on the North Pole, given in The Father Christmas Letters. These were letters supposedly written by Santa Claus to Tolkien's children, but actually written by Tolkien himself. Tolkien never intended them to be published (that was done by his family after his death). Though the Father Christmas Letters had nothing to do with Middle-earth and do not belong to Tolkien's serious works at all, it is clear that the "Arctic" sentence is actually a kind of Quenya (or "Qenya").

- Fíriel's Song: A long (almost 90 words) Quenya song found in LR:72. This is still "Qenya", but very much closer to LotR-style Quenya than the three poems from MC mentioned above. A stative-verb ending -ie is much used, but this ending is probably not valid in LotR-style Quenya. Click here for a full discussion of Fíriel's Song.

- Alboin Errol's Fragments in LR:47, with interlinear translation: ar Sauron túle nahamna "and Sauron came [*humbled]" / lantier turkildi unuhuine "they-fell [, the] Turkildi [*Kings of Men] under-Shadow" / tarkalion ohtakáre valannar "Tar-Calion [Ar-Pharazôn] war-made on-Powers [Valar]" / herunúmen ilu terhante "Lord-of-West world broke" / ëari ullier kilyanna "seas poured in-Chasm" / Númenóre ataltane "Númenor down-fell" / malle téra lende númenna ilya sí maller raikar "road straight went Westward all now roads bent" / turkildi rómenna "Turkildi eastward" / nuruhuine mel-lumna "Death-shadow us-is-heavy" / vaháya sin atalante "far-away now Atalantë". Same language as that of Fíriel's Song.

- Lowdham's Fragments. Various "Qenya" fragments given in SD:246-247 (note that there is also Adûnaic material here). Some parts of these fragments are nearly identical to those of Alboin Errol quoted above: very close to LotR-style Quenya.

- Some sentences spoken by Elendil and Herendil: Man-ie, atto? "What is it, father?" Atarinya tye-meláne "My father, I love thee", A yonya inye tye-méla "And I too, my son, I love thee", E man antaváro? "What will he give indeed?" (LR:59, 61, 63).

- Members of the Notion Club speaking in tongues (SD:290): Es sorni heruion an! "The Eagles of the Lords are at hand!" Sorni Númevalion anner! "The Eagles of the Powers of the West are at hand!" (rejected version: Soroni númeheruen ettuler!)

- An early version of Namárië (see below), given in TI:284-285: Ai! laurie lantar lassi súrinen / inyalemíne rámar aldaron / inyali ettulielle turme márien / anduniesse la míruvórion / Varda telúmen falmar kírien / laurealassion ómar mailinon. / Elentári Vardan Oiolossëan / Tintallen máli ortelúmenen / arkandavá-le qantamalle túlier / e falmalillon morne sindanórie / no mírinoite kallasilya Valimar. (The text as given in TI employs macrons instead of accents to mark long vowels.) Most of the words can be identified, but a running translation is difficult to give. Anthony Appleyard surmises that this is "merely bits that came to Tolkien's mind as he thought, and he intended to interpolate other matter later to complete the sense; but in the end he scrapped it all except line 1". On the other hand, David Salo argues that the text is indeed complete. There are apparently several inflectional endings not found elsewhere; very likely they were revised out of existence later. Yet another variant version of Namárië was quoted in An Introduction to Elvish p. 5; this is of particular value because it records nar "are" as the plural form of the verb "is". See David Salo's article in Tyalië Tyellelliéva #12 for a near-exhaustive discussion of all the various stages and versions of Namárië.

- Early Qenya Fragments and Early Qenya Grammar, published in Parma Eldalamberon #14 (2003, edited by Patrick Wynne, Christopher Gilson, Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden). The only extensive grammatical writings for any stage of Q(u)enya that have ever been published. However, the material is clearly preclassical in many respects, though it also documents that quite a few traits of LotR-style Quenya go back to very early stages. These writings apparently date from the twenties.

- A few early declensions have been published in Vinyar Tengwar: The so-called Entu, Ensi, Enta declension was published and analyzed (by Christopher Gilson) in VT #36. Internal evidence suggests that it was written between 1928 and 1936. It consists of what seem to be a few words conjugated in all cases, but no case is named and no form is translated. The endings do not agree very well with the system known from LotR-style Quenya. The so-called Bodleian Declension appeared in VT #28; it was apparently written in 1936. It demonstrates the declension of stems in -a, -o and -e, but the cases are not identified. It is apparently closer to LotR-style Quenya than Entu, Ensi, Enta, but there are still quite a few discrepancies. These declensions are of little value beyond demonstrating that Tolkien's ideas about Quenya were steadily maturing in the twenties and early thirties, before a nearly LotR-compatible system emerges in the second half of the thirties.

II: Samples of LotR-compatible Quenya

Samples and material from the following sources belong to Tolkien's later, more developed stages of Quenya; these are the samples that are of particular interest if one tries to reconstruct a LotR-compatible grammar (single words found here and there are not listed). Treebeard's agglutinative phrases of High-Elven elements strung together in Entish fashion are not included here, since this is obviously not standard Quenya (see the article about Entish).

- Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo, "a star shines upon the hour of our meeting", an Elvish greeting given in LotR1/I ch. 3. (The first edition of LotR had omentielmo, probably the reading of Frodo's original text, translated into English by Tolkien. But Gondorian commentators had pointed out that omentielvo is the correct form in this context, and Tolkien used the correct form when a revised version of LotR was published in 1966. See Letters:447. Note that "omentilmo" in certain American editions is a typo.) This greeting is also given in WJ:367, there in the form Elen síla lúmenna omentielvo, with no elision of the final a in lúmenna. (Letters:424 gives a part of the greeting, omitting elen, but once again with no elision of the final a.) An earlier form of the greeting is found in RS:324: Eleni silir lúmessë omentiemman "the stars shine on the hour of our meeting", changed to Elen silë... "A star shines..." Omentiemman with genitive in -n is "Qenya", but the verb forms are interesting (a good example of the aorist, both sg. and pl.).

- Arwen vanimelda, namárië! "Fair Arwen [lit. Arwen your beauty], farewell!" - Aragorn's farewell to Arwen on Cerin Amroth, repeated by him as he recollected the scene on the same spot many years later. The first edition had vanimalda instead of vanimelda. (LotR1/II, end of Ch. 6, translated in WJ:369. The version in LotR has namarië instead of namárië, but both WJ:369 and other sources [one of them in LotR itself] confirm that the second vowel should be á, not a.)

- Namárië, "Farewell", a long (80 words) Quenya poem given in LotR1/II, near the end of Ch. 8. Also known as Galadriel's Lament. This poem is fully discussed here. Until the publication of the Markirya-poem (see below), this was the longest Quenya text known. The whole poem is given twice in RGEO:66-67. In the first version, Tolkien has added accents to the text, indicating all major and minor stresses. The second version, with interlinear translation, differs somewhat from the version found in LotR. Tolkien explained that "the word-order and style of the [LotR version] is 'poetic,' and it makes concessions to metre". He re-wrote the poem to a "clearer and more normal style", enabling us to make a direct comparison between poetic and normal style in High-Elven.

- Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! "Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!" A fragment of a poem about Eärendil that Frodo was inspired to utter when he used Galadriel's phial in Shelob's lair (LotR2/IV ch. 10, translated in Letters:385).

- A laita te, laita te! Andave laituvalmet! ... Cormacolindor, a laita tárienna! "Bless them, bless them! Long shall we bless them! [The] Ring-bearers, praise [them] to the height!" The praise Frodo and Sam received on the Field of Cormallen (LotR3/VI ch 4, translated in Letters:308).

- Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta! "Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come. In this place I will abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world" - Elendil's words when he came to Middle-earth after the Downfall of Númenor, repeated by Aragorn at his coronation (LotR3/VI ch. 5). Earlier variants are found in SD:56: Et Ëarello Endorenna lendien. Símane maruvan, ar hildinyar, kenn' Iluve-metta, changed to Et Ëarello Endorenna nilendie. Sinome nimaruva yo hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta. These variants may not be perfect LotR-style Quenya; in particular it seems that Tolkien dropped the pronominal prefix ni- ("I") and probably the entire notion of pronominal prefixes instead of suffixes.

- Yé! utúvienyes! "[Lo!] I have found it!" Aragorn's exclamation when he found the sapling of the White Tree (LotR3/VI ch. 5).

- A vanimar, vanimálion nostari "O beautiful ones, parents of beautiful children", Treebeard's greeting to Celeborn and Galadriel, given in LotR3/VI ch. 7 (the comma was missing in the first edition of LotR, but appeared in the second). Translated in Letters:308 and SD:73. (The latter source gives the translation "fair ones begetters of fair ones"; this rendering is more literal.) An earlier version of the same sentence is given in SD:64: O vanimar vanimalion ontari. This version confirms that a form given in the Etymologies, "ontani" as the pl. of ontaro, ontarë "parent", is an error for ontari (LR:379).

- Utúlie'n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie'n aurë! "The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!" Fingon's cry before the Fifth Battle (Silm ch. 20). A variant version in WJ:166 has Atanatarni for Atanatári.

- Auta i lóme! "The night is passing!" What Fingon's army answered (Silm ch. 20).

- Aurë entuluva! "Day shall come again!" What Húrin later cried when it was clear that the battle was lost (Silm ch. 20).

- A Túrin Turambar turún' ambartanen "o Túrin master of doom by doom mastered", Nienor Níniel's cry when she discovered that the man she had married was her own brother (UT:138). In the Silmarillion (near the end of chapter 21), turún' has become simply turun. Surprisingly, Nienor uses the Sindarin form of her brother's name, Túrin, instead of the Quenya form Turindo (LR:395).

- Cirion's Oath, two Quenya sentences given in UT:305, in all 26 words. Vanda sina termaruva Elenna•nórëo alcar enyalien ar Elendil Vorondo voronwë. Nai tiruvantes i hárar mahalmassen mi Númen ar i Eru i or ilyë mahalmar eä tennoio. "This oath shall stand in memory of the Land of the Star and the faith of Elendil the Faithful, in the keeping of those who sit upon the thrones of the West and of the One who is above all thrones for ever." (Literally, the second sentence means rather "may they keep it, the ones who are sitting upon thrones in the West and the One who is above all thrones for ever.") Tolkien added some interesting grammatical notes (UT:317).

- Anar kaluva tielyanna, "the sun shall shine upon your path", a greeting (UT:22; see UT:51 for translation).

- A few Quenya sentences and phrases found in The War of the Jewels (WJ): áva kare "don't do it!" (p. 371), i karir quettar ómainen "those who form words with voices" (p. 391), á vala Manwë "may Manwë order it", Valar valuvar "the will of the Valar will be done" (both on p. 404).

- A few Quenya sentences and phrases found in The Peoples of Middle-earth (PM): Manen lambë Quendion ahyanë[?] "How did the language of Elves change?" Mana i•coimas Eldaron[?] "What is the 'coimas' of the Eldar?" (both on p. 396), also 'Mana i•coimas in•Eldaron?' maquentë Elendil on p. 403, not translated but evidently meaning *" 'What is the coimas [lembas] of the Eldar?', Elendil asked"; Sin Quente Quendingoldo Elendilenna (p. 401), not translated but evidently meaning *"this Pengolodh said to Elendil" or possibly *"thus spoke Pengolodh to Elendil". A short form Quentë Quengoldo following a long text in PM:404 is translated "Thus spoke Pengolodh" on the next page, but literally it simply means *"said Pengolodh".

- The Markirya poem in MC:221-222, which is really Oilima Markirya mentioned above translated into mature Quenya, probably during the last decade of Tolkien's life. Having more than 90 words, this is the longest Quenya text that has ever been published (in MC:4, Christopher Tolkien describes it as "one of the major pieces of Quenya"). Tolkien did some revisions and added a glossarial commentary. The poem is translated in MC:214-215 (notice note 8 in MC:220). The Markirya poem is fully discussed here.

Other important sources for information about Quenya include the following:

- The Etymologies in LR:347-400. This is a list of about six hundred primitive roots followed by some of the words they yielded in later tongues, including Quenya; some 1300 Quenya words are mentioned. The list actually represents a very late "Qenya" stage (for instance, there are numerous examples of genitive in -n instead of -o), but the language of the Etymologies is so close to LotR-style Quenya that it can be trusted in all cases where it does not contradict later material (only a few words must be rejected, such as malda [stem SMAL] instead of malta as the word for "gold", since the latter occurs in LotR). Concerning High-Elven vocabulary, the Etymologies will remain our most important single source (but even so, it must be realized that less than half of the words known come from this list).

- The Plotz Letter. This is a letter Tolkien sent to Dick Plotz, founder of the Tolkien Society of America. It dates from about 1966-67. In this letter, Tolkien set out the Quenya noun declension. Thus, this document is one of the most important sources we have. It was first published by Jorge Quiñonez in Vinyar Tengwar #6.

- The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter. Valuable information about Quenya is found here and there in these letters, in particular concerning the superlative prefix (p. 279) and the dual (p. 427). The existence of continuative verb stems is confirmed (p. 427) and we learn what final consonants are allowed in Quenya (p. 425).

- Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language (SD:413-440). Though mainly concerned with another language, some information about Quenya ("Avallonian") can also be gleaned or inferred from this report: Initial consonant clusters are not allowed and only a limited number of combinations are tolerated medially (p. 417-418), biconsonantal bases are normal (p. 416), the combinations mp, nt, nc, and nw are favoured (p. 420), and nasal-infixion is of considerable importance (p. 433). There are also the words tyulma "mast" and hyóla "trump" (p. 419); the latter is attested here only.

- Quendi and Eldar, an essay published in WJ:360-417. It is mainly concerned with the "Origin and Meaning of the Elvish words referring to Elves and their varieties" and includes "Appendices on their names for other Incarnates". Of particular interest is a discussion of the functions of the genitive (ending -o) vs. the possessive (ending -va) (p. 368-369). We also learn that there is a distinction between strong and weak verbs (p. 366).

Ardalambion Index