Impendix IV: Vaimë’s egg

This is the tale of Färon son of Dân, from the day that his father was slain and he himself wounded nigh to death. As has already been told, he leapt into the waters of Aena, the River of Spirit, and so escaped; but it was not by his own power that he was saved.

Now the Díoni, Keepers of the Light, had grown to a numerous people; for they had taken forms like the bodies of living creatures, male and female, and bred new bodies after their kind, in which dwelt new spirits that the Maker sent into the world. The eldest and mightiest of the Keepers were the founders of great houses, and in those houses dwelt their kin, and the prentices of their lore, and lesser servants besides.

Vaimë, whose name means ‘Foam Maiden’, was a maidservant in the house of Cómar, lord of the waters, and went often forth on errands for her lord. It came to Cómar’s ears that foul things had defiled the waters of Aena, corrupted by the Destroyer; among these were the eels that poisoned Quelmë. Therefore he sent the spirit of Vaimë to inhabit the waters of the river and purify them from evil. And when Färon cast himself into the water, though he knew it not, he cast himself into the unseen hands of Vaimë; and she bore him up so that he did not drown, and stopped his wounds with the power of her song, and carried him upon the current into the land of Ereph.

There Färon remained for a long count of years, wandering without purpose, singing songs of lamentation; and no voice answered him but the sounds of wild things. Of all these, the mewing of the gulls spoke most to his mood; and following their cry, he came in the end to the shore of the Sundering Sea. Long he walked on the lonely strand, mourning for his lost kin, and adding his tears to the dark waters. Most often he remained near the bay of Drath Erem. Telkon himself had carved that bay out of the long shores of the South, so that the master of stone and the lord of water might have a meeting-place in that far part of the world; for they were wanderers both, and old friends.

In all these days Färon heard no voice that spoke with words, save his own. [Read more…]

Impendix III: The children of Dân

It is a rare culture that does not have some myth about the origins of man; and usually these tales refer to a First Man (and generally also a Woman), likely because it is better storytelling to keep the list of starring characters as short as practicable. I don’t offhand know of any myths about a First Tribe that were all made from the dust at once, or awoke from animality into humanity, or the like. Polygenism has not much of a past in folklore, and indeed it may not have much of a future in biology.

Naturally, the cultures of the Three Worlds are no exception. They, too, have a tale of the First Man and the origins of humanity; but because they have more than one kind of men to account for, the tale differs significantly from those we are familiar with. Like the account in Genesis (and many another), this account traces the origins of evil will in humans back to the earliest times; but the ‘Fall of Man’, in that world, took place in the second generation and not in the first, with hugely important consequences in subsequent history (and theology). [Read more…]

Impendix II: The Isles of Light and the Keepers

I had intended to put up a new Impendix every week; but I have been otherwise occupied. Quite suddenly, without much premeditation, the Beloved Other and I have found a new flat that is larger and more congenial to us than the place where I have been living these last seven years. Nearly all of my books and papers are packed in boxes now, some in the new place, some waiting for the movers’ van. Today is the first day that I have had much leisure to give to the promised project, and accordingly I spent some time jotting these notes from memory.

In Färinor, as mentioned previously, apart from starlight, the only important source of light was in the Isles of Light in the midst of the central ocean. It was there that the Maker installed his bright children, the Díoni (the word actually means ‘bright children’ or ‘bright scions’ in the Fair Tongue), to tend his creation, to keep the Light, and to complete the world to its finest details – as the architect of a cathedral will employ carvers of stone and workers in stained glass.

The habitations of the Díoni were scattered widely among the Isles, but they settled most thickly on the islands nearest to Alenna, the midmost, where grew Ynd Urenn, the Tree of the World. It was said that the roots of Ynd Urenn grew all through the deep places of the earth, keeping the lands in their hold, protecting the rock that sustained them. It was also said, though more doubtfully, that the Tree sent unseen tendrils into the upper airs, where they touched the dome of the sky and mingled their life with the light of the turning stars. The especial task of tending Ynd Urenn was given to one of the Díoni, Lysana, who was called the White Queen. None of the Díoni made any lasting dwelling upon Alenna, but the house of the Queen was on the isle nearest to its shores, and she came there more often than any of her people. [Read more…]

Éala Éarendel: A study in names

A meditation on words, slightly late, but suited for Eastertide. Any howling errors herein are wholly my own; though I reserve the right to be an intellectual coward, and blame them on my recent concussion.


There is no such thing as an expert on language. There are experts on individual languages, and experts on different aspects of language as a phenomenon; but the field of language as a whole is, and always has been, far too large for anyone to adequately survey in a human lifetime. Tolkien came as near it as almost anyone: he was intimately familiar with the whole 1,500-year history of English, plus Old Norse, Latin, and classical Greek, and had a firm working knowledge of German, French, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Hebrew, and several other languages, including the latest reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European. Yet he wrote, with perfect sincerity, to Fr. Robert Murray: ‘I am in no ordinary sense a “linguist”’. He understood better than most professional linguists the internal workings of language, but he also had a sound knowledge of his own limitations.

It may be unfair to compare Tolkien with Noam Chomsky, who does unabashedly call himself a linguist, and is often regarded by his younger colleagues in the field as the linguist. Unfair, but for my present purpose, necessary. Chomsky does not show any signs of great familiarity with any language but English. He attempts to lay down ‘universal’ rules of grammar, but his universals, when closely examined, tend to be disturbingly parochial. [Read more…]