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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: KHEL-KHITH

KHEL “ice, [ᴹ√] freeze”

This root was the basis for “ice” words all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where ᴱ√HELE appeared with variant ᴱ√HḶKḶ as the basis for words like ᴱQ. helke “ice”, ᴱQ. helka “ice-cold”, ᴱQ. halkin “frozen” ᴱQ. hilk- “freeze” (QL/39). The root was given as {hele-k >>} χele-k in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon with derivatives like G. hel- “freeze”, G. heleg “ice” and G. helc “ice-cold, icy, cold” (GL/48). The Gnomish forms do not show the kinds of vowel-variations that would indicate the presence of ancient syllabic , so perhaps Tolkien had abandoned ᴱ√HḶKḶ by that point.

The root reappeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√KHEL “freeze” and extended root ᴹ√KHELEK “ice”, with the reappearance of many derived forms as well such as ᴹQ. helke/N. heleg “ice” and ᴹQ. helka/N. helch “ice-cold” (Ety/KHEL). Tolkien’s continued use of words like Q. Helcaraxë “Grinding Ice” indicate the ongoing validity of the extended root √KHELEK (S/134), and the shorter root √KHEL “ice” appeared in later notes of the origin of S. Forochel (PE17/116).

KHEN “base of eye-words; [ᴹ√] look at, see, observe, direct gaze”

This root first appeared as ᴹ√KHEN “look at, see, observe, direct gaze” with an extended form ᴹ√KHEN-D-E “eye” in The Etymologies of the 1930s, with derivatives ᴹQ. hen (hend-) and N. hên “eye” (Ety/KHEN-D-E, EtyAC/KHEN). The derived forms were even older, however, since ᴱQ. hen “eye” appeared in The Qenya Phonology of the 1910s, but there it was a derivative of ᴱ√þeχe > þχe-ndǝ > hen (PE12/21). Indeed, the majority of the derivatives of this early root show s- in Qenya, and the root was given as ᴱ√SEHE or ᴱ√SE’E in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/82). Contemporaneous forms in the Gnomish Lexicon such as G. thê- “see” and G. thest “sight” (GL/72) indicate the actual root remained ᴱ√ÞEHE [þeχe].

The word G. hen “eye” also appeared in the Gnomish Lexicon (GL/48), probably with an origin similar to ᴱQ. hen, and these two words reappeared in Early Noldorin word lists from the 1920s, but as a derivative of ✶ske-ndá (PE13/147). Thus it seems the initial combination evolved from the 1910s þχ- >> 1920s sk- >> 1930s kh-. In the 1930s, the base root ᴹ√KHEN meant “see”, but Tolkien established a distinct root √KEN “see” by the 1940s (PE22/103), and in notes from 1955 Tolkien described √KHEN as “base of eye­words” without mentioning sight (PE17/187).

KHEP “retain, keep, do not give away or release, keep hold of; [ᴱ√] bind; encircle”

The root √KHEP appeared with gloss “retain, keep, do not give away or release, keep hold of” in etymological notes from 1959-60 along with a variant √KHAP “bind, make fast, restrain, deprive of liberty” (VT41/6), and in this period it was almost certainly the basis for S. heb- “keep” in ú-chebin estel anim “I have kept (heb- lenited 1st-person) no hope for myself” (LotR/1061). It might be a later iteration of ᴱ√HEPE, glossed “bind” in in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/40) and “encircle?” (the question mark is Tolkien’s) in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon (GL/48). For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, some derivatives of this 1910s root might be salvaged as derivatives of later √KHEP.

KHER “possess, [ᴹ√] rule, govern, [ᴱ√] have power”

The basic root for rulership was √KHER for most of Tolkien’s life. The root appeared as ᴱ√HERE “rule, have power” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, and in this period already had the derivative ᴱQ. heru “lord” and ᴱQ. heri “lady” (QL/40), words that retained the same form and meaning throughout Tolkien’s life. Gnomish derivatives from this period include G. herma “protection, lordship, sway”, G. hermon “lord”, G. hîr “care, anxiety; heed”, and G. hiril “queen†, princess” (GL/49).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s these last two Gnomish words became N. hîr “master” and N. hiril “lady” as derivatives of ᴹ√KHER “rule, govern, possess”; the words ᴹQ. heru/ᴹQ. heri reappeared as well (Ety/KHER). All four of these words reappeared frequently in Tolkien’s later writing, though S. hîr was more typically glossed “lord” (PM/210; SD/129; VT41/9; Let/382; UT/318). The root √KHER itself reappeared in a 1954 letter to Naomi Mitchison with the gloss “possess” (Let/178).

KHIL “follow (behind)”

This root has a lengthy history in Tolkien’s writing. It first appeared as ᴱ√HIL, unglossed but with derivatives having to do with children and offspring (QL/40); in this sense it may have reemerged later as the root √KHIN “child” (PE17/157; WJ/403). In the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s, the root appeared as χili with derivatives like G. hiltha “youth”, G. hilwed “adolescent”, G. hilm “posterity”, and G. hilmir “heir” (GL/49); the words for “heir” were also based on √KHIL in Tolkien’s later writing.

The root reappeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√KHIL “follow”, its most notable derivative being ᴹQ. Hildi “followers, mortal men” as the second (following) race that were the children of Eru (Ety/KHIL). In later writings this name for Men became Q. Hildor “Followers” (S/103). The root √KHIL “follow” continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings (PE17/18, 101, 157; WJ/387).

In The Etymologies ᴹ√KHIL had no Noldorin derivatives, and in the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60 Tolkien said “the stem *KHILI ‘follow’ was not current in Sindarin” (WJ/387). Elsewhere, however, it is clearly evident as the basis for several Sindarin words, such as echil “follower(s)” (WJ/219) and Eluchíl “Thingol’s Heir” (S/188). It was also used with the sense “heir” in the phrase: Q. sinomë maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn’ Ambar-metta “in this place will I abide, and my heirs (hildë 1st-person-possessive plural), unto the ending of the world” (LotR/967), connecting back to its earliest meaning.

KHIN “child”

A root appearing in Notes on Names from 1957 with the gloss “child” (PE17/157), and again in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 with the same gloss (WJ/403). It was the basis for the words Q. hína and S. hên “child”, which were probably inspired by the Adûnaic patronymic suffix -hin that Tolkien introduced in the 1940s as part of Êruhin “Child of God” (SD/358), originally an Adûnaic word but later on used in Sindarin (Let/345; MR/330). This root might be a later iteration of the early root ᴱ√HILI from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s whose derivatives had to do with children (QL/40). As evidence of this, the Adûnaic word was first given as Eruhil (SD/341).

KHITH “mist, [ᴹ√] fog”

This root and its variants were the basis for “mist” words for much of Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as ᴱ√HISI with derivatives like ᴱQ. híse “dusk” and ᴱQ. hiswa “dim, fading” (QL/40), and as an element in ᴱQ. Hisilóme which was glossed “Shadowy Twilights” in the earliest Lost Tales (LT1/112). Thus the early root might have meant “*dusk, dimness, shadow”. The root was probably also an element in the Gnomish equivalent Hithlum from this period (GL/20), perhaps the result of the sound change whereby [s] became [θ] before [l] in Gnomish.

The sense “haze” and “mist” for ᴱQ. híse first appeared in drafts of the Oilima Markirya poem (PE16/62, 75). In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave this root as ᴹ√KHITH with variant ᴹ√KHIS and the gloss “mist, fog”; ᴹ√KHIS was listed first but all the actual derivatives were from ᴹ√KHITH (Ety/KHIS). The root appeared again in Notes on Galadriel’s Song from the late 1950s or early 1960s as √KHIΘ “mist” (NGS, PE17/73).

Tolkien’s continued use of Q. Hísilómë and (Northern) S. Hithlum throughout his life testifies to the enduring nature of this root, though it seems to have shifted in sense from 1910s “*shadow” to 1930s “mist”, and from s to th.

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