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Select Elvish Words 1.62-1.622: Darkness, Dark, Murky

1.62 Darkness

Q. huinë n. “gloom, (unrelieved) darkness, deep shadow, ⚠️night shade; dark (as a substance)”
A word for “gloom” and “unrelieved darkness” such as a night without stars or moon (VT41/8), with an archaic form †fuinë [ɸuine] (PE19/71). In one place Tolkien said it is was used of darkness as an ethereal substance, the opposite of Q. linquë which was ethereal light (NM/279, 283). While light as a substance is an idea somewhat supported by reality (e.g. photons), darkness as a substance is necessarily poetic or mythic.

Conceptual Development: The earliest iteration of this word was ᴱQ. hui or fui “fog, dark, murk, night” from the early root ᴱ√ǶUẎU (QL/41), also appearing with the gloss “dark, murk” in the Poetic and Mythological Words of Eldarissa (PME/41). It was equated to ᴱQ. Fui, the name of the Death-goddess Nienna (QL/40). In the Oilima Markirya from around 1930, the word hui was given the translation “evening” in the phrase hui oilima man kiluva “Who shall see the last evening?” (MC/214).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s it was ᴹQ. fuine, huine “deep shadow” under the root ᴹ√PHUY (Ety/PHUY), and in various iterations of the ᴹQ. Lament of Atalante of the 1930s and 40s, huine was glossed “shadow” (LR/47, 56; SD/246, 310). In the Outline of Phonetic Development (OP1) of the 1930s, it was glossed “deep shadow, nightshade”, with fuine being its normal form but huine being its form in the {Lindarin >>} Vanyarin dialect (PE19/31). However in the Outline of Phonetic Development (OP2) of the 1950s, Tolkien revised this so that huine was its normal Quenya form in all dialects, fuine being archaic and pronounced with a pure labial “f” [ɸ] rather than the later labio-dental “f” [f] (PE19/71).

In writings after this point, it usually as huine (VT41/8; SA/fuin), but in some notes from the late 1960s Tolkien considered making huine the Vanyarin form again, with fuine being the form in Noldorin Quenya (NM/279).

Neo-Quenya: I prefer the notion that [ɸu] became [hu] in all Quenya dialects before [ɸ] became [f], so I would use the form huine. I would use it with the sense “darkness, deep shadow” for a particularly lightless darkness, but only metaphorically or poetically for darkness as ethereal substance in and of itself, as I believe the Elves would have been well aware that darkness was actually the absense of light.

Q. lúmë n. “darkness”
A noun in the 1960s versions of the Markirya glossed “darkness” (MC/222), perhaps derived from a root √DU as suggested by Iipitaka in a post to the Elfling mailing list in 2012.

Neo-Quenya: I’d generally use Q. huinë for “darkness” in Neo-Quenya, but that word is more for total darkness, whereas lúmë might be a less severe form of darkness, a variant of Q. lómë “night, dusk”.

ᴹQ. nur- n. “to grow/be dark”
A verb for “grow, be dark” in the Quenya Verbal System for the 1940s from a root ᴹ√NDUR of the same meaning (PE22/103). In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root ᴹ√N(D)UR meant “bow down, serve”, but the sense “grow dark” may be related to ᴹ√NDŪ “go down, sink, set (of Sun)” (Ety/NDŪ), as with the etymology of later S. dûr “dark” (PE17/152). Alternately, the sense “be dark” may be tied to the later (hypothetical) root *√DU that is the possible basis for darkness words like Q. lúmë “darkness” (MC/222) or Q. lúna “dark” (PE17/22).

Conceptual Development: A possible precursor is the verb ᴱQ. lur-, appearing only in 3rd-sg masculine form lurdon in the phrase ᴱQ. surussin lurdon lausto from one of the early drafts of Oilima Markirya poem written around 1930 (PE16/60). The phrase is untranslated, but Gilson, Welden and Hostetter suggested the verb might mean “to be dark” (of the wind), related to words like ᴱQ. lúre “dark weather”.

N. maur n. “gloom”
A noun in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “gloom” appearing under the root ᴹ√MOR (Ety/MOR). A nearby primitive form ᴹ✶mǭri is the likely basis for this word as suggested by Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne (EtyAC/MOR), where the primitive ǭ became au as was the usual sound change in both Noldorin and later Sindarin (PE18/46, 96).
S. môr n. “dark(ness); †night, ⚠️[N.] †black”
A word for “dark(ness)” (Let/382), sometimes used poetically for “†night” (NM/279), derived from primitive ✶mori based on the root √MOR.

Conceptual Development: Early precursors to this word include G. mûri “darkness, †night” and G. morth/moroth “darkness” (GL/58), both clearly derived from the early root ᴱ√MORO as suggested by Christopher Tolkien (LT1A/Mornië; Moru). In The Etymologies of the 1930s N. †môr was an archaic equivalent of ᴹQ. more “black”, already based on primitive ᴹ✶mori (Ety/MOR). In a deleted entry Tolkien also considered using N. môr for “night” (EtyAC/LOƷ).

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would mainly use S. môr as a noun “darkness”, and for the adjective I would use S. morn “dark, black”.

1.622 Dark, Murky

ᴱQ. huiva adj. “murky, *(nearly) lightless”
A word in the Qenya Lexicon appearing as ᴱQ. huiva “murky”, an adjectival form of ᴱQ. hui “dark, murk, fog” (QL/41). It appeared in a variant form fuiva in the name ᴱQ. Ungwe Fuiva “the Spider of Night” (QL/80; PME/104).

Neo-Quenya: Given that the root √PHUY and the related word Q. huinë “gloom, deep shadow” continues to appear in Tolkien later writings, I think ᴺQ. huiva could still be used in Neo-Quenya. However, since huinë was used for a deep darkness such as a night without stars or moon (VT41/8), I think huiva should be limited to describing lightless or nearly lightless conditions. Obscured or very weak light (dim, gloomy) would be Q. úcalima or lómëa.

Q. lumba adj. “gloomy, *overcast”
A word for “gloomy” appearing in some Notes on Galadriel’s Song (NGS) from the late 1950s or early 1960s, an adjective form of lumbo “gloom” (PE17/72). As lumbo is elsewhere used for “(dark) clouds” (MC/222; QL/57), I think this word refers mainly to gloomy weather, and could also mean “*overcast”. This adjective is a homonym of ᴹQ. lumba “weary” (EtyAC/LUB), but since these have different root (ᴹ√LUB vs. √LUM) I think they can coexist.
Q. lúna adj. “*dark”
A word appearing in notes from the mid-to-late 1960s as an element of two different Quenya equivalents of S. Barad-dûr “Dark Tower”: Q. {Lúnaturma >>} Lúnaturco and Taras Lúna. Tolkien states that taras is “tower”, while turco is derived from √TURUK and is thus probably “*stronghold”, so that the word lúna must mean “*dark”. Iipitaka suggested in a post to the Elfling mailing list in 2012 that perhaps it was related to lúmë “darkness” from the Markirya poem, both derived from an (unattested) root *√DU “dark”.

Conceptual Development: A similar form ᴹQ. lóna “dark” appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as a derivative of the root ᴹ√DOƷ “night” (Ety/DOƷ).

Neo-Quenya: Since ᴹQ. lóna has several other attested meanings (ᴹQ. lóna “island”, Q. lóna “deep pool, well”), I recommend using the later and less ambiguous word lúna for “dark” in Neo-Quenya writings.

Q. morë adj. and n. “dark, black; darkness, [ᴹQ.] blackness, [Q.] night”
A word meaning both “dark” and “black” in various compounds, sometimes also functioning as a noun “darkness”. It was derived from primitive ✶mori based on the root √MOR (Let/382).

Conceptual Development: This word has a long history in Tolkien’s languages. It first appeared as ᴱQ. {mōre >>} mōri “night” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s from the early root ᴱ√MORO (QL/62), also appearing as mōre “night” in the contemporaneous Poetic and Mythological Words of Eldarissa (PME/63). The word mōre was used as “darkness” in the Oilima Markirya poem written around 1930 (MC/214).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s there were two distinct forms: noun ᴹQ. móre “blackness, dark, night” from primitive ᴹ✶mǭri and adjective ᴹQ. more “blackness, dark, night” from primitive from primitive ᴹ✶mori (Ety/MOR; EtyAC/MOR), though the adjective prefix mori- was frequently translated “dark” in contemporaneous compounds: ᴹQ. Morimando “Dark Mando”, ᴹQ. Moriqendi “Dark Elves”, etc. In later writings, the forms with long ó were no longer used, though whether this was intentional or a coincidence is unclear.

Neo-Quenya: For purposes of Neo-Quenya, I would mainly use more as an adjective with the sense “dark”, reserving for the colour “black” the word morna instead. For the noun form, I’d use mornië, but I sometimes use mori- or móri- for “night” in compounds as the time of darkness.

Q. úcalima adj. “dim, murky, *not bright”
A word for “dim, murky” in notes from 1969 illustrating the use of the ú- prefix with -ima adjectives, in this case calima “luminous, bright” (PE22/156), hence literally “*not bright”.
N. dofn adj. “gloomy”
A word given as N. dofn “gloomy” in The Etymologies of the 1930s with variant dufui, both derivatives from the root ᴹ√DUB “loom, hang over oppressively (of clouds)” (Ety/DUB; EtyAC/DUB). The form dofn is the cognate of ᴹQ. lumna “lying heavy, oppressive” and shows a-affection, whereas dufui seems to be a Noldorin invention using the the adjective suffix -ui, and thus preserves its primitive stem-vowel u.

Neo-Sindarin: For Neo-Sindarin, I’d write both forms as ᴺS. dovn and duvui to better reflect their pronunciation.

S. dûr adj. “dark (with evil implications), gloomy, hellish”
The basic Sindarin adjective for “dark” derived from primitive ✶(n)dūrā from the root √NDU “under, down” (PE17/152), but it acquired an “evil” sense by association with names like Barad-dûr and words like guldur “sorcery” (PE17/31), hence also “gloomy, hellish”. A more neutral word is morn, but strictly speaking that is the colour “black” rather than “dark”.

Conceptual Development: The earliest precursor of this word seems to be ᴱN. drú “dark” from Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s (PE13/142). N. dûr appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s, but as a derivative of ᴹ√DOƷ “night” rather than ᴹ√NDŪ “go down” (Ety/DOƷ). Later on, S. dûr was only influenced by “night” rather than being directly related to it (PE17/152).

S. muil n. and adj. “drear[iness]”
A word for “drear” or perhaps “*dreariness” (see below), attested only as an element in S. Emyn Muil “Drear Hills”.

Conceptual Development: The earliest iteration of this word was G. muil “tarn” [mountain lake] in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/58), an element in the name G. Umboth-muilin where the first element was “twilight” and the second “pools” (LT2/225). In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Tolkien gave the Doriathrin/Ilkorin word muil “twilight, shadow, vagueness” from the root ᴹ√MUY (Ety/MUL), still an element in Umboth Muilin “Twilight Meres”, but now with the meaning of the elements reversed. In later writings, Tolkien changed this name to Aelin-uial, but muil in Emyn Muil might be a remnant of the Ilkorin word.

Possible Etymology: From our only late example, the word muil seems to be a (plural) adjective meaning “drear”. However, an adjective in this position beginning with m- would ordinarily undergo lenition to *vuil. If it is an adjective, its primitive form must have begun with mb-, which would have produced m- after mutation. If so, its unmutated singular form would have been either *bûl or *buil.

It seems likelier to me that muil is a noun, a remnant of earlier Ilk. muil “twilight, shadow, vagueness”, derived from the same root ᴹ√MUY. If so, the literal meaning of S. Emyn Muil would be “*Hills of Twilight” or perhaps “*Hills of Dreariness”.

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