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How to List the Children of Master Samwise Properly

The King’s Letter from the omitted epilogue to The Lord of the Rings, written in the early 1950s, is one of the most significant Sindarin texts, and a long-known one. There are four versions of the letter, which were published at various times in Sauron Defeated (1992), Vinyar Tengwar 29 (1993), J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (1995), and J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript (2022). A thorough historical and comparative analysis of the various versions of the text (excluding the earliest draft, which was not known until 2022) by Carl F. Hostetter was published in Vinyar Tengwar 31 (1993).

There is a subtle difference between the latest version of the letter (the one usually referred to as the third version) and all the preceding versions (the earliest draft and the so-called first and second versions) which appears to have gone unnoticed by the researchers. It can be found in the lines listing Samwise’s children. Where the earlier versions have:

Elanor, Meril, Glorfinniel, ar Eirien sellath dîn
“Elanor, Rose, Goldilocks and Daisy his daughters”
Iorhael, Gelir, Cordof, ar Baravorn ionnath dîn
“Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Hamfast his sons”

the latest one has:

Elanor, Meril, Glorfinniel, Eirien sellath dîn
“Elanor, Rose, Goldilocks and Daisy his daughters”
Iorhael, Gelir, Cordof, Baravorn ionnath dîn
“Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Hamfast his sons”

It can be seen that the Sindarin text of the latest version (unlike all those of the earlier versions) omits the and before the last unit of the list in both lines while the English text still retains it, which is true for both the tengwar facsimile and the Roman transliteration. This peculiarity, which is most likely not a slip but a conscious change, requires some explanation.

Something similar can be found among Tolkien’s linguistic writings published in Parma Eldalamberon 17 (pp. 70-71), in a discussion of various Quenya words for and, including the word ta, of which Tolkien says the following:

this could be used before each new item in a series or list; but was mainly used in such cases as would in English be marked by a pause (with or without and), that is in careful and precise description or enumeration, <…> Note also that ta was placed before all the successive items. If as often in English the equivalent of and was omitted, and placed only before a final item, this would in Quenya represent a discontinuity, and what followed after ta would be an addition of something overlooked or less important. Thus the above sentence might have run: Gandalf, Aragorn, Eomer and Imrahil in grey, in silver, in green, and in blue, and (also) Gimli in white. In Q the and before Imrahil and in blue would be omitted, and and (also) before Gimli would be represented by ta. <…>

Sanome tarne Olórin, Arakorno, Eomer, Imrahil, mi mīse, mi telepta yo morna, mi laiqua yo ninque, mi luini, ta Gimli mi losseä.

A potential problem with the suggested connection is that the note quoted above dates from the late 1960s, i.e. it was written much later than the King’s Letter. Assuming that the similarity between these two examples is not coincidental, we may proceed to the hypothesis that this feature of syntax emerged during Tolkien’s work on the King’s Letter in early 1950s and was reaffirmed much later in his linguistic notes from the late 1960s. An argument can be made that it was not yet in existence in the late 1930s when Firiel’s Song from The Lost Road was written, since per the syntax described above one probably would not expect ar in the following line (unless the last unit of the sequence could be added as something less important here, or a poetic license could be assumed?):

Ilu vanya, fanya, eari, i-mar, ar ilqa ímen.

“The World is fair, the sky, the seas, the earth, and all that is in them.”

In the end, it is naturally hard to be sure, given the scarcity of examples, whether the omission of ar before the last unit of sequence in the latest version of the King’s Letter was indeed an early example of the syntax described in a much later note, but it seems almost certain that Tolkien must have had some reason to make this change in the Sindarin text of the letter compared to both its earlier versions and the corresponding English translation.

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