Wednesday, May 25, 2016

HERUMILLION and the Ring of Earth

So, I'm now on the third day of a two-week research visit to the Marquette archives, and enjoying it immensely. This time I'm centering on the very early manuscripts of LotR (by and large those covered by Christopher Tolkien in HME.VI: THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW.  CT did a superlative job presenting those texts, printing the most interesting ones and briefly summarizing or excerpting from others when, as was frequently the case, there was no room to print them all in full; plus providing his usual incisive commentary pointing out links between various drafts and outlines. Somehow, though, I'm starting to get the impression that folks are forgetting about the material Christopher didn't cover.

A case in point: you'd think HERUMILLION, the Elvish name for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, would be better known. After all, it appeared in print as long ago as 1983/84 in Taum's catalogue to go with the exhibit at the Marquette Tolkien conference, and was reprinted less than a year ago by Wayne and Christina in their ART OF 'THE LORD OF THE RINGS'.

And yet HERUMILLION deserves to be better known, because of its obvious parallelism to SILMARILLION: The story of the Silmarils (SILMARILLION) and The Story of the Rings (HERUMILLION). The paired titles even help reinforce Tolkien's conception that THE SILMARILLION and THE HERUMILLION were companion books: two parts of a single mythology.

Less significant perhaps, but still important enough that you'd think it'd be well-known by now, are the elvish names for the Rings of Earth, Sea, & Heaven.*  The Three Rings themselves are mentioned several times in published texts: cf. HME.VI.260, where they are called "the Three Rings of earth, air, and sky". But so far as I known their elvish names only appear once (Marq. 3/1/12:3)  and, again so far as I know, haven't been published.

Which just goes to show, I guess, how rich an archive the Marquette Tolkien manuscripts are: going on sixty years now of folks coming in and poring over them, and there's still a hoard of treasure there left to find.

Excelsior!, as they (used to) say.

--John R.

current reading: THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW (naturally). Also just starting the Derleth chapter of THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS (My, Mr. Joshi dislikes Mr. Derleth with a deep and abiding dislike).

*Which, unfortunately, I can't give here because that would be unauthorized publication. Maybe someone'll do a piece one day on the significance of the shift for Galadriel's ring from the Ring of Earth (perhaps meant to link her to Palurien?) to the Ring of Water.


N.E. Brigand said...

Are these names that preceded Narya, Nenya, and Vilya, the ones used in The Lord of the Rings itself?

Unknown said...

Actually, the Quenya names of all three Elven Rings appear in LotR: Narya (fire), Nenya (water), and Vilya (air).

Also note that Herumiillion is a slight misreading of the tengwar, which actually reads: Heru i Million

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear N.E.B.

Yes, the names I was referring to preceded the well-known ones Tolkien used in the published book. I was referring to the original Elvish names that Narya/Nenya/VIlya replaced.

Dear Carl:
I was using Taum's transcription, since it helped stress my point about how long this information had been out there; Wayne & Christina's agree with your reading. But I do have a question for the linguists: both Taum and Wayne & Christina double the 'l' and I don't see any tengwar marking as to why. If you cd point me to a good description of the phrase I'd gladly put in a link to it.


John D. Rateliff said...


Dear Carl
Taking another look at it this morning, I see the doubling bar within the loop of the 'L' tengwa, so I'd simply missed that. And you're right about there being an extra 'i' diacritical attached to the 'm' tengwa. Thanks for the corrective.
--John R.

Deniz Bevan said...

Ooh, envious. I'd love to pore over the archives myself. Thanks for sharing this tit bit!

Anonymous said...

Thanks you very much for this illuminating post, John (and Carl, for the very helpful clarification). While I do have and enjoy "The Art of The Lord of the Rings" I don't recall noting the title page design with the title in Quenya (which I now see on p. 207), nor do recall seeing any other reference to it in my studies (which are admittedly far less extensive than many, but still not inconsequential). This seems to me to be an important point and I am glad that you have highlighted it.

ATMachine said...

Just guessing based on the Elvish roots of "earth, sea, and sky", I'd assume the early-draft names would be something like Ambarya, Eärya, and Menelya - but obviously you can't confirm that. :)

Wayne and Christina said...

John, we gave the earlier names of the Three Rings from the Marquette manuscript in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 671.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear ATM:
As you can see from the new post I put up today, you were close, giving variant forms of two out of three. Thanks for sharing these, which help remind us of the unpredictable element in Tolkien's languages that add to their this-feels-like-a-real-language appeal.

--John R.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Wayne and Christina

Thanks for the citation. Someone had sent me that information last night and I was just waiting to check the page number in the archives today before making a new post (which shd go up any time now).

Sorry to have missed this; all I can say is that your book, like the Archives itself, is so full of good things it's easy to overlook individual treasures amid the general excellence.

--John R.

Jason Fisher said...

Catching up on this post and these comments very late, but I also discussed the Three Rings and their various earlier names in draft (citing Wayne and Christina) in my piece in Tolkien Studies, "Three Rings for — Whom Exactly? And Why?: Justifying the Disposition of the Three Elven Rings" (Volume 5, 2008).