Additional information on all of this can be found at the site There and Back Again, which is where much of this originated from.
At the end of the Third Age (when the War of the Rings took place) the common tongue (as it is called within the pages of the Lord of the Rings) is Westron. Most references to Elvish are to Sindarin. The "form of Elvish" on the One Ring is the Black Speech. Frodo's greeting to the exiled elves which he met on his way to Bree was in Quenya.
Additional information on Tolkien's languages can be found at Ardalambion. There is enough information to learn, and use, Quenya and Sindarin. Ardalambion also has a Quenya course.
|Language||Description||Can be learned by
(this column can be ignored, it is for personal reference for an RPG I play)
|Adûnaic (Nûmenórean)||Common tongue for Men until the fall of Númenór. Found only in ancient texts in Gondor.||Anyone; never used|
|The Black Speech||Devised by Sauron in the Second Age, used by some evil creatures.||Anyone; despised by all|
|Doriathrin (Doriathric)||The language of Doriath. Archaic Sindarin.||Anyone in Doriath|
|Drúadainic||Guttural tongue of the wild men of the Drûadan Forest (Woses).||Anyone on good terms with the Woses of the Drûadan Forest|
|Dunlending||Spoken by the Dunlendings.||Anyone; common in Dunland|
|Entish||Ents only - way too long, complicated, and confusing, even for Elves.||Ents only|
|Haradrian||Spoken in Harad - allies of Sauron to the South.||Anyone; common in Harad|
|Khandian||Spoken in Khand - the land south-east of Mordor.||Anyone; common in Kahnd|
|Khûzdûl (Dwarvish)||Known only to Dwarves.||Dwarves and their close friends|
|Nandorin (Green-elven)||Similar to Sindarin. Spoken by the Nandor. Eventually replaced by Sindarin by the time of The War of the Ring (last in Mirkwood and Lothlórien).||Anyone; somewhat common in the Second Age|
|Orkish (dialects only)||Spoken by orcs. Each tribe has it's own dialect - In The War of the Ring they would communicate between tribes in a mangled Westron.||Anyone on good terms with orcs|
|Quenya (High-elven)||The Ancient Tongue. Most archaic Elvish language. In Aman it had two dialects: Vanyarin and Nandorin. Nandorin Quenya is spoken in ME. After King Thingol's ban on Quenya for the Kinslaying, spoken mainly in ceremony, lore, and song. In later ages some Men, especially the Dûnedain knew and used it. Descendants of Aragorn preserved it in to the Fourth Age. Spoken mainly by High Elves.||Anyone on good terms with Elves; somewhat common|
|Rohirric||Elements of Rohirric appear in Hobbitish (dialect of Westron). Represented by (very) Old English. Spoken in Rohan.||Anyone; somewhat common|
|Sindarin (Grey-elven)||The Noble Tongue. Primary language in the First and Second ages, even to Men. Most commonly known Elvish language in the Third Age, but not so widely known.||Anyone; very common|
|Telerin||Originally a dialect of Quenya, it became a language unto itself when the Teleri dwelt in Tol Eressëa.||Elves|
|Valarin||Language of the Valar and the Maiar. Known to Melian the Maia and the Istari. Influenced Quenya, Adûnaic, and the Black Speech, though it was never spoken often in ME.||Ainur (Valar and Maiar), some Elves know it|
|Westron||The Common Tongue of the Third Age. Descended from Adûnaic (Nûmenórean).||Anyone; The Common Tongue in the Third Age|
The word "elvish" in Quenya would be "eldarin", as well as it is "edhellen" in Sindarin. "Quendian" would be a Quenya-English mix-form, consisting of "Quendi" meaning "elves" and the english "-an/-en", which is acutally a possible adjective-suffix. - Lothenon of the LotR Fanatics Plaza Forums
Quick reference: Dark-elves, Deep-elves, Green-elves, Grey-elves, High Elves, Tree-elves/Tree-people, Wood-elves.
For definitions of some words (such as Quendi or Eldar) see the Definitions section at the bottom.
|Avari - Dark-elves, "The Unwilling"||Refused the offer of the Light of the Valinor. Stayed by the Waters of Awakening. No leader, but roamed in solitude or small bands the wilderness east of the Blue Mountains. Notable among them was Eöl, who wed the Noldo Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, sister of Turgon of Gondolin, and their son was Maeglin, and crafted the swords Anguirel and Anglachel (The sword made from meteoric iron that Thingol received from Eöl and which he gave to Beleg; after it's reforging for Túrin named Gurthang.||Eöl|
|Elves of Mirkwood - Wood-elves||Silvan elves of mostly Telerin descent. Founded early in SA. During TA the Necromancer dwelt in Dol Guldor in southern Mirkwood. It was after his evil presence began to seep into the wood that it's name changed from Greenwood the Great to Mirkwood, and dark and fell creatures dwelt within. Ruled by Thranduil, son of Oropher who died in the Battle of the Last Alliance. In the Fourth Age Celeborn and the Galadhrim who remained in ME joined Thranduil and his people, and Celeborn renamed it Eryn Lasgalen, "Wood of Greenleaves".||Thranduil, Legolas|
|Galadhrim - Tree-people||Silvan elves of Telerin descent who dwelt east of the Blue Mountains in the woods of Lothlórien. Ruled by Amroth until he was lost at sea as he searched for his love, Nimrodel (TA 1981). After his death, Galadriel, a Noldo, and her husband, Celeborn, a Sinda, became Lady and Lord of Lothlórien.||Amroth, Galadriel, Celeborn, Haldir|
|High Elves||Those who completed the Great Journey from Cuiviénen (also called the Waters of Awakening - it is where the Elves first awoke) to Aman in the West (Aman is the Blessed Realm where the Valar dwell in the Undying Lands). Those who set out on the Journey, but did not complete it are the Teleri. The High Elves are the Vanyar, Noldor, and Lindar.||See Vanyar, Noldor, and Lindar|
|Lindar - Sea-elves, "The Singers"||Built Alqualondë upon the eastern shores of Aman. Great mariners - makers of great white ships like swans, which they treasured above all other things. Victims of the Kinslaying. Dwell still in Aman with Olwë.||Olwë|
|Nandor - Green-elves, "Those who turn back"||Telerin elves left the rest of the Telerin host east of the Misty Mountains and roamed the forested lands nearby. The elves of Ossiriand, Mirkwood, and Lothlórien are mainly of Nandorin descent. They created their own language, based on Common Telerin, but the influence of the Sindar over the long years of the Ages wore down on Nandorin culture, so that by the time of the War of the Ring, in the two remaining strongholds of the Nandor (Mirkwood and Lórien) the main language was Sindarin and many of the distinctions of the Nandorin people had passed away. Lived in Ossiriand in the First Age.||Denethor|
|Noldor - Deep Elves||[Way too much history to repeat here - Founders of Gondolin and Nargothrond; settlers of Hithlum, Himring, and Dorthonion; siegers of Angband; also responsible (due to Fëanor and his sons) for the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, and the burning of the ships at Losgar] Greatest in skill and knowledge among the elves, but also the most cursed (The Curse of Mandos). Tolkien originally almost called them gnomes, but decided against it since he feared people would misunderstand his use of the word even more than they would surely misunderstand his use of calling the Quendi "elves". His intention in calling them gnomes was because the word gnome also means "A precisely meaningful saying that expresses a general truth or fundamental principle; an aphorism". So, in calling them gnomes, he hopes to further correlate them with knowledge, but he knew it would not go well.||Fëanor (and his seven sons), Finwë, Fingolfin, Galadriel, Gil-Galad|
|Sindar - Grey-elves, Elves of the Twilight||Of Telerin descent. Departed after their brethren, the Noldor, from Cuiviénen for Valinor, but the Sindar never saw the Blessed Realm. Their King Elwë, wandered in to the woods of Nan Elmoth in East Beleriand, and came upon Melian the Maia singing in the woods surrounded by her nightingales. Her beauty struck him dumb, and for many long years they stood in the forest and gazed at each other, as if in a trance. His people searched for him, but to no avail. his brother, Olwë, took the main host of the Teleri and continued West in search of Valinor, but some Teleri remained in the hope that their lord would be found, as indeed he was, after many journeys of the stars across the skies. He emerged from the woods with Melian as his Queen and together they ruled over the Teleri of Doriath. /// Elwë, or Elu Thingol (Thingol Greycloak), as he came to be called, ruled with wisdom and great power under the guidance of Melian the Maia. They dwelt in the many halled underground palace of Menegroth, and when rumours of fear and terror from the mountains reached their ears, Melian enclosed Doriath within a web of magic, called the Girdle of Melian. Few ever passed within that realm without the knowledge and permission of Melian, and thus it came to be called The Hidden Kingdom. Not even the Noldor, upon their return, were permitted in large numbers to enter Doriath, for they angered Thingol by slaying his kin at Alqualondë. /// But the Sindar of Doriath made up only one of the two dwellings of the Sindar in Middle-Earth. The rest dwelt by the sea with Círdan the Shipwright as their lord. First their home was at the Falas. Then, after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, he and his people moved to the Isle of Balar, and then during the Second and Third Ages after the Ruin of Doriath, they dwelt in Mithlond, the Grey Havens. /// In the year 583 of the First Age, the War of Wrath was fought and won by the Valar against Morgoth. He was cast into the void beyond the edge of the world, and never seen in Arda again. But it was not just Morgoth that was destroyed-the battle raged so fiercely that all of Beleriand was destroyed and swallowed by the sea. The Sindar who survived then dispersed to the other Elven havens throughout the changed world of Middle-earth.||Lúthien Tinúviel, Thingol Greycloak, Círdan, Celeborn|
|Teleri - "Those who come last"||The third and greatest of the Elf hosts which set out upon the Great Journey to the West. The Teleri were lead by Elwë and his brother Olwë and later also by Círdan. Some remained in Middle-earth and became the Sindar and the Nandor, while others journeyed across the Sundering Seas and became the Lindar||Lúthien Tinúviel, Thingol Greycloak, Círdan, Olwë, Lenwë|
|Vanyar - "The Fair"||The first group of Elves to make the journey from Cuiviénen to Valinor. They are held by the Valar to be the highest of the High Elves (Vanyar, Noldor, Lindar), and their King, Ingwë, is named High King of the Elves. He dwells on Taniquetil, below the halls of Manwë. Their hair is of golden hue, and that is how they received their name, Vanyar - The Fair. They remained in Valinor after the departure of the Noldor, and thus are not accounted in the history of Middle-earth. They will dwell in Valinor among the Ainur until the end of the world.||Ingwë, Indis|
Valar 'Those with Power', 'The Powers' (feminine Valier)(singular Vala); name given to those great Ainur who entered into Eä at the beginning of Time, and assumed the function of guarding and governing Arda. Called also the Great Ones, the Rulers of Arda, the Lords of the West, the Lords of Valinor. See the list below for information on each of the Valar and Valier.
Aratar 'The Exalted', the eight Valar of greatest power. Manwë, Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna, Aulë, Mandos, Nienna and Oromë. Though Manwë was held to be the King of Arda, all these eight were held in equal reverence, and were said to possess a majesty that surpassed even the other Valar.
Maiar Ainur of lesser degree than the Valar (singular Maia). Notable: Melian, who was the only Ainur to wed an elf (see information on the Sindar), Sauron, who was seduced by Morgoth, the Istari (Gandalf, Saruman, Radaghast, and two others who went to the east of Middle-earth).
For definitions of some words (such as Eru, Ilúvatar, or Eä) see the Definitions section at the bottom.
|Manwë (Surnamed Súlimo; also called the Elder King, the Ruler of Arda)||Manwë is dearest to Ilúvatar and understands most clearly his purposes. He was appointed to be, in fullness of time, the first of all Kings: lord of the realm of Arda and ruler of all that dwell therein. In Arda his delight is in the winds and the clouds, and in all the regions of the air, from the heights to the depths, from the utmost borders of the Veil of Arda to the breezes that blow in the grass. Súlimo he is surnamed, Lord of the Breath of Arda. All swift birds, strong of wing, he loves, and the come and go at his bidding.||Varda ('The Exalted', 'The Lofty'; also called the Lady of the Stars, Elbereth, Elentári, Tintallë)||With Manwë dwells Varda, Lady of the Stars, who knows all the regions of Eä. Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Ilúvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy. Of all the Great Ones who dwell in this world the Elves hold Varda most in reverence and love. Elbereth they name her, and they call upon her name out of the shadows of Middle-earth, and uplift it in song at the rising of the stars.|
|Manwë and Varda are seldom parted, and they remain in Valinor. Their halls are above the everlasting snow, upon Oiolossë, the uttermost tower of Teniquetil, tallest of all the mountains upon the Earth. When Manwë there ascends his throne and looks forth, if Varda is beside him, he sees further than all other eyes, through mist, and through darkness, and over the leagues of the sea. And if Manwë is with her, Varda hears more clearly than all other ears the sound of voices that cry from east to west, from the hills and the valleys, and from the dark places that Morgoth has made upon the Earth.|
|Ulmo (also called Lord of Waters and King of the Sea)||Ulmo is the Lord of Waters. He is alone. He dwells nowhere long, but moves as he will in all the deep waters about the Earth or under the Earth. He is next in might to Manwë, and before Valinor was made he was closest to him in friendship; but thereafter he went seldom to the councils of the Valar, unless great matters were in debate. For he kept all Arda in thought, and he has no need of any resting-place. Moreover he does not love to walk upon land, and will seldom clothe himself in a body after the manner of his peers. If the Children of Eru beheld him they were filled with a great dread; for the arising of the King of the Sea was terrible, as a mounting wave that strides to the land, with dark helm foam-crested and raiment of mail shimmering from silver down into shadows of green. The trumpets of Manwë are loud, but Ulmo's voice is deep as the deeps of the ocean which he only has seen.
Nonetheless Ulmo loves both Elves and Men, and never abandoned them, not even when they lay under the wrath of the Valar. At times he will come unseen to the shores of Middle-earth, or pass far inland up firths of the sea, and there make music upon his great horns, the Ulumúri, that are wrought of white shell; and those to whom that music comes hear it ever after in their hearts, and longing for the sea never leaves them again. But mostly Ulmo speaks to those who dwell in Middle-earth with voices that are heard only as the music of water. For all seas, lake, rivers, fountains and springs are in his government; so that the Elves say that the spirit of Ulmo runs in all the veins of the world. Thus news comes to Ulmo, even in the deeps, of all the needs and griefs of Arda, which otherwise would be hidden from Manwë. It was Ulmo that bade Tuor Son of Huor and Rían to deliver a message to Gondolin, where Tuor met and wed the Elf Idril, Turgon's daughter, who gave birth to Eärendil the Blessed, father of Elrond and Elros.
|Aulë||Aulë has might little less than Ulmo. His lordship is over all the substances of which Arda is made. In the beginning he wrought much in fellowship with Manwë and Ulmo, and the fashioning of all lands was his labour. He is a smith and a master of all crafts, and he delights in works of skill, however small, as much as in the might building of old. His are the gems that lie deep in the Earth and the gold that is fair in the hand, no less than the walls of the mountains and the basins of the sea. The Noldor learned most of him, and he was ever their friend. He did not envy the works of others, but sought and gave counsel. It was Aulë that created the Dwarves in the darkness of Middle-earth, during the Years of the Trees, before the First Age, and before the awakening of the Elves. Ilúvatar spoke with Aulë, and forgave his presumptions, and gave the Dwarves life, for Aulë could not. And since Ilúvatar would not allow the Dwarves to come before the Firstborn (the Elves), Aulë took the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, and laid them to rest in far-sundered places; and he returned to Valinor, and waited while the long years lengthened until the day they would awake.||Yavanna (Surnamed Kementári)||The spouse of Aulë is Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits. She is the lover of all things that grow in the earth, and all their countless forms she holds in her mind, from the trees like towers in forests long ago to the moss upon stones or the small and secret things in the mould. In reverence Yavanna is next to Varda among the Queens of the Valar. In the form of a woman she is tall, and robed in green; but at times she takes other shapes. Some there are who have seen her standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn; but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwë spoke in its leaves. Kementári, Queen of the Earth, she is surnamed in the Eldarin tongue.|
|The Fëanturi: Mandos (Námo) and Lórien (Irmo)||The Fëanturi, masters of spirits, are brethren, and they are called most often Mandos and Lórien. Yet these are rightly the names of the places of their dwelling, and their true names are Námo and Irmo.|
|Mandos (also called Námo)||Námo the elder of the Fëanturi dwells in Mandos, which is westward in Valinor. He is the keeper of the Houses of the Dead, and the summoner of the spirits of the slain. He forgets nothing; and he knows all things that shall be, save only those that lie still in the freedom of Ilúvatar. He is the Doomsman of the Valar; but he pronounces his dooms and his judgments only at the bidding of Manwë.||Vairë||The spouse of Mandos is Vairë the Weaver, who weaves all things that have ever been in Time into her storied webs, and the halls of Mandos that ever widen as the ages pass are clothed with them.|
|Lórien (Irmo)||Irmo the younger of the Fëanturi is the master of visions and dreams. In Lórien are his gardens in the land of the Valar, and they are the fairest of all places in the world, filled with many spirits.||Estë||The spouse of Irmo is Estë the gentle, healer of hurts and of weariness. Grey is her raiment; and rest is her gift. She walks not by day, but sleeps upon an island in the tree-shadowed lake of Lórellin.|
|From the fountains of Irmo and Estë all those who dwell in Valinor draw refreshment; and often the Valar come themselves to Lórien and there find repose and easing of the burden of Arda.|
|Nienna [Valier]||Mightier than Estë is Nienna, sister of the Fëanturi; she dwells alone. She is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Morgoth. So great was her sorrow as the Music unfolded that her song turned to lamentation long before its end, and the sound of mourning was woven into the themes of the World before it began*. But she does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope. Her halls are west of West, upon the borders of the world; and she comes seldom to the city of Valimar where all is glad. She goes rather to the halls of Mandos, which are near to her own; and all those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom. The windows of her house look outward from the walls of the world.|
|Tulkas (Surnamed Astaldo)||Greatest in strength and deeds is Tulkas, who is surnamed Astaldo, the Valiant. He came last to Arda, to aid the Valar. He delights in wrestling and in contests of strength; and he rides no steed, for he can outrun all things that go on feet, and he is tireless. His hair and beard are golden, and his flesh ruddy; his weapons are his hands. He has little heed for either the past or the future, and is of no avail as a counselor, but is a hardy friend.||Nessa||The spouse of Tulkas is Nessa, the sister of Oromë, and she also is lithe and fleetfooted. Deer she loves, and they follow her train whenever she goes in the wild; but she can outrun them, swift as an arrow with the wind in her hair. In dancing she delights, and she dances in Valimar on lawns of never-fading green.|
|Oromë (also called Aldaron and Tauron)||Oromë is a mighty lord. If he is less strong than Tulkas, he is more dreadful in anger; whereas Tulkas laughs ever, in sport or in war, and even in the face of Morgoth he laughed. Oromë loved the lands of Middle-earth, and he left them unwillingly and came last to Valinor; and often of old he passed back east over the mountains and returned with his host to the hills and the plains. He is a hunter of monsters and fell beasts, and he delights in horses and in hounds; and all trees he loves, for which reason he is called Aldaron, and by the Sindar Tauron, the Lord of Forests. Nahar is the name of his horse, white in the sun, and shining silver at night. The Valaróma is the name of his great horn, the sound of which is like the upgoing of the Sun in scarlet, or the sheer lightning cleaving the clouds. Above all the horns of his host it was heard in the woods that Yavanna brought forth in Valinor; for there Oromë would train his folk and his beasts for the pursuit of the evil creatures of Morgoth.||Vána||The spouse of Oromë is Vána, the Ever-young; she is the younger sister of Yavanna. All flowers spring as she passes and open if she glances upon them; and all birds sing at her coming.|
|These are the names of the Valar and the Valier, and here is told in brief their likenesses, such as the Eldar beheld them in Aman. But fair and noble as were the forms in which they were manifest to the Children of Ilúvatar, they were but a veil upon their beauty and their power. And if little is here said of all that the Eldar once knew, that is as nothing compared with their true being, which goes back into regions and ages far beyond our thought. Among them Nine were of chief power and reverence; but one is removed from their number, and Eight remain, the Aratar, the High Ones of Arda: Manwë and Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna and Aulë, Mandos, Nienna, and Oromë. Though Manwë is their King and holds their allegiance under Eru, in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others, whether of the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä|
*The Music: See Definitions below
Arda 'The Realm', name of the Earth as the Kingdom of Manwë.
Beleriand The region that was north of Eriador and Rhovanion, where the events of the War of the Ring took place, as chronicled in the Lord of the Rings. Beleriand is now long lost beneath the sea.
Eä The World, the material Universe; Eä meaning in Elvish 'It is' or 'Let is be', was the word of Ilúvatar when the World began its existence.
Eldar According to Elvish legend the name Eldar 'People of the Stars' was given to all the Elves by the Vala Oromë. It came however to be used to refer only to the Elves of the Three Kindreds (Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri) who set out on the great westward march from Cuiviénen (whether or not they remained in Middle-earth), and to exclude the Avari. The Elves of Aman, and all Elves who ever dwelt in Aman, were called the High Elves (Tareldar) and Elves of the Light (Calaquendi).
Eru 'The One', 'He that is Alone': Ilúvatar.
Ilúvatar 'Father of All', Eru.
The Music of the Ainur This is a bit hard to define shortly... Hmm... Well, read the Ainulindalë (the first part in the book The Silmarillion) for more information on this. It's only about ten pages, but that's too much for me to want to type it up here.
Quendi Original Elvish name for Elves (of every kind, including the Avari), meaning 'Those that speak with voices'.
If you are interested in Tolkien's mythologies, I suggest starting with the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Once you've finished those, if you want to know more, pick up The Silmarillion (my favorite, but the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings serve as a much better introduction). As you work through these three books (the Lord of the Rings is actually one book, although it is often released as three, due to its length), it is my opinion that the quality rises steadily. The Hobbit was a very good book. The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, was just incredible. And The Silmarillion is as far beyond LotR as LotR is beyond the Hobbit. Some people claim that The Silmarillion is a hard book to read, and in the beginning it is a bit difficult to get used to all the new names and places, but I frankly didn't find it difficult to read. I would occasionally refer to the back where there was an excellent listing of names and places and things discussed through out the book, with descriptions and page numbers (I mainly referred to this because there were several Elves with similar names, and I am terrible with names, and couldn't keep them apart easily).
This information was compiled using the resources There and Back Again, Ardalambion, and The Silmarillion (an excellent book by J.R.R. Tolkien, from which the great majority of this was learned).
In the Languages and Elves sections I have quoted extensively from There and Back Again. Thus, much of the writing is to their credit, I merely arranged it here.
In the table listing the Valar and Valier I have quoted extensively from The Silmarillion.
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