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A Collection of Sindarin Tanka

A Collection of Sindarin Tanka

(with English Translations)

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Preface

Why tanka? And what are “tanka”?

“Tanka” is a modern name for a form of Japanese verse that dates back over twelve centuries. It is older than the more widely known “haiku” and also different in form and style. Tanka is considered to be one of the most important forms of Japanese poetry. By now western readers (and poets) have started to discover tanka and to explore what tanka may express in their own languages.

Tanka contain five syllabic units of altogether 31 syllables. In English they are mostly separated into five lines (5-7-5-7-7), while in Japanese they are often presented in one straight line.

Usually each unit of syllables represents one idea or image, text is not “wrapped” as it is common in English poetry. Its themes are wider than haiku, not only observations of nature, but all aspects of life.

I am fascinated with miniatures, tiny glimpses at life and the world in art and literature. In modern visual art the perfect example are the “icons” used in LiveJournals, blogs and messageboards. In literature, and especially in fan fiction, the drabbles. Tanka are even shorter than drabbles and thus more demanding. It is a real challenge to convey atmosphere in 31 syllables.

I like challenges, and that’s how I came to write tanka.

If you want to know more about tanka, americantanka dot com is a good place to start.

But why in Sindarin and not in English?

First of all, of course, because Tolkien’s “modern” Elvish language simply fascinates me. Even more than a writer and scholar, Tolkien was a linguistic genius and that is best expressed in the Sindarin language he developed.

But I also feel always a bit strange about transferring poetry from a language and culture that is so far away from my own into the words of my daily life, and so I decided to try writing Sindarin and not English tanka – and I was surprised how well they turned out.

My knowledge of Sindarin relies on Thorsten Renk’s online course, the material to be found at the Fellowship of the Wordsmiths, the Hisweloke/Dragonflame dictionary and the two books (grammar, dictionary and language lessons) by Helmut W. Pesch.

Of course I’m no expert on Sindarin. There are only very few persons around who are! But I did work with some of the best material about Sindarin that is available at the moment and took pains to keep the Neo-Sindarin to a minimum. All mistakes are mine and I am grateful for any discussion about lenition you, my readers, might come up with!

I hope you enjoy my experiments with tanka and Sindarin.

Yours
JunoMagic


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Rín

Cîr vith vi gírbann.
Celebros sui gilraen
Lim vi fin gî⋅morn.
Rínnathach an nin ennas,
Rínnathach athra aer?

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Translation:

Remembrance

Grey ships (are) in the harbour.
Silver spray like a net of jewels
(Is) sparkling in your dark hair.
Will you remember me there,
will you remember on the other side of the ocean?

A/N:

“rínna” is not recorded as a verb, but “rín” means “memory, remembrance”, so I was very daring and decided that “rínna” might well be the form of the verb. It could also be a strong verb, then it would be “rín” and the correct form of the future tense would be “rínithach”.

Tanka – The theme of the tanka is the sense of loss undoubtedly experienced by those of the Eldar that remained in Middle-earth while their loved ones passed away over the sea to Aman.

Illustration – The picture is a Photoshop composition based on a photograph by honigbrotpause at Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution licence) and the painting “Night” by Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1917).


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Olthad o’Laur

Pullim matho ‘laur
Ir in-yrn edlodhier.
Si oltham o ‘laur
Aníram ratho inâ‹…’ail
– Dan darim na-‘rui Edhil.

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Translation:

To Dream of Light

We could touch light
When the trees flowered.
Today we dream of light
– but we remain only the people of the stars.

A/N:

can, to be able to – “puli”, “pul-“ is referenced in the Hiswelókë dictionary as Neo-Sindarin
reach – “ratho”, “ratha-” is also referenced as Neo-Sindarin in the Hiswelókë dictionary; derived from Quenya “rakta”
only – “na-erui” is also Neo-Sindarin (na + erui); I took poetic license and allowed the sounds to flow together.

Tanka – This tanka reflects the loss of the light of the Two Trees to Melkor and Ungoliant.

Illustration – The background of this Photoshop collage is a public domain picture from the NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), an ESA/Hubble Collaboration. The hands belong to a picture by Natashalatrasha posted under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike licence at Flickr. The eye is a part of a picture by Don_Gato (Creative Commons Attribution licence at Flickr).


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Mithlond

Mithlond mi i-lum.
Amman in-chîr reviet,
No and, and andrann?
Ti reviet na Aman.
Na-erui ely darim.

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Translation:

Grey Havens

Mithlond in the twilight.
Where did the ships sail to,
A long, long time ago?
They sailed to Aman.
Only dreams remain.

A/N:

Tanka – This is tanka is intended to feel like a poem that could have been written by one of the last persons in Fourth Age Middle-earth who still know enough Sindarin to write poetry … when the Elves were already gone and the Grey Havens empty.

Illustration – The image is a screencap from “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Return of the King”.


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Lith

Lalaith nîn góras
An edrainn ú-rínnannen.
Meleth nîn góras
An lalaith sui lith gwannen.
Darim in Eä raen.

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Translation:

Ashes

My smile belongs
To forgotten centuries.
My love belongs
To a smile passed away like dust.
I remain imprisoned in Eä.

A/N:

Tanka – This tanka may refer either to an Elvish spouse grieving for a mortal husband/wife (yes! AU!). It can also be read as a Noldor still remaining in exile in Middle-earth grieving for his/her love who returned either only in fëa or also in body to Aman.

Illustration – The background of this collage is a Creative Commons Attribution from Flickr by Stephanie Costa. The hands holding vulcanic ashes are a public domain picture from the US Geological Survey (source: GeekPhilosopher.com). The smiles belongs to the painting “Pavonia” by Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896).


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Meril

Rovail enâ‹…ithil
Tûgat in ûl e⋅meril.
Flâd gîn morn flâd nîn.
Na⋅vathad nîn echadas
Elodhio meril gîn.

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Translation:

Rose

Wings of moonlight
Carry the scent of roses.
Your skin hot against my skin.
My touch makes
Your rose bloom.

A/N:

Tanka – I imagine that Elvish love poetry will emphasize nature and be suggestive rather than explicit.

Illustration – The roses in this collage are from a picture I took myself. The other images used are pictures posted under a “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike” licence at Flickr. The background with grass and moon is a picture by Hobo pd. The landscape with trees and moon is by “Steve took it” and the girl with her arms stretched out to the back is by sam_samantha.


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Níniël

Meneg en gelyn
Siriar na aear.
Dan ú-bant aer.
Meneg în bant en⋅nîn nîn.
Pannathar inâ‹…aear.

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Translation:

Tearful

Thousands of rivers
Flow down to the sea.
But the sea is never full.
Thousand years are filled with my tears.
They will fill the sea.

A/N:

Tanka – Based on an ancient Chinese proverb: “Thousands and thousands of rivers flow down to the sea, but the sea will never be filled. And even if men could turn stone to gold, they wouldnever be content.” It seems appropriate for many events in Elvish history, as well as for the sadness of sealonging experienced by those who remained in Middle-earth even after their heart had heard the call of the sea.

Illustration – All pictures used in this collage are posted under a “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike”-licence at Flickr. The background is by ecstaticist, the sad face by · Juampa Giusepponi, the woman sitting at the beach is by bettina_n and the gull is by clappstar.


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Aerlinn

Sogo i-limpe
Ortho flâd nîn an ethir
Nîn, born na faug gîn
Minno ydyn nîn thurin
Awartho ni, si a ‘n-uir.

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Translation:

Hymn

Drink the wine.
Raise my skin to your lips
Heated with thirst.
Enter my secret depths.
Give yourself to me, now and always.

A/N:

Tanka – Elvish erotic poetry referring to the custom of Elves to marry only once in their life and to seal their marriage with their bodily union. Therefore I have also chosen the title “Hymn”.

Illustration – The background of roses is from a picture I took myself. The other two pictures are posted under a “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike” licence at Flickr. The image with the parted lips is by “Its All About Mich!!!” and the female figure is by _KoAn_.


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Mi i·vôr

Im ereb mi vôrn
Ir caim haill gódat enni.
Cuil na-erui ôl.
Ir i·hûl mabas i·lith,
Ú-nad daritha o·ni.

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Translation:

In the Darkness

I am alone in the darkness
When invisible hands reach for me.
Life is but a dream.
When the wind carries the dust away,
Nothing will remain of me.

A/N:
hall – is really “veiled”; that was as close to “invisible” as I got
na-erui – is Neo-Sindarin according to Hiswelókë
mabo – to take (carry away) is Neo-Sindarin according to David Salo
ú-nad – “not a thing”; a construction of my very own

Tanka – This tanka refers to Gil-galad’s death on the plains of Dagorlad, where he was (probably) reduced to ashes by Sauron’s fire. But it may also refer to any houseless feä lost in Arda. It was inspired by “Sonnet in the Dark” by The Flash Girls.

Illustration – The images used in this collage are posted under a “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike” licence at Flickr. The open window is by Janesdead, the female figure by schizoo23 [rhha] and the walking figure between house and tree is by gebauer.


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