Meet Tolkien’s SPIRITVS SANCTVS

I’ve always got this imagery in my mind about Quenya.

Tolkien as the Father of everything composed so far, the sole cradle of the elvish language.

Christopher, his son as the Son (of course), the one who brought forth dozens of unpublished material who helped them all to grasp better what Tolkien devised.

Helge Fauskanger as the Holy Spirit, the living Force  who compiled everything, analyzed it, exposed it, taught it… the great herald of Quenya knowledge since….

Wait a minute, who’s Fauskanger anyway? Below, meet the man! I mean…the holy spirit of Tolkien and understand why he may be called so:

 “Helge (17. august 1971 -) er en norsk forfatter og filolog. Han studerer religionsvitenskap ved Universitetet i Bergen. Helge har tatt klassisk hebraisk og gresk, og har skrevet en hovedoppgave der han sammenligner forskjellige norske bibeloversettelser. Selv om Helge er generelt interessert i religion som kulturelt fenomen, beskriver han seg selv som agnostiker og skeptiker.”

Just kidding….. I don’t understand Norwegian and probably you do neither!

So here it is:

Helge Fauskanger lives in Norway, and he is, as he calls himself, a “long-term student” of Tolkien’s languages.  “From an early age, I was interested in mysterious scripts, symbols, and words,”  he says.  In fact, his first introduction to Tolkien as a teenager was with the languages used in The Lord of the Rings.  “I remember that I was instantly captivated by the samples of Elvish writing on the title page, and I got Volume 3 out of the library and started studying the Appendices on scripts and languages before I ever read the novel as such!”

At the time when he began his pursuit, learning Tolkien’s languages was especially challenging.  Most of Tolkien’s writings that specifically dealt with his languages had not been published yet, and few outside resources existed.  Thus, one method presented itself to Mr. Fauskanger:  analyzing examples.  “The Rosetta stone method” he calls it.  In Quenya, for instance, the observant student can deduce many rules of grammar by simply dissecting similar words.  “By considering such words as Elda ‘Elf’ pl. Eldar or Vala ‘angel, god’, pl. Valar and many others, we can tell that one Quenya plural ending is -r.  We knew that long before there finally turned up explicit notes of Tolkien’s to the same effect.”

Since then, many more of Tolkien’s writings have been published by his son Christopher, including The Lost Road (1988), which included the all-important (at least to students of his languages) “Etymologies.”  That word list suddenly made the languages fairly functional.  “Starting in 1991,” Mr. Fauskanger states, “[Christopher Tolkien] sent photocopies of thousands of pages of material to a group of American Tolkien-linguists who have since, with irregular intervals, been presenting transcribed and edited versions of Tolkien’s writings in the journals Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon.  Seventeen years into the project, estimates of how much material remains to be published range from 50 to 70 per cent of the total.”  Mr. Fauskanger obviously acquires each new publication as quickly as he can get his hands on it.

Despite the growing bulk of source material, complications still exist.  Tolkien constantly revised his languages, and his writings on the subject span several decades.  Thus, many of the word forms found in his earlier writings cannot be considered valid in his later, more highly developed versions of the languages.  Since Tolkien never really stopped revising them, it is often difficult to arrive at definitive answers.  “Many sources plainly contradict one another, so part of our task is to distinguish between the various ‘conceptual phases’, as we call them,” Mr. Fauskanger explains.

Nevertheless, over the years Tolkien-linguists have been able to sort out the complexities of the languages pretty well, especially of Quenya and Sindarin, the two major Elvish languages.  Quenya and Sindarin are the ones to which Tolkien really devoted his attention, with Quenya being the more highly developed.  The plight of the Quenya or Sindarin neophyte is no longer as formidable as it once was, thanks largely to Helge Fauskanger.  Tolkien-language enthusiasts may be familiar with Mr. Fauskanger’s name, but even more know of his website, Ardalambion, which students of Elvish generally consider to be one of the best resources online.  Ardalambion features wordlists, courses, pieces written in Elvish or translated, and numerous articles.  Translations of many of the articles are also available.

Mr. Fauskanger focuses primarily on Quenya and says he spends approximately ten minutes a day translating texts into Quenya.  He believes it to be the most beautiful of Tolkien’s languages, just as Tolkien himself did.  He is, however, very interested in seeing more writings on Sindarin published.  Although Mr. Fauskanger has as thorough a knowledge of the two Elvish languages as just about anyone, he clarifies that he does not actually “speak” any of Tolkien’s languages, in the strictest sense of the word.  “While I do believe that Quenya in particular could be developed into a spoken idiom,” he explains, “enthusiasts tend to be widely scattered and are rarely able to practice spoken ‘Elvish’ (foreseeable advances in telepresence and virtual reality are likely to fix that problem, though).”

In addition to being a Tolkien-linguist, Mr. Fauskanger has a knowledge of a number of other languages.  He is fluent in Norwegian, his native tongue, and English.  From the University of Bergen he received a degree in Nordic languages.  He has studied Classical Hebrew and Greek as well as some German.

Speaking of his success as a Tolkien-linguist, Mr. Fauskanger says, “Whatever field you work in, you obviously hope that eventually, you will stop being a Nobody and actually be counted as a Somebody–one whose opinions are at least noted.  But I guess I never expected that my articles would be translated into lots of languages.”  He cautions people that he is not perfect, and he is aware of the influence he has and the responsibility that comes with it.  “People should not treat me as a substitute for Tolkien himself, calling on me to pronounce ‘definite’ answers or decisions on matters that are left vague in the Professor’s writings.  This is especially true in the current situation, where a large part of Tolkien’s linguistic material is still unpublished and hence unavailable to me.”  While valid points, Mr. Fauskanger’s modest statement does not negate the fact that the surprising number of people who share his interest are indebted to him for his efforts.  Both the curious novice and the serious student will find that he has supplied them with invaluable resources.  Even someone with no interest at all will find it difficult not to admire the obvious passion Mr. Fauskanger has for Tolkien’s languages.

Source of the material above: to be published…

2 Comments

Filed under Linguistics, Quenya

2 responses to “Meet Tolkien’s SPIRITVS SANCTVS

  1. Pingback: The story of Númenor: another possible prequel? | quenya101

  2. Pingback: From Primitive Quendian to… | quenya101

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