There are things you always wonder, but never speak out..because you cannot simply find a satisfactory answer. Take this famous scene of the Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf get stuck in Moria Gate because of a password/riddle which is plainly written in the door itself!!!!
I never understood why a 51-year-old hobbit (Bilbo Baggins) could decipher all those hard riddles of Gollum so quickly (and smartly I should say), while an immortal Maia with aeons of age could not get the Sindarin sentence: Pedo mellon a minno (Speak friend and enter). Seriously,…
A-HA! I found out why!
At least, that’s the best theory of all!
And you know what? It’s all about our old Linguistics, O my elvish brothers! Shall we check?
Here’s the inscription:
Ennyn Durin Aran Moria: pedo mellon a minno. Im Narvi hain echant: Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thiw hin
“The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin [Eregion] drew these signs.”
To understand the matter, we gotta analyze closely some features of Sindarin. For instance, Sindarin (unlike Quenya) is not a language with case declination. There are no special suffixes attached to words in order to indicate if they syntactically work as a subject, direct object, indirect object and so on. Sindarin has got dozens of mechanisms to ensure a smooth phonetic flow (as you can realize when listening someone talking in Sindarin. E.g.: Arwen & Aragorn in the movies). Those mechanisms are called consonant mutations. How does that work? It goes like this: depending on the preceding word, the first consonant changes to another one! In essence, the whole appearance of the word changes. Consider this crude example using English:
Let’s take the word banana and play with it a bit. Let’s mutate it according to some Sindarin rules. What do we get?
Banana is yellow. (Basic form)
The vanana is yellow. (Soft mutation happening due to the article)
The menenai are yellyw. (Nasal mutation happening due to the plural article)
Those 3 mutations are enough now. As you can see..that’s how Sindarin works (sorta).
What does it ALL have to do with Moria Gate and Gandalf?
Pedo mellon a minno is not lenited! One of the rules says: Words that functions as a direct object are mutated, and yes…this is some kind of accusative case, although technically it’s not.
So, to a Sindarin reader Pedo mellon a minno means “Speak, O friend, and enter” giving mellon a vocative sense. That’s what was understood by Gandalf. He’s not the one to blame.
The naughty writer (shame on you Celebrimbor) should have written: Pedo vellon a minno. Then, and only then, the word vellon is clearly the direct object of the verb.
I know…I know…it was a gate. It was supposed to be secret, and maybe the confused writing was intentional….but that just satisfies me very much. (Ok, Gandalf, you’re forgiven) And this particular interesting example just shows how IMPORTANT good spelling is, and it doesn’t matter the language! Right, kids?