This week, I'll be running a series of poems by fantasy authors
(Poem #257) Three Rings for the Elven Kings
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
This is undoubtedly the most famous piece of Tolkien's verse, known (or at least familiar) to many who have never read the books, and memorized by practically everyone who has. If I had to describe the poem in one word, it would be 'compelling' - the perfectly measured syllables, the ominous, brooding atmosphere, the sonorous, chantlike effect, almost lure the reader into ascribing an intrinsic power to the words themselves. The quote below illustrates the point beautifully " Ash nazg durbatulúk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul." The change in the wizard's voice was astounding. Suddenly it became menacing, powerful, harsh as stone. A shadow seemed to pass over the high sun, and the porch for a moment grew dark. All trembled, and the Elves stopped their ears. "Never before has any voice dared to utter the words of that tongue in Imladris, Gandalf the Grey," said Elrond, as the shadow passed and the company breathed once more. "And let us hope that none will ever speak it here again," answered Gandalf. - JRRT Notes: Like much of the poetry in the Lord of the Rings, 'Three Rings...' refers not to the book itself, but to the deeper body of history and mythology underlying it. It outlines the creation of the Rings of Power, in whose history tLotR is but the final chapter, and more about which can be found in the Silmarillion. For a picture of the One Ring, and the inscribed couplet, see <http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/rings/images/ring_image.jpg> For a nice page on the Rings of Power, see <http://www.daimi.au.dk/~bouvin/tolkien/ringsofpower.html> The following is an excerpt from a Tolkien Linguistics site: Our sole example of pure Black Speech, then, is the inscription on the Ring: Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them." (LotR1/II ch. 2) Nazg is "ring", also seen in Nazgûl "Ring-wraith(s)". Ash is the number "one", agh is the conjuction "and", disturbingly similar to Scandinavian og, och. Burzum is "darkness", evidently incorporating the same element búrz, burz- "dark" as in Lugbúrz "Tower-dark", the Black Speech name that Sindarin Barad-dûr translates. Hence, the -um of burzum must be an abstract suffix like the "-ness" of the corresponding English word "darkness". Burzum has a suffix ishi "in". In the transcription it is separated from burzum by a hyphen, but there is nothing corresponding in the Tengwar inscription on the Ring, so this may be considered either a postposition or a locative ending. (It is remarkably similar to Quenya -ssë and may support the theory advanced by Robert Foster in his Complete Guide to Middle-earth, that the Black Speech was to some extent based on Quenya and a perversion of it. The element burz- "dark" is also vaguely similar to the Elvish stem for "black", MOR.) Though burzum-ishi is translated "in the darkness", there does not seem to be anything corresponding to the article "the", unless it is somehow incorporated in ishi. But the evidence is that the Black Speech does not mark the distinction between definite and indefinite nouns; see below. -- <http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/orkish.htm> For more on Tolkien, see the previous poems in the archive at <http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels> And finally, a very tangential aside - if, like me, you enjoy Tolkien for the sheer poetry of his language, you might enjoy Patricia McKillip too. Her plots lack gripping power, IMO, but her language is truly beautiful. m.