Tal-Elmar and the Drughu tongue

Roman Rausch

Nov. 4th 2005

A fair voice he had, which even made the rough tongue of his people more sweet to hear.




The unfinished story of Tal-Elmar (PM:422-438), written c. 1955, grants us some brief glimpses into the language of a Mannish tribe in the Second Age. These half-savage Wild Men lived either at the mouths of the Isen or of the Morthond (what would later be southern Gondor) – Tolkien was not sure about the location. According to the descriptions of their mode of life and appearance they must be Drúedain and their possible living location at the mouths of Isen would be part of Drúwaith Iaur.
With only a few translations given, hardly a word of their language can be interpreted at all, but nevertheless I will try to make the best of it.

1  People

At first, some personal names are given:
Tal-argan Longbeard’ (PM:437) – it is not clear whether ’Longbeard’ is a translation of Tal-argan or an additional surname. This has been changed to Hazad ’Longbeard’ (PM:423), which could be related to the stem *HAZ’D-, occurring in Adunaic with derivatives hazad, hazid ’seven’ (SD:247) and Khuzdul Khazâd ’Dwarves’ – there were originally Seven Fathers of the Dwarves in the beginning. We get to know that Hazad took great pride in his five-feet long beard – perhaps a result of an influence by Dwarvish culture and language? Has Hazad perhaps even the meaning ’dwarf/dwarf-like’?

Another name is Tal-Buldar, changed to Buldar only (PM:437). If interpretable at all, it could be related to *BUR’D with Adûnaic burōda ’very heavy’. A third untranslated name is Mogru (PM:429).

There is finally a woman of the Edain called Elmar, who was captured by Buldar and taken as wife. Their son Hazad calls his youngest child, who becomes similar to his grand-mother in appearance and behaviour, by the name Tal-Elmar. Interestingly it is not only a female name which is adapted, but also a foreign one, maybe of Elvish origin. The first outline of this family (Tal-BuldarTal-arganTal-Elmar) shows Tal- as a kind of prefixed family name, while the in the revision (BuldarHazadTal-Elmar) Tal-Elmar could mean *’scion of Elmar’ or maybe *’like Elmar / face of Elmar / eyes of Elmar’ or something similar.

We also get to know the patronymic formations Hazad uBuldar and Tal-Elmar uHazad (PM:429) where u may be a genitival inflection *’of’, perhaps related to Khuzdul genitive(?) -u as in Khazaddūmu ’of Moria’ (PE17:47) or -ul, an adj. or genitive ending used as a patronymic in Fundinul ’son of Fundin’ (ibid.).

The Wild Men call the Númenóreans by the word Go-hilleg (PM:427), not translated. In The Lord of the Rings a Dunlending word forgoil ’Strawheads’ occurs as a term for the Rohirrim. The speech of the Wild Men of Drúadan Forest (located to the other side of the Ered Nimrais) was remotely akin to the language of the Dunlendings (LotR App.F). Do we see a common element #go *’head’ here? Hilleg would then be some adjective classifying the Númenóreans.
Alternatively Go-hilleg could mean *’Worshippers of Death’ or *’Men of the Dark’ – these paraphrases occur several times. Perhaps -hil- is even related to the Elvish stem KHIL- ’follow’ we find in The Etymologies and hilleg means *’followers’ (pl.)?
A Drúedanic word from another source – gorgûn ’*orcs’ has a completely different plural formation, however – with the suffix -n, as this word is likely to be an elaboration of the root (g)uruku- (compare WJ:391).

2  Places

Two village names are mentioned: Agar and Udul (PM:433). Apart from the apparent vocalic colouring of the radicals G-R and D-L by a and u respectively, nothing can be stated about them.

A valley named Rishmalog >> Ishmalog is mentioned as a battle-place where a host of the Edain suffered a defeat by the Wild Men. This could be Mornan, the valley whence the river Morthond ’Black-root’ flows; with #*ishma (#*ish?) *’black’ and #*log (#*malog?) ’valley’ – but this is extremely speculative, of course. It could be as well any other valley (Imloth Melui for example). But Mornan lies near the Gate of the Dead Men – the Wild Men of the Mountains – those who broke their oath given to Isildur.

Gorbelgod (<< Dur nor-Belgoth) is a place of great swans, about which legends tell (PM:426,437). One can isolate a common element belgod(-th), so that the revised name must be analyzed as gor + belgod.
If this is Nîn-in-Eilph (Swanfleet, lit. ’water-lands of the Swans’), a region farther in the north where this tribe of the Wild Men could have had their ancient home (Dunland lies close to it), the word might consist out of gor *’water’ or something similar and belgod *’swan’, possibly inflected. In the rejected form Dur could mean ’land, dwelling-place’, compare S. dor with the same meaning (UT:428), so maybe in the revised form gor means *’land’ as well; nor must be a genitive particle then.
Belfalas, the coast region south of the mouth of Morthond, contains the element bel, which possibly had a meaning similar to falas ’shore’ in an alien tongue (VT42:15). Many names in southern Gondor are derived from one of the languages spoken in the region before the occupation of Gondor by the Númenóreans, which began long before the Downfall (VT42:15). The beginning of this occupation, a fleet of three Númenórean ships, is described in the story of Tal-Elmar. So maybe we see a trace of bel in #belgod *’swan’.

Other pre-Númenórean places in southern Gondor are the river Adorn, the beacons Eilenach, Eilenaer, Erelas, the regions Arnach, Lamedon, the stone of Erech. However, none of these words can be put into relation with those above – their structure is more Sindarin-like and does not remind of the rough Drughu tongue at all.


Andreas Möhn (Lalaith) Etymologies of the Atani languages http://lalaith.vpsurf.de/Tolkien/Fr_Atani.html
Helge Fauskanger Various Mannish Tongues http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/mannish.htm


This document was translated from LATEX by HEVEA.