§ Bern Lamrach; Tarn Felin; Trandóran (TI:424)
These are earlier names of the bleak hills of Sarn Gebir (also Sarn-gebir, Sern Gebir (TI:283)). Sarn Gebir was originally applied to the highlands later called Emyn Muil ’Drear Hills’ (UT:434).
Associated with the early Elvish forms are English names ’Graydon Hills’, Grailaws’, ’Hazowland’ (= ashen-grey land), but the exact interpretation remains a riddle nevertheless.
Bern in the first form could be from BARÁN- yielding words for ’swart, brown’, the umlaut being caused by a final -i in the primitive *barani (> Q. varne), compare the experimental N. cern ’ruddy’, Q. karne (karani) (VT45:19, KARÁN-). The region further to the North is actually called ’Brownlands’ (TI:317,351). Lamrach looks as if it contains N. lham(b) ’tongue’ (LAB-) and #rach ’wain’ (UT:465) or #rhach ’curse’ (MR:373), but all taken together it does not make much sense. I rather suspect that this name is simply uninterpretable, for instance as Eilenach (VT42:19) or Erech (Let:297).
In the second form felin may be related to FURU-, HURU- wiith Early Qenya furin, hurin ’hidden, concealed’, FOƷO ’hide, hoard, store up, lay up in secret’ with Q. foina ’hidden, secret’, fôle ’stealth, a secret, secrecy’, fôlima ’secretive’ (QL:38-39). Note that muil may have been the adjective ’hidden’ from MUY- (whence Q. muina ’hidden, secret’, Dor. muilin ’secret, veiled’), before Tolkien re-interpreted it as ’drear’, although this is pure speculation (there is deleted N. †muin ’secret’ (VT45:36), however) and I cannot tell why this land should be specifically called ’hidden’.
Then we find Tarn in the second name and #Tran- in the third, which suggests that we are dealing with two different syncopations of a stem *TARAN-. In the King’s Letter we can later find i Drann as a translation of ’Shire’ (SD:129). #Trann could also be a general word *’province, region’ occurring in these early names. Hence, Tarn Felin might be very tentatively interpreted as the *’hidden province’.
Tarn also occurs in Tarn Aeluin, the lake on Dorthonion where Barahir and his companions made their lair, and where they were slain (Silm.index), earlier attested in The Lay of Beleriand (LB:339,345,350). But here, it must be English ’tarn’ (= a small steep-banked mountain lake or pool) rather than an Elvish word, compare the lines:
[…] above the darkling pines arose
of steep Dorthonion to the snows
and barren mountain-winds, there lay
a tarn of water, blue by day, […] (LB:335-336)
On the other hand tarn is also attested directly as ’gate’ in Early Noldorin and Goldogrin (PE13:153, GL:69, LT1:300), but this does not seem to be appropriate for a wide area.
Also, in the Gnomish Lexicon one can find tram ’cross’, trôn ’1) a cross, 2) a crossing’, trantha- ’1) to cross tr. & intr. 2) to mark with a cross’, tranc ’criss-cross, crossed’ (GL:71). The Qenya Lexicon gives the stem TARA- (QL:89) with similar derivatives – e.g. Q. tarna ’crossing, passage, ford’. If this remained valid, Tarn Felin might be the *’hidden crossing’. An clue which perhaps supports this last interpretation is the town name Tarnost (see 3.45).
In the third form one can identify the suffix -an also seen in Rohan, which is derived from Elvish *rokkō ’swift horse for riding’ (Q. rokko, S. roch) + a suffix frequent in names of lands (Let:297). What remains in between is #dór and may be N. dôr ’land, dwelling-place’ (NDOR-, VT45:38), thus Trandóran *’cross-land’? Needless to say that all of this is highly speculative.
Sarn Gebir is later applied to the rapids of the Anduin and translated as ’Stone-spikes’ (UT:463) or ’stone-spiked’ (RC:327), so called because of the upright stake-like spikes of rock at their beginning, from S. sarn ’(small) stone’ + ceber ’stake’, pl. cebir.
But originally we find notes with kebir, kapir and translations of uncertain reading ?’Linestones’, ?’Limestones’ or ?’Lonestones’ (KEPER-, VT45:20); KOPAR- ’knob, head, tip’, N. cobar ?’grave barrow’, ?’graibarrow’, ?’dunharrow’ (VT45:23). This was clearly put down at a time when Sarn Gebir or Sern Gebir was applied to the region of hills, but I cannot identify neither ’grey’ nor ’lone’, nor something similar in one of the earlier names.