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Random flotsam from the shattered windmills of my mind

Me, architecture, history, politics, Washington D.C., photography, Cleveland

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I love volcanoes. I was reading up on volcanoes on Wikipedia, and came across this timeline of the largest volcanic explosions in history. Volcanic eruptions are rated on a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), which ranks from zero (dust, steam) to eight (Yellowstone Caldera 600,000 BC). Mt. St. Helens was a VEI-5; Krakatoa in 1883 was a VEI-6; Mt. Tambora in 1815 was a VEI-7. No VEI-8 has occurred in recorded human history. Most VEI-6 eruptions were between 1260 AD and 1900 AD. Only two have occurred since 1900: Novarupta (a volcano in Katmai National Park in Alaska) in 1912, and Pinatubo in The Philippines in 1991.

Stromboli, the text says, is not on the list. I wondered why. It turns out Stromboli is only a VEI-3 volcano.

Interestingly, JRR Tolkien took a cruise in the Mediterranean around 1937, and during this trip he saw the volcano Stromboli from the sea. He thought that Stromboli looked exactly like "Emyn Anar"...

Like what???

"Emyn Anar" is not mentioned in any of Tolkien's texts.

Tolkien, a gifted linguist, created several Elvish languages for his books. The original Elvish language was Quenyan. But in Tolkien's novels, large numbers of Elves remained behind in Middle-earth, and during the millennia their language became corrupted (in part) and added new words (in part). This new, derivative language was called Sindarin. In time, the Elves fought great wars against a fallen angel (if you will) named Melkor (aka Morgoth). During this time, large numbers of Quenya-speaking Elves left the Western Lands (where God and angels ruled in bliss) and returned to Middle-earth. Subsequently, both Quenya and Sindarin were spoken by Elves in Tolkien's books. Men, on the other hand, originally spoke a language called Numenorean. But after humanity was dispersed across the world in the aftermath of the fall of Melkor/Morgoth, people largely stopped speaking Numenorean and developed their own languages. A trade language, Common Speech (or Westron), was used by most people (as well as the Dwarves and Elves) when traveling, but at home people spoke Gondorian or Rohirric or whatnot.

Now, "emyn" is the Sindarin word for "hills," and "anar" is the Quenyan word for "fire-golden." The Sun, for example, is called "anar." "...and Anar the Fire-golden, fruit of Laurelin, they named the Sun." I don't think that "Anar" per se means "fire-golden." Rather, anar has its own meaning, translated as "Sun." We know that the root "-nar" means flame, for the sword Narsil is a conglomeration of the root "nar" with "sil" ("-sil" meaning "white" and coming from the name Isil or "Moon").

Now, in Sindarin, "anar" would be "anor." So clearly this is a conglomeration word again... A Sindarin and Quenyan word put together.

Transliterally, the words mean "Sun Hills." If they meant "Fiery Hills," the word would be "Emyn Nar." A more loose translation might call the Emyn Anar the "Sunny Hills."

But perhaps Tolkien meant "Emyn Arnen" rather than "Emyn Arnar"? We know what the Emyn Arnen are: They are the hills in central Ithilien across the Anduin from Minas Tirith. This was where the Stewards of Gondor came from, and constituted the Stewards' ancestral lands. In fact, Faramir dwelt there after the War of the Ring.

The problem here is that the words "Emyn Arnen" are Sindarin for "Hills Beside the Waters." Not flaming or fiery or sunny anything! (The term is often mistranslated as "High Hills" or "Royal Hills" on the Web.) That's because "Arnen" is assumed to be Sindarin. The root "-nen" in Sindarin means "water," and can be translated as pool, creek, stream, river, pond, lake, etc. The root "ar-" in Sindarin can mean either "set apart/outside/distinctive" or "royal/most high/exalted". Thus "arnen" would be "royal waters" or "mighty waters" or "holy waters," but could also mean "by the waters" or "beside the waters." Tolkien speculated that the word "Arnen" may not be Sindarin, however. Rather, it could be a pre-Numenorean word, and in "The Etymologies" in the book "History of Middle-earth: The Lost Road and Other Writings" (edited by Christopher Tolkien), JRR Tolkien said the translation might be lost. JRR Tolkien actually discussed the word in a note to himself called "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" (also titled "Nomenclature") which he wrote some time between 1967 and 1969. On page 17, of "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" (edited into "The Etymologies"), JRR Tolkien says "Arnen" may not be Sindarin -- thus, the phrase might simply be "The Hills of Arnen."

At any rate, "Hills Beside the Waters" hardly is "Fiery Hills" or "Sunny Hills"!

Clearly, Tolkien simply did not make a mistake and say "Emyn Arnar" when he really meant "Emyn Arnen." It's clear Tolkien was speaking of some place inside Mordor.

It's also pretty obvious he is not referring to Mount Doom. We already have Sindarin words for Mt. Doom: Orodruin ("orod - mountain and "ruin" - red flame; "the fiery mountain") and Amon Amarth (amon = Sindarin version of Emyn and amarth = "doom"; "mountain of doom"). In Quenyan, the name would be Emyn Ambar (ambar is Quenyan for amarth; see "Turin Turambar").

It's also clear he could not be using Emyn Arnen as a synonym for Mordor itself. Mordor is a conglomeration of the Sindarin "mor" (black) and "dor" (land). In Quenyan, "morna" meant "darkness" or "shadow" (an alternative is "mórë," which means the same thing) and "ndor" (also "norë") meant "land." In Quenyan, the name would be "Mornanor" (the "-dor" ending can occur only when the root ends in l, r, or n).

Emyn is clearly no synonym for "land."

So is there a place in Mordor which Tolkien intended to model after Stromboli? Perhaps there is a part of Mordor, possibly near Mt. Doom, which has smoking hills, or hills while glow red (e.g., emit lava).

We know that the phrase Emyn Arnar is not a reference to the "inner fence" of mountains on the Western border of Mordor. The outer mountains, we know, were the Ephel Duath. "Ephel" is a conflation of "et" (outer) and "pel" (fence). "Duath" is a conflation of "du" (darkness) and "wath" (twilight or dim light). Hence, the Sindarin name Ephel Duath is "outer fence of dark shadows". In Quenyan, the phrase would be Entpele Morolómë: Entpele is a conflation of "ent" (outer) and "pele" (fence). And "Morolómë" is a conflation of "moro" (dark) and "lómë" (twilight). ("Mordor" is often erroneously assumed on the Web to be both Sindarin and Quenyan; it is only Sindarin.) The Morgai (Sindarin) were the "dark mountains" (mor=dark and aegais=mountains) or "dark fence" (mor=dark and cail=palisade or fence). In Quenyan, they would be the Mornoronti (morna=dark and oronti=mountains) or "dark mountains" or possibly the Mornapelle (morna=dark and pelle=fence) "dark fence." In any case, both mountain ranges are named.

It's possible that part of the eastern edge of Mordor was not, however, absolutely open. Most maps (including Tolkien's) depict Morder as a large letter "C". That is, there is the Ethed Lui (Mountains of Ash) on the north, and the Ephel Duath and Morgai on the west. To the south is an unnamed mountain range (possible an extension of the Ephel Duath). But let's assume that the eastern side of Mordor was not completely open. Perhaps a mountain range there also partially blocked the entrance to Mordor -- not as narrowly as the Black Gate and valley of Udûn did in the northwest, but perhaps partially.

This eastern range of mountains (let's assume they were volcanic, possibly even still steaming or spewing highly viscous lava in small volumes) would catch the sun's rays first thing in the morning.

Could these be the "Fiery Mountains" that Tolkien thought mimicked Stromboli??

Perhaps these were the "Mountains of the Sun" over which the Sun rose each morning, but which blocked much of the morning light from reaching Mordor??

It's all very intesting, in a fan-boy sort of way. Or if you like the creative process, how creative people conceive of things.