An alternate take on Gandalf’s use of Black Speech

Kate Neville

Active Member
I don't think I ever thought that the effect of Gandalf's use of Black Speech was something he intentionally produced. It always seemed to me to be inherent to the speech itself, that the language of Mordor cannot be spoken without damaging the person who speaks it and those who hear it. This might explain why Gandalf only dared speak it in Rivendell, which is protected by water and Elrond’s ring (and Glorfindel!); even so, the wizard famous for the beauty of his fireworks now has a voice “harsh as stone” and seems to cast a shadow over the sun. Having recently re-read the Ainulindale, I think I see a parallel to the effect of Melkor's music: "many that sang nigh him grew despondent, and their thought was disturbed and their music faltered; but some began to attuned their music to his... it was loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated; and it had little harmony, but rather a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes." Would the language devised by Sauron carry the echo of that music? Do the Elves feel the discord in the language, even apart from the meaning of the words, and feel the potential for damage to their very being if, as Gandalf says, "that tongue" becomes the language of Middle-earth? They are, after all, the Quendi — those who speak — and would be especially sensitive to ugly, evil language.

And while I have always naturally heard the ‘ash nazg’ version in the same cadence as the English translation, I tried speaking it Melkor style: every syllable given the same stress. It is very hard to do this — I kept having to call to mind the scene from The Mummy where a bunch of Egyptians are intoning “Im-ho-tep” as they slowly march through the streets. I don’t actually think that’s what Tolkien had in mind, but it was an interesting experiment.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Good thought Kate,

Now that you suggest it, I like the tidea that Sauron's Black Speech attempted to capture the effect of Melkor's discordant music. Sauron was presumably there. He heard it. He presumably liked it (and that was why he joined Melkor). Good idea! (Though, of course, not an insight available to the first-time reader, and not available to any reader until 1973.)
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
Good thought Kate,

Now that you suggest it, I like the tidea that Sauron's Black Speech attempted to capture the effect of Melkor's discordant music. Sauron was presumably there. He heard it. He presumably liked it (and that was why he joined Melkor). Good idea! (Though, of course, not an insight available to the first-time reader, and not available to any reader until 1973.)
It's a very recent thought, inspired by the serendipity of re-reading Ainulindale just before listening to this episode. I think it struck me because I was wondering why I had always had that interpretation of the scene. Purely instinctive and ideosyncratic, as I was reading LotR for a decade before Silmarillion was published.
 
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