Modern Turns of Phrase and Archaic Language

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Sorry, I guess I misunderstood what you were trying to say. The point I was trying to make is that a difference is accent based on conveying the shift from "The Shibboleth of Feanor" would both differentiate between the Feanorians and the other Noldor and soften the effect of the -eth ending by making it sound more like the modern -s, so I was trying to make it clear that "speaketh" is not an alternate form of "speak" but of "speaks."

What exactly did you mean by that last post?
My point is basically that the difference is not a small one.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
The question of accents is, of course, more for directors, actors, and dialect coaches than script writers, so a bit outside the scope here, but I do agree that accents are something that can be deployed on film with ease. Most of the historic dramas and fantasies I posted clips from above use them. Audiences seem to accept them much more easily than archaic language, actually, and most productions seem to prefer them to having a subtitled character speaking a foreign language.

'Inventing' an accent can be fraught - easy to come up with something that just sounds flat-out ridiculous.

Misha Collins making a fool of himself. When asked where he got the inspiration for this, he joked that the accent was common among those who worked on oil rigs out in the middle of the ocean:

Someone made an odd choice for Halle Berry in the first X-Men film...and those scenes wound up cut:

Angelus from Buffy was meant to have an Irish background. Either they decided that after they cast the actor, or they didn't much care about getting it to sound at all right.

'Terrible accents' can happen when an actor doesn't know how to do the correct accent for the role, and the production team also doesn't seem to care.


I am really not keen to give the Fëanoreans (and a handful of other Noldor) a permanent 'lisp' as their regular way of speaking, but I am certainly willing to entertain some question of how the 'shibboleth' could be incorporated without sounding ridiculous or simply silly. So, yes, some sort of accent, perhaps.

I think you are talking past each other a bit, though, so this might help to clarify.

In the Shibboleth, some instances of s were originally 'th' - so for most of the Noldor, all words would sound the same and be pronounced with the 's' sound (the 'th' sound was completely eliminated from Quenya), but...for those who stuck to the 'old' pronunciation, those words would keep the 'th' and would sound different from words that had 's.' So, what Rhiannon is suggesting is that Fingolfin would say 'Míriel Serindë sends her greetings,' but Maedhros would say, 'Míriel þerindë sendeth her greetings.' Important to note that not all s's change to th - only those that were originally þ. Which...is a Quenya thing, not an English thing. It is perhaps a happy accident that English had the same -th to -s shift with the grammar we are currently discussing.

He maketh all things new --> He makes all things new.

But if we are accurate about the Shibboleth, it's true that it's not just the Fëanoreans. We'd have to discuss where we want that divide to show up, cause it's just going to seem inconsistent if we have 'some, but not all' Noldor (and not just Fëanoreans) 'talking funny.'
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
The thing is....keeping '-eth' in many cases does make the dialogue more archaic than Shakespeare! I know you don't plan to make anyone speak in iambic pentameter or rhymed couplets, and there is a limit to how much obsolete vocabulary we could employ without confusing the audience. Old words still in use are much safer, of course, and easier to write with!

I am not objecting to thee/thou/thy/thine nor ye.
And I understand that you can say 'Do you?' or 'Dost thou?' but that it would be weirdly mismatched to say 'Do thou?'

So, to that point, we are agreed on how to proceed.

As Nick and I have both pointed out, the auxillary verbs keeping the -eth ending (hath, doth) was something that lingered longer in use than the -eth ending on main verbs and is less incongruous to a listener. Keeping it for main verbs sounds very archaic. You have explained why you want to use it in more instances than Tolkien did. I do not think it's a good idea, though, and I would STRONGLY recommend against doing so. I understand you are willing to make edits, and I am glad to hear that. I just also hear you saying you want to keep -eth for all elven speech in Season 4 and merely 'tone down' the number of times it appears by writing around the unmodified third person singular indicative, and I really don't support that choice in any way.


Here is one example from a Shakespearean play where the '-eth' ending is fully deployed, used on all appropriate verbs throughout. Portia's "The quality of mercy is not strained" speech from The Merchant of Venice is a courtroom speech. I'd have to go re-read the play to see if Portia always talks like this, or if she does solely in this scene in her role as young lawyer. And this professional actress sure does hit the emphasis on 'drop-peth' when delivering this line:

But...here's the thing. Even in Shakespeare, you don't necessarily always or even often find this grammar!

The St. Crispian Day speech from Henry V:

You will note appearances of 'hath' and 'rememberéd'...but no instances of 'cometh' or 'shedeth' - it is clearly spoken as 'comes' and 'sheds' in this Kenneth Branaugh production.

"To Be or Not to Be" from Mel Gibson's Hamlet:
This speech has few examples of the type of grammar requiring the '-eth' --> '-s' ending, though the cases that do appear (nearer the end) all employ '-s' (returns, does). What makes this speech archaic is certainly its vocabulary, as it contains many words no longer in use in modern English (bodkin, fardles, contumely, etc)

'Out, out, damn spot' from Macbeth:
This is meant to be disjointed mad ravings, but worth pointing out that we cast her in Silm Film as Nienna :p. Oh, and no '-eth'

Anthony Hopkins has played Titus Andronicus. It's quite obvious that they chose him for the role because of the Hannibal Lecter thing. The movie is set in a vaguely modern setting (perhaps 1920s?) - there are cars and somewhat modern costumes. But the language is preserved. There are 'hath's and 'doth's and 'art's and 'whilst' in this. The emperor and empress address people familiarly as 'thou.' But the main verbs all use '-s' rather than '-eth' when it is called for. If you do not know this play, then I warn you that the following scene is brutally violent.


Obviously, there are many adaptations of Shakespeare when it comes to staging or filming his plays - they can be set in any time/setting, and the language can be adapted or left as it is (director's choice). But the point here is that what you are asking to do goes beyond what Shakespeare did in terms of using 'archaic' grammar (I know, I know - it was current to him). To claim that audiences will just accept that and get used to it and be fine with it is a stretch. Can a reader/viewer put up with it? Sure, probably. Will they still understand what is going on on screen? As long as the actors are decent, the gist of the message will come across despite the words in the script. But this is a very big ask, and significantly departs from what Tolkien did in the published Silmarillion, where he reserved such language to the Valar rather than the Elves in Beleriand.
I still believe that the use of -eth as a verb ending is just not that big of a deal that it will cause problems for the viewers. However, I do not think I will be able to convince anyone of this nor accurately convey what I mean by reducing its usage but keeping it in the scripts until I actually get to rewriting the scripts themselves, so I am not going to keep arguing about it. (Although, I am definitely going to continue Nick's challenge to speak to strangers with archaic grammar to see how they respond.)

Before I begin rewriting, however, are there any other overarching issues/suggestions about the language?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
If I understand correctly, by 'reducing its usage' what you mean is that you can keep the grammatical rule, but eliminate the prevalence of its appearance in the script in the following ways:
  • Use of auxillary verbs (does/has --> doth/hath).
    • Rather than saying, 'Ulmo sendeth dreams to Turgon,' the character would say, 'Ulmo hath sent dreams to Turgon.'
    • Instead of saying, 'This city soundeth far finer than Vinyamar,' someone would say, 'This city doth sound far finer than Vinyamar.'
  • Greater use of the subjunctive mood, so that -eth is eliminated by adding may, might, should, ought, etc
    • And if Turgon should claim that dreams have again guided him, I trust this.
    • Dreams, which Turgon doth believe sent by Ulmo, have bidden him establish this city and preserve our people should the leaguer fail to hold back Morgoth.
    • Dwarvenking – Elvenking – what do they matter? Neither would use the river-caves.
  • Slight modification of sentence structure, so that an auxillary verb can be introduced, or the sentence can be shifted away from indicative.
    • Rather than saying, 'It seemeth Turgon is ever busy these days with some new project or plan,' the character would say, 'Turgon hath seemed ever busy these days with some new project or plan.'
    • 'It meaneth I have yet to choose, I do not wish to leave the war, but much Turgon hath said maketh sense to me.' --> 'I have yet to choose. I do not wish to leave the war, but I ought not disregard the words of Turgon, which my heart would accept.'
Certainly, it can be done. Basically, if you can write around 'verbs ending in -s' so that none appear in your work, then the question of the '-eth' ending disappears.

I do think it is needlessly constraining to write this way, though, when the much simpler solution is to drop the archaic grammar rule altogether.
 
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Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
The question of accents is, of course, more for directors, actors, and dialect coaches than script writers, so a bit outside the scope here, but I do agree that accents are something that can be deployed on film with ease. Most of the historic dramas and fantasies I posted clips from above use them. Audiences seem to accept them much more easily than archaic language, actually, and most productions seem to prefer them to having a subtitled character speaking a foreign language.

'Inventing' an accent can be fraught - easy to come up with something that just sounds flat-out ridiculous.

Misha Collins making a fool of himself. When asked where he got the inspiration for this, he joked that the accent was common among those who worked on oil rigs out in the middle of the ocean:

Someone made an odd choice for Halle Berry in the first X-Men film...and those scenes wound up cut:

Angelus from Buffy was meant to have an Irish background. Either they decided that after they cast the actor, or they didn't much care about getting it to sound at all right.

'Terrible accents' can happen when an actor doesn't know how to do the correct accent for the role, and the production team also doesn't seem to care.


I am really not keen to give the Fëanoreans (and a handful of other Noldor) a permanent 'lisp' as their regular way of speaking, but I am certainly willing to entertain some question of how the 'shibboleth' could be incorporated without sounding ridiculous or simply silly. So, yes, some sort of accent, perhaps.

I think you are talking past each other a bit, though, so this might help to clarify.

In the Shibboleth, some instances of s were originally 'th' - so for most of the Noldor, all words would sound the same and be pronounced with the 's' sound (the 'th' sound was completely eliminated from Quenya), but...for those who stuck to the 'old' pronunciation, those words would keep the 'th' and would sound different from words that had 's.' So, what Rhiannon is suggesting is that Fingolfin would say 'Míriel Serindë sends her greetings,' but Maedhros would say, 'Míriel þerindë sendeth her greetings.' Important to note that not all s's change to th - only those that were originally þ. Which...is a Quenya thing, not an English thing. It is perhaps a happy accident that English had the same -th to -s shift with the grammar we are currently discussing.

He maketh all things new --> He makes all things new.

But if we are accurate about the Shibboleth, it's true that it's not just the Fëanoreans. We'd have to discuss where we want that divide to show up, cause it's just going to seem inconsistent if we have 'some, but not all' Noldor (and not just Fëanoreans) 'talking funny.'
Yes, making up accents can be dangerous and kind of irrelevant for this project since it is not really being produced. I just happen to really like accents, and I am curious what an "Elvish" accent would sound like and how we can make use of different accents. I'll try to work on some recordings of myself playing around with different variations to see what people think.

As I understand it, the þ > s shift only occurred in Noldorin Quenya, so it would did not affect the Vanyar, Teleri in Valinor, or any of the Elves in Middle-earth. Among the Noldor, the þ was kept by Feanor and other stubborn Noldorin loremasters, Finwe until he married Indis, and Finarfin and his sons because of their love for the Vanyar and Teleri. Those who use s instead of þ would be pretty much all the other Noldor, particularly Fingolfin and his followers and Galadriel.

If we use accents to depict the Shibboleth, I think it would be alright to have the characters actually have discussions about how they talk. We could include discussion that leads up to Feanor's line, "Take no heed! We speak as is right, and as King Finwe himself did before he was led astray. We are his heirs by right and the elder house. Let them sa-si, if they can speak no better," and also perhaps a conversation between Galadriel and Finrod about whether to use þ or s.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
If I understand correctly, by 'reducing its usage' what you mean is that you can keep the grammatical rule, but eliminate the prevalence of its appearance in the script in the following ways:
  • Use of auxillary verbs (does/has --> doth/hath).
    • Rather than saying, 'Ulmo sendeth dreams to Turgon,' the character would say, 'Ulmo hath sent dreams to Turgon.'
    • Instead of saying, 'This city soundeth far finer than Vinyamar,' someone would say, 'This city doth sound far finer than Vinyamar.'
  • Greater use of the subjunctive mood, so that -eth is eliminated by adding may, might, should, ought, etc
    • And if Turgon should claim that dreams have again guided him, I trust this.
    • Dreams, which Turgon doth believe sent by Ulmo, have bidden him establish this city and preserve our people should the leaguer fail to hold back Morgoth.
    • Dwarvenking – Elvenking – what do they matter? Neither would use the river-caves.
  • Slight modification of sentence structure, so that an auxillary verb can be introduced, or the sentence can be shifted away from indicative.
    • Rather than saying, 'It seemeth Turgon is ever busy these days with some new project or plan,' the character would say, 'Turgon hath seemed ever busy these days with some new project or plan.'
    • 'It meaneth I have yet to choose, I do not wish to leave the war, but much Turgon hath said maketh sense to me.' --> 'I have yet to choose. I do not wish to leave the war, but I ought not disregard the words of Turgon, which my heart would accept.'
Certainly, it can be done. Basically, if you can write around 'verbs ending in -s' so that none appear in your work, then the question of the '-eth' ending disappears.

I do think it is needlessly constraining to write this way, though, when the much simpler solution is to drop the archaic grammar rule altogether.
Yes, pretty much exactly that, although I would not be trying to eliminate every single usage. I would keep it where it does not seem awkward. For example, it the first scene of Episode 1, the Messenger's line sounds better as "We know not whether he liveth still," than " We know not whether he still doth live," so that is a place I would leave it. Also, in keeping with your suggestions about the Valar, the higher and more formal dialogue is, the more instances of -eth I would leave in.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I still believe that the use of -eth as a verb ending is just not that big of a deal that it will cause problems for the viewers.
Out of curiosity, can you think of an example of a movie or a TV show where this is used?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, pretty much exactly that, although I would not be trying to eliminate every single usage. I would keep it where it does not seem awkward. For example, it the first scene of Episode 1, the Messenger's line sounds better as "We know not whether he liveth still," than " We know not whether he still doth live," so that is a place I would leave it. Also, in keeping with your suggestions about the Valar, the higher and more formal dialogue is, the more instances of -eth I would leave in.
The other option, the one employed in some of Shakespeare's best known plays, is to eliminate 'doth' where it sounds awkward, and use the -s ending on the verb. So, 'We know not whether he still lives.' You could still use doth and hath in places where it works.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
If we use accents to depict the Shibboleth, I think it would be alright to have the characters actually have discussions about how they talk. We could include discussion that leads up to Feanor's line, "Take no heed! We speak as is right, and as King Finwe himself did before he was led astray. We are his heirs by right and the elder house. Let them sa-si, if they can speak no better," and also perhaps a conversation between Galadriel and Finrod about whether to use þ or s.
Ah. No, I do not think we ought to do this. There has been no decision to incorporate 'the Shibboleth of Feanor' into this adaptation. We are willing to make nods to it, but are not adopting it as-is. Corey Olsen has been very clear that he is not interested in Tolkien's later writings being incorporated in their entirety into this project, and will consider bits and pieces on a case-by-case basis only. For instance, we are not going to have an entire episode where Finrod and Andreth sit down and have a full-on philosophical debate for an hour like they do in the Athrabeth. Will we incorporate parts of it? Likely, yes, but certainly not all of it. The part where Andreth fortells Eru's incarnation, for instance, is not going to be happening. The amdir vs estel discussion has been moved elsewhere (as you know). What we are definitely including is the romance between young Andreth and Aegnor. Finrod's visit to middle-aged Andreth is a Season 5 question that has not yet been resolved. I imagine there will be a strong desire to make it happen, but right now, there is still a question mark on that, let alone what the content of the visit would be if it does happen. I imagine that, if it is included, one way to handle it would be to have two 4 minute scenes, in which the first is a general discussion of elven-vs-human fate, and the second is a more personal question about Andreth and Aegnor's decisions regarding their mutual love for one another. But we shall see.

On to the Shibboleth of Fëanor!

So, for instance, Amrod did die in the shipburning, because that helped us tell that story in a dramatic way. There were two main reasons to use that version - one, is that the shipburning comes across as much more visceral in the text than the kinslaying, which is relayed in more remote terms - but on screen, the shipburning will almost seem a footnote once we have depicted a massacre. So, to keep the horror fully present to the viewers, we've used Amrod's death and the reaction of Círdan to emphasize what a terrible act that was. And secondly, it is going to be a tough sell to the audience that the Oath of Fëanor is binding. It is going to become obvious to everyone who is not a son of Fëanor (and even some who are) that the only valid moral course of action would be to break the Oath and give it up (once elves hold the silmarils rather than Morgoth). And yet we are going to depict the Sons of Fëanor stubbornly sticking to it through three more kinslayings, well past the point at which the audience is going to be shouting, 'Just give it up already!' at them. Part of the issue here is that 'giving your word' is more important in some cultures than others. And in modern Western culture....I would say that there is a rather cavalier attitude taken towards breaking promises. It's kind of a shrug, like, yeah, that happens. [Compare this to the worldview depicted in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for contrast.] So, we need to overcome that cultural impulse to make an audience buy into this aspect of the story - and to do that, we are making it very clear that according to the Fëanorean viewpoint, Amrod's death in the shipburning was a direct result of his attempt to break the Oath. It doesn't mean that that's really what happened - but they think it is. So, their tendency to consider the Oath 'unbreakable' makes more sense after that. [In Harry Potter, if you break an Unbreakable Vow, you die. If you break the Oath of Fëanor, you get cast out into the Everlasting Darkness - ie, the Void. Same idea - we needed to show the audience what that meant by getting them to talk about this, though.] Once the decision is made to have Amrod burned alive with the ships, then it is easy enough to use Amras' line about how fell and fey Fëanor has become.

In a similar way, we knew we wanted to have Fëanor request a strand of Galadriel's hair (because of Gimli doing the same in LotR), but we did not use the full scene as written by Tolkien in the 'Shibboleth.' In our version, he asks her once, and she turns him down, but it's not nearly as big a deal. There are not three separate requests from him. We did not want to go full 'creepy uncle' vibe with Fëanor in that scene, and if he persisted, it would have looked like he was trying to lure her down into the basement or something. Fëanor is many things, including a killer, but he's not that kind of predator. So, here, we have a 'nod' to the story in the Shibboleth, but we did not adopt it wholecloth - for a reason. We still get the seed of Galadriel's dislike for Fëanor, and we do have him requesting a strand of her hair when she is a child - and her turning him down. But we did not use the scene Tolkien wrote in the Shibboleth.

When it comes to the way the Fëanoreans speak, I am willing to consider giving them a slight variation that would be different from the other Noldor. Would I include Finrod in this? WElll....probably not. It will seem out of place if it's 'the Sons of Fëanor and the Sons of Finarfin,' but not Galadriel and not anyone else in their host. And, as Nick points out, the idea that siblings who are raised together and have lived together their entire lives would speak with different accents is just...weird. It's going to sound off. Typically, a character's accent speaks to their origin and who they generally spoke with growing up. Not their parents - their peers. So, having same-generation characters who all grew up together and interacted throughout their childhoods 'talking different' is not going to seem natural. And considering everything else that is going on in Season 2, we do not have the screentime to explain any of this!

I do not see any way to bring Fëanor's line into conversation in a natural way. I can certainly imagine him speaking scornfully of his family, but to use that line, we'd have to give the entire background here, and we will not do so. We do have Fëanor's conflict with Rúmil depicted as a minor sidebar in Season 2, so we can show the invention of the Tengwar - though Rúmil and Fëanor would likely be in agreement on this þ --> s point. But the characters are speaking English on screen, not Quenya, so the sa-si thing won't make sense. And, more importantly, we're just calling her 'Míriel' -the name 'þerindë/Serindë' isn't even part of this project! (Nor are all the other variations on names in the House of Finwë as depicted in the 'Shibboleth') Everyone gets one name and one name only unless there is an important thematic reason for changing it, such as Elwë --> Thingol, Melkor --> Morgoth, Mairon --> Sauron, Lúthien --> Tinúviel. Certainly Túrin will most likely be allowed to keep introducing himself however he likes. Renaming our entire elven cast in Beleriand seemed...a bit much...so we've simply used their Sindarin names all along (as is the case in the published Silmarillion). So, we will depict Míriel doing needlepoint on screen, but we are unlikely to call her 'Serindë' or 'Broidress' at any point.

Finrod is introduced as a character in Season 3 (so, post-Darkening). There's not likely to be much opportunity for him and Galadriel to discuss þ vs s, though they do have discussions about their opinion on Fëanor. And that's the point. Given the choice, I'd rather have them talk about what they think of Fëanor, than use a very convoluted round-about way of explaining her dislike of Fëanor via an explanation of why she and her brother speak differently - it's not that he has a lisp, it's that he's doing it deliberately? Because of...technical language preferences? Which she would already know about and not have to have explained to her? So she's bringing this up now...why? No. That is not a conversation I want us to write. In other words - if we're incorporating something from all of this, it's Galadriel's clear dislike for Fëanor, not the actual shibboleth.

When I suggested a 'nod' to the shibboleth, I meant just that - a subtle hint that could be incorporated without requiring any explanation at all. I did not mean actually using the shibboleth fully deployed in this adaptation. Nor am I comfortable with having characters discuss grammar in their dialogue. And, I remain wholly skeptical that it's a good plan to give major characters an affected lisp if the goal isn't to make them sound ridiculous. I think we conveyed Fëanor's opinion towards his step-family quite clearly in Season 2. We did not need the shibboleth to make that point, and so we need not use it.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Oops, hit the word limit. A clear sign I'm saying too much. Sorry guys!

Just an example to go with the above post:

I'm not sure if my explanations of what we show and how we choose to depict these things is entirely clear, so I'll use an example from another show. In The Tudors, the Reformation in England is a major element of the story. While telling the story of Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boelyn is certainly going to be a main focus of that story, the depiction of the Protestant/Catholic divide can be more subtle. So, you have Catholic characters who view the changes as heresy and the Protestants as heretics. In the example of Thomas More, you have someone who has a line he cannot cross, but does his best to serve his king in all other ways up to that line. In other words, he is very much someone who stands on his principles (which are Catholic and humanist and family values). In the example of Princess Mary, you have someone whose bitterness over the treatment (and subsequent death) of her mother is quite clear in all she says and does. So she also speaks of heresy and heretics, but with personal hurt rather than some ideological principle. On the opposite side, you have the reformers, who are very intent on achieving certain goals and taking the necessary steps to see that happen. No one spends much screentime on theological debate - they say enough to make it clear what the issues of the day are, and where they stand, but the actual religious debate is mostly left unspoken. Instead, you see the change in dress and the change in religious celebrations. You see the dissolution of the monasteries, the uprising of the people who are being forced to convert, and the guilt of the lord whose task it is to enforce the king's rule by crushing the rebellion in a less than honorable way. In other words - the conflict is there, and you see the history playing out, but the focus is on the concrete examples of the events and social change and positions of the political players...not philosophical back-and-forths about the differences between Protestants and Catholics. Not that no one ever gives voice to those things, but it's very toned down and to the point - generally just enough for the audience to establish how fanatical or hypocritical someone might be. We have to do the same - focus on the point being made, and determine the best way to convey that to the audience through concrete actions. There is a reason that 'show, don't tell' is such a cardinal rule of the cinema.

I linked a conversation between Thomas More and Cardinal Wolsey earlier. Here are some clips showing Princess Mary's storyline:
Princess Mary's dislike of heretic Protestants:

Look, this is a TV-MA show on Showtime - there is no dancing around the fact that the entire point of the show is to show a lot of people at court having sex with one another quite graphically. I'm not pretending otherwise. There are attempts to be serious in the depiction of the drama of history, but it's also very much about being lurid and titillating. I'm not holding it up as some great example that we ought to imitate. But, at least it is a show that does exist, and takes itself seriously, and had to grapple with some of the same questions about how to convey a sweeping historical drama to an audience who may not be familiar with the ins and outs of politics of that time. We may choose to answer those questions differently, of course.

Before I begin rewriting, however, are there any other overarching issues/suggestions about the language?
Speaking of 'show, don't tell,' there is another issue I wanted to bring up, and this thread might be a good place to do so. I was thrilled to see that you have incorporated the dialogue from the published Silmarillion into your scripts when depicting those scenes. It's great to hear those words in the mouths of the characters! :D Of course, there is not much dialogue provided, so in some cases, you have had to craft dialogue based on a description of what was said rather than a quotation (such as Finrod's conversation with Galadriel about not marrying). That also is great to see, as you creatively expand on the suggestion of dialogue in the text.

There are other places, though, where you have taken the narrative description, and put this into the mouths of characters as quotations that they say as dialogue. I...caution you against this. Not that it can't be done, but that it must be done carefully and sparingly. And it is very much a 'show, don't tell' issue. The goal is to find a way to convey that information to the audience. Not by telling them it directly, but by allowing them to see and know that based on what you did tell and show them.

Here's why you don't want to just lift descriptions and make them dialogue:

Yes, they actually had Frodo say, "I feel like a child at rest, when night fears are driven away by some loved voice." That...is not how you handle descriptive text!

They make Gandalf the narrator and have him do a lot of voice-over descriptions.

The Rankin-Bass Return of the King animation is chock full of 'what not to do' when writing a script. I mean...there are a lot of places where it's really terrible. Sam does a running commentary the entire time he's separated from Frodo (which means multiple scenes before this one). The timeline is all hinky, and some of the decisions are made for odd reasons (to say the least). Merry and Pippin speak in fake archaic jargon. And there are awkwardly placed songs. It has some well done elements, too, don't get me wrong - Gandalf's and Eowyn's confrontations with the Witch-king are more-or-less intact, for instance. But overall, I would say...they made a lot of poor choices.

And we have, for the most part, avoided voice-over narration and avoided having characters deliver speeches directly to the audience as commentary on the events unfolding. But I would also like for us to avoid using descriptions as dialogue except for very sparingly and when the language is completely appropriate to the scene and situation. In other words, please do not look for excuses to work descriptive text into the dialogue, but if the opportunity genuinely presents itself and it makes sense for these characters to be saying these things, let a bit slip in.

If there is a line of the text that we really like and want to be part of the script, then it's better to find a way to convey that idea in some concrete way (this is an adaptation, after all), rather than just tell the audience baldly.

As an example of a place where I feel work is needed, I offer Maedhros' role in Episode 13. We made the choice to have Galadriel invite Fëanoreans to her wedding, and it was meant to be a sign of reconciliation. And, also, it gives us the opportunity to have Fingolfin and Maedhros discuss the Siege while Fingon is off fighting Glaurung. These are all fine things. But...it seems that his main role in that script is to be the mouthpiece of the narrator of the Silmarillion, and...I do not think that the right choice. With Thingol's late arrival, there's not much room for interactions between them, but I think we either need to show Thingol refusing to acknowledge his existence or else we need a very high tension interaction between the King of Doriath and the heir of the man who committed the Kinslaying. These two people cannot interact socially without bringing all their baggage along with them.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Here is the only English Christmas carol I can think of which uses not only archaic language (thee/thou, whence, etc), but also the -eth verb ending. 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' was written in 1870 by an American preacher who was clearly comfortable with the grammar used in the King James translation of the Bible. Not surprisingly, it's not a terribly popular Christmas carol outside of church services these days.

 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
How should the Orcs speak? Most of the time they'll probably be speaking in whatever tongue Morgoth has instituted in Angband, but what about when they're speaking Common Tongue? Peter Jackson has them speaking in sometimes Cockney accents, which he retains for the Trolls William, Tom, and Bert, but we're not transplanting much of Jackson, are we?

I could imagine them speaking in gruff tones with stilted delivery, similar to Krall (Idris Elba) in Star Trek: Beyond.

 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
The orc-speech in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings is purportedly as recorded by hobbits, so it is similar in age to how the hobbits speak, though naturally a bit crasser. For the Silmarillion, we don't have any hobbit-historians as our translators, so I imagine we'd have the orcs utilize Black Speech with subtitles, or a form of elvish full of curse words, or something. I'm not sure we'll have a lot of orcish dialogue, so as long as it's not long conversations, I'm fine with it being subtitles.





I've never used the University of Glasgow's Historical Thesaurus before, but it looks really neat. Not only does it tell you when words came into the English language (using the OED), but it lets you compare with other similar words. So, if you're hunting for a slightly older, but still understandable version of a word...you can probably get some food for thought here:

https://ht.ac.uk/

So, as an example, 'outerwear' is introduced in 1928, so too modern for this project. Sounds like your characters are shopping at REI, not hanging out in Middle-earth. Naturally, you might think to say 'robes' when talking about generic long garments from the past, but this gives you other options, such as 'outer clothing' (1891), not a bad choice for hobbits. And then there's 'overclothing' (1425) for the older cultures. So, you can still get that concept of 'outerwear' without having to specify coat or cloak or whatever, but you can subtly avoid using the word 'outerwear,' and don't have to resort to something exotic like 'out-array' (1647).

Or a word like 'telepathy' (1882) might sound too technical and hence 'modern' to the audience, but there are a slew of other words that date from the exact same time period, but might be more palatable if we have to have our characters discuss it, such as 'mind-reading' or 'thought-transfer'. 'Psychognosis' (1891) would make it worse, not better! Similarly, 'seer' (1661) is a much better choice than the nineteenth century 'clairvoyant' or 'medium' or 'second-sighter' (I did not make that up, promise!)
 

Kathrin

Active Member
The orc/elven language distinction made me think of the way in english french-imported words tend to be more elegant while the english words tend to have a more rough, common usage. Of course the development of elvish & the black tongue/orcs speaking other languages is different than the way the normand invasion influenced english but maybe if you tried and stick always to the roughest synonyms of everything you could reverse engineer this kind of association. But I'm really no writer, no clue how/if that would work. And also it would have to be distinct from a poor/rich distinction, I reaally wouldn't wanna insinuate poor = evil :rolleyes:
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
The orc/elven language distinction made me think of the way in english french-imported words tend to be more elegant while the english words tend to have a more rough, common usage. Of course the development of elvish & the black tongue/orcs speaking other languages is different than the way the normand invasion influenced english but maybe if you tried and stick always to the roughest synonyms of everything you could reverse engineer this kind of association. But I'm really no writer, no clue how/if that would work. And also it would have to be distinct from a poor/rich distinction, I reaally wouldn't wanna insinuate poor = evil :rolleyes:
I really like this idea. I think it would help create a sense that the Orcs are cruder, which the audience would not need to pick up on the exact pattern to notice.

As for the rich/poor distinction, I’m not sure that needs to be something different. Poor people and Orcs would speak with simpler language not because they are both evil, but because they are both uneducated.

Perhaps Orcs could also speak with a lot of snarls and grunts in their speech.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Another example of 'it's okay to use extra archaic language when quoting the Bible':


This 1967 song is from a musical or something (it's not a church song, obviously), but the only place in the song where the -eth verb ending is used is in the phrase: "my cup runneth over with love" which is a reference to Psalm 23:5, in the King James Version: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
 
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