The burzum-ishi krimpatul problem

Ash Nazg

New Member
In the latter half of session #151 (and a little bit of session #152) we spent quite a bit of time breaking down the black speech ring inscription which Gandalf recites to the council:

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Our analysis showed that the rhythm of the Black Speech appears to quite closely approximate the rhythm of the English translation, with the exception of the final part, which contained a problematic extra syllable in Black Speech:

Ash nazg durbatulûk, (6)ash nazg gimbatul, (5)ash nazg thrakatulûk (6)agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. (8)
One ring to rule them all, (6)One Ring to find them, (5)One ring to bring them all (6)and in the darkness bind them. (7)

Our hypothesis was: that the irregularity in the Black Speech version v.s. the English is a linguistic joke from Tolkien (and that we are just not getting the joke). This seems to me to be plausible; there are many other places where these kinds of wordnerd jokes and references do exist. However, in this instance, it strikes me as being more of a syntactical puzzle than a linguistic joke. Examples of obscure "philologist humour" from Tolkien, that I know of, usually relate to a specific piece of vocabulary rather than poetic irregularities. I think Tolkien simply wanted readers to do exactly what we were all doing in session #151 and try to work out, for ourselves, how to pronounce it properly, and make intimations about how the syntax breaks down.

Here's my reasoning on why we should see it as a puzzle:

This was the only piece of grammatically consistent Black Speech that we ever got from Tolkien. The other snippet of Black Speech, which we will read in the chapter The Uruk-Hai, is clearly a form of dialectal Orcish patois (as indicated by what Appendix E tells us about contemporary Orc speech). And Tolkien gave at least two wildly inconsistent translations for that line as well, so we should discount the later passage as a data point. However, the regularity of the ring inscription tells us quite a lot about Sauron's "pure" Black Speech grammar, by itself. Which is why I would characterise it more as puzzle than joke. I think it feels more like an exercise that Tolkien might have set for his students, than a meta-joke or Easter Egg that he might have included for his peers. One could very easily imagine him giving his students a workshop with a scrap of some dead language, and not much information to go on, and then asking them to draw up a list of conclusions about its content and rules based on exactly the types of clues that he gives us here.

Now, I don't agree at all with the conclusion made that the extra syllable is due to the '-ishi'. Here's why:

We can tell that 'burz' means dark, by isolating the elements of the Black Speech word for Barad-dûr, which we will learn later on. That is: 'Lugbúrz', which we know translates to 'dark tower'. The -um in 'burzum' is therefore presumably an abstract suffix: which turns an adjective into a noun, exactly like -ness in English. The -ishi, therefore, is a postpositional (locative) suffix which, in researching this passage, I have found more than one linguist suggesting might be connected to the Quenya suffix -ssë (e.g. 'Lóriendessë', which translates to 'in Lórien', found in the subtitle to Namárië). This makes sense, as there is evidence elsewhere that some of the vocabulary that we see in Orcish/Black Speech could have also been derived, or rather stolen, from Quenya (and also from Sauron's native Valarin, but that's besides the point). This also fits the backstory of the orcs that we see in The Silmarillion.

In any event, 'burzum-ishi' plainly matches the beats of 'in the darkness' -- so this isn't where our problem lies. We need to look more closely at the verbs instead.

As was noted in class, the Black Speech verb conjugations that we see in the inscription are suffixed: this seems clear. We have the -atul common in gimbatul and krimpatul which, judging by the translation, seems to modify the verb base x to mean "to x them". Then we have the -atulûk in durbatulûk and thrakatulûk, in which the -ûk extends the -atul suffix to, in turn, modify the verb base y to mean "to y them all". We can't assume the rhythm or pronunciation just from realising this, but it is certainly another clue.

The thing to note here -- which someone in class (I've forgotten who) did actually remark on -- is that the first three lines in the English all contain the to-infinitive: "to rule", "to find", "to bring". But, the final part is also in the infinitive: linked to the preceeding part by the conjunctive 'and' ('agh'), which then omits the final repetition of the 'to-' in Gandalf's English translation. This is our missing syllable in the English: it's not an "extra" syllable in the Black Speech at all. Our mistake, maybe, was forgetting which way this was being translated!

In fact, technically, the "in the darkness" here makes this line a type of split infinitive (which is extremely rare and conspicuous for Tolkien, in itself). The Black Speech version lacks this, because of the regularity of the verb forms that we see. Presumably, if the suffix -atul in krimpatul was changed, it would completely alter the conjugation/meaning of the word. Conversely, if it had served the rhythm better to translate the English as "One ring to bring them all and in the darkness to bind them", then Gandalf could have rendered his translation this way, and it would still be perfectly legible. But Gandalf doesn't do that, because English (and, presumably, its Westron analogue) allows him the flexibility to translate the line either way.

I think this answers the question of how the discrepancy between the two versions came to exist. I can see two possible explanations for why it exists:

Perhaps the point is that it's the oppressive strictness of the Black Speech syntax which destroys the rhythm of the lines, assuming that those line endings are, in fact, supposed to be pronounced gimbatul and krimpatul, rather than gimbatul and krimpatul. That would seem to fit with the idea of Sauron as a tyrant and Black Speech as an oppressive language. But it could also be an indication that the latter pronunciations are the correct ones, which flow better, and that the black speech does not actually parallel the English quite as exactly as we had assumed.

Personally, I quite strongly favour the latter explanation, since:

a) We can see that the Black Speech syntax, with its peculiar verb suffix clusters, is quite different than English in its construction and we shouldn't expect parity.
b) It is an incantation and, in my opinion, it shouldn't stumble. Burzum-ishi krimpatul stumbles, as we have repeatedly pointed out. This is the guy who strove with Finrod Felagund in songs of power, and won. Sauron wouldn't screw that up, any more than Tolkien himself would!
and c) part of the fun of this passage is in figuring out the correct pronunciation from the clues that we get (see also: the circumflexes, and the other snatches of Black Speech vocab, with identical roots, that we can use to cross-reference). This feels like another clue!
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Ash Nazg,

I like your analysis.

I think you are right that incantations should not stumble. In this incantation we have 6 syllables: Ash Nazg Durb a tul uk, Followed by 5 syllables: ash nazg gimb a tul; Followed by 6 syllables: ash nazg thrak a tul uk; Followed by 8 syllables: Agh burz um - ish i krimp a tul.

The extra 3 syllables (compared to the 5 that should be in the last section, to follow the pattern) almost force the stumble in the incantation.

The English translation has only 7 syllables in the last section, but it would also have 8 if the infinitive 'to bind' was used as you suggest, rather than just 'bind'.

As for why the incantation stumbles, my speculation (totally unsupported) is that thus JRRT signals that the spell is flawed, and does not work perfectly. JRRT (and the first-time reader) already know that the incantation did not fully work as intended. The One Ring did not 'find', let alone 'rule', 'bring', or 'bind', the Three Rings the Elves hid. Nor did it find, bring, or bind, more than two of the Seven Rings for Dwarf-lords. We know this from Gandalf's comments in Bag-End.

Now let us suppose that JRRT (also very aware that the incantation did not work as intended) started thinking about why it did not work? Was Sauron not powerful enough? Did the Elvish smiths have more innate power than Sauron? Or enough to dispel his incantation (at least in part)?

I like to think that JRRT's thought was 'oft evil will shall evil mar'. Sauron screwed up his own incantation! He screwed it up because in his overweening pride, he just had to try to incant in his own devised language, the Black Speech. That is a twisted language, and the WORDS and the RHYTHM could not be perfectly constructed in it.

So, why did JRRT write the lines in the Black Speech the way he did? I suggest it was to suggest a flaw in the spell, and an explanation (for those who could see it) as to why the spell did not work perfectly.

What other explanation really fits for why the spell did not work? Sauron not powerful enough? Dubious in the context of the rest of the story. Elves powerful enough to block Sauron? Maybe (though still doubtful) for the Three, but for the Seven? Intervention from the Valar? Dubious in the context of the story. But, Sauron being overconfident. being overweeningly proud of his own devised language, being sure that his own WILL would be powerful enough to override any slight flaws in WORDS or MUSIC? That seems very much in character for Sauron!
 

Clueless Noob

New Member
What other explanation really fits for why the spell did not work? ... Intervention from the Valar?
Higher up the org chart: Eru. Reached out his invisible hand and poked Sauron in the tongue at just the right moment.
Thus spake Illuvatar, "For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument"
(Why, yes. Yes I am currently listening to the discussion of the Athrabeth while I type this.)
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Clueless,

'Eru' does not really exist in TLOTR. There has been no mention of any authority higher than the Valar (and no mention of the Valar either, though mention of Elbereth, The Elder King, and a few other things that might lead us to guess 'Valar') so far.

Is there ever any mention of 'Eru' in TLOTR? I don't remember any. There is reference to "The One" in Appendix A when "the Valar laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One" to protect Valinor from the Numenoreans. Is that the first time in TLOTR that we get any indication that there is a power higher than the Valar? (I think we get a very indirect indication when Faramir says, "we look towards Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be." to explain the custom of a moment's silence looking West, before dinner.)

I cannot recall any other mention of The One, nor any mention of Eru. (Can anyone else?)
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
Hi Clueless,

'Eru' does not really exist in TLOTR. There has been no mention of any authority higher than the Valar (and no mention of the Valar either, though mention of Elbereth, The Elder King, and a few other things that might lead us to guess 'Valar') so far.

Is there ever any mention of 'Eru' in TLOTR? I don't remember any. There is reference to "The One" in Appendix A when "the Valar laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One" to protect Valinor from the Numenoreans. Is that the first time in TLOTR that we get any indication that there is a power higher than the Valar? (I think we get a very indirect indication when Faramir says, "we look towards Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be." to explain the custom of a moment's silence looking West, before dinner.)

I cannot recall any other mention of The One, nor any mention of Eru. (Can anyone else?)
I would say that while it is true that Eru Iluvatar is not mentioned in LotR (outside Appendix A), I don't think one can assert that Eru does not exist. Once Tolkien committed to placing his "New Hobbit" into the same universe as his Silmarillion tales, the existence of Eru would have been in his mind -- or at least the back of his mind. I would say rather that Eru is not intended to be perceived as an active presence in any of the history of Arda after the Valar came into the world -- they are his stewards, with full authority. ("You sang it, you bought it.")
 

Clueless Noob

New Member
I was about 12 when I got to the end of The Hobbit and read: "You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?" While I was at the bookstore getting my (now very tattered and well-read) LOTR, I picked up something (don't remember what) that told me that Tolkien and Lewis were friends. Since I knew that Aslan = Jesus, it wasn't a great intuitive leap for 13-year-old me to read: "I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it", and think that God was taking care of things.

But to the discussion at hand, who made Sauron trip over his own tongue while declaiming the Ring source code incantation, the Valar seem to be pretty hands-off as far as Middle Earth is concerned. The only mention of the Valar that I remember is, "'Ware! Ware!' cried Damrod to his companion. 'May the Valar turn him aside! Mumak! Mumak!'" The Oliphaunt does swerve aside in the nick of time, so... maybe? Additionally, having about the same power as Sauron (about!!) I'm not convinced they could act in this way and not be perceived. Poking an elephant and poking Sauron must be different. God, on the other hand, does exactly this sort of subtle meddling multiple times that we've read about. Whether He's named or not.
 

Ash Nazg

New Member
Hi Ash Nazg,

I like your analysis.

I think you are right that incantations should not stumble. In this incantation we have 6 syllables: Ash Nazg Durb a tul uk, Followed by 5 syllables: ash nazg gimb a tul; Followed by 6 syllables: ash nazg thrak a tul uk; Followed by 8 syllables: Agh burz um - ish i krimp a tul.

The extra 3 syllables (compared to the 5 that should be in the last section, to follow the pattern) almost force the stumble in the incantation.

The English translation has only 7 syllables in the last section, but it would also have 8 if the infinitive 'to bind' was used as you suggest, rather than just 'bind'.

As for why the incantation stumbles, my speculation (totally unsupported) is that thus JRRT signals that the spell is flawed, and does not work perfectly. JRRT (and the first-time reader) already know that the incantation did not fully work as intended. The One Ring did not 'find', let alone 'rule', 'bring', or 'bind', the Three Rings the Elves hid. Nor did it find, bring, or bind, more than two of the Seven Rings for Dwarf-lords. We know this from Gandalf's comments in Bag-End.

Now let us suppose that JRRT (also very aware that the incantation did not work as intended) started thinking about why it did not work? Was Sauron not powerful enough? Did the Elvish smiths have more innate power than Sauron? Or enough to dispel his incantation (at least in part)?

I like to think that JRRT's thought was 'oft evil will shall evil mar'. Sauron screwed up his own incantation! He screwed it up because in his overweening pride, he just had to try to incant in his own devised language, the Black Speech. That is a twisted language, and the WORDS and the RHYTHM could not be perfectly constructed in it.

So, why did JRRT write the lines in the Black Speech the way he did? I suggest it was to suggest a flaw in the spell, and an explanation (for those who could see it) as to why the spell did not work perfectly.

What other explanation really fits for why the spell did not work? Sauron not powerful enough? Dubious in the context of the rest of the story. Elves powerful enough to block Sauron? Maybe (though still doubtful) for the Three, but for the Seven? Intervention from the Valar? Dubious in the context of the story. But, Sauron being overconfident. being overweeningly proud of his own devised language, being sure that his own WILL would be powerful enough to override any slight flaws in WORDS or MUSIC? That seems very much in character for Sauron!
Hi Flammifer. I've been enjoying your contributions to the class while I've been catching up!

It sounds like you're suggesting that it was the Black Speech itself which was defective. Which, on the one hand, is an appealing suggestion. However I would offer the counter argument that, if anything, the very regular conjugations that we see evidence for within the Black Speech grammar actually kind of lend themselves rather nicely toward incantatory language. The repeated verb suffixes, which we see in the Black Speech, are a baked-in feature which are entirely responsible for the ABAB scheme that we see. Almost as if it had been designed for just such a purpose!

If Black Speech has a failing, it is that it lacks a culture with which to base itself upon. I think that is why it never takes off amongst Sauron's subjects (aside from the ringwraiths). Appendix E kind of makes that point fairly clear.

My position (in case that needed clarifying) is that there is no real stumble in the Black Speech ring inscription, when pronounced correctly. I think that the stresses should be on the first and third syllables of gimbatul and krimpatul. This means that there will be three stressed syllables in a row in the second part, "ash nazg gimb--" (which is the same as the first and third parts, and works perfectly well for a chanted incantation), and no stumble at the end! I think it was a mistake to assume that, because the syllable count and rhythms are close enough between the two versions, that the endings of the lines must be the same.

I was looking at your other thread on this; I think that Akshay had the rhythm spot on in this post. It's actually quite singsongy! Chanting this in a 4/4 time signature is a good way to think about this.

I think the key thing, though, is that Gandalf is the one translating these lines for us. And Gandalf, in order to translate, would have had choices to make on which elements of the original to preserve, and which to sacrifice. Tolkien, who spent his career translating poetry from medieval languages, would be the first to tell you that there are always tradeoffs when translating poetry (just read Christopher's commentary on his father's attempts to translate Beowulf!). It is much more likely that Gandalf would choose to preserve a general sense of the rhythm, but then be forced to alter it a little bit because of how differently the grammar is constructed (which we can see evidence for). The alternative was that Gandalf was striving to preserve the rhythm exactly, but then the missing syllable in the English actually corrects an unpleasant sounding deviation in the original. That seems to me to be less likely.

p.s. One thing I had considered, but chose to leave out of my original post, was that Black Speech might be a language that doesn't use infinitives at all. Certain real world languages, such as Japanese (apparently) lack an infinitive. I am not sure what to do with that. And we can't really prove it anyway. But it might be worth mentioning.

p.p.s. Regarding Sauron's bad results with this incantation: I absolutely do think that there are other possible explanations, which we can speculate on, for why the One Ring didn't work as well as he had surely hoped it would. But that is a whole separate discussion to have. If you want to take it there we can though!
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Ash Nazg,

I like your comments. Totally agree with you on stress on first and third syllables of gimbatul and krimpatul.

What I am calling a 'stumble' on the last of the 4 sections is that the rhythm changes. The first three sections all start (as you say) with three stressed syllables in a row: Ash nasg durb a tul uk, ash nazg gimb a tul, ash nazg thrak a tul uk.

The fourth section deviates. Whether or not the "agh" should be stressed it still changes: ahg burz um - ish i krimp a tul, or: agh burz um - ish i krimp a tul, both break the stress pattern. There are not three stressed syllables in a row in the fourth section, and the syllable count is more than it should be.

You seem to be good on rhythms. Does that make sense to you?

I would love to hear your other possible explanations for why the One Ring does not work as well as Sauron intended it to, and does not work as the incantation instructed it to.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I would say that while it is true that Eru Iluvatar is not mentioned in LotR (outside Appendix A), I don't think one can assert that Eru does not exist. Once Tolkien committed to placing his "New Hobbit" into the same universe as his Silmarillion tales, the existence of Eru would have been in his mind -- or at least the back of his mind. I would say rather that Eru is not intended to be perceived as an active presence in any of the history of Arda after the Valar came into the world -- they are his stewards, with full authority. ("You sang it, you bought it.")
Hi Kate,

Whether or not Eru "exists" in TLOTR depends on your point of view. Sure, we know enough from other Tolkien material to know that Eru exists in the mind of JRRT. However, from the perspective of the READER of TLOTR, Eru does not exist. Furthermore, I think we must conclude, that if Eru existed in the mind of JRRT, but does not exist in TLOTR, then JRRT made a deliberate decision that Eru would not exist in TLOTR from the perspective of the READER.

It would have been very easy for JRRT to have written Eru into TLOTR. But he did not.

I am of the opinion that it is best to respect the decisions of JRRT. If he decided that Eru does not exist in TLOTR, then I certainly go along with that decision.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I was about 12 when I got to the end of The Hobbit and read: "You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?" While I was at the bookstore getting my (now very tattered and well-read) LOTR, I picked up something (don't remember what) that told me that Tolkien and Lewis were friends. Since I knew that Aslan = Jesus, it wasn't a great intuitive leap for 13-year-old me to read: "I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it", and think that God was taking care of things.

But to the discussion at hand, who made Sauron trip over his own tongue while declaiming the Ring source code incantation, the Valar seem to be pretty hands-off as far as Middle Earth is concerned. The only mention of the Valar that I remember is, "'Ware! Ware!' cried Damrod to his companion. 'May the Valar turn him aside! Mumak! Mumak!'" The Oliphaunt does swerve aside in the nick of time, so... maybe? Additionally, having about the same power as Sauron (about!!) I'm not convinced they could act in this way and not be perceived. Poking an elephant and poking Sauron must be different. God, on the other hand, does exactly this sort of subtle meddling multiple times that we've read about. Whether He's named or not.

Hi Clueless,

I think you are underestimating the actions of the Valar in TLOTR. Now, from within TLOTR it is difficult to perceive whether the Valar, or "The One" are causing things to happen. (We would have to conclude the Valar, if it were not for that one comment in Appendix A that at one time the Valar 'laid down their guardianship and called upon the One'. Indeed, since it might be a rare or singular event for the Valar to lay down their guardianship, we might easily conclude that all examples of Providence in TLOTR and the Hobbit are caused by the Valar exercising their guardianship, and not by the One.)

However, if we look at sources external to TLOTR, we can assume that the Valar did a lot more than turn aside the Oliphaunt. They sent the Istari. The various swoop downs of Eagles were all presumably from the Valar, as they are the birds of Manwe. In fact, most of the dreams, visions, and acts of Providence in TLOTR could easily have been the actions of the Valar, with no need for intervention by Eru at all.
 

Ash Nazg

New Member
Hi Ash Nazg,

I like your comments. Totally agree with you on stress on first and third syllables of gimbatul and krimpatul.

What I am calling a 'stumble' on the last of the 4 sections is that the rhythm changes. The first three sections all start (as you say) with three stressed syllables in a row: Ash nasg durb a tul uk, ash nazg gimb a tul, ash nazg thrak a tul uk.

The fourth section deviates. Whether or not the "agh" should be stressed it still changes: ahg burz um - ish i krimp a tul, or: agh burz um - ish i krimp a tul, both break the stress pattern. There are not three stressed syllables in a row in the fourth section, and the syllable count is more than it should be.

You seem to be good on rhythms. Does that make sense to you?

I would love to hear your other possible explanations for why the One Ring does not work as well as Sauron intended it to, and does not work as the incantation instructed it to.
Ah, okay, I see where you're coming from now.

What I would say to you is: pay attention to where the commas are in the lines. Where those commas are situated indicates that the line skips a beat in our 4/4 time signature -- if we think of it as a chant which has a musical arrangement, rather than as a poem with a meter. Ergo the syllable count changes, but the rhythm stays the same.

Uneven syllable count ≠ a deviation. It's a bit like how a limerick has 7-10 syllables in the first, second and fifth lines, but only 5-7 syllables in the third and fourth lines.

Let me put a pin in the efficacy of the One Ring for now. I don't have the time to do that topic justice right at this moment!
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Ash Nazg,

Perhaps you could expand more on your comment about commas? There are only two commas in the black speech version recited by Gandalf, one separating the first section of the first line: Ash nazg durbatuluk, from the second section, and one separating the second section of the first line from the third section of the first line: ash nazg gimbatul,.

Note: Gandalf's recitation of the Black Speech is not divided into two lines of two sections each, but rather into two lines; the first of three sections and the second of one section. However, this is not how the inscription on the Ring is presented when it is depicted in "The Shadow of the Past". Here, the Elvish letters are clearly shown in two lines of two sections each. Whereas Gandalf's Black Speech rendition has two commas, the depiction has no commas, but two "full stops", which, however, are not in the same places as Gandalf's commas, but rather between section 1 and 2 of the first line, and between section 1 and 2 of the second line, whereas the commas in Gandalf's version are after the first and second sections. The depiction also has "double squiggly line" punctuation marks (in mirror image from one another) at the beginning and end of the first line. (If anyone knows what these punctuations mean in Elvish writing, please chip in).

I have always thought that in Gandalf's rendition, the two commas were there just to indicate the breaks between the sections (unnecessary between section 3 and 4 because "agh" (translated as "and") replaces the indicatory comma, and also perhaps, because Gandalf's version has been printed with a line break just before 'agh', whereas this is not the proper position for a line break as inscribed on the Ring).

I don't know why Gandalf's rendition of the Black Speech was not printed as two lines of two sections each. But I think that is the correct poetic form, as that is how the Elvish letters are inscribed on the Ring itself.

Also, I would be interested in hearing your (and anyone else's) speculations as to why Sauron's spell on the One Ring failed to work as it was supposed to?

Actually, there are two questions that arise here:

1. Why did Sauron's spell partially fail, and the Ring prove incapable of implementing all that it was commanded to do?

2. Why does everyone assume that if Sauron recovers the Ring he will be able to gain access to the thoughts and plans of the wielders of the Three and perhaps dominate them?

(Gandalf; "If he recovers it, he will command them all again, wherever they be, even the Three, and all that has been wrought with them will be laid bare, and he will be stronger than ever." Elrond; "All that has been wrought by those who wield the Three will turn to their undoing, and their minds and hearts will become revealed to Sauron, if he regains the One. It would be better if the Three had never been. That is his purpose." Galadriel; "If you (Frodo) fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy.")

Yes, all three are clearly on the same page as regards the danger of Sauron recovering the Ring (they all even use some of the same language). The Three will be exposed! But why? The Ring failed to execute its instructions in regard to the Three the first time around. Why assume it will have any more success on a second try?

OK, I can see why it would be wise not to risk it, but where do the Wise get such seemingly certain knowledge from?
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

Question, how much of the "verb" is the actual verb, how much is possessive how much postnomen...

I always translatedword by word as

Ash one
nazg ring
durbat bind
ul them
ûk all

Gimbat find

Thrakat bring
ul them
ûk all
agh into
burz dark
um -ness
-ishi ever
krimpat bind

One ring bind them all, one ring find them, one ring bring them all for in darkness-ever bind them.

A bit clumsy, the official translation is a bit more free and more poetic.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Haerangil,

I also have translated more or less word for word from Black Speech into English. But I have interpreted it a little different from you. My translation has been:

Ash - One
nazg - Ring
durb - to rule
atul - them
uk - all

gimb - to find

thrak - to bring

agh - and
burzum - dark (or darkness) (perhaps burz = 'dark' as in 'Lugburz' which the orcs call Barad-dur - 'towerdark'? and the 'um' = 'ness' or 'state of'?
ishi - in (the hyphen between burzum and ishi indicates that the 'in' means 'in the darkness')
krimp - to bind
atul - them

I think there is some evidence to support word for word translation. Consider 'nazg', for 'ring'; Nazgul = 'nazg' - 'ring' + 'ul' (or 'gul'. with the double g contracted to a single?), for 'wraith'. I like 'gul' for 'wraith' as in 'Dol Guldur', which might mean 'something' 'wraith' 'something'?

Of course, exactly which parts are roots, and which parts modifiers or suffixes is difficult to determine. It is entirely possible that the infinitive form of the verbs is 'durba', 'gimba', 'thraka', and 'krimpa', which would make 'them' = 'tul' rather than 'atul'. Other variations, such as 'durbat' being the infinitive and 'ul' meaning 'them', as you have read it, are also possible.
 
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