(about orne & alda in Quenya)
by Leonid L.Korablev
Very little about trees as
J.R.R.Tolkien “On Fairy-Stories”
Of all the things dear to the Elves in their beloved Arda, only the stars they loved more than the trees, or perhaps just as much. And may be the Old Norse myth of Askr and Embla is a distant echo of that elvish love in our lore, a remembrance of the past contacts of men with Sindar and Eldar. The story of creation of the first human pair out of trees – the man from an ash and the woman from an elm – besides conveying the feeling that trees are “important” and remarkable, is also reminiscent of the way Elves distinguished between two major kinds of trees, as far as we can judge by their language, that magic mirror of their thought and culture.
We find that …Ornē was originally applied to straighter and more slender trees such as birches, whereas stouter, more spreading trees such as oaks and beeches were called in the ancient language galadá, “great growth”, but later this distinction was not always observed in Quenya and disappeared in Sindarin, where all trees came to be called galadh and orn fell out of common use surviving only in verse and songs and in many names both of persons and trees…” (UT, pp. 266-267). Keeping in mind this and also the description from S.D. (“…alda means a tree and ornё when smaller and more slender like a birch or a rowan…”, p.302), we can try to reconstruct that classification (although somewhat roughly), dividing the trees whose elvish names we know into the following two groups.
Q.carnimiriё (carnemiriё), S.bregalad “rowan” (quick (lively)tree), Q.tyulussё “poplar-tree”, Q.tasarё “willow”, Q.fine “larch”, Q.*aipio “cherry-tree”, S.thōn “pine-tree”, S. brethil (?) “birch”.
Q.feren (ferne) “beech”, Q.norno “oak”, Q.alalmё (lalmё) “elm”, Alda-group is: ALA-(LT) “spread”, storeyed (LT); upswept (UT); many tiered (I) [about branches]
Since this difference in meaning is said to be occasionally disregarded in Quenya, we may assume that it appeared in Primitive Eldarin and was preserved as an element of the old book language, becoming somewhat less distinct in Noldorin (maybe because the Exiles were more concerned with jewels?). It is noteworthy that in Sindarin it almost completely disappeared (remaining as a poetic form), leaving ‘galadh’ as the only common word for ‘tree’. This leads to the hypothesis that the original concept behind the words first developed (or was acquired from Oromё Aldaron himself) during the Great Western March of the Eldar, and was significantly reinforced by appearance of the Two Trees of Valinor.
Of the latter Elder One, Telperion, must have resembled the cherry (cf. “…and he bore white blossoms like the cherry…” L.R.; Silpion L.T. II, piosil (silver-“cherry”?) silpios as the name of the Silver Tree; Valpio “the holy cherry of Valinor”; silpion as the additional name after Telperion that in fact was primary name in earlier conception of J.R.R.Tolkien.
Certainly, it need not be exactly a cherry, but it definitely belonged to the ORNЁ group. I wonder if Númelótё of Númenórё (UT) might be one more form of Telperion’s images? (cf. The elder of Trees was named Telperion and its blossoms […] cf. the image of Núme+lótё (descendant of Telperion) in “The Pictures of J. Tolkien”).
Laurelin, the Second Tree, most probably resembled the beech (cf. “the other bore leaves of a young green like new opened beech” – SILM.). Laurelin was also called malinalda (malina+alda). I wonder if it is possible to construct the Quenya analogy
celeb + orn -> tyelep + orne
(About “long-hanging cluster of yellow flowers”). When J.R.R.Tolkien states that Laurelin was “founded” on Laburnum (Golden-rain), he means only yellow flowers of laburnum [spilth] (cf. “Yellow flowers swung upon her branches like the hanging blossom of those trees Men now call “Golden-rain””) but not tree itself, in spite of Ch.Tolkien’s note that “Laurelin was expressly likened to “those trees Men now call Golden-rain” (MR, pp. 157-158, n. 17).
Notably, it is stated in U.T. that malin(a) + orne was analogous to Sindarin mallorn. It may mean that the origin of the word is due to the knowledge of Quenya as far as it was known to Men…to the Númenórean scholars (V.T.#6) and usage Aldёa for Telperion’s image as well. Or these are examples of disregard to alda/orne difference of ancient Quenya like Orneliё as Q. form of Galadhrim (TI) which is obvious “Sindarism”. Or that the phenomenon of malin + orne, the tree with the color and smoothness of bark, shape, leaves and ferna (mast, beechnuts) fruits of the beech and the same time the flowers of the cherry (Telperion) deserves additional attention per se.
Another interesting analogy may be found with the material published in V.T.#27 (the newly published draft of “Valar empannen”, containing a reference to a possible Elvish form of Yggdrasill (igdrasil)). Recalling the Elvish perception of the nature of the Two Trees – “…and from each of his countless flowers…” for Telperion and “…flowers swung upon her branches” for Laurelin – we may conclude that the distinction ORNЁ/ALDA implied the gender distinction HE/SHE. Notice that the first man, Askr, is created from an ash (ORNЁ <-> he) whereas Embla, the first woman, was an elm (ALDA <-> she), so the Old Norse creation myth is in perfect gender accordance with our classification. (About Embla-Elm see “The Norse Myth” by Kevin Crossley & list books from “A Mythology for England” by C.Hostetter and A.Smith” on this topic).
At this point we may find ourselves facing a problem if “Igdrasil”, as the image of Yavanna, suggests Yggdrasill (an ash-tree). A possible explanation of this phenomenon is that Yavanna, the Lady of all trees, could combine in her image both the ORNЁ (ash) basic form and the golden (lifegiving) dew of ALDA. Perhaps, this also relates to the malin + orne. Or “Igdrasil” is exactly name for “ash-tree” as a tree from Ornё-group.
In the ‘Description of Numenor’ (U.T.) several Elvish names of the trees are mentioned – Nessa + melda (Beloved by Nessa), Varda + ria + anna (The Gift Crowned by Varda) and Yavanna + mírё (The Jewel of Yavanna). These are also called Nísimaldar. Although translated in the text as ‘fragrant’, this word may also mean Nis + ima + aldar (the women’s, female trees).
We know that Eldar (and Sindar) loved elms (cf. “…and in the great korin of elms dwells Meril-i-Turingi”, “The trees of Kortirion” Alalmimor” and” Hrívion” L.T. I) while Sindar preferred and chose for dwelling the woods of beech and oak (cf. “The trees changed to beech and oak…it smells like elves” (H.); “and the House of Denethor (Laiquendi)…loved the beech above all trees.” (L.R.); “…ALA- since the elm was held blessed and beloved by the Eldar.” (Et.) [ALAM-]). The oak was revered (as well as the beech?) among the Elf-friends (cf. U.T. “Cirion and Eorl”, note 31; [Ythlings] “…from a grove of magic oaks, sacred to Ulmo the Lord of the Sea”).
So tell us also the numerous Elvish names for the beech: PHER-, PHÉREN- feren (ferne) Q.; pheren; BERETH-T.; bredele, Ilk.breth, galbreth D., neldor, EN Brethil?Dor.gald.
Also ” a beech is a holy tree…it’s said that the prayers spoken under it go straight to heaven.” (K.Briggs “A dictionary of fairies”.)
P.S. Brethil may probably mean beech, not birch. (Cf. BERETH and Fimbrethil (one of the Entwives), she had to be ALDA, not ORNЁ.
Also, birch is hardly suitable for ship building.
I would like to thank my friend Sergey Bratus for his invaluable aid in translating “ORNGALADION” into English.
I – The Fellowship of the Ring
Et – The Etymologies in LR
H – The Hobbit
LR – The Lost Road
LTI-II – The Book of Lost Tales I-II
MR – morgoth’s Ring
Q – Q(u)enya
S — Sindarin
SD – sauron Defeated
SILM – The Silmarillion
TI – The Treason of Isengard
UT – Unfinished Tales
VT – Vinyar Tengwar