by Florian "Lothenon" Dombach

For the Lord of the Rings trilogy a special Tengwar Mode for writing English was devised by Daniel Reeve. As far as we can say it was always used when the inscriptions are to be made in a Tehtar Mode, which will be analyzed here. [In this article the Quenya-names of the letters are seldom used. Normally I provide only the values given in Daniel Reeve's table. So these are written between accents (').]

The mode differs much from Tolkien's own examples which normally used semi-phonetic modes. So for example words in C were phonetically written with K. But in the attested movie-inscriptions we find that the table shows in almost every case the actual letter in Latin script. So mockery was written with the separate signs 'C' and 'K'. Column IV, on the first view seems to be identical to Tolkien's normal usage, but we find 'CH' used for english CH, not the Ach-Laut. I expect 'GH' to represent GH like in Hugh. This is also not phonetic but attested in Tolkien's letter to Hugh Brogan (Letters 118).

'NG' is attested as the nasal sound, but we might also expect it as the nasalized stop where Tolkien most likely wrote G nasalized by an upper bar. This nasalization is in fact not often used in the inscriptions, so for example we find Turambar written with M and B, eleventy and serpents with N and T but only Nargothrond with nasalized D. Though not attested in the examples given so far we may expect the use of 'J' and 'NK' exactly as in Latin script.

'W*' is used after vowels (so in diphthongs) as in crown, while '(W)' finds usage in any other case, for example in was or water. Tolkien himself used the first for W and both for diphthong -U/W. 'Y*' is said to be used after vowels, but we cannot see for sure if it is so. Tolkien did so, and also used it in the beginning of words, seen in you, while in the movie inscription otherwise we find (Y) used for you. '(QU)' is not attested in the movies but seems also to be used sometimes by Tolkien himself.

The use of R is exactly like Tolkien's own. So we find 'R*' before consonants and at the end of words, but 'R' where it is full pronounced. 'TH (soft)' is irritatingly used for unvoiced TH in length, but 'TH (hard)' in use of the voiced TH in they. Of 'LD/LH' and 'RD/RH' we may think to be used as RD and LD, but we find emerald written with 'L' and 'D'. 

We find two different signs for S, like is normally told in Tolkien. He himself used the one with the raised line ("silme") mostly all the time, also when there are Tehtar placed above. I guess Daniel Reeve was inspired by this, and almost constantly used the one with the lowered line ("silme nuquerna"), also when there are no Tehtar at all. The description of 'SS' and 'Z' seems strange, but the actual usage of these signs is the same as Tolkien's own: both for Z, and SS being written as S with an underline showing consonant doubling. 'X' is really used for X, which Tolkien might have written with K plus the Tehta for following S ("quesse" and "otso"). We can see this in excelent.

Every letter not mentioned in this list presents its exact counterpart in Latin script.

The vowels are used as known from Tolkien, so we find nothing new, but in some cases they represent the sound before, in others after the consonant. In one sample there actually is a mistake in this use, so the word meant as slopes in fact reads solps. The vowel written as Y in English is shown as the Y-semivowel in the normal use for Quenya, so two dots below. Silent E is shown by a single dot below, just as Tolkien did himself.
Though no long vowels are shown as these, but always with the exact length-mark that is used in the Latin script (for example thee with doubled E), we find no difference in the use of the carriers, so foe or seized with a short, and hail or again (the latter in both cases) with a long carrier.

The words the and and are shown in the shortened way that Tolkien invented, so the with 'TH (hard)' with a long stem above and below, and and with nasalized D. Tolkien also shortened of, but this is not used here but always written in full.

New or more detailed images might show some little differences.

When a full mode is wanted there is used the mode which is shown in the so called Brogan Letter (Letters 118) in all examples we know so far. At least it is only a variation, because Tolkien seems to have used 'R' for W as well as for silent R (before consonants and [attested] at the end of words), but in the movies 'R*' was used for R permanently.

See Daniel Reeve's website!


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Tengwar table from the document J.R.R. Tolkien - Creator of Middle-earth (on extended DVD edition of FotR). Basic letters.

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Tengwar table from the document J.R.R. Tolkien - Creator of Middle-earth (on extended DVD edition of FotR). Additional signs.

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Tables with cirth runes from the Casa Loma exhibition in Toronto 2002.

Daniel Reeve's inscriptions


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