I translated Tolkien’s “lost” poem

Around two years ago I was browsing online on a typical Saturday evening, and I came across an intriguing post on the Tolkien Collector’s Guide forum, dated September 2019. Someone was asking for a copy of a book entitled: Das erste Jahrzehnt 1977–1987: Ein Almanach, or The First Decade 1977–1987: An Almanac, produced by Klett-Cotta, a German publishing company. In it, so the post claimed, was a copy of a poem written by Tolkien entitled ‘The Complaint of Mim the Dwarf’. And while the replies that followed the original post were helpful in tracking down a copy of the almanac, no other information on the poem itself was forthcoming, except that this version of the poem in the almanac had been translated into German by Hans J. Schütz and titled Mîms Klage.

Now, as most of you know Mîm is a character featured in both The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin. He is what Tolkien calls a petty-dwarf, who were a diminutive race of Dwarves. In the stories, he is involved with Túrin and his band of Outlaws, and later on is ultimately slain by his father Húrin in halls of Nargothrond.

I contemplated long and hard on this, and eventually succumbed to the pressures that come when you cherish a deep passion for anything Tolkien, so I hunted down that particular almanac and acquired a copy for myself. Now, my knowledge of German is extremely limited and I was unable to fully appreciate the words printed on the handful of pages before me. Having said that, I was ecstatic that I had in my collection something not many Tolkien readers had read before (and neither would I it seemed – unless I taught myself German).

And, although the language barrier remained, I discovered much more information on ‘The Complaint of Mîm the Dwarf’; which, in reality, was not just a 26-verse poem, written in decasyllabic rhyming couplets (at least the German translation); but the poem was also accompanied by a three and a half page prose fragment, and was clearly a continuation or an amalgamation to the poem itself. Amid the foreign words, I glimpsed the name Mîm several times, together with the word Zwerg, which I somehow subconsciously remembered it as being the term for Dwarf, and the name Tarn Aeluin – which, as any readers of The Silmarillion will be aware of, is a mountain lake on the Highlands of Dorthonion in the lands of Beleriand; more specifically, the place in which Barahir (father of the famed Beren) and his band of outlaws are forced to flee from after an attack by Orcs.

my knowledge of German is disastrous, and my skills as a language translator were limited to a few amateur exercises I used to attempt for fun years back. So my first port of call was a number of German-English dictionaries and the ever-convenient online translator. I started to transcribe the text from the poem and cross-referencing each word to its corresponding English counterpart, and step-by-step, the first few verses of the poem began to reveal themselves to me. Mîm and the reasons for his lamentations were unlocked, and each line demonstrated Tolkien’s excellent skill of word and language – aware as I was that my English translation was far from ideal; it was a corrupted rendition of a translation from a translation.

Still, I got a glimpse, a tiny glimmer, of the potential beauty of this unpublished work. The poem, now sufficiently legible for me to appreciate each verse and meaning, transformed into this powerful lyric about a wronged Petty-Dwarf whose memory of forging jewels and hardships in exile resonates all the more powerful, especially when one is aware of this character’s past from The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin. As is the case with much of Tolkien’s poetry, this poem was clearly evocative, atmospheric, powerful and resonant.

So, following that initial exercise of a very basic translation, it was time to refine it even more. A wanted to capture as much as possible Tolkien’s own poetic style, whilst at the same time maintain the use of rhyming couplets for the verses. I confess, this was a really fun stage, as I began experimenting with word changes, playing with tonality and sentence structure, and polishing as much as possible the final aesthetic of the poem.

Second Age confirmed! LOTR Amazon Series

Númenor.png

Ladies and Gentleman, we have the island of Númenor!

LOTRonPrime tweeted earlier today an update to their interactive Middle-earth map … and a confirmation that the series will, in some way, reference the Second Age. Continue reading “Second Age confirmed! LOTR Amazon Series”

A “very” sketchy analysis of the Lord of the Rings Amazon series interactive map

Amazon LOTR Map banner

So Amazon just released an interactive map in what appears to be the beginning of a long and tantalising marketing campaign leading to the release of the secretively-termed “Lord of the Rings series”.

The interactivity of this map lies in the user’s ability to zoom in or out of the familiar layout of Middle-earth and scroll across the landscape features. Suffice to say, the map is quite bare – lacking any sort of geographical names or other details.

So what clues can we gather from this rather uncommunicative map. I decided to undertake a quick exercise to analyse the map, and avoid the hundreds of other fan theories most likely spawning out there on the internet.

What follows is my own, unbiased (most probably totally erroneous, but fun-making) analysis of what this map could mean … Continue reading “A “very” sketchy analysis of the Lord of the Rings Amazon series interactive map”

‘Tolkien’ Teaser now online – and it looks stunning!

Tolkien banner

The kind folks over at TheOneRing.net were given the honour of unveiling the teaser trailer for the upcoming film ‘Tolkien’.

True, there’s not much one can fully appreciate in the 1-minute clip, but it sure got me excited for its release! The visuals truly look captivating, but I’ll reserve my judgement of the film itself once I see it in cinemas. Continue reading “‘Tolkien’ Teaser now online – and it looks stunning!”

21 December 2003

The Lord of the Rings (on-screen logo)

I was 15, and I had just spent the previous twelve months with a feeling of constant uneasiness. I was afraid — afraid of people who knew too much, who had read The Lord of the Rings and would reveal the conclusion to the story before I had experienced it.

During the entire year of 2003, I was ever on the lookout not to find myself part of a conversation that naturally gravitated towards the looming release of The Return of the King. I would veer discussion far away from anything related to the trilogy, and would walk off as fast as a fell-beast flies whenever I heard people close by talking about the films -— often having to hum to myself in order to drown out any noise or keywords being spoken that might spoil the ending. Continue reading “21 December 2003”

Approaching Tolkien: The Fall of Gondolin

The Fall of Gondolin.pngFollowing the same editorial structure employed in Beren and Lúthien, Christopher Tolkien’s new publication offers readers a detailed look at the evolution of the writing that was to become the main narrative behind the story of Gondolin.

The book presents several iterations of Tuor’s story — the lone man in search of the Hidden City, and his adventures before and during its fall. As with the preceding publication, there is no new material to adorn this book, although The Fall of Gondolin does present the various scattered stories found in The Book of Lost Tales and Unfinished Tales within one collection. Continue reading “Approaching Tolkien: The Fall of Gondolin”

5 Great Places in Middle-earth You Can Actually Visit

The following is a guest post written by Kayla Robbins.

Many filming locations featured in the movies are open to tourists!

Are you looking for a unique vacation destination for your next trip? Why not stop by Middle-earth? It may sound too good to be true, but there are actually several places throughout New Zealand that were featured prominently in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films that are now open to tourists. Continue reading “5 Great Places in Middle-earth You Can Actually Visit”