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.

LOTR: Théoden’s sword-swinging moments

Theoden sword swings.jpg

Cinematography is a special branch of filmmaking I hold very dear. The ability to convey a story visually, through the movement of a camera, the setting of a scene and the action of a character, is one of the most powerful tools of making a good film. Continue reading “LOTR: Théoden’s sword-swinging moments”

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”

From Gondolin to Trollshaws: Glamdring, Orcrist and Sting

sting

© Warner Bros. & MGM Studios

Three Elven swords were forged in Gondolin during the First Age, and presumably lost after the fall of this city as recounted in The Silmarillion. Glamdring, Orcrist and Sting make their proper appearance in The Hobbit in the lair of the three trolls, some 6,462 years later and just under 1,900 miles away from their original place of forging.

How and when could these swords have been carried such a long distance through three ages of wars, plunder and cataclysmic events? Continue reading “From Gondolin to Trollshaws: Glamdring, Orcrist and Sting”

The Tale of the Last Alliance

Last Alliance

In Tolkien’s own words 

I have long wished to see a full account of the War of the Last Alliance as written by Tolkien for the history of Middle-earth. Unfortunately, much of what we know is scattered into fragments over numerous books.

Following the success of The Tale of the Dagor Dagorth post, I have attempted to do the same thing. Looking for every passage, sentence, footnote and scrap of information referencing the Last Alliance, I have tried to construct a full account using Tolkien’s own writings. Continue reading “The Tale of the Last Alliance”

The Battle of The Five Armies Extended Edition Review!

Thorin chargeAn Extended Cut that fixes many issues but remains slightly inconsistent

Here it is folks! The long-awaited review of the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies is here.

Don’t expect a long discussion for now; just a quick look at each extended scene.

A few mild spoilers follow, in case you haven’t yet seen it. Continue reading “The Battle of The Five Armies Extended Edition Review!”

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition – Review (Part II)

FOTR review header

The reviewing continues …

Well, here it is. Almost two years later, here follows the continuation of the massive The Lord of the Rings review.

I’m ashamed to state it took me so long. But finally, here it is.

Mind you, this is only Part 2 of 3 of The Fellowship of the Ring, which I’m hoping won’t take as long to write. In the meantime, you’ve got much reading to do in this second part.

I hope you enjoy 🙂 … Continue reading “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition – Review (Part II)”