Learning Tengwar

Hello long suffering readers, these past couple of weeks I have been slowly teaching myself tengwar. Tengwar is the alphabet Tolkien created for his invented elvish languages of Quenya and Sindarin. I have been using the excellent resources of quenya101 to assist as well as a somewhat incomplete guide for the ductus (the order of strokes). It has been somewhat challenging, as we are not used to seeing these tengwar everywhere like we do the roman alphabet, to get the shape of the letters right. This is a much more open and rounded hand than any I have attempted so far, and it still needs more work. But I have made progress! If you remember my previous work with tengwar hopefully you can note the improvement! So here are the few pages I’ve done.


Firstly is the first verse of the Silmarilion. This is the start of the section called the Ainulindale, the music of the Ainur, and recounts the creation of the world through song, and the conflict of Melkor and the counter themes of Iluvatar. I’ve added in the quenya in the roman alphabet over each line, so you can actually read it. Giving credit where credit is due, and most certainly deserved,  it was translated into quenya by the good folks at quenya101,

Ainulindale Tengwar

As you can see, I’ve made a few mistakes but so it goes, it’s all part of the process

A literal translation is as follows, with the original text in italics for comparison:

God there was, who called is Iluvatar in Arda; and he created

There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar; and he made

firstly the Ainur, who were the children of his thought,

 firstly the Ainur, who were the children of his thought

and they were with him before all created was. And he said

and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to

to them, to give melodies of music to them; and before him they sang,

them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before

and he was joyous. But for a long time only they sang each alone,

him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sand only each alone, 

or together few Ainur, at that time the others heard; for each only understood

or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended

the part of Iluvatar’s mind whence they came,

only that part of the mind of Iluvatar from which he came,

and in knowledge of the brotherhood they continually grew slowly. Yet

and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet

always they heard, deep they understood, and they continually grew

ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding and increased

in beauty and harmony.

in unison and harmony.

As you can see, quenya is not a complete, full, or even entirely finished language, and much must be modified to retain some semblance of meaning. Yet there are certain phrases that I actually prefer in the quenya version to the original, e.g. beauty and harmony as opposed to unison and harmony. For a fuller analysis please refer to the quenya101 site.


Next I decided to work on the poems about The Dunedain that Bilbo wrote for him. This poem is probably the most famous of all of Tolkien’s poetry and it’s not too long, perfect for practice! It is, of course, the All that is gold does not glitter poem. The translation into quenya, again was by quenya101, they do some marvelous work over there, if I haven’t convinced you yet just go over there and poke  around, you’ll be glad you did. Also again I added the quenya in the roman alphabet so you can know what’s going on.

I was inspired by an exhibition of Persian Calligraphy to try a new kind of border.

I was inspired by an exhibition of Persian Calligraphy to try a new kind of border.

While I am not sure of a literal translation, here is the full poem in English:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Lastly, because I thought I could do better on the tengwar, I redid the poem. unfortunately I made a mistake (can you find it?) and am not sure how to correct it, so I haven’t finished the piece. I will probably just end up doing it again.

Just look at the progress I've made!

Just look at the progress I’ve made!


That’s all for now. In other news I have discovered an opportunity to learn calligraphy with others. Each Thursday a local college has open scriptorium sessions, which I will now be attending, this will be a fantastic chance for me to improve my calligraphy and get feedback in person, without having to pay for a class! I am super excited about this and it’s sure to be lots of fun!


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