Home

Frequently Asked Questions

Contents

You have a question you hope I can answer? Chances are I have already answered it, a number of times. Before contacting me, read through this page and see if your favourite question is here.

Help with Tengwar/Elvish

Question

Can you translate something into Elvish for me?

Answer

That question is more complicated than it may seem, for a number of reasons:

  1. There are several Elvish languages, the two most well-known of which are Quenya and Sindarin.
    • Quenya is also called High-elven, and is the old, venerable language of the Eldar from beyond the sea. In the chapter “Farewell to Lórien” in The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel sings a lament in Quenya, beginning Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen....
    • Sindarin is the everyday speech of many elves (and noble humans) in Middle-earth. The song to Elbereth found in the chapter “Many Meetings” of The Lord of the Rings is an example of Sindarin.
  2. While Tengwar is certainly an Elvish writing system, it is not a langage. You cannot speak Tengwar any more than you can speak the Roman alphabet. Just like the Roman alphabet, the Tengwar can be used to write a virtually endless number of languages, including English. The two songs mentioned above are both found written with Tengwar in the book The Road Goes Ever On (see DTS 20 and DTS 21). But as the list of Tengwar Modes on this site attests, numerous other languages are known to have been written with Tengwar by Tolkien.
  3. Our knowledge of the Elvish languages, as Tolkien envisioned them, is based on descriptions and samples scattered throughout his production. There is no single authoritative grammar and dictionary of Quenya or Sindarin, and there are many gaps and controversial points in our understanding of these languages. Given enough time I could very likely come up with a translation for whatever you would like translated. But it is very likely many would disagree with my solution. Therefore, I prefer to spend my free time doing more rewarding things, such as attempting to describe on this site what Tolkien himself wrote.

To sum up, I do not do translations to Elvish on request. It is too time-consuming and tends to be controversial. As for transcription from Roman letters to Tengwar, see below.

Question

I want a Tengwar transcription for a tattoo / ring. Can you help me?

Answer

This is the request I get most frequently. Sadly, I don’t have enough spare time to help everyone who wants me to. I therefore recommend these steps to everyone interested in a personal Tengwar text:

  1. Read through any documents on this site that are relevant. If you need more information after that, visit the sites listed on my Links page, particularly the ones under the heading Basic information. Then see if you can write your own text.
  2. Try some of the Tengwar transcription programs. There are several available, both online and as downloads for various computer platforms. Links to these are also found on the Fonts and utilities section of the Links page.
  3. If you want, you are welcome to send me a picture of your transcription and politely ask for comments.

Tengwar on computers

Question

The transcription programs (such as TengScribe, KTT, YaTT) only generate nonsense text! What is wrong?

Answer

For most of these programs to work, you need to install a Tengwar font with a keyboard layout compatible with that invented by Daniel Smith for his font Tengwar Quenya. All fonts listed on my Links page work, except the Unicode font Tengwar Telcontar. For more unusual Tengwar modes it is safest to stick to those made by Dan Smith. The fonts Tengwar Parmaite and Tengwar Eldamar, downloadable from this site, also work.

Question

The transcription generated by the Tengwar Scribe looks strange. There are strange gaps or spaces in the text!

Answer

When displaying tengwar and other formatted text, the TengScribe relies on a Windows component known as the RichText control. In some Windows versions (specifically some editions of Windows 2000 and XP), this control is for some reason unable to display characters with a width of zero correctly. Since most tehtar are zero-width in Tengwar fonts, so as to overlap the preceding letter, Windows inserts extra spacing where these characters occur.

Note that the generated transcription is still technically correct, it is just displayed badly in the TengScribe. If you save your transcription as an RTF document and then open it in a word processor such as Word, it will be shown correctly. (The small word processor WordPad that is included with Windows also employs the RichText control, so the bug will show up there as well.)

There are other transcription utilities available which do not have this error, simply because they don’t depend on the Windows-native RichText control. I am not primarily a programmer, and I lack the skills necessary to correct the bug. To those that encounter it I am therefore obliged to recommend trying some of the other excellent transcription utilities available. See the Fonts and utilities section of my Links page for a list of those.

The last resort

Question

I tried all your suggestions, and I still want your help. I’m prepared to pay you for your trouble! Pleeease...

Answer

All right, here’s what you should do. Send a letter (snail-mail) to

Måns Björkman
Sankt Eriksgatan 71
SE-113 32 Stockholm
Sweden

The letter should contain:

When I receive the letter, I will write a transcription (or several, if more than one mode is applicable) and post it as quickly as I can, using the return envelope.

In case anyone wonders, I don’t offer this service out of greed. I don’t expect to make much money out of it, but I hope it can relieve my conscience of the many requests that have hitherto gone unanswered, and allow me to concentrate my time and energy on those who are motivated enough to spending some for themselves.