. Alas, not me: September 2020

28 September 2020

Questions on The Ring, the Ring-verse, and Elision at FR 2.ii.254

 1) If the Ring is sentient, as some suppose it to be, why doesn't it react at all when Gandalf recites the Ring incantation in the Black Speech at the Council of Elrond?

'Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, 
ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.'

The change in the wizard's voice was astounding. Suddenly it became menacing, powerful, harsh as stone. A shadow seemed to pass over the high sun, and the porch for a moment grew dark. All trembled, and the Elves stopped their ears.

Everything and everyone else has some reaction. Not the Ring.

2) If the Ring actually changes size, instead of just seeming to do so, might that not have something to do with Sauron's nature as a Maia who could change his size and appearance until his death in Númenor? Since Sauron put much of his power into the Ring, and since his ability to change his size appearance became severely limited thereafter, the Ring could well have an innate ability to adapt to the size of its possessor, which carried over from Sauron. This could also explain why the Ring does not change size when Bombadil handles it -- because he does not possess it.

3) In the words burzum-ishi in the Ring-verse, what is the hyphen telling us? None of the other words have this feature. Why is this different? These words, moreover, disturb the rhythm of the line. For this see the excellent discussion by Corey Olsen in Exploring the Lord of the Rings, session 151.* The question of an elision to smooth the line was raised, but quickly dropped since Corey Olsen rightly found the idea of eliding the final -i- of ishi impossible, given the -k- which follows. 

What if the hyphen is directing the reader to elide the final syllable of burzum with the first syllable of ishi? In Latin verse, which Tolkien read and wrote, a final -m- may be dropped if the following word begins with a vowel. The words are still written out fully. The pronunciation and the rhythm change. Whether it would end up up being said burzishi or burzushi, I cannot say.** The latter would suit the assonance of all those syllables with -u-, and the sound is harsher than that of the former would be. The Black Speech was meant to sound harsh. On the other hand, if Latin prosody still applies, burzishi is what we should expect. 

The hyphen remains unexplained otherwise, and the rhythm remains disturbed.


*I composed this post before listening to session 152 of Exploring the Lord of the Rings.

**Alas, the famous treatise of Khamûl the Ringwraith on the Prosody of the Black Speech is lost.