5

How do Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits, and Orcs (especially Orcs) learn to speak?

Do they have schools?

And how do the rest learn to write as well?

Where is elvish, or english taught?

4
  • 1
    <comments removed> Try again, but with less rudeness.
    – user1027
    Jan 26 '16 at 18:32
  • There's no English in Middle-earth, most popular tongue is Westron, which is substituted in books with English.
    – Mithoron
    Jan 27 '16 at 1:05
  • 8
    Middle-school. HAH!
    – Wad Cheber
    Jan 28 '16 at 16:13
  • they bought those Rosetta Stone language CDs you can order online.. i think Feb 8 '16 at 15:24
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Hobbits and Rustic Men

The first reference to education I can think of comes early in The Lord of the Rings, the very first chapter actually.

Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters –meaning no harm, mark you, and I hope no harm will come of it.

Lord of the Rings | A Long Expected Party

Says the gaffer, referring to his son Samwise who was taught to read and write by Bilbo.

It's clear from the tone that he somewhat disapproves of it and thinks Sam may get above his station.

Later on we learn that Barliman Butterbur is also lettered, and this again seems to be something of an anathema.

‘It’s addressed plain enough,’ said Mr. Butterbur, producing a letter from his pocket, and reading out the address slowly and proudly (he valued his reputation as a lettered man):

Lord of the Rings | Strider

We can take from these examples that at least in The Shire and Bree education was not something that was common, at least an academic one.

Dwarves

It seems Durin was capable of speech from the moment he woke (or at least he learned it while still on his own) if we take Gimli's song literally.

The world was young, the mountains green, No stain yet on the Moon was seen, No words were laid on stream or stone When Durin woke and walked alone. He named the nameless hills and dells; He drank from yet untasted wells; He stooped and looked in Mirrormere, And saw a crown of stars appear, As gems upon a silver thread, Above the shadow of his head.

Ents

(Bonus round) The Ents were initially taught language by the Elves.

Still, I take more kindly to Elves than to others: it was the Elves that cured us of dumbness long ago, and that was a great gift that cannot be forgotten, though our ways have parted since.

The Lord of the Rings | Treebeard

One must presume they passed he skill down to the Entings in time.

Orcs

The Orcs had no language of their own but used bastardised versions of others.

We have no idea how Orc culture and language is passed on.

Black Speech, an invention of Sauron is seen a couple of times.

The Orcs were first bred by the Dark Power of the North in the Elder Days. It is said that they had no language of their own, but took what they could of other tongues and perverted it to their own liking; yet they made only brutal jargons, scarcely sufficient even for their own needs, unless it were for curses and abuse. And these creatures, being filled with malice, hating even their own kind, quickly developed as many barbarous dialects as there were groups or settlements of their race, so that their Orkish speech was of little use to them in intercourse between different tribes. So it was that in the Third Age Orcs used for communication between breed and breed the Westron tongue; and many indeed of the older tribes, such as those that still lingered in the North and in the Misty Mountains, had long used the Westron as their native language, though in such a fashion as to make it hardly less unlovely than Orkish. In this jargon tark, ‘man of Gondor’, was a debased form of tarkil , a Quenya word used in Westron for one of Númenórean descent; see p. 906 . It is said that the Black Speech was devised by Sauron in the Dark Years, and that he had desired to make it the language of all those that served him, but he failed in that purpose. From the Black Speech, however, were derived many of the words that were in the Third Age wide-spread among the Orcs, such as ghâsh ‘fire’, but after the first overthrow of Sauron this language in its ancient form was forgotten by all but the Nazgûl. When Sauron arose again, it became once more the language of Barad-dûr and of the captains of Mordor. The inscription on the Ring was in the ancient Black Speech, while the curse of the Mordor-orc on p. 445 was in the more debased form used by the soldiers of the Dark Tower, of whom Grishnákh was the captain. Sharkû in that tongue means old man.

The Lord of the Rings | The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age


I'll continue to look for references to other Men, Dwarves and Elves and Orcs

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    based on the time period the novels are emulating I would expect "private tutorship" -- as with Bilbo to Sam -- to be the primary means of that kind of education.
    – KutuluMike
    Jan 26 '16 at 17:58
  • @MikeEdenfield agreed.
    – user46509
    Jan 26 '16 at 17:58
  • @MikeEdenfield and only in wealthier family's
    – user46509
    Jan 26 '16 at 18:02
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    This raises a new question on education in the Shire: as I recall, Bilbo sent letters to invite people to his birthday party, and people responded with letters too. The question is then: if writing seem indeed like a rare skill in the Shire according to Sam's dad, then how could people read and respond to Bilbo's letter?
    – Fatalize
    Feb 8 '16 at 9:42
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Speech

We're not told, but I see no reason to believe that most creatures (orcs included) don't simply learn by osmosis; that's how most people learn to speak our native tongue, after all.

Learning a second language, something that appears only to have been done by those of high social class (and inclination, in the case of hobbits) was presumably done by tutoring. Note that when Frodo addresses Gildor in Quenya, Gildor replies (emphasis mine):

Here is a scholar in the Ancient Tongue. Bilbo was a good master.

Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter 3: "Three is Company"

Which suggests a master-student relationship, or what we might now think of as one-on-one tutoring.

The Elves, however, appear to have been more peer-oriented in their education. Although I'm not sure about their initial education, I've mentioned before on this site that at least some of their education comes just from picking up words that other Elves are using; the Elves are portrayed as liking language, rather a lot, so it's not a stretch to imagine they're also talented at picking it up.

As far as the Orcs are concerned, osmosis seems plausible as well; all we really know comes from Appendix F:

It is said that [the Orcs] had no language of their own, but took what they could of other tongues and perverted it to their own liking; yet they made only brutal jargons, scarcely sufficient even for their own needs, unless it were for curses and abuse.

[...]

It is said that the Black Speech was devised by Sauron in the Dark Years, and that he had desired to make it the language of all those that served him, but he failed in that purpose.

Return of the King Appendix F I: "The Languages of the Peoples of the Third Age"

They don't seem terribly interested in learning, either.

Reading/Writing

In most cases we don't know, so rather than breaking things down by species I'm mostly going to be speaking in generalizations.

Presumably they learn primarily from family members or other members of the community; as far as I know we only get one specific instance of this being discussed, where we learn that Sam was taught by Bilbo (emphasis mine):

[M]y lad Sam will know more about that. He's in and out of Bag End. Crazy about stories of the old days he is, and he listens to all Mr. Bilbo's tales. Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters - meaning no harm, mark you, and I hope no harm will come of it.

Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter 1: "A Long-Expected Party"

Note that the Gaffer's tone implies that Sam wouldn't have learned them without Bilbo's intervention, suggesting that working-class hobbits are largely illiterate.

According to The Peoples of Middle-earth, not all of the men of Numenor learned to read or write; but those who did appeared to be taught in some kind of school setting:

All men of high lineage and all those who were taught to read and write used Sindarin, even as a daily tongue among themselves. In some families, it is said, Sindarin became the native tongue, and the vulgar tongue of Adunaic origin was only learned casually as it was needed.

History of Middle-earth XII The Peoples of Middle-earth Chapter 10: "Of Dwarves and Men"

A footnote on this text reads:

It thus became naturally somewhat corrupted from the true Sindarin of the Elves, but this was hindered by the fact that Sindarin was held in high esteem and was taught in the schools, according to forms and grammatical structure of ancient days.

History of Middle-earth XII The Peoples of Middle-earth Chapter 10: "Of Dwarves and Men"

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  • Were Elves created, initially with the song, knowing language, or did they develop it themselves after creation?
    – user31178
    Jan 26 '16 at 18:03
  • 1
    @CreationEdge that's got the makings of a new question
    – user46509
    Jan 26 '16 at 18:05
  • @CreationEdge They invented their own first speech, but it's not clear that they were created with language pre-programmed, as it were Jan 26 '16 at 18:05
  • @AncalagonTheBlack Perhaps! But this question also asks about Elves and Orcs (and Orcs aren't addressed in either answer, yet!)
    – user31178
    Jan 26 '16 at 18:06
  • 1
    My understanding was the 'ancient tongue' referenced in the Gildor quote was Quenya, not Sindarin. Jan 26 '16 at 23:49

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