Does anyone know if this transcription is correct? It's a portion of Upon the Hearth the Fire is Red.

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.

strong text

  • I'm assuming you've generated it with this online tool?
    – Valorum
    Apr 19, 2016 at 23:41
  • Looks like the first line at least is correct; see this question.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Apr 19, 2016 at 23:42
  • 2
    By the way, I'm not sure what the title has to do with the question? "Upon the hearth the fire is red" isn't part of the lines whose translation you're asking about.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Apr 19, 2016 at 23:42
  • 2
    @Randal'Thor - The quote is a snippet from a poem of that name
    – Valorum
    Apr 19, 2016 at 23:43
  • 6
    I'm confused. How is this a translation? Transcribing something in tengwar is world's away from actually translating anything.
    – ibid
    Apr 20, 2016 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


As far as elvish goes, the transcription is incorrect. Rather, your idea that this is elvish is incorrect. What you have there is the same text in English language using the Tengwar alphabet. The alphabet can be used with English, but it doesn't make it "elvish". I think the English version is okay, though. But if you want real elvish, carry on reading.

Translating that is not a trivial task at all. First of all, there are more than one "elvish" language. Prof. Tolkien created many languages, of which there are two usable elven languages called Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya is more like an elven latin whereas Sindarin is more like a lingua franca amonsgt elves and Numenoreans (Aragorn's people).

And even these have different flavours. There is an "Old Sindarin" and a third age version. There are some examples of Sindarin in the books and several in the films. Galadriel's farewell is one of the rare examples of Quenya, yet Quenya is more complete than Sindarin. That's because originally Quenya was supposed to be the lingua franca, but Tolkien changed his mind while writing The Lord of the Rings.

So, I'm assuming you want to translate into Sindarin, in a fashion any Numenorean or elf in the third age would be able to understand.

If you are trying to achieve a "canon" type of translation, that's virtually impossible. Prof. Tolkien never finished designing the language and left many gaps behind. There is, however, an effort to reverse engineer the language and fill the gaps. The thing is: Quenya and Sindarin share a common root and Quenya can be deconstructed to be re-arranged as Sindarin. This is what we call Neo-Sindarin, and this is what linguists like David Salo are known by. Most elven speech you listen to in the films is Salo's reconstructed Sindarin, so this is the place to start.

Now, I can try and show what is behind translating your text. Yet I am no linguist, so I may have made some mistakes, so don't go tattooing this anywhere. Sindarin is a very complicated language, it is full of mutations and odd verbal issues. But let's try to do something.

"home is behind"
home   - noun   - bar
is     - verb   - nan (present, 3rd person)
behind - adverb - adel

bar nan adel

"the world [is] ahead"
the    - article - i
world  - noun    - amar
ahead  - adverb  - thar

i amar thar

"and [there] are many paths [to] be walked"
and  - conjunction - a/ah[+vowel]
are  - verb        - nar (plural, 3rd person)
many - adjective   - laew
path - noun        - râd ~> plural = raid
to   - preposition - an (+ nasal mutation)
walk - verb        - Bad-
     ~> past passive participle plural "walked" = bennin

a nar laew raid an naw bennin

"through shadows to [the] night edge"
through - preposition - trî/tre- (+ soft mutation)
shadow  - noun        - dúath ~> + SM = dhúath
to      - preposition - an (+ nasal mutation)
night   - noun        - dû -> + NM = nû
edge    - noun        - rîw

trî dhúath an nû rîw

"before [the] stars all are burning"
before - preposition - núf (+ soft mutation)
star   - noun        - gîl ~> 'îl
all    - pân         - pân ~> în phain (mutated)
are    - verb        - naw
burn   - verb        - dosta- ~> gerund = dostad

núf 'îl în phain naw dostad


Bar nan adel, i amar thar

A nar laew raid an naw bennin

Trî dhúath an nû rîw

Núf 'îl în phain naw dostad

There are many words for night, many variants of "to walk". "To walk" could use gerund "baded". Gerund can be used in place of participle sometimes, and the "to be" can be negleted. Composite words can be created. Perhaps "edge of night" can become a single word? I haven't tried. As you can see, a lot of mistakes can be made.

I used Salo's book "A Gateway to Sindarin" as reference. I also used Helge Kåre Fauskanger's website Ardalambion.

You might be able to recognise some words like "amar" (world). Galadriel speaks that in the film: "i amar prestar aen" = "the world is changed/affected". That's actually the very first thing you hear.

Now to the alphabet. Tengwar is a phonetic alphabet. There are two ways Sindarin is often reproduced in tengwar, I will give you both. The first one is the standard mode and is probably the one an Elf would prefer in The Lord of the Rings. It uses symbols similar to accents (åáàãâ) to represent vowels. There are no examples in the books, except from earlier sketches.

Standard mode:

Tengwar standard mode

The second way is the Beleriand mode. This mode uses whole characters for vowels. In the standard mode, some characters are left unused because the sounds they represent don't exist in Sindarin. With the Beleriand mode that issue is minimised. This is the one used in the western doors of Moria and is how the Sindar elves used to write their language. Celeborn is supposed to be a Sindar.

Beleriand mode:

Tengwar Beleriand mode

You can learn more here:

About Prof. Tolkien's languages:

Sindarin grammar:


Phrases used in the films:


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