23

In the Two Towers, near the beginning of chapter "The Choices of Master Samwise", Sam uses the Phial and shouts in (I assume) elvish:

A Elbereth Gilthoniel

o menel palan-diriel,

le nallon sí di'nguruthos!

A tiro nin, Fanuilos!

What language is this exactly, and what does he say?

32

Sam was speaking Sindarin and crying a prayer to Elbereth

The translations are sourced from here, as well as there relevant source books. The direct translation seems to come from the Letters, specifically the infamous 211 To Rhona Beare, and the poetic translation seems to be from Tolkien himself, for the book The Road Goes Ever On by Donald Swann

O Elbereth Starkindler
from heaven gazing afar,
to thee I cry now in the shadow of (the fear of) death!
O look towards me, Everwhite!
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien - Letter 211, To Rhona Beare

O! Queen who kindled star on star, white-robed from heaven gazing far, here overwhelmed in dread of Death I cry: O guard me, Elbereth!
The Road Goes Ever On, "A Elbereth Gilthoniel"

Sam's invocation is highly related to the prayer to Elbereth (Varda) titled "A Elbereth Gilthoniel"

  • Not surprising that we both ended up at the same resource... :) – Jeff Zeitlin Apr 27 '18 at 13:16
  • 9
    Ah, so this is the origin of Elbereth in Nethack... – mbomb007 Apr 27 '18 at 13:53
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    Just out of curiosity, why is 211 To Rhona Beare infamous? – Elia Apr 27 '18 at 23:44
  • @Elia if you have any questions about Tolkien’s legendarium, chances are it’s answered in Letter 211 – Edlothiad Apr 28 '18 at 9:16
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    @tonysdg that letter along with 131 (If I'm remembering the numbers correctly) have at least half the answers to the questions I've seen people ask that aren't directly asked in LotR or the Hobbit. – Edlothiad Apr 28 '18 at 21:38
13

The Ardalambion indicates that it’s Sindarin, and provides a translation of this:

A Elbereth Gilthoniel o menel palan-diriel, le nallon
O Elbereth Starkindler from firmanent gazing afar, to thee I cry
sí di-nguruthos! A tiro nin, Fanuilos!
here beneath death-horror! O look towards me, Everwhite!

It continues with JRRT’s own translation(s) of this, given as

"O! Queen who kindled star on star, white-robed from heaven gazing far, here overwhelmed in dread of Death I cry: O guard me, Elbereth!"

or

"O Elbereth Starkindler from heaven gazing-afar, to thee I cry now in the shadow of (the fear of) death. O look towards me, Everwhite."

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