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If all Elvish languages are written in the Tengwar script, and in-universe, Tengwar was invented by Fëanor in Valinor, does this mean that the Sindar had no written language until they re-encountered the Noldor after they fled Valinor for Middle-earth?

Alternate ideas:

  1. Fëanor invented the script before coming to Valinor and before Thingol stayed behind
  2. Ulmo or Melian somehow transferred this knowledge?
  3. There was some older script used as the written language of the Sindar that was later abandoned?
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  • 5
    Posting as a comment, since I don't have the source handy: "The alphabet of Rúmil of Tirion, on which Fëanor supposedly based his own work, was known as Sarati." So there were other, older, writing systems which were subsequently abandoned.
    – DavidW
    Jun 10, 2021 at 16:04
  • @DavidW - Rumil was also in Valinor
    – ibid
    Jun 10, 2021 at 16:23
  • 1
    @ibid The value of the quote was to provide evidence for the following statement.
    – DavidW
    Jun 10, 2021 at 16:25
  • "If all Elvish languages are written in the Tengwar script" - no, not at all, and I wonder why you've never heard of Cirth...
    – Mithoron
    Jun 11, 2021 at 13:59

2 Answers 2

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No, they had their own writing system

Although it is hard to find a source for the exact date, Tolkien Gateway supposes that it was created during the Chaining of Melkor. It seems to be easily deduced that these were almost certainly invented before either of the writing systems from Valinor (Sarati or Tengwar) had been introduced to Middle-earth as their form is far more archaic and the shape inspired by more tough writing modes (carving on wood/stone).

The Cirth were devised first in Beleriand by the Sindar, and were long used only for inscribing names and brief memorials upon wood or stone. To that origin they owe their angular shapes, very similar to the runes of our times, though they differed from these in details and were wholly different in arrangement. [...]
But in Beleriand, before the end of the First Age, the Cirth, partly under the influence of the Tengwar of the Noldor, were rearranged and further developed. Their richest and most ordered form was known as the Alphabet of Daeron, since in Elvish tradition it was said to have been devised by Daeron, the minstrel and loremaster of King Thingol of Doriath.
The Return of the King, Appendix E, Writing and Spelling: Writing

Some information on the timing of when the runes were invented is given in The History of Middle-earth, although some care needs to be taken as some of the below is from various, older, versions of the Legendarium. In the below quote the Ilkorins are the predecessors to what became the Sindar:

The Ilkorins of Beleriand devised an alphabet of ‘runes’, or angular letters used in inscriptions. This became widespread in Beleriand, already before the exile of the Noldor of Valinor, and showed various divergences in forms and uses at different times and places.
The Treason of Isengard: Appendix on Runes, (ii) The 'Alphabet of Dairon'

Further detail is given in "The War of the Jewels", where Christopher supposed in or before Valian Year 1300 for the invention of the runes based on a few metrics:

It is said in the footnote to the paragraph that Dairon contrived his runes ‘ere the building of Menegroth’ (begun in 1300, according to GA); so also in GA 1 ‘Dairon ... had devised his Runes already by V.Y.1300’. An annal added to the typescript of AAm (X.106, §85) has ‘1300 Daeron, loremaster of Thingol, contrives the Runes.
The War of the Jewels, Part One: The Grey Annals, Commentary §31

In the above GA is short for "Grey Annals", where GA1 is the abandoned opening and GA2 is the final text when distinguished from GA1. AAm is short for "Annals of Aman".

12

The Sindar had their own writing system before encountering Tengwar

In the Year of the Trees 1300 or 1350, Daeron of Doriath created a runic writing system later known as the Cirth or the Alphabet of Dearon. (The Flight of the Noldor was 1500 YotT)

1300
Daeron, loremaster of Thingol, contrives the Runes
"The Annals of Aman", from Morgoth's Ring (later addition by Tolkien cited in the commentary)

1350
Of the long years of peace that followed after the coming of Denethor there is little tale; for though in this time Dairon the minstrel, it is said, who was the chief loremaster of the kingdom of Thingol, devised his Runes, [added later in margin: Cirth] they were little used by the Sindar for the keeping of records, until the days of the War, and much that was held in memory has perished in the ruin of Doriath.
"The Grey Annals", from The War of the Jewels

When the Feanorian letters were brought to Beleriand and applied (first by the Noldor) to Sindarin, tengwa was rendered by its recognized Sindarin equivalent tew, pl. tiw. The letters of the native S[indarin] alphabet were called certh, pl. cirth.
"Quendi and Elder", Appendix D, from The War of the Jewels

The Cirth were devised first in Beleriand by the Sindar, and were long used only for inscribing names and brief memorials upon wood or stone. To that origin they owe their angular shapes, very similar to the runes of our times, though they differed from these in details and were wholly different in arrangement. ... Their richest and most ordered form was known as the Alphabet of Daeron, since in Elvish tradition it was said to have been devised by Daeron, the minstrel and loremaster of King Thingol of Doriath.
The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, Writing and Spelling

Note that this was all significantly later than we know their Valinor brethren had already discovered writing. Feanor devised the Tengwar in Valinor in the Year of the Trees 1250, based on the older system of Sarati that was already in use there at the time.

1250
In this time began the flowering of the skill of Feanor son of Finwe, who was of all the Noldor the greatest maker and craftsman. And he took thought and devised new letters, bettering the devices of Rumil, and those letters the Eldar have used ever since that day.
"The Annals of Aman", from Morgoth's Ring

In the mode that he propounded for the practical representation of Quenya [Feanor] made use of the syllabic analysis of his predecessors, already embodied in the older Rúmilian script, but he did this chiefly for the sake of compactness and brevity.
"Quendi and Elder", Appendix D, from Vinyar Tengwar #39

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