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I've recently discovered that "Pelennor" is not Westron, but Sindarin.

Taken from tolkiengateway.net:

The name Pelennor translates to "fenced, encircled land" in Sindarin. Christopher Tolkien has noted that the first element derives from the Elvish root/element pel- ("go round, encircle"); the other elements appear to be end (from enedh "middle")' + (n-)dor ("land, dwelling"). The field was called by several other names as well, such as Fields of Pelennor, the Pelennor, and the townlands.

I did some minor investigating into the languages of Gondor on the same site and found this:

Sindarin had long ceased to be a "first language" in Gondor, but was learned in early youth (by those claiming Númenórean descent) from loremasters, and used by them as a mark of rank and high-blood. ... Westron became used more and more by the Dúnedain of Gondor themselves, so that at the time of the War of the Ring, Sindarin was known to only a small part of the peoples of Gondor (and spoken daily by fewer); they dwelt mostly in Minas Tirith and the adjacent townlands, and in the land of the tributary princes of Dol Amroth. Sindarin was used to be polite, especially in Minas Tirith.

Earlier, on the same page as the first quote:

After Minas Ithil had fallen and been renamed Minas Morgul, the Fields were walled by the great wall of Rammas Echor by Ecthelion II in T.A. 2954, to prevent an invasion. Presumably, the Fields took their name because of this enclosure.

So, all this considered, do the commonfolk of Gondor call the Pelennor Fields the "Pelennor Fields"? Or perhaps the "Rammas Echor Fields" (though unlikely, as this too is a Sindarin name [link])? Or do they not have a proper name for it and simply refer to the area as "the townlands"?

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    I don't think we have enough Westron vocabulary to know, but presumably "The Fenced Fields" would be the English translation.
    – OrangeDog
    May 29 at 18:05
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    I dispute the assumption this question is based on. Once you name a place, people use the name. Nobody talks about "Rat's Mouth, Florida" or "Red Stick, Louisiana."
    – DavidW
    May 29 at 21:59
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    Yeah, just because they did not speak Sindarin, did not mean they stopped calling locations by their traditional names. May 30 at 1:41
  • @DavidW I got the red stick immediately, but your rat's mouth made me googlemap. Thanks for a good nerd snipe. May 30 at 11:02
  • @DavidW Thank you for your response and great examples! I agree with your rebuttal and anticipated the possibility of keeping the name as is (hence the first of three proposed possibilities in my question); I only know just enough to get confused. The particular thing that threw me was learning that Minas Morgul, formerly Minas Ithil, was also called Dushgoi--so I wondered if the non-Sindarin-speaking commonfolk continued to call the Pelennor Fields by its Sindarin name or if they opted for a different name, Westron or otherwise. Perhaps there is a better way I could phrase my question?
    – WiZΔRD
    May 30 at 19:53

3 Answers 3

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I don't know how anyone can do more than make a plausible guess by following Tolkien's conceit that English == Westron and come up with a name in English meaning something like "fenced, encircled land" which would also be the sort of name that would survive in everyday speech for centuries -- it can't be too formal!

But even that's unlikely to be right, since people are not good at all at creating use-names which have a obvious academic basis. Just look at Istanbul, the former Constantinople. 'Istanbul' is a wearing down of 'Istanpolin', a Turkish version of the Greek 'eis tēn polin' meaning 'into the city'. I strongly suspect that many Greek-speaking provincials called Constantinople "The City" since what other city was there, really? (Just as New Yorkers do today...)

So:

  • 'Ram' or 'the Ram' or 'the Rammas' -- a wearing down of Rammas Echor
  • 'the Pelennor' or 'the Pel' -- A different wearing down
  • 'the home farms'
  • 'the garth' or 'the yard' or 'the fields'

There's no end to the plausible things we can come up with. (And if I knew more of English Midlands terminology, I'll bet there are more Tolkienesque choices.)

But in the end it's -- at best -- educated guessing. People will call it what they want, sometimes for surprising reasons.

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    I agree, but will add: on the same Tolkien Gateway page mentioned in the question, the side-bar says "Farmlands with small settlements,". I would suppose each such settlement had it's own name, just like any real-world hamlet. On foot, given it's apparent size, people probably stayed close to home.
    – FlaStorm32
    May 30 at 1:15
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As a linguist, Tolkien knew that place names are “sticky”

Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa (a Dutch name) and died in Bournemouth, UK (a modern English name - literally the mouth of the Bourne [a Middle English name] river). In between, he spent most of his life in England - a place where you can still trace the limit of the Danelaw by the names of the places - Scandinavian names in the north and east and Anglo-Saxon in the south and west. With a smattering of Celtic, Latin, French, places named after other places and, of course, places named after people.

Pelennor was named by the Numenorians in the language that educated Numanorions used - Sindarin Elvish. Gondorians continue to use that name for the same reason that modern English people continue to use the Latin name London for their capital city.

Also, Tolkien was very clear when a place had different names in different languages: Imladris/Rivendell, Moria/Kazud-dum, etc.

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The LotR is feigned to be a translation from the Red book, and English represents Westron in the "original". And when a foreign word appears in the texts, I believe Tolkien meant the "authors" were using it, or recording it. For example, Rivendell (English/Westron) and Imladris (Sindarin) are used by different characters for different situations. The Hobbits understandably tend to use the Westron name.

Now, since the books call it Pelennor, the fields of Pelennor, the field(?)*, etc.. I imagine these names were what the "authors" (Bilbo, Frodo, etc.) and the characters (mostly Westron speakers) used, with the English part replaced by Westron.

It shouldn't be a surprise, because we are told that Gondorians did use Elvish (mainly Sindarin) for place names, even if not all of them could use it for daily speech.

Yet the names of nearly all places and persons in the realm of Gondor were of Elvish form and meaning. - Appendix F.


* Denethor said "you may triumph on the field, for a day", but later Gandalf rephrased it to be "You may triumph on the fields of the Pelennor for a day". It's possible "the field" was understood to be Pelennor, at least for the residents of Minas Tirith.

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