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In the book 'The Hobbit', the map that the dwarves have has writing in what is the dwarf runes. The script is simple enough as the foreword includes some tips and each letter can be substituted roughly for a letter in the English language. It can easily be deciphered by comparing it with text from the story.

My question is, do the dwarves also have a language to go along with the dwarf runes or is it just an isolated script to go with the rough English language that they use?

  • 1
    If you dig that sort of thing, you might be interested to know that the Area51 proposal for Planned & Constructed Languages, where this sort of question would also be on topic, is now in the commitment phase. If you haven't already, please consider committing to that proposal. – Mark Beadles Apr 6 '12 at 18:02
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Yes, there is also a language. The Cirth (dwarvish runes) were used to write the secret dwarven language, Khuzdul. The runes used in The Hobbit are actually different than in other works, however, and are a version of Anglo-saxon futhorc runes with little modification.

  • This is an extension of the question I guess, but then if the dwarvish runes were used to write the secret dwarvish language, what are the runes in the Hobbit? – Dharini Chandrasekaran Jul 13 '11 at 17:10
  • @Dharini They're still "the runes used to write the secret dwarvish language," just the actual set of runes used is different in The Hobbit and the trilogy. – rintaun Jul 13 '11 at 17:22
  • Yeah, I had noticed that they were different. Thanks. – Dharini Chandrasekaran Jul 13 '11 at 17:25
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Yes, there are several languages Tolkien created. Each script has at least one language he created for it. In many ways, Tolkien is the father of modern Conlang. (Constructed Language.)

Cirth is used for Sindarin, Quenya, Khuzdul, and some of the tongues of men. It's sometimes called "Dwarf Rune."

Uruk Rune, used primarily for the Black Speech of the Uruk-hai. It's essentially Anglo-Saxon Futhork Runic.

Tengwar is used to write Quenya and Sindarin, the elven languages. It's also used for Scots Gaelic, Spanish, English, Hungarian, and Welsh in various adaptations.

Sarati is not linked to any one in the sources I have to hand. However, inscriptions in Quenya and Khuzdal are known to have been illustrated by Tolkien himself.

4

Yes, but it's not what you think.

The Dwarf-runes in the Hobbit actually don't come from any of Tolkien's pre-existing works, but are instead Anglo-Saxon runes. This is confirmed by Letter 15:

In any case – except for the runes (Anglo-Saxon) and the dwarf-names (Icelandic), neither used with antiquarian accuracy, and both regretfully substituted to avoid abstruseness for the genuine alphabets and names of the mythology into which Mr Baggins intrudes – I am afraid my professional knowledge is not directly used.

The langauge behind them is therefore Old English.


Subsequent development of the concept (which may be read in Lord of the Rings Appendix E) traces the runes through the following steps:

  • The original Cirth of Daeron which were devised for representing Sindarin.
  • The Angerthas which were an extension of the Cirth, with most of the work attributed to the Noldor of Eregion in the Second Age "since they were used for the representation of sounds not found in Sindarin"; at this stage we can deduce that the language used was Quenya.
  • These were then taken up by the Dwarves of Moria - presumably on account of the friendship between Eregion and Moria - and used for Khuzdul and Westron.
  • And finally they were refined further by the Dwarves of Erebor.

This final refinement is, however, not the runes used in the Hobbit, which remain the original Anglo-Saxon runes for the reason given in the Letters quote above. The runes used in the Hobbit are a substitution for what their real forms would have been, and have no basis in the constructed languages of Middle-earth.


The histories given in the Silmarillion note a separate development of the original Cirth carried out by the Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost in the First Age, but this development presumably stopped when those mansions were destroyed in the War of Wrath.

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Yes there is a language to accompany the runes, most of the "Languages" in Tolkien's works have an actual "Language" to go with the written version...some are more limited than others, not being finished etc but they are there....

0

Yes and no. As already stated there is a Dwarvish language which uses the runes. But they're also used to write out common language at times. The same is true for the other scripts and languages Tolkien uses. E.g. the script on the One Ring is high elven writing, but the language used is the black tongue of the minions of Sauron.

Possibly this indicates a common ancestor to all these scripts and maybe even languages.

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