I recently purchased a new copy of The Lord of the Rings, because my previous copy was frayed and falling apart. The new copy has the book split into three volumes, each with a unique cover.

The covers for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers each have Elvish script clearly written with Tengwar characters. However, the cover for The Return of the King has text that vaguely resembles Tengwar, but the characters are much more blocky; as such, I am having a difficult time actually identifying the characters, let alone what is written:

The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, cover

I initially wasn't sure if the cover text actually said anything, but apparently the design goes back to J.R.R. Tolkien himself, so I have no confidence he would write complete gibberish here:

The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Tolkien drawing

In comparing the cover I have with the original design by Tolkien, it appears some of the text may not even have been copied properly, e.g. the last letter of the (faint) text inside the ring (the second image) appears to have a left-facing hook not found on last letter of the book cover I have (the first image).

Is the text written in Tengwar? What does it say?

  • Nice Christmas tree.
    – Kao
    Dec 29, 2014 at 8:47
  • I would be surprised if this wasn't Tengwar, it looks just like some kind of squared version of it. Dec 29, 2014 at 9:19
  • Tengwar are often written without vowels.
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 29, 2014 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


The Book "J.R.R. Tolkien : Artist and Illustrator" by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull offers this information about the cover and especially the runic inscriptions:

[Around] the One Ring, destroyed in the course of the volume - is the winged crown of Gondor, 'shaped like the helms of the Guards of the Citadel, save that it was loftier, and it was all white, and the wings at either side were wrought of pearl and silver in the likeness of the wings of a sea-bird, for it was the emblem of kings who came over the Sea

With this in tengwar are the initials L ND L, the monogram of Elendil, the first High King of Arnor and Gondor. His words upon coming to Middle-earth, 'Sinome moruvan ar hildinya tenn'ambar-metta' ('In this place will I abide and my heirs until the World's end'), are inscribed in tengwar to the left and right of the throne.

Above the seat is the White Tree of Gondor with seven flowers, and the Seven Stars that were the emblem of Elendil and his heirs. Below the throne is a green jewel which repre­sents the coming of the new King, Elessar, the 'Elfstone'.

A simplified version of this design was stamped on the binding of the 1969 deluxe edition of The Lord of the Rings published by Alien & Unwin. It omitted not only Elendil's words, but the most remarkable detail of the original design above and behind the throne: the Shadow of Mordor given gigantic human-like form. The long arm of Sauron reaches out across red and black mountains, its clawed hand like the mouth of a hungry beast, sharp with teeth.

It proved impossible to adapt the design to binding stamps, and indeed even in Tolkien's original art the face and form of Sauron are difficult to make out in the upper back­ground. Fortunately a preliminary sketch [181] survives, in which the features of the Shadow are clearly seen.

Along with this description (apparently based on Tolkien's letters to his publisher) they also have Tolkien's original sketch in chalk and ink:

enter image description here

and the missing feature from the simplified version:

enter image description here

  • The wings are a reference also to the origins of the wings of Gondorian soldiers' armour. The House of the Wing was Tuor's household in Gondolin. When Turgon crossed the Grinding Ice - his people weren't involved in the first Kinslaying and the resultant burning of the Telerin ships at Losgar - he settled at Nevrast until he received instructions from Ulmo to depart for the Hidden Valley and leave behind a set of armour. It was this armour that Tuor was wearing during the Battle for Gondolin as the Father of Earendil. This is why the Wing is so important in the heraldry of Gondor. Dec 30, 2014 at 11:50
  • Amazing. That may be the only illustration by JRRT showing the physical (metaphysical?) form of Sauron...
    – Omegacron
    Dec 30, 2014 at 20:55
  • @Omegacron - I'm fairly sure it's intended to be metaphorical rather than metaphysical. Don't forget that Sauron already had a physical form that was 'fair'; img.photobucket.com/albums/v11/aussiegoonie/sauronsm.jpg
    – Valorum
    Dec 30, 2014 at 21:04
  • So it's basically the "evil of Sauron" reaching across the land. Gotcha.
    – Omegacron
    Jan 6, 2015 at 18:23

Those are "square style" tengwar.

The inscription apparently says "sínome moruvan ar hildinya tenn' ambar-metta".

  • 4
    +1, from RotK: "And those were the words that Elendil spoke when he came up out of the Sea on the wings of the wind: 'Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come. In this place will I abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world.'"
    – user8719
    Dec 29, 2014 at 17:58
  • Thanks, especially for the source on the square Tengwar. I upvoted, but Richard's answer provided more detail and context, so I've selected his as the accepted answer.
    – user33616
    Dec 30, 2014 at 2:40

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