Tengwar and Cirth

Above is the inscription on the One Ring. It is written in Sauron’s Black Speech and transcribed in a script called Tengwar. Translated into English, it says, “One Ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.”

The Tengwar alphabet is one of two scripts Tolkien invented and applied to his Middle Earth stories.

Since Tengwar is used to transcribe several different languages, the sound of each letter changes to match the phonology of the language. These different types of Tengwar are called “modes.” In some modes, vowels are represented by adding diacritics to consonants, in others, vowels are represented by full letters.

The following is a graph of what is known as the “mode of Beleriand,” showing which sounds each letter corresponds with. This is the mode used to transcribe Quenya.

Third parties have created modes for English, Spanish, German and other languages. “Mary had a Little Lamb” in Tengwar is:

 

 

The second script invented by Tolkien is Cirth, used to transcribe the Dwarven language of Khuzdul. The following is the Cirth alphabet.  Bellow each letter is the sound that letter represents. It resembles Phoenician, which is apt, since Khuzdul is based on Semetic languages.

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