The Black Speech

It is thought that the Black Speech was designed by Sauron in the Dark Years to be used by all who served him. Even though this was a failure, many words that were devised for the Black Speech were spoken by Orcs in the Third Age. After the first overthrow of Sauron, this language in its acient form was forgotten by all except the Nazgûl. When Sauron again arose, it became the language of Mordor and Barad-dûr, used by the captains of Sauron’s army.

The “Olog-hai” was a race of trolls that appeared at the end of the Third Age in southern Mikwood and in the mountains of Mordor. Unlike the older “race of the twilight”, they were unmatched in size and strength. The only language they knew was the Black Speech of Barad-dûr (the only “con-lang” of Middle Earth).

The Black Speech may have been devised from several different sources …. different forms of Elvish …. maybe even from a perverted form of Valarin (the tongue of the gods)….. that had been taught to Morgoth’s slaves at one time. “Urûk” is identical to an ancient Elvish form of the word “orc” and “nazg” is similar to the Valarian word “naskâd” for “ring”.

It is interesting to note that Tolkien himself hated the Black Speech. An admiring fan sent him a goblet, which Tolkien talked about in one of his Letters: “… I had a similar disappointment when a drinking goblet arrived (from a fan) which proved to be of steel, engraved with the terrible words seen on the Ring. I, of course, have never drunk from it, but use it for tobacco ash”. In “The Peoples of Middle Earth”, the Black Speech was described as …. “so full of harsh and hideous sounds and vile words that other mouths found it difficult to compass, and few indeed were willing to make the attempt”. Some of the harsh sounds are from the explosives b, d, g, k, p, t, and from words containing the different “s” sounds of s, sh, sk, and z.Alexander Nemirovsky, a historian, believes Tolkien may have based Black Speech on the ancient Hurrian-Urartian languages of the Hittites and the Hurrians (who lived in the late Bronze Age).

The entire corpus consists of only the Ring inscription, the curse made by the Mordor orc, the words “Olog-hai” and “Uruk-hai”, and a few names. The inscription on the Ring of Power was in the ancient Black Speech. The curse was a more debased form of the Black Speech, used by the soldiers of Barad-dûr.

Ring Inscription:

Ash nazg durbatulûk
Ash nazg gimbatul
Ash nazg thrakatulûk
Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

Below is a slightily different grouping of the English translation of the Ring Poem than others have used, leaving a more familiar infinitive form of the verb, and suggesting “tul” means “them”, instead of “-at” being a verbal ending form of “intention”. At this point, unless other Black Speech is revealed by the Tolkien estate, the separation of durbatulûk, gimbatul, thrakatulûk, and krimpatul is anyone’s guess.

*** Original words are separated by hyphens to show individual meanings of words combined together:

Ash nazg durba-tul-ûk
(One ring to-rule them all)

Ash nazg gimba-tul
(One ring to-find them)

Ash nazg thraka-tul-ûk
(One ring to-bring them all)

Agh burz-um-ish-i krimpa-tul
(And dark-ness in-the to-bind them)

Curse of the Mordor-Orc:

Uglúk u bagronk sha pushdug Saruman glob búbhosh skai.

*** There are two different translations for this sentence (which I will separate by hyphens again) …..

Uglúk u bag-ronk sha push-dug Saruman glob búb-hosh skai.

Earlier: Uglúk to the cess-pool, sha! The dung-filth; the great Saruman-fool, skai!

Later: Uglúk to the dung-pit with stinking Saruman-filth, pig-guts, gah!

Lines from the LOTR movies:
At Weathertop ….

Lord of the Nazgul: Ashi!
literal: The One!

Line that didn’t make the final cut for FOTR ….

Orcs: Za dash-u snak-u Zigur, Durbgu nazg-shu, Durbgu dash-shu

suggested: Orcs: ‘Hail, Sauron, Lord [of the] Ring, Lord [of the] Earth’
more literal translation: Hail to the master of earth Sauron, Ruler of the ring, Ruler of the earth.

*** A list of attested words are in CoE’s Black Speech dictionary.

…. by Naneth