An Introduction



These lessons are intended by the author (Fíriel :)) to only be a starting point for learning the basics of Tengwar in writing Sindarin, and not a complete course – if you have any interest in using Tengwar to write other languages (such as Quenya, English, French, etc), there are many well-documented sources and websites out there. These lessons are intended to be an accompaniment to Gildor Inglorion’s Sindarin Cource at the Council of Elrond. It would also be impossible to simply memorise all the information presented in this mini-course after reading it once; several re-readings should be the norm, and there’s certainly no need to ‘cram’ it all!

NOTE: The fonts that will be used for these lessons (readings AND homeworks) will be the fonts from Dan Smith’s site. To download them so you will be able to send in your homeworks, follow these instructions:
Go to this site and download ALL the “font packs” that have a “Windows” icon (5 of them altogether) ON THE left side of the page.
Dan Smith’s Fantasy Fonts for Windows

Install them by doing the following:
1.) After clicking on the colorful “window flag” icon, press “open” when the blue box comes up.
2.) click “use evaluation version” when next box appears
3.) click “Extract” when the WinZip box appears
4.) Type in letter of your hardrive (I say that because mine is E whereas most people’s is C) and the following: C:WINNFonts in the box where it says “extract to”
5.) then click “extract”
6.) Do this with all 5 of the Fonts with the colored icons, or the Tengwar fonts won’t work on your computer.

If this doesn’t work, try these instructions from Dan Smith:

How do I install the fonts on my Windows PC?
Once the ‘ZIP’ files have been UN-ZIPed and font files are sitting in a temporary directory on your hard drive; you must use your Windows Control Panel to install them properly.

The fonts must be installed using your Control Panel, moving the font files to the ‘C:WindowsFonts’ folder doesn’t always work right.
Here’s how I install Windows fonts on my Windows98 PC:
Click on [Start]
Click on [Settings]
Click on [Control Panel]
Double-click on the Fonts icon in the Control Panel window
In the Fonts window, click on the [File] drop-down menu
Click on [Install New Font]
Navigate to the drive/folder containing the un-ZIPed font files
Click on [Select All]
Click on [OK]
Once downloaded, unZIPed, and properly installed, the fonts should work with any Windows application.

ALSO ** NOTE: If, after everything is installed correctly, you are typing in MS Word and letters start changing or disappearing after you have already typed them out correctly, your “AutoCorrect” may be on and trying to “fix” your poor English ….. lol !! Fíriel suggests the following:

In Office XP (Word) or other recent versions, select ‘Tools’ and then ‘AutoCorrect Options’. Uncheck the box next to ‘Replace text as you type’, and click OK. If it keeps on replacing text, try unchecking some other options like ‘Correct TWo INitial CApitals’.

a.) A History of the Tengwar
The first writing system ever invented in Arda was called the Sarati, and was designed by Rúmil of Tirion while the Noldor still lived in Valinor. The Sarati was used to write Quenya, and was read and written vertically, each column then being read from left to right. An example can be seen here: (Karolina Stopa’s transcription of the English text: ‘The Oath of Fëanor’s Sons’)

An important concept about the Sarati was based on one of Rúmil’s ideas: that the vowels were dependent on the consonants, and were therefore written as little marks next to the letters, influencing the way that the consonants were pronounced. This idea was probably an ancestor of the ‘tehtar’ modes.

Fëanor disagreed with the structure and principles of the Sarati, and so he created his own writing system, called the Tengwar. Unlike the Sarati, the Tengwar was written horizontally, and was more systematic in how its letters were organised. Fëanor also believed, unlike Rúmil, that the vowel-sounds were independent of the consonants, and he devised a quanta sarmë, or ‘full mode’, as well as a ‘tehtar’ mode. However, as the Tengwar quickly became popular with the Noldor, the quanta sarmë was used only by loremasters, and the general populace preferred to use the tehtar mode.

When the Noldorin exiles brought the Tengwar to Middle Earth, the Sindar also adopted Tengwar as their writing system, displacing the Cirth, or ‘runes’. The Noldor devised a ‘full’ mode in which to write Sindarin, and it was adopted quickly by both Noldor and Sindar. As the inhabitants of Middle Earth were subject to more change than the static existence in Valinor, the Tengwar underwent large changes and was adapted to many other languages, such as Adunaic, the native language of the Númenóreans, and used by different races, such as the Dwarves. By the Third Age, Tengwar was in use all over the western lands of Middle Earth, unlike the Elvish languages for which it was once created.

b.) The Basics of Tengwar
(When I talk about ‘Tengwar’, I mean the writing system itself. When I talk about ‘tengwar’, I mean the actual letters of the writing system.)

Tengwar was designed to be written and read horizontally, and then each sentence from above to below. In fact, the way that Tengwar would be read would be exactly the same way you’re reading this paragraph now. It was designed mainly to be written with a brush or pen, although styles were created that allowed Tengwar to be carved in stone also.

The Tengwar, as you might know, was organised very systematically. Each tengwa, or letter, was made up of two components – a stem (telco) and a bow (lúva), which, depending on how and where the two were put together, would influence the sound that it represented. For example: both 1
(which represents the T sound in Tengwar-written Sindarin) and q
(which represents the P sound in Tengwar-written Sindarin), look similar, and they’re both made up of a stem and bow. However, the P tengwa differs in that it has a closed bow, whereas the T tengwa has an open bow. Such little differences in looks make a bigger difference in the sounds it represents, and the sound that each tengwa (letter) represents is important, because when writing Tengwar, words are usually spelt phonetically, that is, the sound corresponds exactly with the letter (unlike English spelling, which is orthographic – compare ‘sit’, ‘sight’ and ‘sill’, all spelt with I.)

Following is a chart of the tengwar (letters), and their Quenya full-names, which do not represent the sound of the Tengwar (although the English alphabet usually does). The Quenya full-names are especially important because a tengwa like 2 , which represents the sound D when writing Sindarin words, actually represents a different sound when used to write Quenya words: ND. Using the Quenya full-names instead of saying “the P tengwa, and the T tengwa”, can prevent a lot of confusion.

(We don’t know if Quenya names were used when referring to tengwar in Sindarin speech, although some think it was unlikely. However, we do know that Westron used a different set of full-names than the Quenya full-names.)

c. Modes
A mode, when used in the same context as Tengwar, usually means a set of rules and letters for writing, or to put it simply, writing something in a certain way. Each language that uses the Roman alphabet to represent their language can be thought of as a ‘mode’ – while English, Welsh, and French all use the Roman alphabet, each language would pronounce the written C differently. English itself has a rule where the C is soft before an E or I (‘cement’, ‘circle’) but where it would be hard before other vowels (‘con’, ‘car’, ‘cup’). You could say that English has its own ‘mode’ in which to write its language with the Roman alphabet, just as Welsh or French would.

A Tengwar mode usually consist of two pieces of info that distinguishes it from other modes; one: the language that the mode represents, and two: the way that the language should be written (see the next paragraph).

There are two ways in which to represent Sindarin with Tengwar; the first way would be writing out all vowels and consonants with letters. Modes written in this manner would be called ‘full’ modes. The second way would be writing out the consonants with letters, and writing out the vowels as little marks, diacritics being the proper term. Modes written in this manner would be called ‘tehtar’ modes.

In the next lesson, Lesson 2, we’ll be covering the Sindarin Mode of Beleriand (a ‘full’ mode), and Lesson 3 will feature the Sindarin Mode of Gondor (a ‘tehtar’ mode). The full mode is believed by some to be more convenient in representing Sindarin, although the tehtar mode has a beauty of its own. However, besides the modes for the Elvish languages, Tolkien also devised modes for languages such as English – you can see an example of it on the title page of LOTR.

** For a chart to help you match up your computer keyboard keys with the Tengwar letters at a glance, click here: chart. This chart is for Dan Smith’s Tengwar Sindarin Font mode.