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Old 09-26-2022, 07:55 AM   #1
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Silmaril How does Earendil speak Beorian?

A certain quote from HoME XII's The Problem of Ros came up in another thread, and I have A Question

Originally Posted by The Problem of Ros
It is said that before Manwe [Earendil] spoke the errand of Elves and Men first in Sindarin, since that might represent all those of the suppliants who had survived the war with Morgoth; but he repeated it in Quenya, since that was the language of the Noldor, who alone were under the ban of the Valar; and he added a prayer in the Mannish tongues of Hador and Beor*, pleading that they were not under the ban, and had aided the Eldar only in their war against Morgoth, the enemy of the Valar.

*The language of the Folk of Haleth was not used, for they had perished and would not rise again. Nor would their tongue be heard again, unless the prophecy of Andreth the Wise-woman should prove true, that Turin in the Last Battle should return from the Dead, and before he left the Circles of the World for ever should challenge the Great Dragon of Morgoth, Ancalagon the Black, and deal him the death-stroke.
How exactly did Earendil speak Beorian? Tolkien's notes after finishing The Problem of Ros indicate that 1) most of it doesn't work, but 2) the key details around the use of Beorian hold up. It seems that Beren taught it to Luthien, but gave up speaking it himself; Dior learnt and spoke it, and used it in the name of his daughter Elwing and (possibly) one of his sons, Elured. Earendil then used the -wing element of his wife's name in the name of his ship. All well and good, but that's one word of Beorian.

Elwing was born in the same year Beren and Luthien died, so she definitely didn't pick it up from them. Dior was killed when she was three, so while she was probably talking and had basic childhood Beorian (assuming Dior used it around the house), she wasn't exactly fluent. There's no indication of mortal residents in Doriath at the time, so presumably anyone who escaped with her spoke Sindarin only. It seems a stretch to say that Earendil learnt it from her.

So did he get it from his own family? Again, it seems unlikely. Tuor's mother was Beorian, but he never knew her; he was fostered by elves of Mithrim, who presumably spoke Sindarin and maybe Hadorian. Idril definitely didn't know it - she was locked up in the mountains since before the language existed. There weren't any mortals in Gondolin to teach him, either.

That only leaves other refugees at the Havens. They would have to be descendants of the refugees of Dorthonion, who left under Emeldir and included Morwen and Rian. Were they so numerous and/or stubborn that they stuck to their own language through integration with the Hadorians, enslavement by the Easterlings, and then evacuation to the Havens? Were they even at the Havens? Tolkien only wrote about Doriath and Gondolin as the sources for Earendil's settlement, with the others seeming to be over in Balar.

None of these routes ring particularly true. I'm left with the image of Earendil delivering his speech in Sindarin, Quenya, and Hadorian, and then stumbling through a version in broken Beorian that Elwing helped him write from her vague memories of her father. He tries to say "Great Powers of the West" and ends up saying "Big Bossypants over there".


There's also a colossal snub in that quote: Unfinished Tales says that Druedain moved to the Mouths of Sirion after the fall of the Haladin, and we know that they eventually moved to Numenor. They would have spoken both their own language and Haladin (to chat to their neighbours), so it would definitely have been possible for Earendil to learn the supposedly-extinct language of Haleth. But did he bother to include the Druedain in his multi-lingual statement? Nope! He used Beorian instead, to give representation to one-quarter of his wife's ancestry.

Have you burned the ships that could bear you back again? ~Finrod: The Rock Opera
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