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Parma Eldalamberon XVII

Words, Phrases & Passages in Various Tongues


in The Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. TOLKIEN
[…]

Eldarin Roots and Stems


[…]

¶ On √PHAN; fana and related matters.


_______________

√PHAN-. The basic sense of this was ‘cover, screen, veil’, but it had a special development in the Eldarin tongues.
This was largely due to what appears to have been its very ancient application to clouds, especially to separate
floating clouds as (partial) veils over the blue sky, or over the sun, moon, or stars. This application of the most
primitive derivative *phanā (Q fana, S fân) was so ancient that when *phanā (or other derivatives) was applied
to lesser, handmade, things this was felt to be a transference from the sense ‘cloud’, and words of this group
were mainly applied to things of soft textures, veils, mantles, curtains and the like, of white or pale colours.

In Sindarin fân remained the usual word for ‘cloud’, floating clouds, or those for a while resting upon or
wreathing hills and mountain-top. The derivative (properly adjectival in form) *phanyā became fain, used as an
adjective meaning ‘dim, dimmed’ (applied to dimmed or fading lights or to things seen in them) or ‘filmy, fine-
woven etc.’ (applied to things that only partially screened light, such as a canopy of young still half-transparent
leaves, or textures that veiled but only half-concealed a form). As a noun it was used of vague shapes or fleeting
glimpses, especially of ‘apparitions’ or figures seen in dreams.

In Quenya, owing to close relations of the Eldar in Valinor with the V alar. and other lesser spirits of their
order, fana developed a special sense. It was applied to the visible bodily forms adopted by these spirits, when
they took up their abode on Earth, as the normal “raiment” of their otherwise invisible being. In these fanar they
were seen and known by the Eldar, to whom glimpses of other and more awe-inspiring manifestations were
seldom given. But the Elves ofValinor asserted that unclad and unveiled the Valar were perceived by some among
them as lights (of different hues) which their eyes could not tolerate; whereas the Maiar were usually invisible
unclad, but their presence was revealed by their fragrance.†

† This applied only to those uncorrupted. Melkor, they said, was invisible, and his presence was
revealed only by great dread and by a darkness that dimmed or blotted out the light and hues of all
things near him. The Maiar corrupted by him stank. For this reason neither he nor any of the evil Maiar
ever approached one of the Eldar that they wished to persuade or deceive except clad in their fanar.
These they could still make to appear beautiful to Elvish eyes, if they wished — until after the great
treachery of Melkor and the destruction of the Trees. After that Melkor (Morgoth) and his servants
were perceived as forms of evil and enemies undisguised.
[as enemies of dreadful shape >> as forms of evil and enemies undisguised.]

The old word fana thus became used in Quenya only in this special and exalted sense: the visible form
or ‘raiment’ (which included both the assumed bodily shape†† and its vesture) in which a Vala or one of the
lesser angelic spirits, not by nature incarnate, presented itself to bodily eyes. Since these fanar usually appeared
‘radiant’ (in some degree), as if lit by a light within, the word fana acquired in Quenya an additional sense as
‘shining shape’, and this addition of radiance affected other derivatives of the same ‘base’.

Valar ar Maiar fantaner nassentar fanainen ve quenderinwe koar al larmar: (Nasser ar Kenime Kantar
Valaron ar Maiaron: a preserved fragment of Quenya lore): “The Valar and Maiar veiled their true-
being in fanar, like to Elvish bodies and raiment” from “The Natures and Visible Shapes of the Valar
and Maiar"
[ar larmar >> al larmar.]
Thus the word for ‘cloud’ was in Quenya supplied by the derivative fanya (cf. I, 394), which was no longer
used as an adjective. But this was used only of white clouds, sunlit or moonlit, or of clouds reflecting sunlight as
in the sunset or sunrise, or gilded and silvered at the edges by moon or sun behind them. The hands of Varda
were (like all her fana) of shining white. After the Darkening of Valinor she lifted them up, palms eastward, in a
gesture of rejection, as she summoned up in obedience to the decree of Manwë, her spouse, the “Elder King,”
the vast mists and shadows that made it impossible for any living thing to find again the way westward to the
shores of Valinor. Her hands are thus compared poetically in “Galadriel’s Lament” to clouds — white and shining
still above the rising darkness that swiftly engulfed the shores and the mountains, and at last her own majestic
figure† upon the summit of Oiolossë.

† The fanar of the great Valar were said by the Eldar who had dwelt in Valinor usually to have had a
stature far greater than that of the tallest Elves, and when performing some great deed or rite, or
issuing commands, to have assumed an awe-inspiring height.

This Quenya meaning of fana after the coming of the Exiles to Middle-earth was also assumed by
Sindarin fân, at first in the Sindarin as used by the exiled Noldor, and eventually also by the Sindar themselves,
especially those in close contact with the Noldor or actually mingled with them. No doubt this use aroused in the
minds of the Sindar who had not seen the Valar in their own sacred land of A man a mental picture of a majestic
figure robed as if in shining cloud seen far away.†† Fanuilos was thus a title of, or second name for Elbereth,
made after the coming of the Exiles, and conveyed in full some such meaning as “bright angelic figure, far away
upon Uilos (= Oiolosse),” or “— angelic figure ever-snow-white (shining . afar).”

fanta-. Q fanwa < fanma = veil, screen. henfanwa, eye-screen, veil upon eyes. úfantima, not
concealable; úfanwa, not veiled or obscure, perspicuous. fantarkenya, perspicacious, penetrating of
sight or understanding.

The fanar were physical or had the properties of material substances, i.e. were not transparent, could
move other objects, cast shadows (if not themselves shining) and were resisted by or offered
resistance to other physical things. But the Vala (or Maia) could move or pass over Sea. For their
bodies were self-made. They houseless[?] as spirits could go where they would (either slowly or
immediately), and could then reclothe themselves. In Middle-earth they usually occluded their
radiance.
[These two notes were struck through.]

Though the Sindar had failed to reach Valinor (and some were embittered by what they considered their
desertion on the Western Shores of Middle-earth) their hearts were still ‘westward’ and they treasured what
they knew or could learn about the Valar. In the far off days of their “Awakening” they had been visited and
protected by Oromë in his fana as a great horseman mounted upon Nahar and bearing his mighty horn, the
Valaróma. Their king Elwë later known as Elwë Sindikollo, or in Sindarin form (Elu) Thingol, had been one of the
three emissaries borne by Oromë to Valinor to the council of the Valar at which it was resolved to invite all the
Elves who were willing to remove and dwell in the Far West under the protection of the Valar and out of the
reach of Morgoth. He had thus seen and had converse with the Valar in their most majestic fanar. His wife Melian
was one of the lesser spirits of the same order, a Maia of great beauty and wisdom, so that, at least among the
‘wise’ of Doriath, much was known about the Valar. Varda whom none of the Sindar had seen (save Elwë), was
there called El-bereth (a name of the same meaning as Quenya Elentári) which reveals its relative antiquity by
being formed, as was probably normal in primitive Eldarin,* with the genitival or adjectival element placed first.
Formed later it would probably have been given such forms as Bereth (in)-elin or Bereth (in)gîl. (Compare the
later name or title Fan-uilos, as analysed above.)

Though this was at all times subject to euphonic considerations.


[Valróma >> Valaróma; Bereth-elin >> Bereth (in)-elin.]

The fanar of the Valar were not ‘phantoms’, but ‘physical’: that is, they were not ‘visions’ arising to the
mind, or implanted there by the will of a superior mind or spirit, and then projected,(†) but received through the
bodily eyes.†

(†) These were called in Quenya indemmar ‘mind-pictures’.


† Or mainly so: the power of the presence of one of these spirits no doubt affected the reception and
was responsible, for instance, for the impressions of ‘radiance’ with which the ‘vision’ was endowed.
The Valar had a command, great individually, almost complete as a united council, over the physical
material of Eä (the material universe). Their fanar which were originally devised out of love for the ‘Children of
Eru’, the Incarnate, whom they were to guard and counsel, had the properties of the material of which the koar
(or bodies) of the Elves (and also of Men) were formed: sc. they were not transparent, they cast shadows (if their
inner luminosity was dimmed); they could move material objects, and were resisted by these, and resisted them.
These fanar were, however, also personal expressions (in terms suitable to the apprehension of the Incarnate)
of their individual ‘natures’ and functions, and were usually also clad in vestures of similar purpose.

But it is often mentioned in the legends that certain of the Valar, and occasionally of the Maiar, ‘passed
over the Sea’, and appeared in Middle-earth. (Notably Orome, Ulmo, and Yavanna.) The Valar and Maiar were
essentially ‘spirits’, according to Elvish tradition given being before the making of Eä. They could go where they
willed, that is could be present at once at any point in Eä where they desired to be.†

__________

The knowledge of the Valar, or Elvish ideas and theories concerned with them.

† Subject only to special limitations voluntarily taken upon themselves or decreed by Eru. Thus after the final
establishment of Arda, when the Valar, the spirits destined to be most concerned with this chosen stage for
combat with Melkor, took up their abode on Middleearth, they no longer passed beyond its confines. That is,
according to Elvish tradition they remained, usually clad in their fanar, in physical residence on earth as its
guardians.

But they remained in direct contact with Eru, though they, as far as the legends go, usually ‘addressed’
Him through Manwë the Elder King. No doubt these legends are somatomorphic (sc. almost as anthropomorphic
as are our own legends or imagination), and most Elves, when speaking of Manwë appealing to Eru or having
converse with Him, imagined him as a figure, even more majestic than one of their own ancient kings, standing
in attitude of prayer or supplication to the Valar.† By nature one of the Valar, or of those of the prime order of
created spirits to which they belonged, would be in the presence of Eru only by presenting themselves in thought.
The Eldar, and still less the Elves of Middle-earth (and again still less Men, especially those who had no contact
with Elves or shunned it), knew little of such things; but they believed that ‘direct’ resort to Eru was not allowed
to them, or at least not expected of them, except in gravest emergency. The Valar were themselves ‘on trial’ —
an aspect of the mystery of ‘free will’ in created intelligences. They had a sufficient knowledge of the will of Eru
and his ‘design’ to undertake the responsibility of guiding its development by means of the great prowess given
to them and according to their own reason and intelligence.

† At this time there was no way for the Incarnate direct to Eru, and though the Eldar knew well that the
power of the V alar to counsel or assist them was only delegated, it was through them that they sought for
enlightenment or aid from Eru.

There was, however, one element in the Design of Eru that remained a mystery: the Children of Eru,
Elves and Men, the Incarnate. These were said to have been an addition made by Eru Himself after the Revelation
to the primal spirits of the Great Design. They were not subject to the subcreative activities of the Valar, and one
of the purposes of this addition was to provide the V alar with objects of love, as being in no way their own
subject, but having a direct relationship to Eru Himself, like their own but different from it. They were, or were
to be, thus ‘other’ than the Valar, independent creations of His love, and so objects for their reverence and true
(entirely unselfregarding) love. Another purpose they had, which remained a mystery to the Valar, was to
complete the Design by ‘healing’ the hurts which it suffered, and so ultimately not to recover ‘Arda Unmarred’
(that is the world as it would have been if Evil had never appeared), but the far greater thing ‘Arda Healed’.†

† ‘Evil’, in the arrogance and egotism of Melkor, had already appeared in the first attempts of the
Spirits to express the Design of Ern communicated to them only in pure direct ‘thought’ . This was
represented as taking the form of music: the Music of the Ainur (Holy Ones). In this Melkor, and those
influenced by him, had introduced things of Melkor’s own thought and design, causing great discords
and confusion.
[and so worthy objects of the love and reverence of the Valar >> and so objects for their reverence and true (entirely
unselfregarding) love.]
With regard to Elves and Men Eru had made one absolute prohibition: the Valar were not to attempt to
dominate the Children (even for what might seem to the Valar to be their good), neither by force nor fear nor
pain, nor even by the awe and reverence that their wisdom and overwhelming majesty might inspire if fully
revealed. The minds of the Children were not open to the Valar (except by the free will of the Children), and
could not be invaded or violated by the Valar except with disastrous consequences: their breaking and enslaving,
and the substitution in them of the dominating Vala as a God in place of Eru.

It was for this reason that the Valar adopted the fanar; but they did this also out of the love and
reverence for the Children that they conceived when Eru first revealed to them His idea of them. From that time
onwards they had ever looked and longed for the coming of Elves and Men into the world.

The Valar — all save one, Melkor, obeyed this prohibition by Eru, according to their wisdom.† But there
was thus introduced an element of uncertainty into all their operations after the Coming of the Elves and Men.
The wills and desires and the resultant deeds of the Elves remained forever in some measure unpredictable, and
their minds not always open to admonition and instruction that was not (as was forbidden) issued as commands
supported by latent power. This was even more evident in the case of Men, either by their nature, or by their
early subjection to the lies of Melkor, or by both. It was also held by some that the Valar had even earlier failed
in their ‘trials’ when wearying of their destructive war with Melkor they removed into the West, which was first
intended to be a fortress whence they might issue to renew the War, but became a Paradise of peace, while
Middle-earth was corrupted and darkened by Melkor, long unopposed. The obduracy of Men and the great evils
and injuries which they inflicted upon themselves, and also, as their power increased, upon other creatures and
even upon the world itself, was thus in part attributable to the Valar. Not to their wilful revolt and pride, but to
mistakes which were not by design intended to oppose the will of Eru, though they revealed a failure in
understanding of His purposes and in confidence in Him.

† This is said because the invitation given to the Eldar to remove to Valinor and live unendangered by
Melkor was not in fact according to the design of Eru. It arose from anxiety, and it might be said from
failure in trust of Eru, from anxiety and fear of Melkor, and the decision of the Eldar to accept the
invitation was due to the overwhelming effect of their contact, while still in their inexperienced youth,
with the bliss of Aman and the beauty and majesty of the Valar. It had disastrous consequences in
diminishing the Elves of Middle-earth and so depriving Men of a large measure of the intended help
and teaching of their ‘elder brethren’, and exposing them more dangerously to the power and deceits
of Melkor. Also since it was in fact alien to the nature of the Elves to live under protection in Aman,
and not (as was intended) in Middle-earth, one consequence was the revolt of the Noldor.
[a failure in wisdom and in understanding >> a failure in understanding; there arose in Aman itself the revolt of the Noldor >>
one consequence was the revolt of the Noldor.]

__________

Other derivatives of √PHAN. As noted above, in Sindarin by a ‘pictorial’ development, fain became used
of ‘vague apparitions’ etc., though these were evidently upon reflection not cloaks or coverings. This
development had no place in Quenya. The High Elves distinguished clearly between fanar, the ‘physical’ raiment
adopted by the Spirits in selfincarnation, as a mode of communication with the Incarnates,† and other modes of
communication between minds, that might take ‘visual’ forms.

† In the L.R. a notable example is provided by the lstari who appeared among Elves and Men in the
likeness of old Men.
[a natural and ‘pictorial’ development, showing a weakness in reflection and thought >> a ‘pictorial’ development.]

They held that a superior ‘mind’ by nature, or one exerting itself to its full in some extremity of need,
could communicate a desired ‘vision’ direct to another mind. The receiving mind would translate this impulse
into the terms familiar to it from its use of the physical organs of sight (and hearing) and project it, seeing it as
something external. It thus much resembled a fana, except that in most cases, especially those concerned with
minds of less power (either as communicators or receivers) it would frequently be less vivid, clear or detailed,
and might even be vague or dim or appear half-transparent. These ‘visions’ were in Quenya called indemmar
‘mind-pictures’.† Men were receptive of them. According to the records of the time, mostly when presented to
them by the Elves. To receive them from another human being required a special urgency of occasion, and a
close connexion of kinship, anxiety or love between the two minds.
† Cf. Q indo ‘mind’ and √EM, depict, portray. A quanta emma or quantemma was a ‘facsimile’, a
complete detailed visual reproduction (by any means) of a visible thing.

In any case indemmar were by Men mostly received in sleep (dream). If received when bodily awake
they were usually vague and phantom-like (and often caused fear); but if they were clear and vivid, as the
indemmar induced by Elves might be, they were apt to mislead Men into taking them as ‘real’ things beheld by
normal sight. Though this deceit was never intentional on the part of the Elves,† it was often by them believed
to be.

† Of old. The matter of corrupted or malicious elvish beings is elsewhere considered. According to the
Elves these were mainly disembodied Elves, who had met with some mortal damage, but rebelled
against the summons to their spirits to go to their place of Awaiting. Those who so rebelled were
mostly those who had been slain in the course of some wrong-doing. Thus they wandered as
‘houseless’ elf-souls, invisible except in the form of indemmar that they could induce in others, and
filled often with malice and envy of the ‘living’, whether elvish or human.
[to deceive the recipient >> to mislead Men.]

In Quenya the chief derivates, other than fana and fanya already mentioned, of √PHAN were: the verb
fanta-, to ‘veil, cloak, mantle’.

One of the verbs that though formed from primitive ‘verbal’ bases had a present stem formed with the
suffix -tă. The past was usually ‘strong’ sc. without this suffix. So past fāne-, perfect afāniē-, but later a
past derived from the causatives (with suffix -tā) was often substituted: fantanē-.

From which other words were derived such as úfantuma/-ima ‘not (se. impossible) to be concealed or
veiled’. The derivative formed with the suffix -mā mainly used of actual physical tools and instruments, was fan-
mā > fanwa, a ‘veil or screen’; úfanwea ‘not veiled, unveiled’.

As √YUL- ‘drink’: yulma, a ‘drinking vessel’; √PAR- ‘learn, to acquire information, not by experience or
observation, but by communication’, by the instruction, or accounts of others in words or writing:
parma, a book (or written document of some size). To read a book in Elvish was often expressed so:
paranye (apārien) parmanen, I am learning (have learnt) by means of a book. calma, a lamp or other
device for shining light.
[[This lengthy discussion of the root √PHAN ‘cover, screen, veil’ was] placed in the pocket of a cardboard folder, which Tolkien
labelled “PHAN, MBAR, BAL and other Elvish etymologies.” Both are written in black ink with notes in red ball-point on paper
from a single writing pad.]