Odious and Peculiar

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Thursday, March 03, 2011
Here's more on the revisionist-history Lord of the Rings (which Smartdogs mentioned in the comments a few posts back). Sundry observations:
  • Somehow, this brings strongly to my mind the more paranoid stories on modern-day Pravda. Something to do with that Slavic soul we hear so much about, I guess.

  • I find the excerpts barely readable, in the stylistic sense. Substantial (though far from total) blame can go to the translator. But it makes me wonder how Tolkien comes across in translation. I can't imagine these stories without his philologist's pen evoking all those pre-1066 ancestral memories buried in our dictionaries. I suppose it likely does well in the Germanic languages.* Yet another big score for us native English speakers!

  • On a similar note, ever a borderline Luddite and nature Romantic, I still find myself siding with Gandalf in excerpted dialog. Who cares if Mordor may eventually produce the iPad?

  • Many things indicate that the author is not a very serious Tolkien fan. I leave their identification as an exercise to our nerdy readers.

Needless to say, I'm in no rush to read the whole thing.

*Also Finnish, maybe? I have the sense, almost totally derived from folk music, that there are certain vocabulary and idioms, mostly Ingrian- and Karelian-oriented, that hint at a more tribal, barbaric, pagan past. What other languages have such a tension? Maybe the Turkic tongues, when they prefer old steppe vocabulary over other terms. The Turks seem to do this when they use ak and kara in lieu of beyaz and siyah (white and black). The latter are the dictionary words, but the former show up in the family names, toponyms, songs, strong idioms and such, from Turkey to Mongolia. (Digression: karakurbağası="dark frog" i.e. "toad.") I suppose their equivalents of Latin and French are Arabic and Persian; no doubt the tension was much stronger before Atatürk's linguistic reforms (makes you wonder what we'd be speaking had Tolkien been to England as Mustafa Kemal was to Turkey). But nothing's even in the same league as English for this stuff. Hooray for us!

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I am hardly the linguist you are but "Ak" an "Kara" are everywhere in Turkic Central Asia as human, dog, hawk names, in natural history...

A friend's wife "Akhmaral" in Kazakhstan (white deer). Jingiz's old capital-- Karakorum. Both prefixes on pigeon breeds-- colors at least. Karabash and Akhbash flock protection dogs...
Yay for linking!
Most of the time when people talk about the "slavic soul" they're just making a glamorous excuse for drunken fighting/kissing/group-sobbing.
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