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This entire section on writing is optional.
"Tengwa" is the Quenya word for "letter", so "tengwar" means "letters", and is what people usually call this alphabet.
Different Elvish languages use this same set of letters, but change which sound is associated with certain letters, depending on which sounds exist in that language. (That happens with English/European letters, too. The letter “J” is pronounced differently in different languages.) Sometimes the tengwar were used for other languages, such as Sauron writing the Ring Inscription in his language of Mordor, or the Title Page to Lord of the Rings, which is supposed to represent hobbits attempting to write Common in tengwar. Right now, we are concentrating on writing Quenya with these tengwar.
Here you see the same word – Ilúvatar, the name of the Creator – written in a variety of Tengwar fonts. This gives you a idea how much variation to expect in how different people draw letters. The serifs on the letters are just decorative. You don't need to put them in if you are writing in pencil.
These are what Quenya speakers consider the "basic" letters, the ones that fall into a general pattern:
Notice how much more systematic these letters are, compared to the alphabet we are used to. The shapes of the letters all follow a pattern, and there are relationships between the shapes of the letters and the sounds they represent.
Many of the letters represent what we would call a “consonant cluster” -- a combination of sounds. That is the case with I-2 (“ND” -- remember “D” sound never occurs by itself). The name of the Elf King Ingwë is represented by three symbols: I, Ngw, and E. (And yes, in Quenya there are words starting with “Ngw”, even though it is a mouthful.)
“QU” is the same as “KW”. The “U” in “QU” isn't really a separate letter/sound. It is just written in because English-speaking readers can't stand to see “Alqalondë.
Some letters on the chart have two pronunciations separated by a comma. These represent variations in pronunciation over the millenia. (I-3 “Th” or “S”)
Why do the numbers for rows 5 and 6 seem to be reversed? In the Appendix E in Return of the King, Tolkien put the double-loops in row 5 and the single loops in row 6. I don't know why. I have retained his numbers (which are now standard in the Tolkien community), but switched the display of the rows to match the rest of the pattern.
Tengwar have no capital letters.
That is nice, but there are more sounds than the "basic" letters cover. Here are all the other symbols that don't fit neatly onto the first chart:
Remember “D” sound only occurs in “ND”, “LD”, and “RD”? We saw “ND” on the Basic Letters page. Now we have “LD” and “RD”.
“B” sound only occurs in “MB” and “LB”. We saw “MB”. For some mysterious reason there is no letter for “LB”, so you have to write it as shown ("L" + "B").
Vowels are the tricky part of writing Quenya! Vowels aren't written as a separate letter; they are marks, written above the consonant that came before.C with A above it,
L with I above it,
and M with A above it
What if there is no consonant before, such as when a word starts with a vowel? Then you use the “short carrier” or “long carrier”. These are marks that are not pronounced. Their only function is to give something to stick the vowel onto. Use the “short carrier” if the vowel is short, or “long carrier” if the vowel is long (accented).
In the earlier example, “Ingwë would be written:
short carrier with I above it
NGW (tengwa IV-2) with E above it
short carrier with A above it,
QU (tengwa IV-1) with A above it,
L with O above it,
ND (tengwa I-2) with E above it.
Some writers (including me) will put two vowels onto one consonant if they fit.
"A" is a large symbol, and doesn't usually share space well. Use your best judgment.
How to write the long vowels:
Placing a long vowel over a long carrier is never wrong.
ELENTÁRI (Star Queen)
In some cases, you have a second possible way of writing the long vowels. The marks for O, U, and sometimes E can be written double, side by side, squished both onto the consonant. Tolkien states that Ó and Ú were written doubled like this, more often than other vowels. Long Á always has to be put onto a long carrier, even if there is a consonant available, because it is such a large symbol.
Tolkien over the course of his life was not 100% consistent in his use of Tengwar, so you may see other systems of vowels used for Quenya. The most common variations are swapping the symbols for E and I, and swapping the symbols for O and U.
The double dots represent a following vowel-like Y. This occurs a lot, especially in the combinations "HY", "NY", and "TY".
The letters S and SS each have a pair of mirror-image versions. You will only use one or the other. Use the pointy-end-up version if there will be no vowel above. Use the round-end-up version if there will be a vowel.
pointy end up
round end up to make room for vowel
The little squiggle under a letter (consonant) marks it as a double letter. This way, you don't have to write the letter twice. Notice that "NN" and "SS" have their own letters, so you won't need the double-letter mark to write them.
|Some Names, for practice reading Tengwar|