Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

The Colors of Elvish: A Linguistic Exploration

Author: Fiondil
Nominator: Elleth
2011 Award Category: Non-Fiction: General

Story Type: Non-Fiction : Length: N/A (Non-Fiction or Poetry)
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: Color is a basic category of language. Every culture has terminology denoting color, yet they do not all categorize color in the same way. In designing his Elvish languages, Tolkien naturally created words for various colors. This article will explore what color terms are available in Quenya and Sindarin and what significance these color terms might have as a reflection of Elvish society.


Reviewed by: Lyra -- Score: 8

"The Colors of Elvish" almost raises more questions than it offers answers, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile - good questions are useful too, after all. Fiondil has taken the effort of surveying the Sindarin and Quenya terms for the semantic field of colour, comparing their form and looking for connections, variations and primary world equivalents. While we cannot ultimately know what (if anything) Tolkien had in mind when he came up with a great variety of words for different hues of white, red or (of all colours!) brown while yellow appears to be somewhat underrepresented, or why there are no Elvish words for "pink" or "purple" at all, the facts certainly allow for some interesting speculation. As an ex-student of linguistics, I would've enjoyed some more in-depth analysis, but I suspect that would've driven away more casual readers. Either way, this is an interesting resource that begs to be used for speculative fanfiction, and a neat introduction to one fascinating aspect of Anthropological Linguistics on top of it!

Reviewed by: Kaylee Arafinwiel -- Score: 5

Fiondil has been the most instructive author I know on matters of linguistics, whether it's a Sindarin, Quenya or Rohirric lesson slipped in at the end of the chapter (always welcome) or of the TRUE meaning of contrition...(but that's another story!) So an essay like this was not unexpected, and being the eager student of languages I am (insofar as it comes to all things Tolkien...I haven't managed to grasp Spanish or French yet...) this was a VERY welcome addition to Fiondil's works. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and it's highly recommended. Kaylee Arafinwiel

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 4

This was utterly fascinating, although at times, with my lack of knowledge about the Elven languages I felt a bit over my head. But the whole idea of what words a language has for colors and why was intriguing to say the least. I certainly never knew before that a language would have no word for green if it did not have one for red! Or that some languages tend to simply group colors as light/dark! A truly intriguing read!

Reviewed by: Elleth -- Score: 4

A fascinating elaboration on Eldarin colours, which offers a rich perspective on both real-world languages and colourful idiosyncrasies as well as comparative charts of Valarin, Sindarin and Quenya. I found the final speculations quite thought-provoking and with potential for fic-fodder, as well as exploring and enhancing the vision Tolkien had by a further component. Nicely done and accessible considering it's a very linguistic text in nature.

Reviewed by: Nath -- Score: 3

I heartily recommend this study of the colour words in Elvish, not just for those who dabble in Tolkienian linguistics, but also for those who are interested in colour in the ‘real’ world. I for one, as someone who is interested in both colour and language, didn’t know that [no language has a word for ‘green’ unless they first have a word for ‘red’.]