J.R.R. Tolkien: A Page from the Lord of the Rings in Old English

Some anonymous soul decided to donate to this blog and request a translation of a specific page from the Lord of the Rings into Old English. So here you go, "Karpalima" whoever you are.

If you want to read this passage in an Anglo-Saxon minuscule font, click here.

A Page From Se Hringa Hlāford
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Requested by "Karpalima"

Ne gewearþ þām hringe nǣnig gesīenelic wending. Ymbe stycce ārās Gandælf, bedyde þone locan būtan þām ēagþyrle and drōg þā fensterhrægl geador. Se cōfa swearciode and swygode, þeah þe se clacca þāra scēara Samwīsan, nēara nū þām ēagþyrlum, wæs gīet smale gehīerdendlic in þām wyrtgearde. Ānre beorhthwīle stōd se drȳ behealdende þæt fȳr. Þā gebēah and mid fȳrtangan ūtdrōg þone hring on heorþ, and hraðe hine genam. Frōda fǣroðode.
"Hē is ealle cōl" cwæþ Gandælf. "Nim hine!" Frōda hine genam on his clingende folme; him geþūhte þiccra and hefigra þonne ǣfre ǣror.
"Heald hine ūp!" cwæþ Gandælf. "And lōca smēalīce!"
Þā hē swā dyde, nū seah smæle līnan, smælran þonne þā smælestan feðerlīnan, andlang þæs hringes ymbewritene innan and ūtan: fȳrlīnan þe him geþūhte gestrīcan flōwendes gewrites stafas. Scearpe
beorhte scinon hīe, ac ēac ungehende, swylce of sīdre dēopnesse. 
"Ne can ic þā fȳrstafas rǣdan" cwæþ Frōda reordes bifiende.
"Nā" cwæþ Gandælf, "ac ic can. Þā stafas sindon Ælfisc, on ealdum wrītungcynne. Ac Mordorlandes is sēo sprǣc þe ic ne sceal hēr wrecan wihte. Þisne secgaþ hīe in Geþēodiscre Tungan, mǣst nēahlīce:

Ānhring þe hīe ealle rīcsaþ  ānhring þe hīe ealle findeþ
ānhring þe hīe ealle bringeþ and in ealdþȳstrum bindeþ

Sindon efne twā lēoðstyccu of lēoþcwide lange cūðum in þām Ælflāre.

Þrēo hringas þām Ælfa cyningum under ūprodres hrōfum
Seofon þām Dweorga Hlāfordum þe delfaþ in stāna telde
Nigon þām drēosendum mannum oþ dēaþsele beadurōfum 
Ān þām deorcan dryhtne þe rīcsaþ on deorcum selde
  In Mordorlandum myrce drōfum
Ānhring þe hīe ealle rīcsaþ  ānhring þe hīe ealle findeþ
ānhring þe hīe ealle bringeþ and in ealdþȳstrum bindeþ
  In Mordorlandum myrce drōfum

Here's an audio recording of me reading this passage in a reconstruction of 11th century West Saxon. (A few things, like unstressed vowel reduction, are inconsistently implemented, and you'll hear a few very late features like West Saxon velar smoothing.)


The proper names, on this page at least, presented no problem. Frodo is a name borrowed from Old English in the first place, so I simply had to restore its original inflectional class. "Gandalf" is a loan from Norse Gandálfr (meaning something like "Elf of the Mage Staff"). I half-anglicized it into Gandælf. The gand part would be opaque in OE, but the ælf would be quite clear. The word "Mordor" in English evokes various dark things that contain the syllable mor-. Tolkien's intent was, I think, to have a toponym that could mean nothing at all while evoking terrible and ghastly things. In Old English, this effect can be had by keeping the word "Mordor" as it is. Morðor is the OE word for "Murder". But ð before about 750 was not consistently distinguished from d. "Mordor" from an OE perspective could be either an exotic name or an old spelling of the word for murder. So I took it over as is. Also like the word morðor, the scansion I have used for the Ring Verse requires it to be a strong a-stem noun with a parasiting vowel. 

I had to get creative coining a couple other things, and one is a joke for Germanic philologists. 

The Ring Verse is rendered into hypermetric lines, though the refrain uses a normal four-position line. If anyone's wondering, the literal translation of the OE version is: "Three rings for the Elf kings under the firmament-roofs. Seven for the Dwarves' lords who delve under the canopy of stone. Nine to transient men, battle-brave unto the halls of death. One to the dark lord who rules on the dark throne in the gloom-troubled Mordorlands. Onering that rules them all, onering that finds them all, one ring that brings them all and in ancient darkness binds (them), in the gloom-troubled Mordorlands."


Changed "Þeodisc Tunge" to "Geþeodisc Tunge" after reconsideration of the semantics involved

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