Maybe as a child, you experimented with creating a new language that only you and your best friend would know. I think a lot of kids enjoyed this, however, for people like J. R. R. Tolkien, this was a reality. Tolkien loved languages all of his life, but when he began writing his tales of Middle Earth, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he began inventing his own languages.
Tolkien is most known for his creation of Middle Earth; however, most people leave out Tolkien’s true creative genius, his creation of various languages. Many authors create their own universe for their characters, like J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World in the Harry Potter series. However, Tolkien went above and beyond in his creation of Middle Earth; he created the geography, the history, and the languages spoken by many of his characters.
Two languages that Tolkien fully developed include Quenya and Sindarin, both of which were spoken by the elves in his tales. Not only did Tolkien create these languages, but he also created specific instances when these languages would be used. Quenya is the equivalent of Elvish Latin, a language that is not used for everyday conversations, but rather for poetry, song, lament, and magic. He based this language on the grammatical principles of Finnish, while Sindarin is based on Welsh, Tolkien’s favorite language. Sindarin, in contrast to Quenya, is a spoken language and appears often in his works.
In order to use the proper pronunciation in the movies, clips of J. R.R. Tolkien reading his novels were used as reference. So, not only did Tolkien create a language, but he also developed the pronunciation. Thus, Sindarin and Quenya could be reproduced for the movies and the reproduction is fairly authentic.
(Here are excerpts from the movie of Legolas speaking Quenya and Sindarin.)
There were several other languages that he invented for the people of Middle Earth, but they are not as fully developed as Quenya and Sindarin, because they are not spoken as often in the books or movies. Dwarvish and Orcs’ black speech (the language of Mordor) are not as fully developed because they are missing many words that would be essential to conversations, however, there are various sentences throughout the books that are written in Dwarvish and the Black Speech of Mordor.
(Here, Gandalf speaks the Black Speech of Mordor and due to movie magic, the skies darken to show the true impact.)
Like Andreasen in her article, “Secrets of the Creative Brain,” I do not think that IQ is the sole indicator of creative genius. For example, not all smart people have the capability to create their own languages. Thus, Tolkien’s creative genius is not solely from his IQ, but rather another aspect of maybe his personality or some other way that he thinks. In this article, Andreasen expands on the idea of divergent thinking, which is the ability to come up with various responses to assessments of creativity. In this definition, I believe J. R. R. Tolkien would have been a very divergent thinker due to the fact that he not only invented one language, but several.
The study of “big C” creativity is important to Andreasen, and there is much value in studying what makes people, such as Tolkien, so creative that they fit into the “big C” creative category. Andreasen believes that “[c]apturing human mental processes can be like capturing quicksilver” which I believe to be accurate. Unfortunately, Tolkien is no longer around to allow us a glimpse into his mental processes that went into the creation of these new languages. I guess the only option we have, is to dissect his writings ever further…off I go to read The Lord of the Rings again.
(Prophecy of Aragorn’s ascension as King of Gondor)
Other useful links:
Here, you can learn how to write your name in Elvish: