In the Shadow of Elvish – The Black Speech and Orcish

Ash Zhâbur Durbatulûk – One Speech to rule them all

Category: Analysis

Gûldur revisited & Morgoth’s Ring

A couple of months ago I discovered the a Black Speech word that I had missed – gûldur. I then didn’t know what to with the word and I have not analysed it. But as I read The History of Middle Earth Vol. 10 Morgoth’s Ring I found this clue. In the part

Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth; Authors notes on the Commentary; Glossary: Ñoldor (p 350 in my paperback edition (2015). In this glossary Tolkien has written that:

The Quenya word ñólë meant ‘lore, knowledge’, but its Sindarin equivalent gûl, owing to its frequent use in such combinations as morgul (cf.Minas Morgul in The Lord of the Rings) was only used for evil or perverted knowledge, necromancy, sorcery. This word gûl was also used in the language of Mordor.

In my analysis of gûl of the Black Speech I write

From the compound ‘nazgûl’ analysed as nazg “ring” + ‘gûl’ “wraith” or “any one of the major invisible servants of Sauron dominated entirely by his will (A Tolkien Compass)”. The word ‘gûl’ is very similar to the Elvish word root NGOL “wise” or “wisdom” and Primitive Elvish ñgôlê “Science/Philosophy” and identical to Sindarin gûl “deep knowledge; perverted or evil knowledge, sorcery, necromancy, black arts, magic”.

The interpretation for Zhâburi is that ‘gûl’ means someone who has gained deep knowledge through the black arts of Sauron which also means that one is dominated by his will and  one’s perspective of the world is completely that of the Dark lord.

The word gûl in the Black Speech is probably a loan word from Sindarin but the root word NGOL and Primitive Elvish ñgôlê would give us gûl in my Anband Orcish and so in Zhâburi as well.

So then about the word gûldur. The most simple analysis would be that it is a compound word of gûl and dur the latter being related to durb– (to rule) Quenya turtur- v. “to master, conquer, dominate, win”. So gûldur would then mean something like “(black) lore dominating” or “to master by the means of (evil) lore”.

So what about the ‘b’ in ‘durb’? I have been thinking of this b (and the one in ‘gimb-‘ (to find) for a long time. My solution has been to view it as a derivative suffix. If we treat gûldur as a compound of ‘gûl’ and ‘dur’ then this is a elegant solution so now I can settle that question (and maybe publish my list of derivative suffixes soon).

So what about Morgoth’s Ring? I actually started to read books from The History of Middle Earth to find out more of the theological and philosophical aspects of Tolkien’s Arda so that I could create/enlarge Sauron’s theology. And in Morgoth’s Ring I have found i not plenty so at least very relevant material in the text Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth.

A new word: gûldur

On the site Eldamo a “collection of documents is a lexicon of Tolkien’s invented languages” I just found a Tolkien Black Speech word I wasn’t aware of ‘gûldur‘ “sorcery” which is really similar to Sindarin ‘guldur’ “black arts, sorcery” as in  Dol Guldur “Hill of Sorcery”. It’s obviously related to ‘gûl’ as in ‘nazgûl’. Luckely this word fits quite well into Zhâburi because one of the really old and fixed noun suffixes is -ur with a lengthened stemvowel, as in ‘zhâbur’ (language) from ‘zhab’. I already have the word ‘gûl’ (wraith (of Sauron), “any one of the major invisible servants of Sauron dominated entirely by his will”; Someone with deep knowledge of Eä from the dark perspective). So I just have to figure out why the d is there in the middle.

New analysis of uruk, olog & oghor

This is an analysis I have thought about for quite a while now. This text also appear in V. Analysis of the Black Speech.

The words uruk, olog and oghor are all attested with the ending –hai. The word uruk means “orc”, oghor-hai are the drúedain or the Wood people – could be Black Speech but more probably Orcish. Olog is pure Black Speech and seems to mean “troll“.

The interoperation of these words seem to be quite straight forward but I have an idea for a deeper and more constructive analysis. These words are a bit odd. Most attested Black Speech words are monosyllabic except from compounds and words with suffixes. And there are only a few words with initial vowel – except these three only ash (one), agh (and) the monosyllabic preposition u from the orc curse and a few names: Azog, Orcobal, Othrod, Ufthak and Uglúk.

In Hurrian (and other ancient languages such as proto-indoeuropean) words can be derived by duplication of syllables or vowels. So my proposition is that these are derived words with a prefix that duplicates the stem vowel. This analysis gives us three new stems and a new rule for deriving new words. The rule is that words for races can be derived from stems by dublicate the stam vowel and attach it in front of the stem. The only problem here is that I had a vision that Zhâburi B should only use suffixes (a rule inspired from Hurrian). The stems are: RUK, LOG– and GHOR-.

The first of these is actually attested in Primitive Elvish. H. K. Fauskanger writes: “ruk- one of the “ancient forms” of the stem RUKU, that yielded the word Orch (Orc) in Sindarin. Other forms include rauk-, uruk-, urk(u), runk-, rukut/s; also the “strengthened stem”gruk- and the “elaborated” guruk-, ñguruk (the latter by combination with a distinct stem NGUR “horror”, WJ:415). None of these derivatives are clearly glossed, though urku (or uruku) is said to have yielded Quenya urko, vague in meaning in the lore of the Blessed Realm (“bogey”), but later recognized as a cognate of Sindarin Orch. The adjective urkâ is said to mean “horrible”(WJ:389-90).” In Elvish this stem has something to do with fear which it does not have to have in Zhâburi. I have not decided what the RUK-stem meaning should be.

The stem GHOR could something to do with with trees, wood and forest so oghor would be the “forest person” and oghor-hai “those of the wood men” ore something like that. Or more probably it comes from the druedains own word for themselves, drughu.

The Trolls were the Shadows answer to Ents and made of stone so LOG could very well have to do with stone or rock.

The Ring Verse in The Land of Shadow Dialect

The most widespread dialect or or version of a Black Speech of Mordor that of The Land of Shadow (LoS) and it is interesting to compare it to Zhâburi and Svartiska dialects. Svartiska is the version that I started with and Zhâburi started as an attempt to make Svartiska more coherent to the Black Speech of the Ring Inscription.

Because the central, and really only, example of true Black Speech sentences are those of the ring inscription I will use them as my comparision example. When I first found out about LoS I looked for a translation of the whole ring verse but I could only find the first to lines.

Gakh Nazgu Golug-durub-uru lata-nut.
Three Rings Elf-lords-for under-sky
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky

Udu Gazat-shakh-uru ulub ruz-ishiz gund-ob.
Seven Dwarf-lords-for their halls-in stone of
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone

These two lines are a bit perplexing because they do not follow the grammar as it is explained on the Black Speech School site. Both the dative postpositional endings have lost their circumflexes –uru instead of –ûru. (These are plural, the singular is, just as in Svartiska –ûr. The Svartiska plural is instead -ûri.) And in the first line the postposition –lata (under) has become a preposition preceding the noun nût (sky), (which has lost its circumflex). This is explicitly described as Debased Black Speech. And it’s strange that the word for ‘hall’ ru has a double plural marker, both a suffix attached to the word itself and a plural marker in the postposition –ishiz. These lines are LoS-black Speech and not genuine Tolkien sentences and should not be considered as authentic. But we can make a simple rule of this example of double plural: if the noun ends in a vowel the noun takes a double plural marker in both the noun and the postposition. A more complicated rule would be that a noun ending in a vowel takes the double plural marker only if the postposition starts with a vowel. Both are consistent with the  case of “in the halls” and the noun ru (hall) and innessive postposition (in) –ishi, e.g. ru-ishi “in a/the hall” ruz-ishiz “in [the] halls”.   

So I have reconstructed both lines and the rest of the Ring Verse.

1. Gakh nazgu golug-durub-ûru nût-lata
Three rings [the] elf-lords-for [the] sky-under
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

2. Udu gazat-shakh-ûru ulub ruz-ishiz gund-ob
Seven [the] dwarf-lords-for their halls-in stone-of
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

3. Krith tark-ûru matûrzu dûmpuga matat
Nine men-for mortal doomed to-die
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die

4. Ash goth-bûrz-ûr tab ulîma-ir
One [the] lord-dark-for his throne-on
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In this line I chose to use the word goth for lord instead of shakh to avoid repetition.

5a. Uzg-ishi Mordor-ob amal burgûlu kulut
[the] Land-in Mordor-of where shadows are
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie

5b. Uzgbûrz-ishi amal burgûlu kulut
In [the] Dark-land [Mordor] where shadows are
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie

In the last word of the fifth line I had to find another word than ‘to lie’ because I could not find it. So I used the word for are kul– which is the regular form of “to be” in third person plural present tense. [Update 17.04.18. There is a word for “to lie” kât- (from Quenya caita-) which I know that I’ve seen before. So line 5b: Uzgbûrz-ishi amal burgûlu kâtut.]

There is also the problem of whether to translate Mordor or not. In 5a Mordor is not translated and the translation follows the original. In version 5b Mordor is translated into Uzgbûrz “The Dark Land” following the form of Lugbúrz “The Dark Tower”. The 5b is shorter and have the same amount of syllables and I think it’s more appropriate not to use Elvish words. Mordor ought to have its own name in its own language. So I have used 5b below.  

6. Ash Nazg Durbatulûk
One Ring to-Rule-them-all

7. Ash Nazg Gimbatul
One Ring to-Find-them

8. Ash Nazg Thrakatulûk
One Ring to-Bring-them-all

agh burzum-ishi krimpatul
and [the] Darkness-in Bind-them

My version of the Ring Verse in the LoS dialect of the Black Speech of Mordor

  1. Gakh nazgu golug-durub-ûru nût-lata
  2. Udu gazat-shakh-ûru ulub ru-ishiz gund-ob
  3. Krith tark-ûru matûrzu dûmpuga matat
  4. Ash goth-burz-ûr tab ulîma-ir
  5. Uzgbûrz-ishi amal burgûlu kulut
  1. Ash Nazg Durbatulûk
  2. Ash Nazg Gimbatul
  3. Ash Nazg Thrakatulûk
  4. agh burzum-ishi krimpatul
  5. Uzgbûrz-ishi amal burgûlukulut



The Ring verse updated

The Ring verse had to be updated. When writing about the Descriptive I changed it so it agrees with the word it describes. When it agrees with nouns it is subject to suffixaufnahme. In the third line (nine for mortal men doomed to die) the descriptive ‘fundadash’ (doomed/judged) agrees with the directive of ‘tarkgoth-za’ (to the lords of men)  suffixaufnahme –diza have to be added. Because of the additional syllables the sentence need to be shortened so ‘goth’ (lord) of ‘tarkgoth’ had to be deleted.

In addition I have started to develop the vocabulary, bringing it closer to Primitive Elvish (PE). This has given me new words for ‘die’ from the PE word ‘ñgurū’ (death) which becomes ‘gûr’ in Zhâburi B. The intransitive of this is ‘gûru-‘.

The third line is thus changed from Krith fundadash maum tarkgoth-za to Krith fundadash-diza gûrum tark-za.

The word for ‘stone’ has been changed from ‘gund’ (Svartiska) to gûd (Primitive Elvish gondo) following the same peinciples as ‘ñgurū’ to ‘gûr’. Interestingly the Svartiska word for stone is quite similar to the PE ‘gondo’ and is probably inspired by Sindarin ‘gond’. The word ‘gund’ for stone can also be found in the orcish dialects Land of Shadows, Horngoth and MERP. In Svartiska and MERP another word for ‘stone’ is – gur.