Peter Jackson’s movies

David Salo have written a version of the Ring Verse for Peter Jackson’s films. The lines goes like this (according to A Magpie’s Nest).

1. Shre nazg golugranu kilmi-nudu
Three rings for the elven kings under the sky
2. Ombi kuzddurbagu gundum-ishi
Seven for the dwarf lords in their halls of stone
3. Nugu gurunkilu bard gurutu
Nine for the mortal men doomed to die
4. Ash Burz-Durbagu burzum-ishi
One for the dark lord on his dark throne
5. Daghburz-ishi makha gulshu darulu
In the land of mordor the shadows lie

On his blog Salo writes

“[…] I had so little direct linguistic information about Black Speech to go on other than what could be gleaned from the Ring-inscription (object suffixes -ul, -ulûk; verbal infinitive (perhaps) ending -at; abstract ending -um in burzum “darkness”, containing the same burz element seen in Lugbúrz “Dark Tower”; postposition –ishi “in”) […]”

Salo imagines that “[…] the overall notion of Black Speech as a complex but consistent language, rich in affixation and inflection, but with a wholly transparent morphology. Indeed, the transparency of the morphology, the lack of any phonetic alterations between morphemes that could obscure the structure, would help explain the prevalence of clashing consonant clusters; morphemes ending in one consonant were jammed up against morphemes beginning in another, with nothing to ease the transition.

Sauron, I imagined, was an enormously practical person, who would have made the Black Speech as “perfect” (according to his notions of perfection) as he could make it, with a rigorous consistency and logic, but without making any allowance for æsthetics. It would not eschew borrowings from other languages of Middle-earth, but it would adapt them to its own style.”


“I made all of them [orcish dialects] descendants of Black Speech, via a hypothetical Proto-Orkish”.

I haven’t found any translation and David does not seem to be especially interested in the Black Speech (BS) and he has worked more on different Orcish dialects.

Here I analyse his version of the Ring Verse. I think I have been able to translate all the words but I had a harder time with the grammar, at least the verb.

Some of the words are quite easy to figure out like those for numbers and especially those that are established Black Speech words.

Numbers: Shre “three”, Ombi “seven”, Nugu “nine”, Ash “one”. The last of these is of course the well known word from the Ring Verse.

Tolkien BS: nazg “ring”, golug- “high elf”, -ishi “in”, burz “dark”, Durbagu < durbatulûk, see analysis below, burzum-ishi “in (the) darkness”.

Then there are some words that I recognise from other Tolkien languages. The most obvious is the part kuzd- from ‘kuzddurbagu’ which is seems to taken from the Dwarven speech khuzdul and means dwarf. The following ‘gundum’ must mean stonehall and seems to come from Sindarin ‘gond’ (stone) plus the ending -um from the Ring Verse ‘burzum’. In the following line (3) about men the word gurutu I would guess is “to die” and it’s really similar to the Zhâburi B word gûrum in this line from the PE word ‘ñgurū’ (death) which becomes ‘gûr’ and Sindarin guru “death. LÄNK

Then there are some words that can be found in Salo’s Proto-orcish word list, i.e. in practice The Black Speech: kilmi “sky”, guru “to die”, dara- “wait; stay”.

Analysis of each line of Salo’s Ring Verse

1. The elven line
Shre nazg golugranu kilmi-nudu
Three rings for the elven kings under the sky
Three ring(s) noldoking(s)-for sky-under

shre “three”, quite similar to germanic words like English three, Swedish “tre”, German “drei”, Dutch “drie”

nazg “ring” from Tolkien’s Black Speech

golugranu: golug “high elf/noldo” > ranu “for kings”. Here I wonder if there is any plural. Otherwise it seems quite straightforward ran “king” probably from Elvish aran “king” (both Quenya and Sindarin and Elvish root ƷAR) an the suffix –u from Uglúk u bagronk “Uglúk to (the) cesspool/dung-pit/torture” (see my analysis).  

kilmi-nudu: kilmi “sky” is listed in Salo’s Proto-orcish. Primitive Elvish has ʒel “sky”.

nudu is a suffix as in burzum-ishi, and it rings of Elvish: Quenya nu “beneath, under, under, beneath”, undu “down, under, beneath”; Sindarin nu “under”, di “beneath, under”; primitive elvish “under”.

2. The Dwarf line
Ombi kuzddurbagu gundum-ishi
Seven for the dwarf lords in their halls of stone
Seven dwarf-lord(s)-to stonehall(s)-in (the)

ombi “seven” vaguely familiar to sindarin odog “seven” Ety. OT

kuzddurbagu “to the dwarflords”; kuzd “dwarf” from Khuzdul (Dwarwish) word khuzd for Dwarf, with the radical KhZD and plural Khazad. Durbag “lord” from durb– as in durbatulûk (to rule them all) and -u “for” as in the line above. It could be that the -ag suffix is inspired by pushdug “stinkin” in the Orc curse but that is just speculation.

gundum “stone hall” or “stone dwelling” or something like that. It seems to be gund “stone” from Sindarin gond of the same meaning and the ending –um. If so Salo uses the -um as derivative suffix to create a new noun “stonehall” or “stone dwelling”. If so he drops the possessive pronoun ‘their’. The ending –ishi is of course from the Ring Inscription burzum-ishi so we get a familiar feel in the ending of the sentence.

3. The human line
Nugu gurunkilu bard gurutu
Nine for the mortal men doomed to die
Nine mortal-men-to doomed to die

Nugu “nine”. I have no further analysis or referenses.

gurunkilu “to the mortal men”. Gurun “mortal” from guru- “to die” from Salo’s Proto-orcish and seems to be related to the Sindarib guru– “death” and -n could then be some kind of suffix transforming guru “death” to  gurun “mortal”. The second part kil would then be “human” and is then probably taken from Quenya tarcil(d) “high man” (those of Númenórean descent) which gives us the Orcish word tark “gondorian man”. To this the postfix -u “to”, “for” is added”.

An alternative interpretation is that there is a root gur- “death” (or guru- “to die”) an the -um ending from burzum is added but the m is changed to n because of the k in kil.

bard “doomed” could be inspired by the Elvish root BAD “judge”, Noldorin badh– “to judge”. (The Noldorin language was the precursor to the Sindarin language that Tolkien defined shortly before the publication of The Lord of the Rings.) Maybe the verb is bar- “to judge” with a suffix -d making it to a passive participle.

gurutu is surely also related to guru– “to die” (and the root ÑGUR) but could either be a verb “to die” or a noun “to death” like “sentenced to death”. If it’s a noun the word could be gur “death” but then there is some kind of suffix -ut- before the suffix -u. It’s seems more reasonable that it is a verb with the suffix -tu which seems to be some kind infinitive. But how does this ending relate to the -at parts of the verbs in the Ring Inscription? And then we have the “to lie” in the line with the ending -lu.

4. The Dark Lord Line
Ash Burz-Durbagu burzum-ishi
One for the dark lord on his dark throne
One dark-lord-to darkness-in

This one is quite simple because ash, burz, durb-, burzum and –ishi are all established Black Speech words and we already established that durbag is “lord” and that -u is a suffix meaning “for” or “to. The most interesting part of the line is that it does not follow the English version and we have “One for the dark lord in the darkness” instead of “… on his dark throne”.

5. The Mordor line
Daghburz-ishi makha gulshu darulu
In the land of mordor where the shadows lie
(the) Landdark-in where shadow(s) lie

This line is tricky but the first part Daghburz-ishi must correspond to “in the land of Mordor”; –ishi is the suffix in, burz is “dark” so then dagh ought to be “land”. The we have “landdark in”. Daghburz also follow the same pattern as Lugbúrz “Barad-dûr”. I don’t see any Tolkien languages words that resemble dagh but Sindarin dôr/dor means “land”.

The rest … makha gulshu darulu is more difficult. My guess is that gulshu is “shadows”, makha “where” and darulu “lie”.

makha is quite similar to Quenya masse “where”.
gulshu “shadow(s)” reminds me of gûl “wraith” but what would the -shu part be?

darulu “lie (down)” – the function of this verb is to mark that the shadows are located in Mordor. There is an Elvish root DAR “stay, wait, stop, remain” and in Salo’s Proto-orcish there is a verb dara- “wait”, “stay”. If daru- is a verb stem for something like “to be located” we have the part -lu left.

Grammar (more information in the word list below)

  • no plural
  • no articles (a/an, the)
  • Suffixes
    • -ishi “in”
    • -nudu “under”
    • -u “for”, “to”
    • -n transforming a verb to a noun as in guru- “to die” > “gurun” mortal
    • -shu some kind of derivative ending in gulshu “shadow” gûl + shu
    • -d passive participle
  • There are three verb endings that correspond to infinitives in English. One can only speculate about the differences
    • -tu (gurutu “to die”)
    • -lu (darulu “to lie”)
    • from the Ring Inscription -at (durbat “to rule”; gimbat “to find”; thrakat “to bring”; krimpat “to bind”)
  • Compound words are possible which is no surprise because we have some examples from Tolkien like nazgûl.

Word list in alphabetical order

Black Speech English Comment
-d passive participle Isolated from bard
-ishi in Black Speech –ishi as in burzum-ishi “in the darkness”
-nudu under Quenya nu “beneath, under, under, beneath”, undu “down, under, beneath”; Sindarin nu “under”, di– “beneath, under”; primitive elvish nū “under”.
-u to; for from Uglúk u bagronk “Uglúk to (the) cesspool/dung-pit/torture”
ash one From the Ring Inscription ash
bar- to judge, sentence, doom See bard
bard doomed; judged; sentenced Elvish root BAD “judge”, Noldorin badh– “to judge”.
burz dark Black Speech burz
Burz-Durbagu “for the dark lord” See burz; durbag; -u
burzum darkness Black Speech burzum
burzum-ishi “in the darkness” Black Speech Ring Inscription
dagh land
Daghburz-ishi “in the dark land” See dagh, burz, -ishi
daru- to be located Elvish root DAR “stay, wait, stop, remain”; Salo’s Proto-orcish dara- “wait”, “stay”
darulu “lies”; “is located” See daru-
durbag lord from Black Speech durb– + suffix -ag
golug highelf, noldo Black Speech and Orcish golug “high elf”
golugranu “for the elf kings” See golug; ran; -u
gulshu shadow
gundum stone hall; stone dwelling Sindarin gond “stone”, –um “-ness” from Black Speech burzum
gurun mortal Salo’s Proto-orcish guru- “to die” probably from Sindarin guru– “death”. Possibly gurum instead.
gurunkilu “to the mortals men” See gurun; kil; -u
gurutu “to die” or “to death” Salo’s Proto-orcish guru- “to die” probably from Sindarin guru– “death”
kil human Probably from Quenya tarcil “high man” and related to Orcish tark “man of gondor”
kilmi sky Salo’s Proto-orcish kilmi “sky”
kilmi-nudu “under (the) sky” See kilmi; -nudu
kuzd Dwarf Khuzdul khuzd “dwarf”
kuzddurbagu “for the dwarflords” See kuzd; durbag; -u
makha where Quenya masse “where”
nazg ring Black Speech nazg
nugu nine
ombi seven vaguely familiar to Sindarin odog “seven”, Elvish root OT
ran king Elvish aran “king”, both Quenya and Sindarin, root ƷAR
shre three