Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

Dear Diary,

The Hobbit movie is now in a theater near me.
A few in our household are excited about this.  Yes, that includes me.

I have enjoyed the J.R.R. Tolkien books and Lord of the Ring movies.  But I have a mind that sometimes strays from the story at hand.  In this movie scene of Lord of the Rings, Liv Tyler's elfin character whispers sweet nothings into the human ear of Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen.  While watching it, I let my mind marvel over a couple things about the creation of that scene.

Tolkien had to create the ancient language for those beautiful, magical elves to speak. (Have I mentioned Orlando Bloom was an elf? I digress. But only slightly.)  Back to the language thing.  Tolkien did not whip up a spoken, jibberish language, no. He created a written language, with sentence structure and linguistic rules.  He not only created the 'Elvish' language, he constructed almost 20 for his books set in Middle Earth.  Wikipedia would be happy to share their knowledge on the subject of Tolkien and his created languages.

And second,
Once the written story became a movie, this originally written language had to now be spoken by actors as if it were their first language, while English subtitles flash across the screen for the benefit of us humans.

Yes, this is where my mind goes sometimes.

And now for something completely different (but I promise there will be a connection).

I am s-l-o-w-l-y reading through a devotional book called Praying the Names of God, by Ann Spangler.  In it, week by week, I am introduced to a Hebrew name for the Christian God of the Bible.  The names are taken from the Old Testament, which was written in the ancient language of Hebrew.  What could be more awesome than calling God by names in His own language?  For example, Elohim means God, Mighty Creator.  In English I need to use three words to express the meaning contained in one hebraic word, Elohim.  And it sooo cool to say!  Go ahead and try. 
Yahweh Yireh is another example, meaning The Lord Will Provide. 

Cool, huh.  These are ancient names of God that have been translated nicely into English in my Bible.  But it is so much cooler to learn how God's chosen people said and prayed His name, way back when the Scriptures were written. 

OK, wake up, here is the connection I promised.
As I am learning these names, I got to thinkin'.  Hebrew sounds alot like the Elvish language of Tolkien.  Go ahead a try it.  Lean into someone's ear and whisper:
            Ehad, shenayim, shelosha/ani tsame/ yim huledet sameah/layla tov

Make sure you say it Liv Tyler-style:  breathy, whispery, elvishly.  And don't worry about pronunciation, unless you are speaking to a Jew.  Then you may need to practice first.  Sounds just like elvish, yes?

Well, I guess I could have saved Tolkien many hours -- no, probably weeks-- creating a language for the elves of Middle Earth.  But while the Hebrew language is beautiful, especially if it were to come out of Liv's (or Orlando's) mouth, the subtitles of the above sample would have really changed the meaning of the romantic scene. Translated into English:
            One, Two, Three/I'm thirsty/Happy Birthday/Good night!

Yup, this is what goes on in my head.  Welcome to my world.

Layla tov!

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