AND THE REST: APPENDICES C TO F
Then there’s a set of family trees, showing how Frodo, Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin were all (distantly) related, and a Shire calendar.
A pronunciation guide for transliterating phonemes into runes appears, along with notes on the history of alphabets. There was the Tengwar (elf-letters), and the Cirth (runes). Both were invented by Elves during the First Age. The very first alphabet was invented in the Undying Lands and never made it east to Middle-Earth, but Feanor (he of the silmarils) invented his own Tengwar alphabet and brought it eastward, where it propagated and went through at least one major refinement before settling into a final form, millennia later but still during the First Age.
Other Elves invented the Cirth specifically for carving into stone; thus they appear much more blocky and angular than the Tengwar. There are instructions for matching Tengwar to phonemes which are way more elaborate than the runic/Cirth ones, and notes about how the Dwarves adopted the Cirth, but had to invent new runes to go with phonemes the Elves hadn’t needed.
This naturally leads to a section on languages, and how different groups of Elves spoke Quenya (the language of the Undying Lands) or Sindarin (the language developed independently by elves who never went to the Undying Lands). Human languages all derive from the root language of Westron, the ancient Andunaic. This is the language spoken by the common ancestors of the Numenoreans and the Rohirrim/Beornings/Woodmen/et cetera. By the late Third Age most people speak a version of Westron; this is the “Common Speech” that permits a Hobbit of the Shire to understand the speech among Orcs of Mordor.
The only other human language group was the languages of the ancestors of the Dunlendings and Breelanders and Druadan (also the Dead Men of Dunharrow, you remember them); these people were disadvantaged and marginalized for most of the history of Middle-Earth, only coming into their own late in the Third Age. After Arnor was depopulated, some men from the south drifted north to settle around Bree, others in the vales to the west of Isengard, and others remained in their ancient forests. Dun, for what it’s worth, just means West, as these people were in the west of Gondor.
Hobbits adopted the languages of the nearest humans. Ents, Orcs, Trolls, and Dwarves all had their own languages, though the Ents adopted Quenya and the Orcs and Trolls mostly used the Black Speech, a sort of Evil Esperanto invented in the mid-Second Age by Sauron. The section on trolls notes that the trolls that appeared at the vanguard of Sauron’s armies late in the War of the Ring were of a kind never seen before, larger, meaner, and more sun-resistant than the previous iterations (such as the bumbling thugs in the Hobbit); these were called Olog-hai, analogous to Saruman’s half-orc Uruk-hai, but no one knew what the other half of the Olog-hai was.
Finally, the last bombshell of the book, which is that all the names are wrong.
The conceit of the Lord of the Rings in general and the Appendices in particular is that they’re a translation of a transcription of a copy of the Red Book of Westmarch, which is to say, the book Bilbo wrote his adventures in, and then gave to Frodo, who wrote about the war, and so on to Sam, who entrusted it to his daughter and from there somehow it ended up in the hands of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.
Bilbo and Frodo were really named Bilba and Froda. Samwise Gamgee was really Banazir Galbasi. Merry Brandybuck was really Kali Brandagamba, and so on. Tolkien just Anglicized the names, so they would create the effect he wanted. I gotta say, I find this revelation bizarre, and I’m not sure what the point is — I suppose it’s just that Tolkien was a philologist and his rich fantasy life included abstruse linguistics. Certainly most of the secondary worlds that followed in Tolkien’s wake lack all the word history stuff.
That wraps up the Appendices of the Return of the King! I close quoting Tolkien on the vanished Elves: “They were a race high and beautiful, the older Children of the world, and among them the Eldar were as kings, who now are gone: the People of the Great Journey, the People of the Stars. They were tall, fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finarfin; and their voices had more melodies than any moratl voice that is now heard. They were valiant, but the history of those that returned to Middle-Earth in exile was grievous; and though it was in far-off days crossed by the fate of the Fathers, their fate is not hat of Men. Their dominion passed long ago, and they dwell now beyond the circles of the world, and do not return.”
JRR Tolkien: good at what he did.
Next… sigh… back to Sir Thomas Malory.