Feanor’s Reply to the Elder King

2012 version

Translated by Findegil / Björn Fromén

This is a translation into Quenya of Feanor’s famous reply in Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion. An earlier version of this translation was published in Quettar 46, May 1993. The translation notes have also been amended, and a Swedish poetic translation added.

‘But Feanor spoke then, and cried bitterly: “For the less even as for the greater there is some deed that he may accomplish but once only; and in that deed his heart shall rest. It may be that I can unlock my jewels, but never again shall I make their like; and if I must break them, I shall break my heart, and I shall be slain, first of all the Eldar in Aman.” . . . “This thing I will not do of free will. But if the Valar will constrain me, then I shall know indeed that Melkor is of their kindred.”’ (The Silmarillion, ch. 9)

Ve taura tanon ea picinan
almárea carda ya cuileryo tertucis
erya lúmesse tenna i metta telima;
cardasse tana indorya seruva.
Poluvan latya cé i holmar alcaro
mírinyais: oio tá lauvante encarine.
Qui mánya mauyana te ascatuva,
epeta ascatuvas hón sina: — nahtana
nauvan, mi Aman yesta ilye Eldaron!
Sie lá tyaruvan léra indonen;
mal qui ni sahtuvar i Valar, talume
anwe onóror istuvanyet Melcoro!

Notes on the translation to Quenya

picina ‘little’ (PE 17, p.115)

*ter-tuci-s ‘he carries through’

*telima ‘final’ substituted for the recorded tyelima, since Tolkien seemingly replaced the KYEL- of the Etymologies with TELE (WJ, p.411). In later sources KYEL- means ‘go down (slowly, by degrees)’,
whence tyelle ‘grade’ (PE 17, p.157)

holma *‘lock’, instrumental noun derived from hol- ‘shut, close’ (PE 17, p.98)

*mírinyais: short locative, = *mír-inya-sse-n ‘in my jewels’

*encarina ‘remade’

ascat- ‘break asunder’ (SD, p.310; cf. Etym. SKAT-)

nahtana *‘slain’ (VT 49, p.24)

ni accusative ‘me’ (PE 17, p.68)

sahta- *‘constrain’, cf. sahtie ‘pressure or force (to do something against one's will)’ (VT 43, p.22)

talume ‘at the time mentioned’ (VT 49, p.11)

Literal translation

As for the great maker [there] is for the lesser
a blissful deed that in his life he carries through
on one occasion only to the final conclusion;
in that deed his mind [then] will rest.
Maybe I shall be able to open the locks of radiance
in my treasures: but never then will they [lit.: ever then they will not] be remade.
If my hand must [lit.: compelled will] break them,
thereupon it will break this heart: – slain
I shall be, in Aman first of all Elves.
Thus I will not act with a free mind;
but if the Powers will constrain me, in that hour
I shall know them [to be] true brothers of Melcor.

Swedish poetic translation

Det givs liksom för mästarn i de högas krets
för den vars plats ställts lägre, något rikt och stort
som en gång blott i livet han kan fullkomna;
och i det verket sen hans hjärta har sin ro.
Måhända kan jag öppna glansens insegel,
men aldrig, aldrig kan jag återskapa dem.
Om mina ädelstenar jag skall sönderslå,
med dem mitt hjärta krossar jag i samma stund
och faller, först bland alver dräpt i Amans land.
Nej, aldrig gör jag detta frivilligt;
låt Makterna mig tvinga: då dess mera viss
blir jag om deras blodsfrändskap med Melcor!