Naffarin - at least we know that "vrú" means ever

O Naffarínos cutá vu navru cangor luttos ca vúna tiéranar, dana maga tíer ce vru encá vún' farta once ya merúta vúna maxt' amámen.

The meaning of this strange sentence is probably lost for ever, except that the word vru, or vrú, means "ever". This is the one sample Tolkien gives of Naffarin (MC:209), the more sophisticated private language he started to develop when Nevbosh died. In fact, Naffarin partly overlapped the last stages of Nevbosh. Unlike Nevbosh, Naffarin was never shared with others; it does not seem that young Tolkien ever tried to teach it to his friends. He notes that he would have liked to circulate it, but never did - probably thinking that noone would be interested. It seems that Naffarin was just a language and lacked a mythology to go with it. Nontheless, it represented a long leap foreward: In the case of Naffarin, teen-age Tolkien for the first time made a whole language by joining sound and meaning according to his own predilections rather than distorting words from existing tongues. In Nevbosh, only a few of the words had been of this kind, like lint "quick, nimble" (that may very well have been one of the words that were adopted into Naffarin from Nevbosh; it even survived into Quenya!) Tolkien mentions vrú "ever" as "a curiously predominant association in my languages, which is always pushing its way in (a case of early fixation of individual association, I suppose, which cannot now be got rid of)" (MC:209). In Quenya it appears as voro "ever, continually" (LR:353).

The general phonetic style of Naffarin was inspired by Latin and Spanish. Tolkien deliberately avoided certain English sounds, such as w, th, sh. But we shall never know more about Naffarin than this, for Tolkien informs us that "it has long since been foolishly destroyed" - and this was written as early as 1931. Yet we already see an approach to Elvish forms; Tolkien's linguistic taste was maturing. Many of the words, though not all, could have been Quenya as far as style and structure goes: The earliest form of "Qenya" was only a few years away - and one can hardly fail to note that the very word "Naffarin" has the ending -rin also seen in the names of so many later languages: Sindarin, Vanyarin, Valarin, Telerin etc.

Naffarin Wordlist

To flesh out what would otherwise have been a pretty uninformative list, I mention later Elvish forms similar to the Naffarin words, but this is only to demonstrate that Tolkien was already approaching the characteristic Elvish "style" and is no attempt to guess what the Naffarin words really mean, except in the case of navru.

amámen ??? (Quenya Aman "the Blessed Realm")
ca ???
??? (Quenya *ce "you" - a tentative reconstruction based on the Sindarin endings -ch, -g and the accusative tye, that may represent earlier *kye. But the Quenya form may also be *ci.)
cangor ??? (Elvish stems KAN "dare", GOR "violence, impetus, haste", LR:362, 359)
cutá ??? (Quenya cua "dove", "bow", cúma the Void)
dana ??? (Sindarin Danath "Nandor", the Elves who did not cross the mountains on the march from Cuiviénen)
??? (Quenya enta "that yonder".)
??? (Elvish stem PHAR "reach, go all the way, suffice", LR:381)
luttos ??? (Quenya lusta "void, empty", Elvish stem LUT "float, swim", Quenya luntë "boat")
' ??? Evidently an elided form of *maxta, as the next word begins in a. (Quenya maxa "pliant, soft", masta "bread")
Naffarin Naffarin, name of the language, etymology unknown. (Cf. later language-names like Sindarin, Vanyarin etc.)
Naffarínos evidently an inflected form of Naffarin or a compound including it.
navru ??? May incorporate vru, vrú "ever". In later Elvish NA is the stem of words like "to" and "for", so navru just might mean "forever".
o ??? (Sindarin o "from, of")
once ??? (Elvish stem ONO "beget", Quenya onta- "beget, create", onna "creature")
tíer ??? Cf. tiéranar? (Quenya tier pl. of tie "path".)
tiéranar ??? (Quenya tie "path", Rána a name of the Moon)
vru or vrú "ever". (MC:209) (Quenya voro "ever".) Cf. navru.
vu ??? (Elvish stem "together", Quenya ve "as, like")
vún' evidently an elided form of vúna below.
vúna ??? Cf. ?
ya ??? (Quenya ya relative pronoun "that, which")

Ardalambion Index