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Author Topic: Rak and Ruin  (Read 1362 times)

David Salo

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Rak and Ruin
« on: August 03, 2013, 05:00:00 PM »

 Several different words, all appearing to share the root rak, appear in
 various places in Quenya and Sindarin.

These words are as follows:

In the revised version of the Markirya poem, we have the words _raakina
kirya_ = 'a broken ship' replacing _rusta kirya_. Rákina is glossed as
'past participle of rak- 'break''. This meaning is old; although Qenya
had a presumably unconnected raka 'pile up,' Goldogrin has the verbs
rag- 'break asunder, burst' and ractha- 'shatter,' evidently from
earlier *rak-, *rakta-, pointing to a root raka 'break.' (It should be
noted that the lengthening of the root-vowel in _raakina_ is rare, and
in indisputable past participle forms is only found in another Markirya
adjective, _ruukina_; examples like laamina, nootina might be adjectival
derivatives of nouns laama, noote; whereas past participle forms with
*short* vowels are quite common).

In the originally unpublished portion of the essay 'Quendi and Eldar,'
discussing the phonological theories of the Loremasters, we find a
different _rakina_, in the phrase _rakine tengwi_ 'stripped/deprived
signs.' This _rakina_ is evidently *also* the past participle of a root
rak. The use of 'strip' or 'deprive' is evidently intended as a literal
translation; the actual reference is to consonants not immediately
followed by a vowel as opposed to the _quante tengwi_, or 'full signs,'
consisting of a cv syllable. It would not be impossible to understand
_rakina tengwe_ as meaning 'broken sign,' I.E., one in which the
consonant was separated from the naturally accompanying vowel;
nonetheless, this is not exactly what is said, unless one understands
'break' to mean more nearly 'break off' or 'break away'; in the Markirya
poem the meaning is clearly 'wrecked' or 'rendered unseaworthy.'

In Tolkien's translation of the Catholic prayer 'Sub tuum prã¦sidium'
is found the word raxellor, ablative plural of a noun raxe (sc. Rakse),
'from dangers,' corresponding to the Latin _a periculis_. Raxe could be
interpreted as something like 'breakage,' though once again there is
nothing to prove that there is a direct relationship between the words.

These are all the instances found in Quenya. There are others in

In a late addition to the Silmarillion map (The War of the Jewels, pp.
183, 187) is found the note 'read (71) Dor-na-Daerachas' substituting
for 'Dor Daedeloth,' glossed (on the map) as 'Land of Great
Dread.'_Daerachas_ could be divided as daer+achas, daer+rachas, or
dae+rachas. The dae might be the same _dae_ 'abominable, detestable,
dreadful' found in at least one etymology of Daedeloth (from a root
nday) or it might be related to _daer_ 'great' (cf. The element day
found, probably, in both *dairaa >  daer and *daita- >  laita-

If the second element is rachas, then we have another meaning attached
to rak, 'dread.' Rachas would have the nominalizing suffix -assee >  -as
attached to a word rach, which itself could be from either *rakkaa or
*raksaa, both from a root rak (it's also possible that there's another
root rakh involved, but that seems unlikely). This rach can be
semantically related to q rakse 'danger' -- dangers are to be dreaded,
after all; and one can suppose that *raksee 'danger' has an adjectival
relative *raksaa 'dangerous, dreadful', from which could be derived
*raksassee >  rachas 'dread.'

Another Sindarin word that might be related is found in an alternate
title of the Narn i-Chiin Huurin, Narn e-'Rach Morgoth, translated as
'Tale of the Curse of Morgoth.' The apostrophe before the r suggests
that the unlenited form of this word might be Grach; however, that does
not stop this word from also arising from a root rak, as there is a
common variation between roots beginning with r and those with gr, with
similar or identical meanings, E.G. rot/grot 'cave, hollow' and ruk/gruk
'terrible, fearful.'

The 'curse of Morgoth' referred to is the spell laid by Morgoth upon the
immediate family of Huurin (Morwen, Tuurin, and Nienor): 'Upon all whom
you love my thought shall weigh as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring
them down into darkness and despair. Wherever they go, evil shall arise.
Whenever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever
they do shall turn against them. They shall die without hope, cursing
life and death.' (The Children of Huurin, P. 64.)

It is not impossible that this _grach_ is identical in origin to the
_rakse_ of the Sub Tuum Præsidium; although it cannot be translated
exactly as 'danger' it is clearly a wish for peril to fall upon those
accursed. It is also possible that the _-rachas_ of Dor-na-Daerachas was
intended to be from _grachas_.

Wholly unlike this _grach_ is the _rach_ element found in the placename
_Imrath Gondraich_ 'Stonewain Valley' (Unfinished Tales, P. 465). Imrath
is the word for a particular type of valley ('a long narrow valley with
a road or watercourse running through it lengthwise'); _gondraich_ is
probably a plural of *gondrach; and since _gond_ is 'stone,' a _rach_
must be the vehicle ('wain') by which stone was removed from the valley
during the heyday of Gondor. ('Many paths were made when Stonehouse-folk
were stronger. They carved hills as hunters carve beast-flesh. Wild Men
think they ate stone for food. They went through Druuadan to Rimmon with
great wains.')

There is obviously a relationship between this _rach_ and the _rasg_ (q
raxa) of another (probably earlier) note on the name of Stonewain
Valley, _Nan Gondresgion_. But they are probably conflicting
conceptions; both rach and rasg could correspond to q raxa, but
rach:raxa would be from *raksaa while rasg:raxa would be from *raskaa,
and suggests a root rasak. In any case there seems to be no semantic
overlap between this _rach_ and the previous examples; possibly it was
ultimately intended to be from a root rakas rather than rak. Cf. In
terms of form the root akas, producing s _ach_ 'neckbone' and probably
also q _axo_ 'bone.'

It only remains to adduce -- considering the large role that
sound-symbolism plays in the Eldarin languages -- the existence of other
roots ending in rak, such as darak 'wolf,' karak 'fang,' and narak
'rend' -- all suggestive of some sort of ripping, tearing carnivory.

The impression I gets is that the root rak originally referred to some
kind of destruction, originally by rending or breaking. From this we
would have a verb *rak- 'break, wreck, destroy, ruin'; pp. *rakinaa
'broken, wrecked, split, ruined'; *raksee 'wreckage, destruction, ruin'
semantically altered to both 'peril' and 'curse (leading to ruin)';
*raksaa 'destructive, perilous, ruinous, dreadful'; *raksassee 'dread,
fear of destruction or danger.' These then would produce q rak-, rakina
(or raakina), raxe and s grach, (g)rachas.

The connection between fear and breaking or shattering may also be found
in the root ruk, which normally refers to fear or terror (ruk- 'fear';
ruhta- 'terrify'; ruukima 'terrible') but which in the Markirya poem
seems to refer to various kinds of ruin, as in ruukina 'confused,
shattered, disordered' and the verb ruxa- (sc. Ruksa-) seen in ruxal(a)

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[original subject: Rak and Ruin]
« Last Edit: August 03, 2013, 05:00:00 PM by David Salo »