A Collection of Sindarin Tanka: 1. Preface

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1. Preface

Why tanka? And what are "tanka"?


"Tanka" is a modern name for a form of Japanese verse that dates back over twelve centuries. It is older than the more widely known "haiku" and also different in form and style. Tanka is considered to be one of the most important forms of Japanese poetry. By now western readers (and poets) have started to discover tanka and to explore what tanka may express in their own languages.

Tanka contain five syllabic units of altogether 31 syllables. In English they are mostly separated into five lines (5-7-5-7-7), while in Japanese they are often presented in one straight line.

Usually each unit of syllables represents one idea or image, text is not "wrapped" as it is common in English poetry. Its themes are wider than haiku, not only observations of nature, but all aspects of life.

I am fascinated with miniatures, tiny glimpses at life and the world in art and literature. In modern visual art the perfect example are the "icons" used in LiveJournals, blogs and messageboards. In literature, and especially in fan fiction, the drabbles. Tanka are even shorter than drabbles and thus more demanding. It is a real challenge to convey atmosphere in 31 syllables.

I like challenges, and that's how I came to write tanka.

If you want to know more about tanka, americantanka dot com is a good place to start.

But why in Sindarin and not in English?

First of all, of course, because Tolkien's "modern" Elvish language simply fascinates me. Even more than a writer and scholar, Tolkien was a linguistic genius and that is best expressed in the Sindarin language he developed.

But I also feel always a bit strange about transferring poetry from a language and culture that is so far away from my own into the words of my daily life, and so I decided to try writing Sindarin and not English tanka - and I was surprised how well they turned out.

My knowledge of Sindarin relies on Thorsten Renk's online course, the material to be found at the Fellowship of the Wordsmiths, the Hisweloke/Dragonflame dictionary and the two books (grammar, dictionary and language lessons) by Helmut W. Pesch.

Of course I'm no expert on Sindarin. There are only very few persons around who are! But I did work with some of the best material about Sindarin that is available at the moment and took pains to keep the Neo-Sindarin to a minimum. All mistakes are mine and I am grateful for any discussion about lenition that you, my readers, might come up with!

I hope you enjoy my experiments with tanka and Sindarin.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: JunoMagic

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Poetry

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/05/06

Original Post: 11/10/05

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