What is "One Ring to rule them all" in Klingon? There have been several attempts to translate the famous ring poem from J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Lord of the Rings into Klingon.
The following is a linguistic analysis of the translation by Anthony Appleyard, originally published at: http://www.lodz.tpsa.pl/iso/Tolkien/vers-utf.html
The original text created by Anthony Appleyard looks as follows:
elDa'joHmeyvaD chalbIngDaq wej Qeb
nawqo'joHmeyvaD naghjuHmeychajDaq Soch
HumanmeyvaD jubbe' HeghmeH qIchbogh Hut
joHvaD Hurgh quSDajDaq Hurgh wa'
Qotbogh QIbmey morDor puHDaq
Hoch che'meH wa' Qeb, tu'meH wa' Qeb
Hoch qemmeH lan HurghDaq baghmeH je wa' Qeb
Qotbogh QIbmey morDor puHDaq
Note that in four instances, lowercase "i" has been replaced with the uppercase equivalent "I" to make the text compatible with the standard romanization for Klingon created by Marc Okrand.
Also, there are two mistakes on the original web page, which are obviously just typing errors, in the first word of line 1 and 2. There, the syllables meH (purpose clause marker) have been replaced with mey (plural suffix), so that the romanization reflects the correct text as it was probably intended.
Klingon Text in pIqaD
With the corrections explained above, the poem can be transcribed into pIqaD (Klingon script) as follows:
Phonetic Transcription (IPA)
Using the same corrections as above, it is also possible to describe the correct pronunciation:
The corrected text can be analyzed word-by-word as follows:
|PURP||purpose clause marker|
|REL||relative clause marker|
The poem translation exhibits several idiosyncrasies of Klingon grammar:
- When numbers precede nouns, it is implied that they are cardinal numerals (lines 1, 6, 7).
- If a specific quantity is given, a plural marker is not required (line 1).
- "Human" is a loanword in Klingon (line 2).
- Numbers can also be used as regular nouns (lines 2, 3, 4). A canonical example would be wa' yIHoH ("Kill one [of them]!").
- Relative clauses precede the noun if the noun is the subject in the relative clause (lines 5, 8), but they follow the noun if the noun is the object of the relative clause (line 3).
- The conjunction je ("and") is used to join noun phrases (not whole sentences) and follows the sequence of all noun phrases involved (line 7).
There is only one word in the poem which seems out of place, and that is lan line 7. It translates into English as the verb "place", in the sense "to put something somewhere". However, that verb doesn't appear in Tolkien's original text. I would assume that the actual intention was "place" as a noun ("location"), so that the expression would mean something like "dark place", which would make sense as a translation for the word "darkness" used by Tolkien.
In Klingon, there is no distinct word for English "throne", hence the word quS ("chair") has been used instead in line 4. Perhaps the augmentative suffix 'a' could have been used here to improve the translation. The same applies to the "halls of stone" which were simply translated as naghjuHmey ("stone homes") in line 2.
The land "Mordor" is rendered literally using approximate sounds that actually exist in Klingon in lines 5 and 8, and it seems that elDa is intended to resemble the Middle Quenya word for elf, Elda, in line 1. The same goes for nawqo, which corresponds to the word for dwarf, nauko, in line 2. Creating these loanwords makes the poem appear more authentic, if we keep in mind that "human" is also a loanword in Klingon.
While we can't say for sure how a Klingon native speaker would translate the poem, the overall style matches what we would expect from a Klingon text: The phrases are short and concise – the English pronoun "them" has been omitted entirely in lines 6 and 7 – , and the syntax mostly matches the expected word order, which is essentially the opposite of English.
Given that this is a work of poetry, where especially word order often deviates from the default, Anthony Appleyard's translation does a very good job of remaining faithful to both Tolkien's original, as well as Marc Okrand's idea of Klingon. The lines 5, 6, 8, and 8 even follow the same ABBA rhyming scheme as Tolkien's original English text. Aside from the apparent mistake in line 7, the translation is an excellent example of crossover fanart.
Copyright © 2022 by Thomas Heller [ˈtoːmas ˈhɛlɐ]