As of Tolkien Reading Day (March 25) linguist Nicholas Williams will add An Hobad to the list of books he’s translated into Gaeilge, or Irish Gaelic. His recent translations include many of the Alice books by Lewis Carroll, which received warm reviews from the Gaeilge-speaking community. Here is a sample paragraph from Ad Hobad for you to dissect for yourself:
“I bpoll sa talamh a bhí cónaí ar hobad. Níor pholl gránna, salach, fliuch é, lán le giotaí de phéisteanna agus le boladh láibe. Níor pholl tirim, lom, gainmheach a bhí ann ach an oiread, gan aon rud ann le n-ithe ná le suí síos air; poll hobaid ab ea é agus is ionann sin agus compord.”
As we can all clearly see, this is the first paragraph of The Hobbit…no? You can’t speak Gaelic? Okay, fine, neither can I. And neither could Tolkien.
In an article in the Irish Times, he is quoted as saying he studied Irish “With alas! very little success.” Perhaps this was because he very much disliked the tongue. In a 1958 letter to Deborah Webster, he wrote: “I go frequently to Ireland (Éire: southern Ireland) being fond of it and of (most of) its people; but the Irish language I find wholly unattractive.” A later letter in “Drafts for a letter to Mrs. Rang,” (where he also discusses the similarity between his word “nazg” and the Irish word “nasc”) it is recorded: “I have no liking at all for Gaelic from Old Irish downwards, as a language, but it is of course of great historical and philological interest…”
He even went so far as to call the land of Ireland itself “naturally evil”! He is thus quoted in the aforementioned Irish Times article:
He could “feel”, Sayer said, “evil coming up from the earth, from the peat bogs, from the clumps of trees, even from the cliffs, and this evil was only held in check by the great devotion of the southern Irish to their religion.”
Thankfully, none of Tolkien’s personal distaste has stopped Nicholas Williams and publisher Evertype from putting together this newly translated volume. Look for it this March 25 (speaking of which, have you entered our Tolkien Reading Day Photo Contest yet?)