History of Elven Writing Systems/Foreword

Quenta Eldatencelion
Age of Starlight
Early Tengwar
*An alternative mode
Certhas Daeron
First Age
Mode of Beleriand
Runes of Gondolin
Second Age
Quenya Mode
Angerthas Daeron
*Angerthas Moria
Third Age
Classical Quenya Mode
"General Use"
*"General Use" Westron
*"General Use" Sindarin (Sindarin Tehtar Mode)
"Full Writing" with "General Use" Consonants
*Sindarin "Full Writing" with "General Use" Consonants
*Westron "Full Writing"
Angerthas Erebor

Fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien invented many writing systems to be used by his Elves and other races in his fictional world of Middle-earth.

This is a detailed account of the writing systems used by the Elves. The essay is concentrated on the process of time in the fictional history and the Ages of Middle-earth, and its purpose is to show how writing could have evolved by various races of the legendarium, as well as the interrelation between modes. The logical process behind evolution of each system from the other is speculated.



The document doesn't include many explicit quotes from Tolkien’s writings for reference, but it is clear that many statements set forth are conclusions out of the authors' judgement from the sources and evidence. Words like “assume”, “speculate”, “reconstruct”, “must” and “perhaps” are used, and the reader must have in mind that these theories have not been ensured by examples or explicitly stated by Tolkien.

The same applies to the examples of some writing systems, like early Certhas, specimina of which Tolkien haven’t left to us at present. On the contrary, this essay provides all of known (elvish) Tengwar samples that have been written by Tolkien, leaving the final judgment to the reader.

What this document is not

  • The document is by no means a tutorial for starters, or a guide of how to write Tengwar. Although it can be used as such, there are better and more practical tutorials and guides available. What can it be used for is a reference guide for all known systems (some of them hypothetical or reconstructed) and is recommended as a supplement for such a study by a starter.
  • The document does not try to describe every single system that came into Tolkien’s mind, but takes account only his “latest” elaborations that he must have considered “current” while writing Lord of the Rings and the later Silmarillion. So no description of the early Sarati, the “Valmaric script” or the “Runes of Pengolodh” will be found there.
  • English and Old English modes for Tengwar devised by Tolkien won't be described either.

The essay tries not to show anything that goes beyond Fair Use and doesn’t quote so extensively from Tolkien's work as to run afoul of it. All quotation is used for the purpose of supporting the analysis that forms the vast majority of the work.



Eldatencelion started as a timeline of all the changes that took place forming the Elvish writing systems according to the information given in Appendix E to The Lord of the Rings. An early form was hosted kindly in Gwaith-i-Phethdain in a portable document format, and was soon translated into Italian by Eldalie.it. It was ported to wiki format on January 2005 and has been improved and changed ever since.

On reading this document


The reader must have the following way of formatting in mind:

  • Names of published corpus are in bold: LotR, King’s Letter, Moria Gate Inscription
  • Words or sounds used as samples (usually elvish) are in italic: thúle, parma
  • Tengwar names are not in italic, but their first letter is capital: Thúle, Parma
  • Minus < and major > are used to show etymological process or change in pronunciation: *áse > áze > áre
  • Non-attested hypothetical forms (usually archaic) are asterisked: alda < *galadâ
  • Wrong forms are asterisked twice: alda < *galadâ, not **aladâ
  • Primitive stems and etymological roots are always in capital: alda < GALAD

FA, SA and TA mean First, Second and Third Age respectively.

Note: The document makes heavy use of certain fonts of Tengwar, Runes and, in a case, Sarati. The fonts that need to be installed in order to view this document properly are:

Some other compatible fonts will also work since most of the best-known tengwar fonts follow the layout proposed by Dan Smith. In some cases, Tengwar doesn’t render correctly in Internet Explorer, so other browsers are recommended (the display is fine in Mozilla Firefox). The problem can alternatively be overpassed by copying and pasting the text into a word processor such as MS Word.



The present form of the essay owes much to the contributions of knowledge by Helge Fauskanger, Måns Björkman, Daniel Adriës, Ryszard Derdzinski, Carl Hos and others, as well as the editors of Vinyar Tengwar.