The Tolkien keycaps are being produced as I write and I think this is the right time to talk about the lore behind this keycap set.
I’d like to stress on the fact that this is more than just a fancy LoTR set to dress your 5th keyboard; if you want to you can actually write in Elvish and Dwarvish with these keycaps. They are not just nice, they are functional. Not to mention they are officially licensed!
Tengwar and Cirth
Let’s start from the basics. Please bear with me, this will be an oversimplification, I’m not trying to write an essay and I’m not even qualified to do so.
The Elvish characters are Tengwar, the Dwarvish’s are Cirth. Cirth (pronounced Kirth) was actually a system created by the elves (is there even something that they didn’t invent in Middle Earth?!) and was adopted by Dwarves and other spieces. The Elves then moved on to Tengwar.
So technically you can have an Elvish text written in Cirth. It was useful for rock carved text of course as all phonemes are composed by straight lines.
In the same way humans nowadays speak multiple languages, there are multiple variants of Elvish and Dwarvish.
For the Elves I choose to use Sindarin as it is the one we have a wider dictionary and a lot of examples written by Tolkien himself. So the Elvish set should be pretty solid and I was able to use no (or very little) “neologisms”, aka those terms invented after JRR’s departure.
For the Dwarvish things are a little more complicated. Technically the language spoken by Dwarves is called Khuzdul; we don’t have much literature and I had to revert to Neo-Khuzdul, basically something made up by fans.
A clear example is with numbers, we don’t know how to count past 6 in Dwarvish, but fans made an educated guess and this way we can have a fully functional numpad.
Dwarves use mainly two systems of writing developed in different eras: Angerthas Moria and Angerthas Erebor. For the sake of my mental sanity the translated text are mostly Erebor but I’m sure there’s some contamination depending on what was convenient at the moment… So while you can consider the alpha/numerics Cirth truthful, don’t mind the modifiers too much.
How to write in Elvish and Dwarvish
This would require a website of its own, but the very first step is to install Daniel Smith’s fonts. For legal reasons I’m not hosting the fonts on my website but if you search “Cirth Fonts” and “Tengwar Fonts” you’ll easily find them. Get the Sindarin and Erebor variants for Elves and Dwarves respectively.
Fire up your preferred word processor, select the font and –ALAS– what you type is what you get! Of course you need to know the ancient languages to write something meaningful, but that part is up to you. I just give you the tools.
Most of the modifiers and extra keys have been translated to Elvish and Dwarvish to the best of my skills and with the limits of a tiny vocabulary.
The following is what the keys say in Elvish:
- Enter > minno (this was easy)
- Escape > awartho (abandon)
- Control > tortho
- Insert > nest, abbr. of nestegi
- Home > bâ
- End > meth
- Pause/Break > daro (stop)
- Page Up > cebi am (leap up)
- Page Down > cebi dad (leap down)
- Caps Lock > pedi caun (speak loud)
- Scroll Lock > hebi yred (hold running)
- Num Lock > hebi gwenyd (hold numbers)
- Alt > eichiad (change), eichiad is a “neologism”, it doesn’t come from any original Tolkien lore
- Function keys > phui-1, phui-2, phui-3 … (it’s like literally saying Ef-1, Ef-2 Ef-3…)
- Shift > ortho (raise)
- Delete > geli (shine clear)
- Back space > gwo dan (go back)
- Print Screen > teitho parf (write a book, yeah I know, but it’s cute)
- FN > esgail (literary veils, by ext. layers)
- Super (OS key) > orchal (superior)
- Menu > I couldn’t find anything so I phonetically transliterated the word “menu”
- Tab > sarf (table… don’t ask)
The spacebar has of course The One Ring inscription on it and the extra Enter depicts Narsil.
There are a bunch of novelties that are left to the diligent student to find out what they say.
Dwarvish looks like this:
- Back space > ithmir (remove from)
- Tab > raban (table… I know I know)
- Down > zadahu’
- Up > fu’
- End > anat
- Home > azhâr
- Delete > jalâlbum (remove)
- Control > birâknur
- Alt > annâr
- Enter > amdun
- Shift > ashfât (mover)
- Shift lock > ahdun ashfât (contain mover)
- Escape > iflit
- Scroll > magmkads (scrolls… like rolled paper)
- Insert > afthuk (add)
All other keys are mostly phonetically transliterated.
The Spacebar says: “Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!” that translates to “Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!”.
The extra Enter key: says “Balin Fundinul, Uzbad Khazad-dûmu”,
“Balin son of Fundin, Lord of Moria” which is one of the few text Tolkien left us writted in Dwarvish.
Yeah, okay, but when and where can I get them?!
The where is at Drop, exclusively.
The when is, when they are ready! At this point I just hope before year’s end.
UPDATE 2021-11-06: they should be out this coming week!