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!
Please, keep going, I’m so close…
LOL, this made my day :D
Hahaha aw, I’m glad! :) Reading this update made mine!
I love the thought and planning that went into these! I’m also excited because these are the equivalent of blanks for non-qwerty keymaps!
Can you give any indication of coloring?
(to be more specific, are the final colors similar to the original video?)
I’ll take better pictures/video when the final keycaps will be at my place, but yeah colors should be pretty close to what you’ve seen in the video.
OH MY GOSH, IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING!!!!!!
Should I be checking here daily.
Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.
So happy to see an update! Any word on if there will be an Ortho kit to buy, and if so, if it will be available as mono-Elvish?
ortho is a go, but not mono.
No ergodox (for those who were asking).
Will the ortho kits have sub-legends as shown on the beta kits?
Asking as a Colemak-DH kyria user!
yes ortho has both legends
Oh well. Was hoping for a qwerty-less version that would fit well on split ergo. Guess I’ll keep waiting for 3277.
Great design, though! Really love the sets.
This breaks my heart. I built a dark green/brass boardwalk just for this set.
Count me in too. I had high hope that ergodox will be offered too since I feel it’s the perfect set to compliment my (upcoming) Sol 3.
I am super excited for these. I will probably need one of each.
Both are labors of love, so both shall pass!
Guys, they should be out this coming week!
I’m so excited! Thanks for making such a great set!
Can’t wait! Instant pick ups for sure.
Instabuy for me on both
I have a block on my calendar to check every day at 10 AM.
Thank you for making one keycap set to rule them all (really two)
That’s awesome! And I saw on reddit it would be likely ship in Feb 2022? Do you know if there’s a time when Drop updates or when it’s going to be available for purchase? I’m so pumped for the Elvish set- something like this has been my dream for a while. It would let me have my two dreams- Godspeed and Tolkien!
check back tomorrow!
what are the final kits for the tolkien sets?
So…complete newb (but Tolkien fan since the 1960’s) here. What keyboard(s) can these be used with?
basically any mechanical keyboard :) What do you have now?
I can’t tell from the photos… are the alphas of Elvish and Dwarvish the same color? Or slightly different colors?
they are different colors
Is there any chance of the Tengwar receiving a slightly different color scheme? I love the caps, but the color scheme wouldn’t really fit the overall feel of my setup. I’m going to go with the Cirth because of the color, but if you could get the Tengwar to have a greyish option, I would hop on that in a second.
the pictures at Drop are very bright, the colors are actually a lot muter. I’ll post a video soon with some “normal” lighting
So I was wondering, whats the reason behind the numpad being a different set of characters for these sets? You mentioned above how we dont have anything beyond 6 in dwarvish but use smiths 1-9 for the number row but the numpad has a fanmade blend? Same for the elvish line or well at least being two different fonts. Was thinking about getting this and the numpad extra but having both being different its abit odd to me.
the number keys (1! 2@ 3# 4$ etc) on the keyboard don’t have numbers, we need those keys to actually write in Elfish/Dwarfish. Only the numpad (and the function row) shows actual numbers.
So the numbers from Daniel Smiths cirth font arent numbers? If so then why not use the numbers from the numpad on the number keys?
because we need all the main keyboard keys to write in Cirth. I’m soon posting a video to show you how it works.
Fantastic, would it be posted here or do you have a youtube channel?
here and on youtube
Hey! I had just managed to get the Elvish keycaps earlier today and was about to purchase the Dwarven Runes. Drop already says its gone. Any idea if we can get the Dwarven Runes back again?
they seem to be available now
I didn’t get into mechanical keyboards quickly enough before the training elvish base kit sold out. Just wanted to let you know that this is the literal reason I got into mech keyboards , now my daughter is into them too and if there is going to be a restock, we are here for it!! Thank you for these amazing designs.
worry not early next year we’ll have more!
I LOVE this keycap set! Would you ever do these sets in XDA profile? I’m still using the stock keycaps on my System76 Launch keyboard haha
no plans for XDA, sorry
I’ve packaged the Sindarin font for easy installation for people on Arch-related operating systems.
Its on the Arch User Repository (AUR) and available at https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/tts-tengwar-sindarin
P.s. I hope this is a suitable place to post this, as this post was what got me started on this in the first place
ps: I use Arch, btw!
Super cool, took me sometime to figure out the extra dwarvish keys.
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