The Ancient Language was once a language of all beings in Alagaësia, but was later used only by the elves and some humans, along with the dwarves with one moment being the crowning of their king. It was the language of the Grey Folk, beings who had settled in Alagaësia after dwarves and dragons, those who were native to the land, nathless did they settle ere the elves and humans. After a tragic incident which killed most of the beings in Alagaësia, they managed to tie their language with magic through unknown means. It was used to command and regulate magic. Each act of magic was linked to a specific word: therefore, it was generally true that the more knowledge one had of the Ancient Language, the more magic they could perform. It was also possible for experienced magicians to utilize Non-verbal manipulation, although this was extremely dangerous, if the mind wandered the spell would change. For example, if a magician cast non-verbally, for example 'Burn that door', and focused on something other than the door, they may accidentally burn that instead.
It was impossible to lie in the Ancient Language because words spoken in the language were unquestionably true-although, it was said that the elves were masters at saying one thing and meaning another (for example, Eragon said he was well in Eldest after Arya's rejection meaning her rejection but focusing on his back to make it true). Because of the candid nature of the language, oaths of allegiance and similar contracts were usually conducted in it, ensuring they would not be broken, though they could be twisted to be ineffective if the one who made the oath left enough loopholes in their wording. However it's possible to say something that is not true in the ancient language, if the person speaking it believes it to be true (Murtagh swore to Eragon that they were both Morzan's sons, because he had no knowlegde of their mother's affair with Brom).
Names in the Ancient Language were "true names" and the knowledge of such a title was a source of power and control. The same holds true of the name of the Ancient Language itself: the knowledge of the name allows one to change the meaning of its words. The name was found by Galbatorix and subsequently used against him in the final confrontation with him.
- 1 History
- 2 Real-world connections
- 3 Translations
- 3.1 Ancient Language to English
- 3.2 Connections
- 3.3 Sentence construction
- 3.4 Prefixes
- 3.5 Suffixes
- 3.6 English to Ancient Language
- 4 References
The Ancient Language was once spoken by all beings in Alagaësia, with the originators of the language being the Grey Folk. Prior to being intertwined with magic, magic was controlled exclusively by the thoughts of a spell-caster, usually only the elves, with the rare exception of a dragon. This resulted in numerous opportunities for accidents, as a wielder of magic could inadvertently shift their thoughts in the midst of casting a spell, diverting the flow of energy. When the world was nearly destroyed because of a single accidental spell of non-verbal magic, the Grey Folk bound the Ancient Language to the very basis of magic.
The language was forgotten after the departure of the Grey Folk, but was reintroduced when the elves brought it back over the sea from Alalëa. By the time of the Dragon War, it was universally recognized as the elven language, yet could still be spoken among other beings.
Author Christopher Paolini based the Ancient Language on the languages of the ancient Norse and Celtic peoples. It is not certain which ones he used, however, since his statement on the origin of the name "Galbatorix" says that it is the combination of the Welsh words "galba" - meaning "big" - and "torix" - meaning "king". No such words (or even the letter 'x') exist in the Welsh language. In Paolini's own words:
"When I was writing the first draft for Eragon, I needed to invent a word that meant fire; it was supposed to come from an “ancient language” that is almost always used with magic." (Some very skilled masters of magic can use it without using the language, although risking a stray thought or feeling distorts the results of the spell, which could be deadly.) "Since my parents owned a dictionary of word origins, I pulled it off the shelf and flipped through it. Eventually I found an obscure Old Norse word, brisingr, that meant fire, and because I loved it so much, I decided to base the rest of my language on Old Norse. To find more words, I went online and dug up various Old Norse dictionaries, although I have been known to invent a word now and then when the story requires it! As far as the grammar and pronunciation of my “ancient language” go, they bear absolutely no resemblance to Old Norse as I wanted to give it my own twist."
Some have criticized the Ancient Language, however, maintaining that it consists mostly of Old Norse words replacing English words in a sentence. The Ancient Language is almost translated to fit the semantic meaning of each English word exactly. The language when used by elves contains a number of suffixes to identify social standing, similar to Japanese honorifics.
Christopher Paolini has cited Ursula Le. Guinn's Earthsea books as "inspiration," so he probably got the idea of true names for people and things from there. (The language of Ged - the protagonist in Earthsea - and his race, has this same property like the Ancient Language).
Ancient Language to English
|Aiedail||The Morning Star|
|Arucane||Endless Fire, Living Fire|
|Bjartskular||Brightscales (an honorific for a dragon)|
|böllr||a round object, an orb|
|burthro||born (past tense of birth)|
|delois||a green-leafed plant with purple flowers|
|Dröttningu||Princess (Not the exact translation according to Arya)|
|dvergr||Dwarf (plural: dvergar)|
|ebrithil||master (plural: ebrithilar)|
|edur||a tor, prominence|
|Elda||gender-neutral honorific of great praise|
|Eldunarí||heart of hearts|
|fairth||picture (more specifically, a picture taken by magical means)|
|fricai||friend plural. fricaya|
|fethrblaka||bird (literally feather-flapper)|
|Finiarel||an honorific phrase for a young man of great promise|
|gala||chant, sing, scream, yell, etc.|
|Helgrind||The Gates of Death|
|hugin||thought or knowledge|
|kyn||kind (as in race, mankind, elfkind, etc.)|
|laufsbläd||leaf (plural. laufsblädar)|
|Lethrblaka||a full-grown Ra'zac (literally leather-flapper), a bat|
|Letta du Bullts!||Stop the bullets!|
|Liduen-Kvaedhi||Poetic Script used by elves to write the Ancient Language|
|malthinae||to bind or hold in place: confine|
|nalgask||a mixture of beeswax and hazelnut oil used to moisten the skin|
|ono||you (Your: onr)|
|oro||arrow, plural. orya|
|Shelg||Hallow (past tense. Hallowed)|
|Shur'tugal||Dragon Rider (plural. Shur'tugalar)|
|skölir||shield (plural skoliar)|
|skul||scale (plural. skular)|
|skulblaka||Dragon, scale flapper (literally)|
|sundavrblaka||The Beast, shadow flapper|
|stydja||rest, stay, remain|
|sverd||sword (plural. sverdar)|
|Svit-kona||a formal honorific phrase for an elf woman of great wisdom|
|thelduin||v. rule over, v. reign|
|vanyali||magic (elf in dwarvish)|
|varda||watch over, guard|
|vodhr||a male honorific of middling praise|
|vöndr||a thin, straight stick|
|vollar||plains, fields, ground|
|Vor||a male honorific for a close friend|
|wilae||will (as in expressing believed truths. E.g. Will you be there?)|
|weohnata||will (A force/effort of one's conscious. E.g. "As you will, princess Arya.")|
|Wyrdfell||elven name for the Forsworn|
|yawë||a bond of trust|
|Agaetí Blödhren||Blood-oath Celebration|
|Ach neo eitha orono i.e. wilae yauna onr lifa||Do not go or I will take your life.|
|Aí varden abr du Shur'tugalar gata vanta.||A warden of the Riders lacks passage.|
|älfr ach thornessa||He does this.|
|älfrinn ero aí kona ramrsja||She was a strong-looking woman.|
|Atra du evarínya ono varda, Däthedr-vodhr.||May the stars watch over you, honored Däthedr.|
|Atra esterní ono thelduin, Eragon Shur'tugal.||May good fortune rule over you, Eragon Dragon Rider.|
|Atra esterní ono thelduin||May good fortune rule over you.|
|Atra esterní ono thelduin. Mor'ranr lifa unin hjarta onr. Un atra du evarínya ono varda.||May good fortune rule over you. Peace live in your heart. And the stars watch over you. (an Elven greeting)|
|Atra gülai un ilian tauthr ono un atra ono waíse skölir frá rauthr.||May luck and happiness follow you and may you be a shield from misfortune. (Eragon's mis-translated blessing)|
|Atra gülai un ilian tauthr ono un atra ono waíse sköliro frá rauthr.||May luck and happiness follow you and may you be shielded from misfortune.|
|Atra nosu waíse vardo fra eld hórnya.||May we be warded from listeners.|
|boetq istalri!||Broad fire!|
|Brakka du vanyali sem huildar Saphira un eka!||Reduce the magic that holds Saphira and me!|
|Brisingr, iet tauthr.||Fire, follow me.|
|Brisingr raudhr!||Red fire!|
|Deloi moi!||Earth, change!|
|Domia abr Wyrda||Dominance of Fate (book)|
|Draumr kópa||dream stare (spell for scrying)|
|Du deloi lunaea.||Smooth the earth/dirt.|
|Du Fells Nángoröth||The Blasted Mountains|
|Du Fyrn Skulblaka||The Dragon War (Dragons vs. Elves)|
|Du Gata Vrangr||The Wandering Path|
|Du grind huildr!||Hold the gate!|
|Du Namar Aurboda.||The Banishing of the Names.|
|"Du Silbena Datia"||"The Sighing Mists" (a poem song)|
|Du Súndavar Freohr||Death of the Shadows|
|Du Völlar Eldrvarya||The Burning Plains|
|Du Vrangr Gata||A coalition of minor magicians who supported the Varden (incorrectly meaning the Wandering Path)|
|Du Weldenvarden||The Guarding Forest|
|Eka eddyr aí Shur'tugal... Shur'tugal... Argetlam.||I am a Dragon Rider... Dragon Rider... Silver Hand.|
|Eka aí fricai un Shur'tugal!||I am a Rider and a friend!|
|Eldhrimmer O Loivissa nuanen, dautr abr deloi/Eldhrimmer nen ono weohnataí medh solus un thringa/Eldhrimmer un fortha onr fëon var/Wiol allr sjon.||Grow O beautiful Loivissa, daughter of the earth/Grow as you would with the sun and rain/Grow and put forth your flower of the spring/For all to see.|
|Eyddr eyreya onr!||Empty your ears! (deafening spell, most likely irreversible)|
|Fethrblaka, eka weohnata néiat haina ono. Blaka eom let lam.||Bird, I will not harm you. Flap to my hand.|
|Fell Thindarë||"Mountain of Night"|
|Fricai Andlát||death friend (a poisonous mushroom)|
|Fricai onr eka eddyr.||I am your friend.|
|Gala O Wyrda brunhvitr/Abr Berundal vandr-fodhr/Burthro lausblädar eja undir/Eom kona dauthleikr...||Sing O white-browed Fate/Of ill-marked Berundal/Born under oaken leaves/To mortal woman...|
|Ganga aptr||Go backward.|
|Ganga fram||Go forward.|
|Garjzla, letta!||Light, stop! (same as empty your ears but with one's eyes and getting blinded.)|
|Gath sem oro un lam iet||Unite that arrow with my hand.|
|Gath un reisa du rakr!||Unite and raise the mist!|
|Gedwëy ignasia||shining palm|
|Gëuloth du knífr!||Dull the Knife!|
|Jierda theirra kalfis!||Break their calves!|
|Kuldr, rïsa lam iet un malthinae unin böllr.||Gold, rise to my hand and bind into an orb.|
|Kvetha Fricai||Greetings, friend. (Fricaya is used for the plural of friend, I.E. when greeting multiple people)|
|Letta orya thorna!||Stop those arrows!|
|Liduen Kvaedhí||Poetic Script|
|Losna kalfya iet||Release my calves.|
|Manin! Wyrda! Hugin!||Memory! Fate! Thought!|
|Moi stenr!||Stone, change!|
|Nagz reisa!||Blanket, rise!|
|Nen ono weohnata, Arya Dröttningu.||As you will, Princess Arya.|
|Osthato Chetowä||the Mourning Sage|
|Reisa du adurna.||Raise/Lift the water.|
|Ristvak'baen||Place of Sorrow (baen—used here in Urû'baen, the capital of the Broddring Empire—is always pronounced bane and is an expression of great sadness/grief)|
|Sé mor'ranr ono finna||May you find peace.|
|Sé onr sverdar sitja hvass!||May your swords stay sharp! (Note: Sverð, in Icelandic, also means sword, sitja means to sit and hvass means sharp.)|
|Sé orúm thornessa hávr sharjalví lífs.||May this serpent have life's movement.|
|Skölir nosu fra brisingr!||Shield us from fire!|
|Skulblaka, eka celöbra ono un malabra ono un onr Shur'tugal né haina. Atra nosu waíse fricai.||Dragon, I honor you and mean you and your Rider no harm. Let us be friends.|
|Stenr reisa!||Raise stone!|
|Stenr, rïsa!||Stone, rise!|
|Stydja unin mor'ranr, Hrothgar Könungr.||Rest in peace, King Hrothgar.|
|Thorta du ilumëo!||Speak the truth!|
|Thrysta adurna||Compress the water.|
|Thrysta deloi||Compress the earth.|
|Thrysta vindr||Compress the air.|
|Thverr stenr un atra eka hórna!||Traverse stone and let me hear!|
|Togira Ikonoka||The Cripple Who Is Whole|
|Tuatha du orothrim||Tempering the fool's wisdom (level in the Riders' training)|
|Vel eïnradhin iet ai Shur'tugal.||Upon my word as a rider.|
|Vinr Älfakyn||Elf Friend|
|Waíse heill!||Be healed!|
|Waíse neiat!||Be not!|
|Wiol ono.||For you.|
|Wiol pömnuria ilian.||For my happiness|
All adjectives are used after nouns (ex. 'the strong woman' would literally translate as 'the woman strong').
By using simple knowledge it is also possible to find out other words in the Ancient Language.
- Fethrblaka = bird/Feather-Flapper
- Lethrblaka = Adult Ra'zac /Leather-Flapper/ bat
- Skulblaka = Dragon/Scale-Flapper
- Sundavrblaka = Shadow-Flapper
So, Fethr means Feather, Lethr means Leather, Skul means Scale, and -blaka means flap.
Also, the word sundablaka—shadowflapper—appears in the Eragon movie.
Descriptions are placed after the object they describe. The most common mistake made by people trying to speak the Ancient Language is to place adjectives before nouns.
Example: "Aí skulblaka ramr" means "a strong dragon", but literally translates as "a dragon strong".
Unlike in English, descriptions can be placed in any order following the object. Example: "Aí oro ramr hvitr" (a strong, white arrow) can also be rendered as "aí oro hvitr ramr" (a white, strong arrow).
Aside from descriptions, the structure of a sentence in the Ancient Language is usually the same as it would be in English. Example: "Gath un reisa du rakr" would literally translate as "unite and raise the mist". No restructuring of the sentence is required.
There are no participles (e.g. walking, swimming) in the Ancient Language. Verbs are either past simple (e.g. walked, swam), present simple (e.g. walk, swim) or future simple (e.g. will walk, will swim). Example: "I am following" would have to be rendered as "I follow" (Eka tauthr) in the Ancient Language, "I was following" as "I followed" (Eka tauthro) and "I will be following" as "I will follow" (Eka weohnata tauthr).
When two nouns are joined together to form a single noun, the descriptive noun comes first, as it does in English. Example: "Fethrblaka" (bird) is a combination of the nouns "fethr" (feather) and "blaka" (flapper).
äf-: gives words a malignant connotation. For example, "taka" (give) becomes "äftaka" (steal).
eld-: changes verbs into words of action. For example, "jierda" (break) becomes "eld jierda" (breaker).
-ar: pluralises nouns ending on consonants. If the noun already ends with "r", place an "a" before it. For example, "draumr" (dream) becomes "draumar" (dreams). However, if the noun already has a vowel before the "r", the suffix "-ya" is used. For example, "edur" (tor) becomes "edya" (tors).
-í: changes verbs ending with any letter (except for "i" and "r") to past tense. For example, "haina" (harm) becomes "hainaí" (harmed).
-o: forms the past tense of verbs ending with "i" and "r". For example, "skölir" (shield) becomes "sköliro" (shielded).
-r: gives nouns a masculine connotation. For example, "älf" (elf) becomes "älfr" (male elf), which is also he.
-s: makes nouns possessive. For example, "könungr" (king) becomes "könungrs" (king's).
-sja: adds "-looking" to the end of adjectives. For example, "ramr" (strong) becomes "ramrsja" (strong-looking).
-ya: pluralises nouns ending on vowels. It also replaces the last vowel. For example, "agaetí" (celebration) becomes "agaetya" (celebrations). If the "-ya" interferes with the word's pronunciation, the vowel it would normally replace isn't removed. The vowels "a" and "i" are usually changed to "e". For example, "celöbra" (honour) becomes "celöbreya" (honours).
English to Ancient Language
Articles, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs, prepositions
|does||ach (the same as "do")|
|my (formal)||pömnuria (Informal: iet)|
|bat||lethrblaka, literally "leather flapper"|
|bird||fethrblaka, literally "feather flapper"|
|blue, deep-throated lily that grows in the Empire||loivissa|
|bond of trust||yawë|
|Brightscales||Bjartskular (honorific title for dragons)|
|cactus found near Helgrind||talos|
|calves (as in cow)||kalfya|
|calves (as in leg)||kalvis|
|death||anglát, freohr, dauth|
|Dominance of Fate (book)||Domia abr Wyrda|
|dragon||skulblaka, literally "scale flapper"|
|fabric made by cross-weaving wool and nettle threads||lámarae|
|family or house||breoal|
|heart of hearts||Eldunarí|
|life's (as a genetive noun)||lifs|
|mixture of beeswax and hazelnut used to moisten the skin||nalgask|
|picture created through magic||fairth|
|Place of Sorrow||Ristvak’baen|
|The Burning Plains||Du Völlar Eldrvarya|
|The Dragon War||Du Fyrn Skulblaka|
|The Guarding Forest||Du Weldenvarden|
|the morning star||Aiedail|
|The Sighing Mists (a poem song)||Du Silbena Datia|
|The Wandering Path||Du Vrangr Gata|
|type of bonding between a dragon and Rider||indlvarn|
Verbs and Adjectives
|blasted (as in cursed)||nángoröth|
Prefixes and suffixes
|Alfa-kona||elf woman (may be used as a suffix)|
|Elda||a gender-neutral honorific suffix of great praise, attached with a hyphen.|
|Finiarel||an honorific suffix for a young man of great promise, attached with a hyphen.|
|Svit-kona||a formal honorific for an “alfa-kona” of great wisdom.|
|Vodhr||a male honorific suffix of middling praise, attached with a hyphen.|
|Vor||a male honorific for a close friend, attached with a hyphen.|