Tolkien’s Alphabets: Tengwar

My favorite part of Tolkien’s massive creation (Arda) has got to be the scripts he created for the inhabitants of Arda.  He created not one but two alphabets that elves, men, dwarves, and other creatures use in his high fantasy realm.


The Tengwar as it appears in the Return of the King.

One alphabet is the Tengwar or the Fëanorian Letters.  This alphabet was commonly used in the West-lands in the Third Age.  The script was not in origin an ‘alphabet,’ but a system of consonantal signs, of similar shape and style, which could be adapted at choice or convenience to represent the consonants of languages observed (or devised) by the Eldar.  The system contains 24 primary letters arranged in four témar (series), each of which have 6 tyeller (grades).  Numbers 25-36 are additional letters.  Numbers 27 and 29 can only be used independently.

Each language has slightly different values for the letters, but the typical values are given in the Return of the King:

  1. t
  2. p
  3. ch or k
  4. k or kw
  5. d
  6. b
  7. j or g
  8. g or gw
  9. th
  10. f
  11. sh or kh
  12. ch or khw/hw
  13. dh
  14. v
  15. zh or gh
  16. gh or ghw/w
  17. n
  18. m
  19. ñ
  20. ŋ (ng)
  21. r (untrilled)
  22. w
  23. y (consonantal only)
  24. used in Quenya only
  25. r (trilled)
  26. r (voiceless: rh)
  27. l
  28. l (voiceless: lh)
  29. s
  30. y (vowel)
  31. used in Quenya only
  32. used in Quenya only
  33. h
  34. w (voiceless: hw)
  35. y (alternative to 23)
  36. w (alternative to 22)

This list is for Sindarin or Westron users, not Quenya.  Quenya uses different values.


I was too lazy to number the Fëanorian Letters for Quenya, so here are the changes made as seen in the Return of the King


So where are the vowels?  They are not included in the Fëanorian letters.  They do exist, however.  They are described in the Return of the King and are shown here:


The vowels


The Tengwar really isn’t suitable for English, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t modify it to write in an alternative alphabet.  The Fëanorian Letters are more difficult to write than the latin alphabet, but it looks really cool on paper.