Interview with David Salo

David Salo is the man behind all Elvish translations in the LotR movies. Recently, I sat down with him (he was at one computer and I was at another, but I assume we were both sitting down), and here's what he had to say:

Arwen Undomiel: When did you first read The Lord of the Rings?
David Salo: I first tried to read The Lord of the Rings around 1975 or 1976, when I was six or seven years old. I found it rather difficult, and I didn't finish it for quite some time, though I must have finished it by 1977, when The Silmarillion was released.

Arwen Undomiel: Which of Tolkien's books did you find most helpful for learning Elvish?
David Salo: I used all of Tolkien's books to help me learn Elvish, but the most helpful were Tolkien's notes to the song book The Road Goes Ever On, which explain Galadriel's song Namri and the Sindarin hymn to Elbereth. I also found the etymological glossary in The Lost Road extremely helpful.

AU: What is your favorite of the languages Tolkien created (Quenya, Sindarin, Rohirric, etc.)?
DS: My favorite language is, of course, Sindarin, since I have spent so much time on it! It is perhaps the most complex, and the one Tolkien worked the hardest on; but I think he may have liked Quenya better, since he actually produced quite a lot more text in Quenya.

AU: Can you recommend any published book(s) or web sites for people who want to learn Elvish?
DS: For learning about Quenya and Sindarin, the best site I can recommend is Helge Fauskanger's Ardalambion at

AU: How do you say "The Lord of the Rings" in Quenya/Sindarin?
DS: Tolkien in one place rendered "The Lord of the Rings" as _Heru i Million_ in Quenya, but the word Mil or Mill for ring does not appear elsewhere; in the Lord of the Rings itself, Tolkien twice uses the word corma, in which case the title should have be Heru i Cormaron. The Sindarin equivalent would be Hr i Chyrf, but we don't actually know if Sindarin had the word corf = corma.

AU: Which is your favorite LotR movie?
DS: I can't say which movie is my favorite, since I haven't seen The Return of the King yet! I'm hoping that will be my favorite. :)

AU: Which of all the LotR actors/actresses spoke Elvish the best?
DS: I think that all the actors and actresses who had to use Elvish did very well. I particularly liked Liv Tyler's enunciation. Many of the singers who sang Elvish on the soundtrack did quite well too.

AU: Do you have a favorite character from Tolkien's writings?
DS: There are so many characters in Tolkien's world that I like that it is hard to choose a favorite. I would like to be as wise as Gandalf; but often I feel more like Bilbo.

Hantalë to Mr. Salo for the interview!