Ait-h Dom A Chon

Not long ago someone posted the following image (which I have shamelessly stolen) to one the Tengwar subreddits, asking for a translation.

I nicked it. When you let your guard down for that split second. And I’d do it again.

(For those not in the know the Tengwar is the writing system devised by J.R.R.Tolkien for his Elvish languages. It’s very pretty but horribly impractical – the Elves were probably plagued with dyslexia.)

Two facts were quickly established. That the squiggly bits above the eye are the logo of the Tolkien themed, Austrian, atmospheric-black-metal band Summoning, and the writing is complete gibberish, a repetition of something like ait-h dom a chon. Case closed.

Except something about the whole thing nagged me. The photo is obviously of a manufactured item, probably a promotional item for the band, and likely made of metal. It seemed unlikely that the band – either as professional musicians or Tolkien fans – would go to all the trouble of making such a thing and then just stick a bunch of random letters on it. Surely it’s meant to mean something?

Fool! Purple Wyrm writes as he pleases!

The first possibility was that it’s written in the Mode of Baloneyland. “Mode of Baloneyland” is a very funny pun, but you need to understand a few things about the Tengwar before you can understand it. Now, I could skip over this in the name of not boring the hell out of you, but this is my blog, and I write as I please!

Tolkien was a linguist (specifically a philologist), and he made his Elves linguists as well. As such the writing system he invented for them was not simply an alphabet, it was system that could be used to write any language. Each individual consonant (tengwa) is built out of components indicating the basic sound it represents, but it can be reassigned to another value depending on the needs of the language being written. The exact assignment of letters to sounds is called a mode, with examples in Tolkien’s works including the General Mode, the Classic or Quenya Mode, and the Mode of Beleriand.

This flexibility means that the Tengwar does not easily map to a computer keyboard. For a start you need to know what mode you’re writing in – the tengwa súle for instance represents “s” in Quenya Mode and “th” in General Mode. What key should that be mapped to? Also there’s two ways to represent vowels. In General and Quenya mode they’re indicated with marks (tehta) above the tengwa, but in the Mode of Beleriand they have their own dedicated tengwa – so should the ‘E’ key put a dot above a letter or print out the character yanta? It’s a nightmare!

As such, tengwar fonts don’t try to set up a correlation between the letters on the keys and the tengwar they print. They simply make all the tengwar available and rely on the person typing to know what they’re doing. Inevitably many people don’t know what they’re doing and try to write in “Elvish” by typing in a phrase in English and then switching it a tengwar font. Among tengwar enthusiasts the resulting gibberish is referred to as “The Mode of Baloneyland”. Get it? Like the Mode of Beleriand, but absolute baloney. See? I told you it was funny!

(Please laugh)

Now, if the text was written in the Mode of Baloneyland there would be no way to decipher it without knowing the mapping of the specific font it was written in. I decided to ignore this dead end and assume that whoever wrote it had some idea of what they were doing, but were just really bad at using the tengwar. So, I hopped over to Summoning’s Wikipedia page to look for any clues. I quickly discovered that in 2018 they released an album named “With Doom we Come”. Hmmm, not unsimilar to ait-h dom a chon

A closer look at the image shows that the Redditor who translated the inscription as ait-h dom a chon missed a few things. Firstly the questionable quality of the metal casting makes it a bit tricky to tell for sure, but the final númen (‘n’) could actually be malta (‘m’), rendering it ait-h dom a chom. Secondly there are marks above the space before chom and the divider between repeated spaces – ait-h dom a’chom‘. These are clearly orphaned ‘e’s – when a tehta cannot be written above a letter it’s supposed to have a carrier (like a lowercase “i” without the dot) placed beneath it. This makes the phrase ait-h dom ae chome.

We’re making progress! The “t-h” on the end of the first word is clearly a result of the writer not realising that there’s a single tengwa for the “th” combination, but what’s with the ‘a’s? A consultation of a tengwar chart gives us the answer. While the character resembles osse – used to represent ‘a’ in the Mode of Beleriand – it’s actually not a valid tengwa at all! It’s the character vala (‘w’) printed backwards! So we’ve now decoded our way to with dom we chome.

Consulting a chart also solves the problem with “ch”. Whoever wrote out the phrase forgot to add a line to the tengwa calma (‘ch’), which would have transformed it to quesse (‘k’). Fix this and we have with dom we kome.

There’s still the issue that the first ‘o’ should have been doubled, but we’ve successfully demonstrated that the inscription is a really incompetent attempt at writing With Doom We Come.

For purposes of comparison here are the inscription as written, and how it would be written properly in both the orthographic (based on spelling) and phonetic (based on sounds) English Modes – all generated via Tecendil which is the only Tengwar transcriber you should use!

Incompetent Mode – “?it-h dom ?e chome”
Orthographic mode – “Wið doom we come”
Phomenic Mode – “Wið duum wii kum”

So in conclusion, perhaps get someone to check over your tengwar before sending merchandise for production, Summoning!

Malo Malo Malo Malo

I would rather be
In an apple tree
Than a naughty boy
Stabbed to death in a Deptford boarding house

(This is really sophisticated literary joke so don’t feel bad if it goes over your head – we can’t all have minds of astonishing genius…)

Bad Contamination

The Worst of Perth has recently alerted me to the fact that Bayswater Councillor Sally Palmer has of late been peddling some truly atrocious poetry on the subject of a concrete plant being constructed on Collier road.

I know nothing about Ms Palmer’s politics, and while I have not been aware of plans for a concrete plant on Collier road I can see why such a proposal seems like a bad idea. One thing I do know however is what makes for a half decent poem, and I can say with certainty that “Black Cockatoo Calling” is probably the worst bit of poetry foisted on the people of Bayswater since Gina Rinehart defiled Morley with her poorly composed plea for less government regulation on the activities of disadvantaged mining billionaires.

It is a basic rule of English poetry that you can’t rhyme a word with itself – it’s cheating. Yet Ms Palmer rhymes “lands” with “lands”, “accord” with “accord” and “earth” with “earth”. Another rule is that of meter and scansion – lines should follow a uniform pattern of syllable count and stress. While not as bad as Ms Rinehart in this respect Ms Palmer still breaks meter all over the place. A basic understanding of grammar is also expected – I don’t think the construction “to do contamination” would pass muster in any high school English class, let alone “to do bad contamination”.

The horror engendered by reading Ms Palmer’s poetic burp got me wondering – how is it that apparently intelligent people can spew up the kind of doggerel that would embarrass William McGonagall but then be proud enough to put it on display for all to see? After some thought I think I’ve figured it out…

We all wrote poems in primary school. And almost all of them were awful. Awful, terrible atrocious poetry. But because we were young and just learning how to write and compose, our teachers encouraged us. A poem like “Black Cockatoo Calling” would get any 10 year old a gold star and maybe a special certificate from the school principal, despite its many obvious faults. And there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

The problem arises when the 10 year old internalises the message “I’m a good poet!” and goes on through high school, and maybe university, without ever writing another poem. They never have cause to write more poetry, and never get any feedback that would let them know that their poetic skills have failed to grow beyond the levels of that 10 year old, and are – in a grown adult – simply an embarrassment. Throw in a desire to express strongly held beliefs about mining regulations or concrete plants and the stage is set for a horrible, poorly composed screed to be vomited out into the world, generating untold suffering and trauma.

If I get the time I may rewrite Ms Palmer’s poem into something more acceptable. But then again I may not. I am rather busy at the moment.

Bis In Alle Ewigkeit

Thanks folks for the kind words on my return. WordPress decided not to tell me about any of them, which is why I haven’t replied previously. I’ve also been busy on another project, which is why I haven’t been around the Wyrmlog. Details will follow in good time.

In any case, today I discovered that not only is there a German folk/rock version of the Hooters’ classic All You Zombies, but that the band responsible (Santiano) re-wrote the lyrics to be about Valhalla. Which can only be described as awesome.

Because I’m a nerd, I decided to attempt a translation. Here ’tis…

To the End of Time (Valhalla)

A cry of horns from far horizon,
The triumph of the Æsir’s thrones,
Let us follow close, seeking out our reward…

Have no fear about our leaving,
Death and darkness we’ll confound,
A hero’s grave is not for grieving,
We will travel where the trumpets sound!

We’ll meet again in far Valhalla,
We’ll sing the songs and drink the wine!
Feast with the Gods in fair Valhalla,
We’ll party ’till the end of time!

Lift your mugs to Odin’s glory,
Quaff deep, cry out a drinking song,
He gathers up his host, the bravest of them all…

The feast awaits with laden trenchers,
A thousand barrels filled to burst,
At the end of all our ventures,
Come and join us when you’ve grown a thirst!

We’ll meet again in far Valhalla,
We’ll sing the songs and drink the wine!
Feast with the Gods in fair Valhalla,
We’ll party ’till the end of time!

OK, that’s it for now. Expect some more activity soon.

The Austrian Govmint’s Pleen Pickaging Loh Ex Spearmint

Oh, this is something special!

That could possibly be an Australian, if they had a smoking induced stroke.

You have to wonder, if Plain Packaging is such a failure then why is the tobacco industry spending millions of dollars funding lobby groups like the “Property Rights Alliance” to stop it?

The Marble Paradise

As I have often commented on this blog, I am insane. Not “come at you with a tomahawk” insane, but certainly “do very strange and ill advised things” insane. Like attempting to rewrite Hamlet into rhyming couplets, or inventing the cheese shot. Well, I’ve started on another insane project – this time I’m aiming to learn more about the world created by Dmitry Glucovsky in his post-nuclear Metro 2033 series and teach myself German at the same time by re-translating the German translation of Sergey Kuznetsov’s мраморный раи into English.

Now I’m not going to do anything as crass as take a German course. That’s for sane people. No, I’m teaching myself the language by squinting at Google translate, beating myself around the head with Barron’s German-English Pocket Dictionary and occasionally sending begging emails to my friend Matt.

It’s slow progress, but it does actually seem to be working. I’m starting to recognise words and I’m sometimes able to figure out the general gist of a sentence. It’s going to be a long time before I’m singing along at Oktoberfest, but at least it’s giving me something to do and will probably have some kind of long term neurological benefit. Or something.

In any case, I thought I’d post my translation of the book’s introduction. So strap yourself in for a slightly-awkwardly-phrased journey through the harsh streets of post-nuclear Russia in Sergey Kuznetsov’s The Marble Paradise


by Sergey Kuznetsov
Translated from the Russian by Anja Freckman
Translated from the German by Denys the Purple Wyrm

The author dedicates this book to the shining memory of his father


A long time ago, many years ago, there was a city here.

It was an ordinary, not particularly large provincial town. The inhabitants were simple people, some educated, some less so. They led orderly, peaceful lives, had times both good and bad, watched their children do the chores, and had a drink from time to time. They managed their lives and their city as best as they could. Some found work in the town, others commuted many hours to Moscow and back and cursed the travel time and crowded railway carriages.

Their city drowned in greenery and its squares, parks and well tended gardens were a welcoming sight. It was especially beautiful in the Indian summer when it was wreathed in every conceivable shade of yellow and red. In late autumn and in winter it was gray and monotonous, yet it still radiated its own particular warmth and coziness. On the long winter evenings the lights burnt in the homes, on the streets the lamps shone one by one in long garlands, and from the air the town looked like a giant, fully lit Christmas tree.


Now there was no longer a city. All that remained were meaningless, jumbled boxes of abandoned homes with smashed windows, torn-off doors, and power lines hanging limply between crooked, semi-collapsed power poles. Steel rods poked from the torn walls of ruined buildings like exposed bone. Across all was smeared lichen and the green-brown stain of moss. Through the cracked asphalt grass and bushes poked, and the playgrounds were overgrown with high weeds. The summer dressed rusted cars and buses in a cloak of dusty reddish green. That that could rot, decay or dissolve had – over the years – rotted, decayed and dissolved.

On this day the houses were covered by a thin layer of fresh snow, which had fallen overnight for the first time this year. It was a strange snow, light blue-gray. But not even the snow could conceal the aberrance of this world. In the dead city terrifying new residents had emerged. People had not lived here for a long time. Except…

Through the dead town staggered a man, swaying like a drunk. His dark blue radiation suit was badly torn – three deep, bloody furrows ran across the back from shoulder to waist, as if three sharpened blades had sliced in one stroke through the rubberized cloth, the fur jacket and sweater beneath and into the man’s flesh. His chest and left shoulder showed other injuries and his right arm was soaked purple with blood – although it was perhaps not his own. Only the sturdy plastic helmet on his head and the expensive foreign respirator mask strapped across his face seemed intact.

The man was breathing heavily and awkwardly dragged himself in a strange zigzag path – any observer would have thought he was wandering aimlessly. But he had one goal – to escape as soon as possible from this terrible place and reach the Military Academy. Because – he had heard – the basement levels of that facility housed a few other survivors. That would be his salvation, his only salvation. If he managed to reach it…

The man tried to concentrate, to remember: Who had attacked him? Who had he fought?

Something gigantic and grim-faced had attacked in a flash with tremendous force. The creature had pounced on him from behind, slashed him with those claws right through the suit, his clothes and – damn how his back was burning! He was losing blood and there was no way he could reach the wounds to patch them up. What if the beast had venomous claws? The second creature had knocked the gun out of his hands and would probably have demolished him with its next blow if he hadn’t had his army knife.

He’d driven the blade – a serrated-back Spetsnaz knife slightly smaller than a machete – forcefully into the monster’s gut and twisted. Both beasts seemed to lose interest and they… fled?

What happened next?

He couldn’t remember. His thoughts were confused. How had he entered the city? When? And what for?

The man couldn’t answer these questions. He remembered the battle, but tried in vain to recall the appearance of the creatures. Helpless, he gritted his teeth. Had the beasts thought he was dead? Why hadn’t they devoured him? After they’d left he must have lain unconscious for a while. He’d only come back to himself when he was already wandering through the city.

He collapsed repeatedly from exhaustion, lying on the ground, trying to get up again, but every time he staggered painfully to his feet he found that he’d lost more strength than the brief rest had granted him.

Twilight settled over the city. He looked around in alarm.

He slid his right hand in its torn glove under the protective suit to the handle of the knife, which hung in a short sheath on the belt of his jacket. He heard – or did he imagine? – sounds that made the blood in his veins falter: howls, yelps, growls, and sometimes a smack and a short angry roar, as if unknown predators were fighting for prey.

He glanced around startled, but couldn’t see anything living.

The wind came up and it started to snow again. With each step, his strength waned, but he knew that he could no longer spare the time to rest, not even for a few seconds – he had to hurry. An hour ago he could ignore the pain in his back, but now the wounds were burning like crazy. It almost felt like insects were crawling in them. He grunted and shrugged. The temperature had dropped considerably with nightfall and the cold was creeping into him through the slits in the suit.

The ruined buildings swam before his eyes, and his vision doubled as his sight dimmed. He laboriously set one foot after another, his legs were like wood and barely obeyed him. Suddenly he clearly heard a voice. Mechanically he turned towards the speaker only to find there was not a soul there.

But the twilight hissed around him, shouted, howled, and the sounds were getting closer…

He had almost left the city behind him.

It was dark.

His hand clasped the grip of the army knife.

His foot caught on a piece of broken asphalt. He tripped, and fell hard onto his back. The noises all around fell silent for a moment, and in that silence he heard, rather than felt, a sickening crunch from his left arm. When the pain arrived a few seconds later it was dull and grey.

His energy was spent. He tried rolling over onto his front like a beetle but a few attempts exhausted his last pitiful power reserves. They also knocked his knife loose and out of reach, which raised a small spark of anger in him – he would have liked to take at least one of the creatures with him into death.

As everything around him slowly sank into a fog, he realised just how carefully a large grey animal was slinking out of the nearby bushes, snuffling up his scent with its half-rat half-wolf snout, teeth bared and growling.

Then he lost consciousness.

Want to know what happens next? Learn German! 🙂

Close Bitnami banner