I have noticed some artifacts from Russian in published earlier manuscripts of Tolkiens works, e.g.,

  • The figure named Beorn in The Hobbit was named Medwed in earlier manuscripts
  • In Early Quenya, there is the word velike "great"

So what is the influence of Russian to Tolkien's languages?


2 Answers 2


To begin with, Tolkien writes in letter 142 that

I love music but have no aptitude for it [...] Slavonic languages are for me almost in the same category. I have had a go at many tongues in my time, but I am in no ordinary sense a 'linguist'; and the time I once spent on trying to learn Serbian and Russian have left me with no practical results, only a strong impression of the structure and word-aesthetic

which implies that large portions of his languages are probably not structured on Russian. I then further point to this essay. In summary, the

conclusion that Tolkien “consciously or unconsciously achieved a literary effect in terms of Slavic culture through the prism of the Germanic”, goes too far on too little evidence [...] Better would be to say that Tolkien did indeed incorporate a few Slavic elements into the multifaceted and multi-sourced structure and background of Middle-earth, but that he did so quite sparingly and, in almost every case, only at its furthest margins.

While the detailed analysis can be found in that article, it seems fairly clear that while a few words may have crept in here and there, these words were also Germanic cognates or were cut out of Tolkien's language, with only one or two exceptions.


In the Comparative Tables, Tolkien wrote "East Lemberin is of Lithuanian type". Not really Russian, but that's as close as we can get for direct evidence.

The Tables do show changes, to my knowledge, historically common/similar to both Lithuanian and Russian, and unique to other Elvish dialects. For example, kj > š, gj > j, kw > k, gw > g.

Also the "strong impression of the structure and word-aesthetic" in karatechop's answer IMO, does suggest there could be some Russian influence.

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