"I thought I knew the elf
-letters but I cannot read these."
Words of Frodo BagginsThe Fellowship of the Ring
II 4A Journey in the Dark
Rúmil of Tirion was the first to invent letters, or Tengwar, that could be written with a pen, but the later Fëanorian system became much more widespread. Fëanor's Tengwar were largely of his own invention, but were inspired, at least to some extent, by Rúmil's work.
A phonetic writing system used by the Elves, properly known as the Tengwar. They were invented by Rúmil of Tirion, and later greatly developed by Fëanor. The 'letters' did not in principle have fixed meanings, but rather most described phonetic interconnections within speech. Other variations also appeared: for example, some systems used 'accents' (tehtar) to mark vowels, while others included full letters. These variations explain why Frodo, who could read the normal elf-letters of his own time, was unable to interpret those written on the West-gate of Moria some five thousand years earlier.
See the entry for Tengwar (note 1) for discussion of the precise dating of the Elf-letters.
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