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Devised as part of the Tengwar during the Years of the Trees
Probably invented by Fëanor1
Originated with the Noldor
te'marr ('rr' emphasises that the final r sound should be pronounced)
'Series' (in this context, though téma can also mean a line or row)
témar is a plural term; a single series of this kind was known as a téma


About this entry:

  • Updated 25 July 2023
  • This entry is complete


The series of Fëanorian writing

A term describing the arrangement of characters of the Elvish script known as Fëanorian Tengwar. These characters in this script were not assigned to sounds arbitrarily, but rather the structure of each letter defined the nature of the sound to which it related. To achieve this, the twenty-four primary letters of the alphabet were subdivided into four témar or 'series', each of which consisted of a series of variations on a basic sound.

Each of the primary Tengwar was written with at least two elements: a straight stem (telco) and a curved bow (lúva). For any given téma, the telco would always be on the same side of the letter (either on right, with the lúva curving downard, or on the left, with the lúva curving upward). The curve of the lúva could be either open or closed with a single horizontal line. Within any given téma, all the letters would share their orientation, and all would have their lúva either open or closed. Within that basic structure, the telco could be lengthened upward or downward, and the lúva could be doubled, with each of these changes signifying a certain change to the sound of represented by the letter.

Each téma took its name from its basic sound, for which the character always had a long telco running downward and a single lúva. The letter representing the t sound, for example, was named tinco, and so the entire series of related sounds was known as the tincotéma. Other examples included the parmatéma (from parma, the letter for p), the calmatéma (from calma, the sound of k) or the quessetéma (from quessë, the sound kw).

Within the téma, each modification of the sound was represented by a standardised change to the form of the character (these different grades of sound were known as tyeller). So, for example, in tincotéma, adding a second bowed lúva extending from the first would add 'voice' to the basic unvoiced sound, so making t into d. Moving the telco upward would indicate a spirant sound, so t would become th. These sound changes within a single téma are shown in more detail in the table below.

This table uses the tincotéma as an example, but similar effects applied to each of the different témar, altering the sounds of the letters in the same ways as shown here for t.

The Elvish character 'tinco' tinco
The voiceless stop 't' is the base sound of the series, named tinco after the Elvish word for 'metal', and giving its name to the entire series, the tincotéma. Each of the following characters in the series represents - at least theoretically - a variation on this basic sound.
The Elvish character 'ando' ando
The first variant of the core sound is a voiced version, in this case turning the voiceless t sound of tinco into the voiced d sound named ando (literally meaning 'gate', but chosen here because it contains a d sound).
The Elvish character 'thûle' thûle
The next two tyeller or grades represent spirants of the base sound (the equivalent in English of adding '-h' to a consonant, so in the tincotéma where the base sound is 't', the spirant is 'th'). There are two variants, and thûle (Elvish 'spirit') represents the unvoiced form as in English 'cloth' or 'path'.
The Elvish character 'anto' anto
The second of the two spirants is anto, representing a voiced spirant. In English this is usually represented by 'th' just as for the unvoiced version, but in fact the two sounds are distinct: this voiced spirant is the 'th' sound in words like 'father' or 'clothes'. When this sound appears in Elvish words, Tolkien conventionally represents it with 'dh' in names like Caradhras or Calenardhon.



The Tengwar were originally devised by Rúmil, but Fëanor later reinvented them almost entirely. We don't know whether Rúmil's original system featured témar or any equivalent, but we do know that little of it was retained in the new Tengwar of Fëanor. This later revision therefore probably saw the appearance of the témar among its other improvements.


About this entry:

  • Updated 25 July 2023
  • This entry is complete

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