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In the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Elrond speaks to his daughter:

"If Aragorn survives this war, you will still be parted. If Sauron is defeated and Aragorn made king and all that you hope for comes true, you will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality. Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die."

"And there will be no comfort for you. No comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death, an image of the splendor of the kings of men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world."

This is clearly different from the style that we normally speak. English is not my native language, and I do not have great exposure to English literature. I want to know what is this type of English called, and how one can learn such English.

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    It's of a slightly higher register, but actually not by much. Especially not in writing. Anyone in here can, and occasionally does, write like that off-the-cuff. Doesn't need to be an epic tale. Can be a YouTube comment. You can easily learn this "type" of English exactly like you would any other type of English. Through repeated exposure and practice.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 30, 2020 at 18:30
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    Many of the answers here focus on fantasy writing. But I think your question is more of a general one, about using a more formal and poetic approach to English. This can be seen outside literature as well. For example, I'd suggest you might want to look at the speeches of great orators, like Martin Luther King Jnr, Winston Churchill, and so on. They also used carefully crafted language, to emphasise the grandness of the ideas they were expressing and to motivate people to believe, more than they might if they had used more prosaic speech. Aug 30, 2020 at 22:10
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    It's one of the features of LotR that the register changes frequently. When we're with the Hobbits, it is often folksy and whimsical - rather like Enid Blyton. Scenes among the wizards and elves tend towards this higher, poetic register that hints at Shakespeare. Some of the exposition can be rather dry and technical, along the lines of Frederick Forsyth. Aug 31, 2020 at 13:14

4 Answers 4

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Epic prose deals in weighty and significant matters, to do with times and periods that transcend normal life, with the formative doings of extraordinary people. The question of how to learn it I find difficult: how does one learn any linguistic style other than by example? Read, reflect, write, learn from criticism, and try again. I doubt that there is any rule book.

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    Learning the style probably comes more by reading the books than by watching the movies.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 30, 2020 at 9:23
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    @GEdgar thank you for comment. I will be grateful if you could suggest any good books you can think of, for such learning? Aug 30, 2020 at 10:22
  • @Anton, thank you for the answer. could you please suggest some good books that I should read to learn style? Thank you! Aug 30, 2020 at 10:23
  • @tired You have started well with Tolkien, who was well versed in Icelandic sagas. I will not pretend a competence to recommend reliably. I defer to others who may answer you.
    – Anton
    Aug 30, 2020 at 10:41
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    You can cast your vote to reopen the question, if you agree the OP is on-topic and useful to visitors.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 1, 2020 at 15:54
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Once on a time
    in comment contrite 
Sir Reginald Dwight
    anon did us write:

It's of a slightly higher register, but actually not by much. Especially not in writing. Anyone in here can, and occasionally does, write like that off-the-cuff. Doesn't need to be an epic tale. Can be a YouTube comment. You can easily learn this "type" of English exactly like you would any other type of English. Through repeated exposure and practice.

The two quoted paragraphs of the dialogue from Jackson’s film are somewhat odd in that they are not all of one cloth woven. The first bit with Elrond’s bitterness put into curt words is purely an invention of the screenwriters alone, while the last bit, the lyrical bit that perhaps seems out of place here, they copied in word for word from Tolkien’s actual writings. But not from his dialogue; from a historical narrative, which serves a different purpose. It wasn’t spoken aloud as it was in the movie.

Those writings are to be found in one of the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, in Appendix A which contains a portion of “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen”, whose borrowed line I’ve placed in bold:

‘“Estel, Estel!” she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him with wonder; for they saw the grace of his youth, and the valor of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were all blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.

‘But Arwen went forth from the House, and the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Then she said farewell to Eldarion, and to her daughters, and to all whom she had loved; and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lórien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn had also gone, and the land was silent.

‘There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by the men that come after, and elanor and nimphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.

‘Here ends this tale, as it has come to us from the South; and with the passing of Evenstar no more is said in this book of the days of old.’

As you see, this is written in somewhat ‘elevated’ language. It was not originally dialogue. It fit well within the context where it was originally found. Whether it was seamlessly patched into otherwise pedestrian dialogue for the movie is not for me to say.

There’s a reason for the elevated language. High fantasy is written in Northrop Frye’s high mimetic mode because it consists of stories about heroes, people who are better than ordinary humans. See this essay for how this applies to the heightened language and rhetorical devices of Tolkien and LeGuin. Tom Shippey even convincingly argues that The Lord of the Rings uses all four modes for different places and characters in The Road to Middle-Earth: How JRR Tolkien Created a New Mythology.

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  • Very interesting! As I read the OPs quote, after reading the 1st paragraph I said to myself, "nope, normal English". Then on to the 2nd, it was not until I came to the last sentence that I thought, "Now there is some phrasing that I would not normally use."
    – Glen Yates
    Sep 1, 2020 at 18:22
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This English is normal proper English. Spoken English is mostly colloquial or casual. Lord of the Rings is in a category of well-written English literature. It is more the model of English versus being a subset. Literature will use more complex sentence structure and grammar. This can be hard for even native speakers. Reading more literature will level all of that out though. It can even change the way you speak, e.g. the complexity of phrases, sentence structures, or vocabulary you use.

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  • 'And there will be no comfort for you.' starts a sentence(?) with a coordinator, and 'No comfort to ease the pain of his passing.' is a fragment. Just like popular fiction. Aug 30, 2020 at 19:17
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    @EdwinAshworth And thou shalt too little time in the scriptures of old have spent, for were it not so I should have told you so. And lo! this I did.
    – tchrist
    Aug 30, 2020 at 19:39
  • I wouldn't call it "normal proper English" since it's more of a poetic register. For example, glory undimmed has an adjective after a noun, which is incorrect except in a poetic register.
    – wjandrea
    Aug 30, 2020 at 21:22
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    @wjandrea High fantasy is written in Northrop Frye’s high mimetic mode because it consists of stories about heroes, people who are better than ordinary humans. See this essay for how this applies to the heightened language and rhetorical devices of Tolkien and LeGuin. Also be aware that Tom Shippey convincingly argues that The Lord of the Rings uses all four modes for different places and characters.
    – tchrist
    Aug 30, 2020 at 22:49
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    None of the "rules" this passage supposedly breaks are rules at all. They simply describe how a certain type of formal English was written. They are descriptive, not proscriptive.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 31, 2020 at 12:37
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This register (a declamatory style) reminds me of the King James Bible

And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him.

1 Chronicles 7:21-23 King James Version

and of Shakespeare

Our news shall go before us to his Majesty, Which, cousin, you shall bear to comfort him And we with sober speed will follow you. Henry IV, Part II [IV, 3]

I believe the author is giving weight and import to these statements by harkening back to an older style of writing.


Notes

The King James Version (KJV), also known as the King James Bible (KJB), sometimes as the English version of 1611, or simply the Authorized Version (AV), is an English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version

William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616)[a] was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare

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