Q. Heru órava omessë, “Lord, have mercy on us”

Litany of Loreto [Next Phrase >]


The first line of Tolkien’s Quenya translation of the Litany of Loreto prayer (VT44/12). The first word is the noun heru “lord” followed by the aorist form of the verb órava- “to have mercy”. The last word omessë “on us” is the locative form (-ssë¹ “on”) of the pronoun me “us”. The significance of the prefix o- is unclear, but Wynne, Smith and Hostetter suggested that it might be the preposition ó (VT44/15), though its translation elsewhere as “with” (VT43/29) does not seem appropriate. It could instead be the prefix o- “together”, though this does not fit well either. In later lines, Tolkien wrote (o)messë indicating the prefix was optional.

Decomposition: Broken into its constituent elements, this phrase would be:

Heru órava (o)me-ssë = “*Lord have-mercy us-on”

Conceptual Development: Tolkien explored several ways of expressing “have mercy”. He first wrote a le·ana ocama, apparently meaning “(imperative) you give mercy”, with ocama a noun meaning “mercy” (VT44/12-13). He revised this to simply ocama >> ócama, apparently changing ocama to a verb meaning “to have mercy” (VT44/13). He then changed this verb to órava (VT44/14).

Tolkien also used several forms to express “on us”: dative men >> ómen >> (locative) ómesse.

Reference ✧ VT44/12 ✧ {A} Heru {le·ana >> ocama >> ócama >>} órava {men >> ómen >>} omesse “Lord, have mercy on us”

Elements

heru “lord, master” ✧ VT44/12.3501
órava- “*to have mercy” aorist ✧ VT44/14.2301
me “us (exclusive)” locative ✧ VT44/15.0201 (omesse)

Element In