How do you say the name of the most overpowered Dwarf hero in our game? Does it sound like the verb for how you eat at a fine restaurant? A giant German dog? Or does it have two syllables and rhyme with what wrestlers do before a match? A listener recently asked the Tolkien Professor to weigh in on the pronunciation of Dáin and I can’t resist passing along what I learned. What do you guess is the right answer?
I was surprised to discover that the answer is actually not so clear cut. For once, I’ll be mercifully brief and spare you all the details, but I suggest those who are interested to listen to the whole Bonus Pronunciation Guide episode from the Tolkien Professor to learn more about how to pronounce Dáin, Glóin, Smaug, Beorn, Roäc, and other names in Middle-earth.
In short, while our favorite philologist may have designed an intentional ambiguity in the pronunciation to allow for regional dialects, the rules outlined in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings do decisively rule out one of the three possibilities. The only certainly wrong answer is the one used by the Dwarves in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit film adaption. Dáin is not “Dane” as this ignores both Tolkien’s direction on diphthongs and acute accents, both of which apply to Mr. Ironfoot. Apologies to an HBO stand-up comedian, you do not share a first name with the King Under the Mountain.
The two possibilities for Dáin then are “Dine” and “Day-in” (with emphasis on the first syllable in the latter). “Dine” comes from giving precedence to Tolkien’s diphthong rule whereas “Day-in” gives more respect to the acute accent. So which one is most likely? A comment from the Professor’s son Michael Tolkien on jokes he and his brothers used to write about the Dwarves’ names (calling two of them “Go-in” and “Blow-in”) suggests that in the case of Glóin and Óin, the accent rule prevailed in his father’s own pronunciations. If that’s true, then in the case of our King, the best way to say it is probably “Day-in“. Mystery solved!
Now that you know, the next time you are playin’ with Dáin, you can impress (or annoy) your friends with your pronunciation prowess. But do note that the accent is absent on the notorious Brand son of Bain. So when you see Brand’s handsome mug making his multi-player comeback, remember that his dad is not a Batman villain (“Bane”) nor does his name have two syllables (“Bay-in”). He is Brand son of “Bine” and it’s his time to shine!