Túrin Turambar and “Spiritual Burden” behind Javanese Naming Philosophy

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Strongbow and Dragonhelm, by Elena Kukanova

When listening to an episode in Prancing Pony Podcast about Of Túrin Turambar chapter in The Silmarillion, I was struck with one particular notion emphasized in the podcast: the fact that Túrin changed his name several times (or bestowed a name by others). Each name reflects different aspect of his life, such as Neithan (“The Wronged”), Gorthol (“The Dread Helm”), Agarwaen, son of Úmarth (“Bloodstained, son of Ill-fate”), Adanedhel (“Man-Elf”), Mormegil (“Black Sword), and the infamous Turambar (“Master of Doom”). These names reflect changes that happened in Túrin’s life.

For example, after accidentally caused Saeros’ death in Doriath due to previous altercation, Túrin fled before he could be either punished or forgiven by Elu Thingol. Afterward, when meeting a band of outlaws in the Forest of Brethil, he introduced himself as “Neithan”. When he ruled the land of Dor-Cúarthol, he became “Gorthol”, due to the dragon helm that he wore. After accidentally caused the death of his best friend, he became “Agarwaen, son of Úmarth”. Finduilas called him “Adanedhel” because she thought he resembled an Elf. Finally, in an act of bravado, he gave himself the name “Turambar”, thinking that he has successfully avoided the curse planted on him and his kin by Morgoth.

The last name is particularly interesting. If you have read Of Túrin Turambar, you knew that Morgoth originally planted curse to his father, Húrin, after the latter was captured in a battle. Morgoth’s curse was to make Húrin see all the tragedies that befell his family during his capture. Indeed, Túrin met tragedy after tragedy during his life, and he changed the way he introduced himself whenever a major life event happened. Túrin called himself “Turambar” in a defiant act toward the curse that always seemed to follow him, which gives the story even more interesting dimension, because we cannot tell whether all those tragedies are caused by curse, or by Turin’s own brass and arrogant acts.

In the end, the name “Turambar” became an irony. In an attempt to convince himself that he finally managed to defeat the curse, Túrin received different fate in the end. He wanted to “master the doom”, yet the doom consumed him instead. Either by Morgoth’s curse or Túrin’s own arrogance and recklessness, the name “Turambar” marked his downfall. Instead of becoming a good omen or even amulet, the name became a spiritual burden that brought his ultimate ill fate.

Speaking about spiritual burden behind names, the story reminds me of something that I often hear in my own cultural background. Despite being born and raised in East Borneo, I’ve always been an East Javanese by heart, even though my family raised me in the city and did not connect too deeply to our root culture. But sometimes certain things came up: my parents talking in Javanese to friends and relatives, folklore books from childhood that featured Javanese heroes and heroines (including the infamous “Kancil” or Mouse-deer, a trickster figure), gamelan melodies that my father enjoys so much as sleep-inducing music, and of course, the philosophy of names.

Sometimes I still hear something like this: Javanese parents gave a really beautiful name to their child, but the child was plagued with sickness when growing up. They decided that the name might be too “burdensome,” and changed it to something they deemed more suitable (usually shorter or less majestic, although it is still something beautiful). This seemed to work, since their child was no longer sickly. Of course, my first reaction when hearing that story was: “What’s the deal with that?”

Skeptics among us can explain such phenomenon with things like power of suggestion and other logical explanations. However, Javanese culture puts serious emphasis in names. Every name given to a child has meaning that the family believes will affect his or her life. Parents may plan for names way before the birth, or simply wait until the child is born to see any signs that will inspire the right name. They may consult with traditional calendar, calculate the time and day of the birth, or talk with a respected elder to get idea. However, no matter what methods they choose, finding beautiful-sounding name is not enough. Javanese parents must be careful not to choose names that will give their children spiritual burden. This is a concept known as kabotan jeneng, which means something like “Burdened by name.”

When a child earns name with high spiritual burden, and the child cannot handle the burden, it might result in various woes in life, from sickness to continuous bad luck. Certain names, such as any names that contain the word Surya (“sun”), Candra (“moon”), Nata (“king” or “leader”), Mangku (something like “to carry”), Jaga (“to guard”), Cakra (“wheel”, “to create”), or Darma (“responsibility”) are considered as having high spiritual burden, as if demanding their owners to live up the names. This might also be explained with the fact that people often judge others through names, including comparing the similarities and differences between the names and the owners.

sifat-pemimpin

“A leader must inherit the characters of the earth, moon, stars, sun, wind, water, fire, and sky.” A cartoon about hasthabrata, or philosophy of leadership. Names taken from hasthabrata concept are usually considered as having high spiritual burden.

(I’m still looking for the name of the original cartoonist)

Of course, this concept is no longer prevalent, especially among new generations of parents. However, when I finished reading Of Túrin Turambar chapter for the first time, the similarities between Turin’s name changes and this Javanese naming philosophy struck me so hard, I sat silently with the book on my lap, with my eyes gazing on the ceiling (at that time, I still was not too deeply immersed in Tolkien’s legendarium).

Name is important, and people pay much attention to name as much as any other aspects when welcoming a new child. As a language expert, and someone whose lifelong passion lied in that particular field, Tolkien understood about powerful aspect behind names. For example, Fëanor’s father named him Curufinwë (“skillful Finwë”), but it was his mother who gave him the name Fëanor (“spirit of fire”), because she saw how much that name suited him; in the end, when he finally died, his fiery spirit turned his body into ashes. The story of Túrin Turambar is a particular reflection on the important connection between names, life, and fates.

That left the important question: does a name determine one’s life journey, or does one live up the name given after birth? By blurring the lines between free will and fate in this story, Tolkien definitely created unique experience in reflecting one of the biggest questions in our existence.

Source:

Kuntjaraningrat. 1994. Kebudayaan Jawa. Jakarta. Balai Pustaka

Sedyawati, Edi. 2003. Budaya Jawa dan Masyarakat Modern. Jakarta BPPT

Tolkien, J.R.R. 2007. The Children of Húrin. Christopher Tolkien (ed). New York: Harper Collins.

Tolkien, J.R.R. 1999. The Silmarillion. Christopher Tolkien (ed). London: HarperCollins.

What It Means to Read “Roverandom” after My Grandmother’s Death

tales from perilous realm

A week ago, after suffering from years of chronic illness, my grandmother finally passed away.  Continue reading “What It Means to Read “Roverandom” after My Grandmother’s Death”

“The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star,” Puisi yang Melahirkan Middle-earth

Tulisan ini dibuat dalam rangka Tolkien Reading Day tahun 2017 yang mengambil tema “Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fictions.”

Ada banyak hal yang terjadi pada tanggal 24 September 1914, dan kebanyakan berkaitan dengan Perang Dunia I. Angkatan Udara Prancis mendirikan skuadron Escadrille 31 di Longvic sebagai persiapan perang. Pasukan Rusia memulai 133 hari pengepungan di Przemyśl. Pasukan Jerman merebut Péronne. Pasukan Inggris tiba di Laoshun untuk membantu pasukan Jepang. Australia menduduki Kota Friedrich Wilhelm di New Guinea.

Dan di sebuah rumah pertanian di pedesaan Nottingham, seorang pemuda berusia 22 tahun menulis puisi berjudul The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star.  Continue reading ““The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star,” Puisi yang Melahirkan Middle-earth”

Bagaimana J.R.R. Tolkien Merombak Dunia Fiksi Fantasi: Terjemahan Artikel Edisi Khusus Newsweek 2017

Catatan: How J.R.R. Tolkien Redefined Fantasy Stories dikutip dari majalah Newsweek edisi spesial: J.R.R. Tolkien, the Mind of a Genius., yang baru saja terbit. Artikel ini ditulis oleh James Ellis, penyunting edisi istimewa ini.

Artikel asli bisa dibaca di sini.

tolkien-cover-new Continue reading “Bagaimana J.R.R. Tolkien Merombak Dunia Fiksi Fantasi: Terjemahan Artikel Edisi Khusus Newsweek 2017”

Tentang Pertemuan dengan Hewan-Hewan Berwarna Putih dalam Legendarium Tolkien

Dari berbagai jenis hewan yang muncul dalam mitologi dan kisah-kisah fantasi, kemunculan hewan berwarna putih kerap dikaitkan dengan keistimewaan, entah itu terkait pertanda, keajaiban, terbukanya batas antara dunia nyata dan gaib, atau kehadiran penunggang kuda yang istimewa. Dalam legendarium Middle-earth karya J.R.R. Tolkien, pertemuan dengan hewan-hewan berwarna putih kerap menjadi sesuatu yang bermakna khusus, dan hal ini memiliki paralel kuat dengan mitologi serta folklore dunia nyata.  Continue reading “Tentang Pertemuan dengan Hewan-Hewan Berwarna Putih dalam Legendarium Tolkien”

The Shibboleth of Fëanor: Ketika Perubahan Bahasa Dipolitisasi

Shibboleth (noun)

a : a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group.
b : a custom or usage regarded as distinguishing one group from others .

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Bahasa adalah hal yang memiliki kekuatan besar; begitu besar sehingga kita mungkin tak merasakannya hanya karena kita menggunakannya setiap hari. Jangankan sepotong kata yang menghilang; perbedaan ejaan yang kedengarannya sepele sekalipun bisa menjadi pemicu untuk berbagai peristiwa penting. J.R.R. Tolkien, seorang filolog yang menekuni bahasa seumur hidupnya, sangat memahami hal ini, sehingga menuangkannya dalam salah satu manuskripnya untuk Middle-earth legendarium, yaitu sebuah esai berjudul The Shibboleth of Fëanor. Tolkien menggambarkan bagaimana perbedaan ejaan atau bunyi yang kedengarannya sepele dapat membuat pihak tertentu merasa terancam, bahkan menggunakannya sebagai upaya membuat klaim politik.  Continue reading “The Shibboleth of Fëanor: Ketika Perubahan Bahasa Dipolitisasi”

Culhwch ac Olwen: Kisah “Beren dan Lúthien” dalam Manuskrip Wales

Tulisan ini dimuat di situs Jakarta Beat pada tanggal 6 Februari 2017, dengan penyuntingan.

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Beren and Lúthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian, oleh Donato Giancola

Kisah Beren dan Lúthien adalah salah satu yang paling berkesan dalam legendarium Middle-earth, serta kerap dikutip dan dikaji. Selain merupakan contoh kisah romansa kepahlawanan dengan karakter berkesan (genre yang tidak pernah mati), kisah ini juga menjadi penentu berbagai peristiwa serta kelahiran tokoh-tokoh penting yang kelak akan ditemui pembaca dalam kisah-kisah selanjutnya, termasuk The Lord of the Rings. Kisah Beren dan Lúthien juga unik karena memorakporandakan stereotip khas romansa kepahlawanan; dalam kisah ini, Tolkien menjadikan Lúthien, sang putri, sebagai penyelamat Beren dan bahkan sosok yang berperan meruntuhkan benteng “si penjahat,” alih-alih sebaliknya.  Continue reading “Culhwch ac Olwen: Kisah “Beren dan Lúthien” dalam Manuskrip Wales”

Keajaiban dan Renungan dalam Letters from Father Christmas (Postingan Selamat Natal dari Saya)

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Di akhir tahun yang katanya tahun dengan user review paling nggak enak ini, saya kepingin membuat postingan yang berfungsi juga sebagai kartu ucapan Natal buat para pembaca yang merayakan. Continue reading “Keajaiban dan Renungan dalam Letters from Father Christmas (Postingan Selamat Natal dari Saya)”

Tentang Christopher Tolkien (Merayakan Ulang Tahun Beliau yang ke-92)

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Jujur, saya bukan orang yang terlalu memerhatikan nama seorang penyunting alias editor kalau sedang membaca buku, kecuali kalau namanya ditempel di sampul buku (itu juga nggak akan saya ingat-ingat lagi kecuali kalau editor itu juga seorang penulis yang lumayan ngetop). Makanya, saya sendiri heran kenapa editor yang satu ini begitu berkesan buat saya, sampai saya mau repot-repot mengingat kapan beliau ulang tahun.

Tentu saja, saya bicara soal Christopher Tolkien.  Continue reading “Tentang Christopher Tolkien (Merayakan Ulang Tahun Beliau yang ke-92)”

Tentang Hobbit, Memori, dan Peran Catatan Sejarah

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Hobbit adalah ras yang mungkin dianggap “kurang istimewa” dibanding Elf, Dwarf atau Manusia, terutama karena tidak banyak yang diketahui tentang mereka. Walau secara umum genealogi Hobbit berakar dari Manusia, tidak diketahui juga bagaimana tepatnya pembagian ini terjadi. Hobbit adalah kaum tersembunyi yang tidak ingin cara hidup mereka yang sederhana menjadi kacau karena pengaruh dunia luar; mereka lebih suka hidup damai ketimbang mencari keagungan. Ini sebabnya sejarah kaum Hobbit (Halfling) menjadi sesuatu yang hanya samar-samar berada di ingatan, atau hanya diingat melalui cerita-cerita yang berbau “konon,” walaupun kaum Hobbit sendiri amat gemar melacak cabang keluarga di antara mereka sendiri. Karena itu, luar biasa jika mempertimbangkan bahwa Buku Merah Westmarch, yang merupakan salah satu manuskrip sejarah terpenting di Middle Earth, justru dimulai oleh sesosok Hobbit.  Continue reading “Tentang Hobbit, Memori, dan Peran Catatan Sejarah”