Every time you deal with the act of translation, you have questions to wrestle with about the nature of language, the possibilities of interplay between languages, etc. But Tolkein’s project was self-consciously meta-linguistic to begin with. What does that add to the linguistic and philosophical challenges that were already an inherent part of any attempt at translation?
I can imagine someone building a case that a given work is so devoid of fresh language, so full of cliche and convention, that it couldn’t possibly be seen as any kind of linguistic play. But generally I think that attempts at literature are all experiments in language, though to varying degrees of self-consciousness. There’s always going to be a use of language that is particular to the language of the original.
In the case of Tolkein, he was attempting to minimize the influence of Latinaity, as it were, in his prose. So, you can’t bring that across to Latin. But some word choices, some phrasing that he found himself resorting to could inspire choices a Latinist would otherwise not have turned to if they were going with text that was already larded with locutions of Latin origin.
And, come on. The Tolkein fans tell me… do you honestly sit around and contemplate the purity of the Germanity of Tolkein’s language, or do you talk about the charming little yarns he spins? The lore. The bottles and tables. Despite what the author may have felt, I think that his eccentric linguistic game is not the end-all or be-all of his storytelling for anybody. There’s plenty there that will translate just fine.
I saw some squawking elsewhere about the use of ‘ille’ in the title. As I understand it, this is a medieval convention, or at least one that was used much more in medieval Latin. Latin doesn’t use articles, but it can use the demonstrative pronoun for emphasis, as if to say, “That Famous Hobbit” or “That Hobbit over there in Particular”. It covers somewhat of the same difference between “Hobbit” and “The Hobbit” in the title of a work.