Gnommish is the "fairy language" used in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. It is not actually a language at all, but the English language encoded into a letter-substitution cipher where each symbol represents a letter. Lines of translatable Gnommish run along the bottoms of books one, two, four, five and six. However, in book one of the series, it is mentioned that one of the symbols was comparable to the Egyptian Anubis symbol. It is also mentioned that Gnommish is a mix of symbolic and alphabetic letters, running in spirals (but since reading in spirals gives most fairies migraines, most modern fairy script is arranged in horizontal lines).
All Chapter Headings
The writing at the very beginning of each chapter contains the chapter name in Gnommish. In the first book, this is written in spirals, and may be harder to decode than normal. However, it is usually written in straight, more easily legible lines. This has nothing to do with the message underneath (except they are both written in Gnommish), so don't read it as part of the message.
Book One translation
The coded message on the front of Book One reads:
Carry me always, carry me well. I am thy teacher of herb and spell.
This also happens to be the first lines of The Book of the People, a book containing the fairies' secrets.
The coded message along the bottom of Book One reads:
The Prophecies of Ohm, phlegm pot cleaner to Frond, elven king. I am Ohm, phlegm pot cleaner to the king. But I am much more than that, for I see the future written in the phlegm. For centuries we pixies have read the phlegm, but I am the best there has ever been. My visions are generally of little importance. I foretell outbreaks of troll pox or gas spasms among elderly dwarves. But sometimes even a poor pot cleaner can see wondrous things. A vision came to me two moons ago when I was gazing deep into His Majesty's own phlegm pot. I was heating the pot over a flame when the sign appeared. This vision was more vivid and detailed than any I had previously seen. Because of its importance I decided to write it down for posterity. And so I can say I told you so. I saw an age when the People have been driven underground by the Mud Men. This is what the phlegm told me. In this time one shall come among us. Fowl by name and foul by nature. A Mud Man unlike any other. He shall learn our secrets and use them against us. I see him now as plain as day. His face is pale and he has dark eyes and raven hair. Yet it must be a mistake, for he seems a mere youth. Surely no Mud Boy could outwit the People. But now I see that the boy is not alone. He is aided by a formidable warrior scarred from a thousand battles. This Fowl shall hold the People to ransom for their most precious possession—gold. And in spite of all our magic there is a chance that he will prevail. For he has discovered how to escape the time field. Unfortunately, how the story ends I cannot say. But there was more to see. There is another story to come. Someone will bring the people and Mud Men together. The worst of both races. This fairy's goal is to grind all the creatures of the earth beneath his boot. And who is this traitor it is not clear. But he shall start a war unlike anything the People have ever seen. Those who were enemies shall be united against him. And for the first time there will be Mud Men below ground. I have one clue to his identity: a riddle.
- Goblins shall rise and Haven shall fall.
- A villainous elf is behind it all.
- To find the one who so disappoints,
- Look ye to where the finger points.
- Instead of one face, this elf has two.
- Both speak false and none speak true.
- While publicly he lends a helping hand,
- His true aim is to seize command.
I know, it's not very plain, is it? I don’t understand either. But perhaps in the future all will become clear. Look for a power-hungry elf who has a finger pointed at him during our tale. And so this is Ohm's legacy. A warning that may save the world from total destruction. There's not much to work with, I know. The details are a bit sketchy. My advice to you is to consult the phlegm. It may be that you are sensitive. I have buried this prophecy with my phlegm pot. If you are not fortunate enough to work as a pot cleaner then there is usually a supply of phlegm every time you have a cold. Here endeth the first prophecies of Ohm. But because of the importance of my visions I shall repeat the prophecies once more. If you have just begun to understand the text, then read on. If you have worked out the entire message then congratulations. Now go and save the world.
The text repeats but is not completed again as the pages run out. The riddle refers to "the Arctic Incident" when both Briar Cudgeon and Opal Koboi work together to bring down Haven through goblins. "Look where the finger points" is a reference to the first book, when Commander Root pointed his finger at Cudgeon, who was wrestling with Foaly, trying to kill him. Root had recently applied a special weapon to his finger that shot out a hypodermic dart when the knuckle was brushed. Cudgeon was currently taking illegal chemicals to enhance his abilities that caused a bad reaction to the chemical on the dart causing his face to be scarred. Cudgeon was also planning to overthrow the LEP, and his allies, hence two faces (Two-Faced).
However, on the bottom of the Australian version, it reads:
The first reference to Artemis Fowl in the human media is in a newspaper article in the Dublin Chronicle. Artemis made the paper by solving the riddle of the mayor of Dublin’s chains. The mayor held a press conference to appeal help after the city’s priceless chains of office were stolen. Artemis managed to persuade his bodyguard to bring him along. When the reporters had finished asking questions, Artemis raised his hand. The Mayor allowed the small boy to ask his question, expecting something simple, and childlike. Instead, Artemis asked him to name three kinds of butterfly. When the mayor could not answer, Artemis stood and addressed the journalists present. He told them that in his opinion, the mayoral chains could not have been stolen from the secure vault or taken from around the mayor’s neck without his knowing. So this man could not be the mayor, he must be an imposter. The proof of this was that the real mayor was a keen butterfly collector and would certainly have been able to answer Artemis’ question. Most journalists laughed, but one did not. He suggested that the mayor allow himself to be fingerprinted. The man calling himself Mayor panicked, and ran. It was later discovered that the man was indeed an imposter. He was the mayors own twin brother. The real mayor was being held in a warehouse in the south of the city. The plan was to hold him for a week while his twin’s gang looted the mayoral mansion and cashed the insurance cheque for the ceremonial chains. Artemis Fowl was six years old when he foiled this plan.
Book Two translation
The coded message on the cover of the Ireland/UK version of Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident reads:
Fairy creatures heed this warning on earth the human era is dawning
Underneath the coloured buttons there is in Gnommish the letters ABCD
On the American Version, it just reads "Fowl" in Gnommish. It doesn't have a code on the bottom.
The coded message along the bottom of the pages in the Ireland/UK version Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident is not in the Gnommish symbols, it is in Centaurian, which, if you look closely, is actually just computerised English letters. It reads:
Congratulations human. If you have cracked this code then you are more intelligent than most of your species. This is a message from the fairy People. We are seeking out our allies among the Mud Men. Though most humans are dull-witted creatures there are exceptions.
You for example.
The reason for your intelligence is that you have fairy ancestors. Do you feel different from those around you? Are your ears a bit pointier than most? Is your tongue long enough to touch your nose? Do you dream of flying? Have you ever thought that you do not belong among the mud men? That is because you have fairy blood in your veins. So young mud fairy I have a mission for you. As one of the people it is your duty to protect the earth from those who would destroy it. You must become one of a new race of mud men who love this planet as much as the fairy folk. There is one simple rule. Use only what you need and use it wisely. Do this and the earth will survive. Go now and begin your quest. I shall repeat this mission for those humans whose fairy intelligence is buried a bit deeper than yours.
The code then repeats until it runs out of pages and ends at: Do you feel different from those around you?
The coded message in the New Ireland/UK version Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident reads:
One of the strangest creatures on the Earth, or more accurately below it, is the common stinkworm. Stinkworms can only survive below the Earth's crust and so have never been seen by humans. The stinkworm can grow to a length of fifteen centimetres and a diameter of up to eight centimetres. The bigger a stinkworm is the more meat there is on its soft boned skeleton and the more valuable it is to a merchant.
Stinkworms are big business in the fairy world and have been for thousands of years.
They are very versatile and can be boiled, fried, baked or even raw, though this sushi approach can be difficult to swallow as the stink associated with the worms does not disappear until they are cooked.
The current favourite way to eat the stinkworm is in a dish similar to Bolognese, substituting stinkworms for spaghetti. Deep fried on a skewer is popular among the younger generation.
What makes the stinkworm so delicious is the juice. When the worm is heated in a pan or oven it bastes itself in a delicious spicy juice, which even the best chefs have failed to reproduce. This juice is in fact earwax from the hundreds of ears that covers each worm’s body.
Some more sensitive fairies cannot forget that they are eating earwax and do not enjoy eating stinkworms, but most are so entranced by the flavours that they are quite prepared to ignore where it comes from.
Goblins in particular love stinkworms and are constantly inventing new ways to consume them.
The rarest and most prized stinkworm dish is a stir fried bowl of stinkworm ears. The ears are shaved from the worms’ body, rolled in flour and then lightly fried. This dish takes hours to prepare and costs a fortune.
Goblins believe that if you eat a bowl of worm ears then you absorb the worms’ memories of the places they have visited. This is not an appealing thought when you consider that a stinkworms favourite environment is fresh troll dung.
Book Three Translation
The coded message on the cover says: The boy is in trouble, referring to the series of events set in motion by Artemis' s business dealing, detail in the book.
The Eternity Code that is written on every page of the book says:
A message from Artemis Fowl: (encrypted)
My dear newfound ally,
If you have deciphered this code then you are of sufficient intelligence to aid me in my mission. You may have heard of the Fowl family and imagine this mission to be illegal or even dangerous. I promise you this is not the case. All I ask is that you help me keep my memories where they belong. In my head. There are certain forces at work that wish to deprive me of memories that are rightfully mine. These forces would wipe certain facts from my brain that are extremely important not to mention valuable. Who are these forces? They are magical fairies known as 'The People'. I know what you are thinking. “This person Artemis Fowl has obviously lost his mind. Fairy People! He cannot honestly expect me to believe this nonsense.” This is an understandable reaction. Two years ago, I would have reacted exactly the same way. But a lot can change in two years. I have seen green-skinned sprite fly under their own powers. I have seen dwarfs use their cavernous mouths to dig tunnels. I have witnessed the healing power of elves and touched the flank of a noble centaur. These creatures exist. Take my word for it. But as powerful as these creatures are, they fear one thing, number. We are the only creatures with the power to overthrow their underground society. Our numbers could subdue even magic. So the people have decided that it is too dangerous to have a human boy with fairy knowledge in his head. Soon they will mindwipe me and this extraordinary information will disappear. There is one way to stop this happening. I have entrusted a computer disk to a reprobate dwarf by the name of Mulch Diggums. The disk contains all my knowledge of the fairy folk, Of course the mindwipe will cause me to forget all about the dwarf and the disk. Diggums should bring the disk to me but common criminals are not to be trusted. I ask you to get a message to me. The message is simple. Six words only. ARTEMIS FOWL MUST FIND MULCH DIGGUMS. Wherever you see one of the faithful clutching this book reading those words. The message will spread like virus across the world, eventually reaching my ears. I will act upon it putting all my resources into locating the mysterious Mister Diggums. Once I find him, the disk will reactivate all my memories and the knowledge will be mine again. Do this for me and when I rule the world, you shall be rewarded. Remember: ARTEMIS FOWL MUST FIND MULCH DIGGUMS.
Your new friend, Artemis Fowl the Second.
In the 2006 edition of the book, however, the message is written in Gnommish and reads:
One of the Fairy People's most popular pastimes is a card game called 'Bottoms Up'. This game is almost the direct opposite of the human card game poker. In Bottoms Up, the object is to end up with the least valuable hand possible. There are four suits: acorns, toads, a weird shape known as splats (which is thought to be based on the shape a stinkworm would make if it were stepped on by a troll), and of course, bottoms, which gives the game its name. Historians tell us that the curved shapes which represent bottoms are actually supposed to represent ocean waves, but gamblers prefer to call them bottoms and now the name has stuck. If a player realizes that he is in danger of assembling a good hand (which is bad), he must trick his opponents into taking his valuable cards. The most valuable cards are: a golden acorn, a king toad, an eight pointed splat, and a mega bottom. There is also a hologrammed wild card which can be anything the holding player wants it to be. If you are tricked into taking a wild card then you must get rid of it in the next two rounds or it freezes at its current value. When playing Bottoms Up, it is very important to hide any behaviour which might betray nervousness or glee. These behaviours are called 'tells'. An elf's tell is to toy with his pointed ears. Sprites sometimes flap their wings, causing a downdraught, which is never a good idea in a card game. Gnomes eat anything they can reach, including insects and pieces of furniture, and dwarfs lose control of their internal gasses. Once these gasses build up past a certain point it becomes almost impossible to hold them in. So if you see a dwarf with a red face it is a good bet that he has a very bad hand (which is good).
This message then repeats throughout the remaining pages.
Book Four translation
The front cover of the American copy of Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception has three separate angled lines, each reading Opal wants revenge in the Gnommish text.
The coded message along the bottom of the US version of Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception reads:
:A recruitment letter from the centaur Foaly, technical consultant to the Lower Elements Police
Trusted ally, if you have decoded this Gnommish message, then you are a deputy officer in the Lower Elements Police. You will not be aware of this fact because it is the practice of the LEP to mindwipe our human allies. We do this so they cannot remember being recruited. If you cannot remember the Fairy People, or our underground city, then you cannot betray our existence to the greedy humans. Of course, not all humans are greedy. You, deputy, are a noble member of your species. And clever, too. Our intelligence department studied your file and concluded that you were suitable for LEP membership. At the moment, you are only a deputy officer. To become a fully fledged officer, you must complete four tasks.
Number One, Decode this message. Something you are well on your way to completing. Number Two, Save the life of a member of another species. You can complete this task in any number of ways: open a window to release a trapped fly, build a bird bath in your garden, release a mouse from a trap... Number Three, Achieve a perfect score on a school test or homework assignment. In this job, you need to be smart as well as fit. Number Four, Wash yourself every day for a week. This is a difficult assignment, especially for human boys who do not like contact with water. If you are going to work underground, often in cramped tunnels, you will appreciate a partner who does not smell like a hermit dwarf.
- Once you have completed these tasks, you must summon your recruiting officer in the ancient fashion:
- Go to your back yard or nearest green area.
- Make sure you are not being watched.
- Find a soft spot of ground and burrow a six inch hole with a broom handle or short stick. When your hole is ready, tap out the letters "L" "E" "P" in horse code:
- "L" tap, tap, wiggle, tap, "E", wiggle, wiggle, tap "P" tap wiggle drill.
- Do this at least a hundred times, and our underground sensors will pick up the vibration and send up an LEP officer with your uniform and orders.
- Good luck, deputy!
This message repeats itself every 105 pages. In the first repetition of this, 'Number three' is spelled 'Number thre'. There is a different code in the Irish/British 2005 paperback, which talks about the special abilities of the Dwarves:
There has never been a regulated scientific study of dwarfs' special abilities. What we know about them is based on folklore and hearsay. The most famous of these abilities is the dwarf tunnelling methods by which they eat dirt and air before expelling them out the other end. Though the actual force of this expulsion has never been measured, several witnesses have reported windows breaking more than twenty metres away. It is said that a master recycler can fine-tune his gas emissions so that instead of a widespread blast of flatulent he shoots out a concentrated column of wind. Legend has it that one such master recycler, a certain Blurt Diggums, was so accurate with these columns that he could turn on a light switch from the other side of the room.
- Dwarfs themselves use casual terms to refer to the strength of their gas emissions. A 'Shirt Flapper' is a gentle emission that would barely inflate a child's balloon. A 'Pants Ripper' is a sturdier blast and would certainly blow a hole in even the sturdiest material. A 'Nought to Sixty' is a right whopper and could accelerate whoever dropped it to dangerous speeds. A 'Strap Yourself Down' is about as strong as it gets and could help a dwarf achieve flight. And finally, the legendary 'Dark Side of the Moon', or simply 'Dark Side'. If released on a mountain top, it could put a dwarf into orbit. There is no evidence that a Dark Side is anything more than a myth. All the same, if you see a dwarf on a mountain with a red face, take cover. You can't be too careful around dwarf wind.
The code is then repeated.
Inside the front cover of the Irish/British hardback the rings of Gnommish text read: DNA never lies.
Book Five translation
The coded message on the front of Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony
The front cover (English version) reads:
"Cracking the code. Very impressive. You are now eligible to hack into the Fowl Mainframe at artemisfowl.co.uk. Best of luck: you'll need it"
The Gnommish across the pages reads:
The Demon Scrolls tell of a warlock that will come to save our people, but I wouldn't rely too much on the scrolls. They also say that rabbits are the supreme beings and that the best cure for a sore throat is a poultice of dung and old socks. Hence, trust the Scrolls at your peril. There are however a few basic tips for survival in a Demon tribe that might be helpful. If you were a human, say, and had never actually met a Demon, which is unlikely to say the least. If you were a human you wouldn't be able to read this in the first place. So, Demon survival tips. First, never stab a Demon with his own sword. This is the ultimate insult and will result in a vendetta that could go on for generations. It is fine to stab a Demon with your sword; he will congratulate you for managing that, but only poor warriors lose their swords and get stabbed with them. If the opportunity arises give it a miss. Second. Demons have a pretty comprehensive system of sign language in which buttock slapping features heavily. It is very important not to slap the wrong buttock. Never slap someone else's buttock unless they stab you with your own sword; that is considered very bad manners. And learn the difference between the left buttock slap and a right buttock slap. If a passerby aims his buttocks at you and slaps the left one it means that there is a full moon due that evening and he hopes you will join him for the traditional hunt. If he slaps the right buttock it simply means you remind him of his right buttock. You can see where the problems could arise. Finally, never sneeze into your fist. Always allow the sneeze to run free into the air. Medical Demons assure us that the sneeze comprises millions of tiny flying Demons that zoom around the earth; under they can find a human to land on. When they alight on their host humans they hack into their scalps with tiny axes causing terrible headaches which make the humans easy to defeat in battle. So when a demon sneezes immediately slap your right buttock in the direction of the sneeze so that the tiny Demons can pass on the message to the human they land on."
This message repeats across the bottom of each page.
Book Six translation
The Gnommish across the bottom of the pages of Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox reads as follows:
From the collected correspondence of Opal Koboi. A Series of letters between Opal Koboi, Inmate number 1405, Atlantis maximum security penitentiary and Wing Commander Vinyáya, Haven Council.
Koboi: My dear wing commander, while I realize that my first probation hearing is not due for four hundred years, I feel that it would be in the People's best interests to release me before then. After all, the humans are becoming more sophisticated daily, and a genius such as myself will be needed to ensure that fairy technology remains superior to human technology.
Vinyáya: Dream on, Koboi. You’re in prison. Accept it.
Koboi: I am sensing negative vibrations from you, wing commander. Do not be so quick to judge. People can change, surely you accept that. I admit that, once, I found the idea of being the planet's supreme power an attractive one, but who hasn’t secretly nurtured the dream of wiping out humanity and utterly dominating one's own peers? I see now that this dream might be unacceptable to some narrow-minded fairies and I am prepared to swear on my pixie honor that, should I be released, I would not attempt to take over the world again.
Vinyáya: On your pixie honor?! WOW. I'll send the transfer shuttle right over.
Koboi: I see now, wing commander, that you never had any intention of sending the transfer shuttle right over. In fact, you were being sarcastic. Mocking me from the safety of Police Plaza in Haven. I waited for three weeks before I realized that the shuttle was not coming for me. I packed my belongings so that I would be ready. Including my collection of model sea horses, which I fashioned from chewed cardboard. My favorite sea horses, Twinky and Goodboy were broken in the process. Twinky cries every night over her severed tail and Goodboy does not look so dashing without his head. Your callousness leaves me no alternative but to place you on my revenge list. When I am finally free of this horrible place and elevated to my rightful position as queen of the world, you will take my place in this cell and I will send my troll minions to issue daily beatings with batons fashioned from sea horses' tails. A fitting punishment, I am sure you agree."
This text repeats approximately every 104 pages, and the numbers are represented in binary code.
Book Seven translation
The coded message on the front of Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex:
From the v-diary of Artemis Fowl II. Commentary by Dr. J. Argon, LEP consultant and grand probemeister of the Psych Brotherhood. Artemis Fowl appears on screen. He is disheveled and toys incessantly with a small coin. Both the untidiness and the fidgeting are most unusual. Artemis Fowl is known for his attention to detail especially where his own grooming and presentation are concerned. His voice too is cause for worry. Stress readings are in the nineties and his lower ranges are skewed a full third of an octave below the norm based on comparisons with interview-room recordings.
Artemis holds the coin between his thumb and forefinger and we see that there is a circular hole in the center. The coin obviously holds great significance for the boy. He slams it onto the desk then picks it up again and spins it — unable it would seem to let it be. Early signs of compulsion. Worrying. He speaks.
Artemis: People called me a boy genius. A wunderkind. Perhaps I was a prodigy. But I will be fifteen soon and too old for that label. So what am I then? A teenage criminal mastermind perhaps. Or just a common thief. Who can a thief trust? There were a few I thought. But could I have been wrong? Is that possible?
Artemis taps the coin against the surface of the desk precisely twenty times before speaking again. Perhaps there is no significance to the number twenty. Artemis Fowl frowns and rubs the deep line between his brows.
Artemis: I thought I knew everything. Now I think I know too much. This knowledge, these compulsions are taking me over. Soon they will drive my very speech patterns.
He taps the coin on the desk. Twenty taps again. He seems not to want to do it but is compelled. Oh dear. It is just as Captain Short said. I am worried now, very worried. Note: check legality of using insulin shock therapy or possibly psychosurgery on humans.
This text repeats approximately every 92 pages. There may be typos.
The Artemis Fowl Files translation
On the cover of the U.S. edition, the words "top secret" are repeated.
There is a section containing three pages of Gnommish. The translation reads as follows:
When a fairy is trapped above ground without magic, it is best to avoid contact with humans. Hide in the shallows of a river, as humans, especially children, do not like to wash themselves. Drape yourself with the skin of a sheep or goat, as humans are often not clever to notice. If you are cornered by a human, slap the ground with the flat of your hand, as this will often frighten the Mud Men away. If this is unsuccessful, admit that you are a fairy, and humans, being cynical creatures will think that you are a friend in a costume, trying to make a fool of them. If all this fails, then ask the human if you could possibly borrow some money and the Mud Man will flee with great speed, and never ask you out again.
Also, along the bottom of each page it repeats The Artemis Fowl Files.
At the back of the book, it says, "Don't miss the next thrilling adventure in the Artemis Fowl series: Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception".
Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel
The graphic novel contains some Gnommish text. Each chapter ends with the Gnommish letters a and f. The Timestop dome has faint lines of repeating text. A piece of text in the troll entry appears to be nonsense.
There are only four Gnommish words mentioned in the Artemis Fowl series. D'Arvit is a Gnommish curse word. Book 1 declares after the first appearance of the word "D'Arvit" that, "There is no point translating that word as it would have to be censored." It is often used in the series to replace real profanity, likely to be in the place of a very, very bad word. In the books it is often used by Commander Root. It is also used by Captain Holly Short, Mulch Diggums and by other offending officers. "D'Arvit" was not the creation of Eoin Colfer, as is popularly believed. On the Aran Islands (off the coast of Ireland) there is a legend in which a dark banshee would rip your soul from your body when you were alone, unless you were to utter the Irish word 'Dh'ábhoit' (pronounced daw-voyt). The word was anglicized during the conquest of Henry VIII and became 'D'Arvit', though the original meaning remains. The curse is mainly used in Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas of Connacht but is seen as an Irish word everywhere (with its original spelling). In Book 1 the Gnommish phrase «Ank Oo» was muttered by Mulch Diggums and it is believed to mean Good Luck or Thank You, though some people believe that he was just saying thank you with his jaw unhinged. In Book 6, Holly Short and Mulch Diggums share a quick conversation, which included the Gnommish word "cowpóg" which translates as 'moron'.
In Book 7, the Gnommish name for the ship in the Atlantic Ocean is ffurforfer, pronounced 'fourfourfour'. It means 'plunderer'. Also it is revealed that in Gnommish, for a conversion from a verb (for example, plunder- ffurfor) to a noun (plunderer- ffuforfer), the suffix -fer is added. It is noted that this is similar to the English way of adding the suffix -er, hence implying that one was derived from the other.
OTHER USES OF THE WORD
Gnommish is also a discarded name for Quenya, the Noldorin speech created by J.R.R Tolkien as part of his high fantasy legendarium.
- A site that has successfully translated Gnommish
- Download and install the Gnommish, Centaurian and Eternity Code fonts here
(http://www.artemisfowl.com/game/pop_up/alpha.jpg An example of the Gnommish alphabet)
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer Main series Related books
- The Seventh Dwarf
- The Artemis Fowl Files
- Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel
- Lower Elements
- The People
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