Eärendil the Mariner (pronounced [ɛaˈrɛndil]) is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is depicted in The Silmarillion, as a child of Men and Elves and a great seafarer who, on his brow, carried the morning star, a jewel called a Silmaril, across the sky.
Eärendil means 'Lover of the Sea' in Tolkien's invented language of Quenya. However, Tolkien borrowed the name from Old English literature. Tolkien states (Letters, 297) that the name comes from Anglo-Saxon éarendel. He was struck by its "great beauty" c. 1913, which he perceived as
entirely coherent with the normal style of A-S, but euphonic to a peculiar degree in that pleasing but not 'delectable' language.
There is a poem by Tolkien dated to 1914 entitled "The Voyage of Eärendel the Evening Star" (published in The Book of Lost Tales 2 267–269). Tolkien was also aware of the name's Germanic cognates (Old Norse Aurvandill, Lombardic Auriwandalo), and the question why the Anglo-Saxon one rather than the Lombardic or Proto-Germanic form should be taken up in the mythology is alluded to in The Notion Club Papers. The Old Norse together with the Anglo-Saxon evidence point to an astronomical myth, the name referring to a star, or a group of stars, and the Anglo-Saxon in particular points to the morning star as the herald of the rising Sun (in Crist Christianized to refer to John the Baptist).
- éala éarendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended
- "Hail Earendel, brightest of angels, over Middle-earth to men sent"
The first line is paralleled by Frodo Baggins' exclamation in The Two Towers, Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!, which in Tolkien's invented language of Quenya means, "Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!" Frodo's exclamation was in reference to the 'Star-glass' he carried, which contained the light of Eärendil's star, the Silmaril.
The son of Tuor and Idril, daughter of Turgon, Eärendil was raised in Gondolin. When Eärendil was seven years old, he escaped the sacking of Gondolin with his parents. He was almost killed by his mother's treacherous cousin Maeglin, who had betrayed Gondolin, but was saved when his father slew Maeglin. Eärendil and his parents lived afterwards in Arvernien by the mouth of Sirion. Eärendil later became the leader of the people who lived there, and married Elwing, daughter of Dior the son of Beren and Lúthien. They had two sons, Elrond and Elros. Elrond would later come to play an important role in Tolkien's most widely known story, The Lord of the Rings
With the aid of Círdan the Shipwright, Eärendil built a ship, Vingilótë (or Vingilot), which is Quenya for "foam-flower". He sailed this often around the seas west of Middle-earth, leaving his wife behind in Arvernien. At this time Elwing had in her possession the Silmaril that Beren had wrested from Morgoth. News of this came to the sons of Fëanor who were still living, and they attacked the people living in Arvernien, and killed most of them. Elwing, rather than be captured, threw herself with the Silmaril into the sea. The Silmaril was not lost, however. According to The Silmarillion:
For Ulmo bore up Elwing out of the waves, and he gave her the likeness of a great white bird, and upon her breast there shone as a star the Silmaril, as she flew over the water to seek Eärendil her beloved. On a time of night Eärendil at the helm of his ship saw her come towards him, as a white cloud exceeding swift beneath the moon, as a star over the sea moving in strange courses, a pale flame on wings of storm. And it is sung that she fell from the air upon the timbers of Vingilot, in a swoon, nigh unto death for the urgency of her speed, and Eärendil took her to his bosom; but in the morning with marvelling eyes he beheld his wife in her own form beside him with her hair upon his face, and she slept.
Hearing of the tragedy that had befallen in Arvernien, Eärendil then sought after Valinor, aboard the Vingilot with Aerandir, Erellont, and Falathar, and he and Elwing found their way there at last. Eärendil thus became the first of all mortals to set foot in Valinor. Eärendil then went before the Valar, and asked them for aid for Men and Elves in Middle-earth, to fight against Morgoth; the Valar accepted his plea.
Because Eärendil had undertaken this errand on behalf of Men and Elves, and not for his own sake, Manwë refrained from dealing out the punishment of death that was due. Also, because both Eärendil and Elwing were descended from a union of Elves and Men, Manwë granted to them and their sons the gift to choose to which race they would be joined (a gift that was further passed to the children of Elrond, who became known as the Half-elven). Elwing chose to be one of the Elves. Eärendil would have rather been one of the Men; however, for the sake of his wife, he chose to be one of the Elves. The Silmarillion says this:
Now when first Vingilot was set to sail in the seas of heaven, it rose unlooked for, glittering and bright; and the people of Middle-earth beheld it from afar and wondered, and they took it for a sign, and called it Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope.
The Valar, having listened to Eärendil's plea, went with a mighty host to Middle-earth, and overthrew Morgoth. Eärendil took part in the battle, riding on Vingilot beside Thorondor and the Eagles. He struck down the great dragon Ancalagon and cast him down onto Thangorodrim, the event which, along with the sheer devastation caused by the War of Wrath, led to the Ruin of Beleriand. However, as prophesied by Mandos, before the Dagor Dagorath, the Last Battle, that "When the world is old and the Powers grow weary, then Morgoth, seeing that the guard sleepeth, shall come back through the Door of Night out of the Timeless Void; and he shall destroy the Sun and Moon. But Eärendel shall descend upon him as a white and searing flame and drive him from the airs."
|Half-elven family tree|
Concept and creation
In 1914, Tolkien wrote a poem The Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star which was inspired by the "Crist" poem of Cynewulf. While studying at Oxford, Tolkien developed a constructed language that later became known as Quenya. Already around 1915 he had the idea that this language needed an internal history and was spoken by Elves whom his invented character Eärendil meets during his journeys. The next step in the creation of the underlying mythology was the Lay of Earendel, a work composed of several poems that describes the mariner Earendel and his voyages and how his ship is turned into a star. The mysterious land of Valinor and its Two Trees of gold and silver were first described in this cycle.
The longest poem in The Lord of the Rings is the song about Eärendil which Bilbo sings at Rivendell. This poem has an extraordinarily complex history. Long before writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote a poem he called "Errantry", probably in the early 1930s, which was published in The Oxford Magazine on Nov. 9, 1933. Although this fanciful poem does not mention Eärendil, nor does it refer to any names or events from his mythology, Bilbo's song ultimately derives from it. There are six texts of different versions of this poem extant in Tolkien's papers, and no less than 15 further manuscripts and typescripts of Bilbo's song, in several lines of development. In fact, based on the evidence of the existing texts, it appears that the version which Tolkien sent to his publisher and which was published in the book was actually not his final version of the poem. Apparently the final version was mislaid, and an earlier version was the one that was printed.
In popular culture
- Carpenter (2000), p. 79.
- Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p.75, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1
- Carpenter (2000), p. 84.
- Christopher Tolkien (1989), The History of Middle-Earth, The Treason of Isengard, pp.84-105; ISBN 0-395-51562-9
- "†Earendil undomiel Van Valen 1978 (condylarth)". Paleobiology Database. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- Carpenter, Humphrey (2000). J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0618057023.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-25730-1