Eárendil was a mariner that tarried in Arvernien; he built a boat of timber felled in Nimbrethil to journey in...

Welcome to Star of High Hope: a fansite to Eärendil, a character from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy mythology.

This is a fan shrine to Eärendil as he's found in the Middle-earth mythos; mainly focused on his established character in The Silmarillion, but with excursions into Tolkien's earlier sketches and drafts from The Book of Lost Tales. It's not exhaustive, and others have definitely done more and better research than I have. But Eärendil is my most beloved character in Middle-earth, so here is my homage to him.


§I. On Eärendil.

His names and titles

Eärendil is a name in the Quenya High-elven language, meaning "devoted to the sea", a compound of eär "sea" and -ndil "friend; devoted one".

To the Númenórean Men he is named Azrubêl in their Adûnaic language, meaning "Sea-lover", after azra "sea".

On Middle-earth he has several epithets -- surnamed Half-elven; Eärendil the Blessed (used by both Elves and Men); and Eärendil the Mariner.

As a star, the Grey-Elves of Doriath called him Gil-Estel, meaning "Star of High Hope" in Sindarin.

The linguistic origins of Eärendil's name are discussed below.

His lineage

His father was Tuor of the House of Hador, an Edain man. His mother was Idril Celebrindal, a Noldorin Elf, daughter of Turgon king of Gondolin. This combined heritage makes Eärendil half-elven, and he was sometimes named thus.

Eärendil married Elwing, the daughter of Dior. Dior was the son of Beren and Lúthien, who were the first union of Man and Elf on Middle-earth. So Elwing was also descended from both races.

They had twin sons: Elrond and Elros, who were left behind in Middle-earth when their parents sailed to Valinor. Elros founded the Númenórean lineage of mortal Men; Elrond was the father of Arwen Undómiel, beloved of Aragorn in the Third Age.

His life, as told in Quenta Silmarillion

Early life.

Eärendil was born in the spring of the year 503 of the First Age of Middle-earth, in the Noldorin city of Gondolin.

He's described thus:

Of surpassing beauty was Eärendil, for a light was in his face as the light of heaven, and he had the beauty and the wisdom of the Eldar and the strength and hardihood of the Men of old; and the Sea spoke ever in his ear and heart, even as with Tuor his father.

—The Silmarillion, chapter XXIII,
"Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"

He lived in Gondolin until he was seven years old, at which time the city was betrayed to Morgoth and fell to invasion. Eärendil's family fled to the mouth of the Sirion river near the Bay of Balar, where they resided for a significant time. At the Sirion, Eärendil grew into adulthood, met and married Elwing, and their sons were born. Elwing was in possession of a Silmaril, having inherited it from her father.


Journey to the West.

And it is said that in that time Ulmo came to Valinor out of the deep waters, and spoke there to the Valar of the need of the Elves, and he called on them to forgive them, and rescue them ... but Manwë moved not ... The wise have said that the hour was not yet come, and that only one speaking in person for the cause of both Elves and Men, pleading for pardon on their misdeeds and pity on their woes, might move the counsels of the Powers...

—The Silmarillion, chapter XXIII

As the struggles of the free peoples of Middle-earth against Morgoth the Dark Lord became more desperate, Eärendil began exploring Belegaer, the Western Sea, to find a route to Valinor. Two motives drove him: to discover the fate of his parents Tuor and Idril, who themselves had departed for Valinor some time ago; and to plead with the Valar to heed the plight of Middle-earth and resolve the conflict with Morgoth. But he was unsuccessful, until Elwing came bearing the Silmaril to him at sea, in the form of a bird.

The Silmarils were the cause of the Noldor departure from Valinor, and so the Silmaril was apparently the guidestone "passport" back there.

It was by reason of the power of that holy jewel that they came in time to waters that no vessels save those of the Teleri had known; and they came to the Enchanted Isles and escaped their enchantment; and they came into the Shadowy Seas and passed their shadows, and they looked upon Tol Eressea the Lonely Isle, but tarried not; and at last they cast anchor in the Bay of Eldamar ... Then Eärendil, first of living Men, landed on the immortal shores ...

—The Silmarillion, chapter XXIV,
"Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"

Through Valinor and past the Gate of Night.

Entering Valimar, Eärendil was summoned to the council of the Valar, where he made his case for Middle-earth. This time, the Valar listened to him and his plea was granted.

The Valar made a judgment on Eärendil and Elwing: having mortal blood, they were not permitted to return to Middle-earth. Instead, they were allowed to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined, and under which kindred they shall be judged. This choice was extended to their offspring, and appears to be a unique fate to Eärendil's lineage not given to any other Half-elven unions that could've happened in history. (As daughter of Elrond, Arwen also had this choice, and she chose a mortal life with Aragorn.)

Eärendil asked Elwing to decide their collective fate. She chose to join the Elves, and he followed her, even though his heart was with Men.

Eärendil briefly returned to Middle-earth in the Valinorean ranks to fight the War of Wrath. He came as a herald of the air in his ship Vingilot, followed by a host of birds, including great eagles. They fought a war in the heavens against the dragons of Morgoth, and at daybreak Eärendil slew the mightiest dragon, Ancalagon the Black. Thus ended Middle-earth's war against Morgoth.

...Morgoth himself the Valar thrust through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timless Void; and a guard is set for ever on those walls, and Eärendil keeps watch upon the ramparts of the sky.

—The Silmarillion, chapter XXIV

Today, Eärendil sails the heavens in his ship Vingilot, with the Silmaril upon his brow, its light illuminating the sky. He and his ship have become the Star of High Hope to those left on Middle-earth.

His legacy on Middle-earth

For his voyage to Valinor and intercession with the Valar, Eärendil is revered by both Elves and Men. As a star, he is the Middle-earth analogue of the planet Venus, which is known as the Morning Star in various Western cultures.

But so bright was Rothinzil that even at morning Men could see it glimmering in the West, and in the cloudless night it shone alone, for no other star could stand beside it.

—The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: the Downfall of Númenor"

Eärendil continues to be an influence throughout The Lord of the Rings, although the Third Age remembers him more as a star in the sky and a legend of old, and his presence is mostly felt as guidance, illumination, and hope.


§II. Artifacts of Eärendil

Family Heraldry

Tolkien designed heraldric devices for important characters in his corpus; this is documented by Hammond & Scull in Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. Eärendil's device appears thus:

Eärendil's heraldric device, hand-drawn illustration in colour.
Eärendil's device, as drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien. Image from Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, by Hammond & Scull.

It is in a lozenge shape, which according to Tolkien's heraldric rules is the shape for men's devices; women had circular devices. The Silmaril is at the centre, radiating rays of light in concentric circles (Hammond & Scull suggest it's reminiscent of the celestial spheres) into the blue background which represents the night sky. The phases of the Moon are represented at each point of the device.

Tolkien's heraldric devices for Elves are radially symmetrical, which is suggestive of Elven immortality and continuity amidst Middle-earth. In contrast the ones for Men are symmetrical only about the vertical axis. Eärendil's device is the latter but would be radially symmetrical if not for the Moon phases. This hints at his Half-elven nature.

Eärendil's heraldric device, digitally drawn in colour.
Eärendil's device, as drawn and designed by Forodrim.org.

Vingilot

Vingilot (sometimes Wingilot) is Eärendil's ship. It means "Foam-flower" in Sindarin Grey-elven; in Quenya High-elven its name is Vingilótë; in Numenorean Adûnaic it's Rothinzil. It was built at the mouths of Sirion, with the aid of the Círdan the Shipwright and the Falathrim Elves that lived on the nearby Isle of Balar.

Vingilot bore Eärendil to Valinor. There, it was filled with light by the Valar, taken to the rim of the world and sent through the Door of Night into the heavens.

Far [Eärendil] journeyed in that ship, even into starless voids; but most often was he seen at morning or at evening, glimmering in sunrise or sunset, as he came back to Valinor from voyages beyond the confines of the world.

—The Silmarillion, chapter XXIV

In The Book of Lost Tales volume II, Eärendil's first ship was called Eärámë ("Eagle-pinion" in Tolkien's early versions of 'Qenya'); Wingilot was a second, later ship. Later, The Silmarillion describes Eärrámë ("Sea-wing" in Quenya) as the name of the ship that Tuor and Idril sailed to Valinor.

The "Elessar" of Eärendil

The more famous Elessar is Aragorn's kingly title, named after the Elfstone that he wore, a gift from Galadriel. But the Unfinished Tales tell of a first Elfstone, called the Stone of Eärendil.

This stone was wrought by the jewel-smith, Enerdhil of Gondolin, who had a particular love for all green, growing things.

And it came into his heart to make a jewel within which the clear light of the sun should be imprisoned, but the jewel should be green as leaves. And he made this thing, and even the Noldor marvelled at it. For it is said that those who looked through this stone saw things taht were withered or burned healed again or as they were in the grace of their youth, and that the hands of one who held it brought to all that they touched healing from hurt.

—Unfinished Tales, Part Two, chapter IV,
"The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"

Enerdhil presented this green stone to Idril Celebrindal. Eärendil remembered the stone even as a young child, for it was worn by his mother on her breast as she reared him in Gondolin. When Gondolin was sacked, Idril fled, carrying the Elfstone with her to Sirion's Haven. Later, she gave it to Eärendil, saying, The Elessar I leave with thee, for there are grievous hurts to Middle-earth which thou maybe shalt heal, and beseeching him to not give it to anyone else.

The Elfstone was a source of healing to Sirion while Eärendil remained there, but when he began seafaring, he wore it on his breast, for his mother's memory was always before him. Thus he took it on his voyage to Valinor, and the Stone of Eärendil passed out of Middle-earth.

The Elfstone gifted to Aragorn by Galadriel has uncertain origins. One possibility is that the Maia Olórin (Mithrandir/Gandalf) brought the Stone of Eärendil back to Middle-earth from Valinor when he came to aid Middle-earth in its struggles against Sauron in the Third Age. Another possibility is that Aragorn's Elfstone was forged in Middle-earth by the renown jewel-smith Celebrimbor of Ost-in-Edhil, and is completely unrelated to the Stone of Eärendil.

No matter the origins of Aragorn's Elfstone: The hands of a king are the hands of a healer, as Aragorn demonstrated at the Houses of Healing in The Return of the King. Perhaps the healing in King Elessar is an echo of the virtue of the Stone of Eärendil.

The elfstone is analogous to real-world beryl or emerald.

The Silmaril

The three Silmarils were created in Valinor by Fëanor to capture the light of the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin. They were stolen from Valinor by Melkor (Morgoth) and had been the whole reason for the Noldor exile from Valinor and the war in Middle-earth against Morgoth ever since.

In Middle-earth, Beren and Lúthien reclaimed a Silmaril from Morgoth at great cost. It was inherited by their son Dior, and then his daughter Elwing.

Seeking to fulfill their vow of reclaiming the Silmarils, the sons of Feanor attacked the Noldorin community at the Sirion river, causing a tragic slaughter of Elves by Elves. Eärendil was at sea; his family was captured by Maglor son of Feanor, but Elwing escaped by throwing herself, with the Silmaril, into the ocean. Transformed into a sea-bird by Ulmo, Vala of the Ocean, she flew across the ocean found Eärendil.

Eärendil carried this Silmaril to Valinor and then into the heavens, where it remains to this day. Of the two other Silmarils, one ended up one in the heart of a volcano, the other in the depths of the ocean, as foretold by the Vala Mandos that the fates of Arda, earth, sea, and air, lay locked within them.

The Phial of Galadriel

[Galadriel] held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. "In this phial," she said, "is caught the light of Eärendil's star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you."

—The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, chapter IV, "Lothlórien"

The Phial given by Galadriel to Frodo when he leaves Lothlórien has the light of Eärendil captured in it; by that description it is certainly the light of the Silmaril.

The Phial was used by Samwise in his fight against Shelob the spider. All great spiders are descended from Ungoliant, the primordial monster of devouring darkness who sucked up the light of Valinor's Two Trees and aided Morgoth in his theft of the Silmarils. The memory of Valinor's light must be encoded in the spiders' "genetic memory", for the Phial repulsed and injured Shelob, who hated the light much like her foremother Ungoliant.


§III. The importance of Eärendil.

Éalá Éarendel engla beorhtast

The proper name Éarendel appears in Crist, an Old English religious poem found in the Exeter Book, which is attributed to the Anglo-Saxon monk Cynewulf in the 9th century. This poem encompasses the Old English versions of ancient Latin hymns known as the "O Antiphons"; Éarendel appears in the section to "O Oriens" (the Daystar).

Screencap of the text 'Christ of Cynewulf' presented on Archive.org.
Éarendel in context of the Crist poem. Text source.
Éalá Éarendel | engla beorhtast
      O Éarendel, brightest of angels,
ofer middangeard | monnum sended
      sent to mankind over middle-earth, ...

Variations of this distinctive proper name are found throughout the old Germanic languages, and could've been associated with a group of stars or astronomy myth. Tolkien was captivated by this word and incorporated it into his Middle-earth corpus:

When first studying Anglo-Saxon professionally ... I was struck by the great beauty of the word (or name), entirely coherent with the normal style of Anglo-Saxon, but euphonic to a peculiar degree ... I adopted him into my mythology -- in which he became a prime figure as a mariner, and eventually as a herald star, and a sign of hope to men.

—The Book of Lost Tales volume II, chapter 5

Not only was Éarendel adopted into Middle-earth, the Quenya prayer spoken by Frodo - Aiya Eärendil elenion ancalima - is reminiscent of that Old English verse in Crist.

I learnt about the context of 'Éalá Éarendel' in the O Antiphons through this blog post. Read these bloggers' appreciations of the Middle-earth and Old English link.

Why I like him

Eärendil is Vega's favourite fictional character. He is significant to me in many, many ways.

I love Eärendil because he embodies a mortal who has transcended mortality and entered the realm of mythology. He goes beyond Elf and Man to achieve apotheosis, and he is one of the most pivotal and critical characters in the entire Middle-earth mythos.

The love between Eärendil and Elwing (though we know very little about them personally) is so powerful, their bond is stronger than the threat of death.

The quest of Eärendil embodies hope flickering against overwhelming odds. Éarendel of The Book of Lost Tales is even more compelling than Eärendil of Quenta Silmarillion, for his quest is forlorn and sorrowful and without end, he searches for something that cannot be achieved, and through that he transcends death into the ultimate immortality -- legend.

Tolkien has written numerous poems about Éarendel (so it's clear that he is an important character!), all of which are so beautiful and strike a chord in my soul. Eärendil not only represents the endless voyage, but also embodies three of my favourite elements -- the stars, the sea, and the ship upon the sea.


§V. About this Site.

Origins

Star of High Hope's first incarnation was as a fanlisting, begun in September, 2008. I've tidied and updated the markup, but the site layout you see here is practically identical to that original site!

Believe it or not, that original fanlisting is still up and visible, although it's no longer listed at TheFanlistings.org. Unfortunately I've lost access to the site and can't go in to clean up that layout. (Or even take ownership of the domain name, which I still love!)

As you can see from this site, Eärendil was a significant and favourite character in my explorations of Tolkien's corpus. Though my literary and reading interests have wandered far since I first made this site, I've decided to flesh out the text from the original site into a full exploration.

Website Credits

Banners were created from The Door of Night, painted by John Howe, one of the most esteemed Tolkien/Middle-earth illustrators. The blue background pattern comes from Textures Archive.

©2010 - 2019 Vega O.SQ.T, except where quoted/credited.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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