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Thread: Who is this Eriol (Ælfwine) dude?

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Tar-Aldarion began this thread with the following post.

I haven't read the History of Middle-Earth books much but it's kinda annoying to see is name a thousand times without me knowing who he is. I think he came from the real world but I am still confused. Also, on the new cover of the Book of Lost Tales 1 it shows him listening to an old geezer. I asked some people who the old man is and they replied that he is an elf. If then, how did he age? Even fading elves don't look like that. . .

Mellie replied

I found the following quote on this website. http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/aelfwine.htm
I hope it is helpful.

The Anglo-Saxon sailor elfwine son of Eadwine son of Oswine, alias Eriol, was one of the first elements of Tolkien's mythos: while looking for remote islands in the Atlantic he found a way to Eressea and was allowed to stay there a while. There he learned much old history of Middle Earth and brought it back to England for it to finally come down to Tolkien.

Sauron Defeated (SD) has most of the information about him. He was born in 869 AD, and was 9 when his father Eadwine vanished at sea aged over 50 in 878 AD (the year King Alfred the Great retreated to Athelney). Eadwine had sailed far, and also knew of Eressa, either personally or from old tales.

Tar-Aldarion: I do not know. Elf Confused Smilie You may have to wait for an answer from Valedhelgwath, The Squirrel, or one of our other more knowlegable people. It may be that little Chris Tolkien wove Eriol out of wholecloth, to be the framework on which to tie all the loose threads of his daddy's lost tales. Elf Winking Smilie
Sorry, I cannot help you either, Tar-Aldarion. Aelfwine, I have heard of, but from Norse tales not Tolkien.
Yeah, Inder's right. (except for the POt Noodles) In Tolkien's original vision for the Book of Lost Tales (early version of the Sil) Aelfwine/Eriol was supposed to be a fellow from the real world who got to hear about all these marvellous elfy stories.
Okay then: Eriol has no actual basis in the history of Middle-earth, he was just a literary device that JRR Tolkien wove out of wholecloth, and used as the framework on which to tie all the loose threads of his Lost Tales.

[Edited on 19/11/2002 by Grondmaster]
I haven't read SD yet.
I have not read it yet either Tar-Aldarion, but the site I posted had some interesting info. I will get to it eventually. It is on my list of books to read. lol.
After LT2 Redux this weekend I'll just say that, given the way the whole thing ended because of him, I prefer he remain absent. That's hard to do if you like LT's though (not having gone further yet I'm not sure how this would impact the rest of home) because LT1&2 are told as a series of stories related to Eriol/Aelfwine in the Cottage of Lost Play after his arrival at Eressea. With that in mind I would expect the old man on the new cover to be Littleheart, son of Voronwe, who tells most of the tales to Eriol/Aelfwine.
There is another Elfwin : the son of King omer of Rohan and Lothriel, the daughter of Prince Imrahil.

Probably unrelated to to other one, but one might never know.
Grondmoster- Eriol actually is given a basis in history, albeit fictional. Eriol was said to be the father of Hengest and Horsa, the historical leaders of the Anglo-Saxons into England. (Thus, Eriol lived around the 5th century A.D.)

When Eriol became Aelfwine, however, his fictional historical basis was changed. He was no longer a man from germany, but from actual England (though still in Anglo-saxon times). He lived around 900 A.D. and managed to find his way to Eressea. Aelfwine is not given as prominent a (fictional) role in real life history as is Eriol, but it is apparent that Tolkien is still trying to link him to real life figures. Aelfwine is the son of Deor the Minstrel, and as Christopher Tolkien notes, there is a short poem by the minstrel Deor in the Anglo-Saxon text known as the "Exeter Book." It is apparent that Tolkien had this text in mind when he was writing of Aelfwine (as, for instance, the previous Eriol had a third son name Heorrenda, which is a name of prominent figure in this poem). However, Christopher Tolkien notes that we really can't say that there is any connection between Aelfwine's father Deor and the Deor of the "Exeter Book" beyond their names.

It is important to note that Tolkien never really abandons the idea of having Aelfwine be the mechanism through which the tales of Middle-earth came down to present times. In his later versions of the texts (as in HoME X and XI), they are still told by the Elves of Eressea (Rumil and Pengholod) to Aelfwine.

Also, it is important to note that the text in Sauron Defeated which talks of Eriol stands somewhat separately from other texts on ME. Eriol is here found in the "Notion Club Papers," which appear to be a slightly independent story. It seems, perhaps, that Tolkien did not want to include a story of how Eriol/Aelfwine came to Eressea in his later version of the Silmarillion--at least not in the manner in which he tried in the Book of Lost Tales (as in the last section of BoLT II).
I did a little summation of the Eriol story (not for this thread), but here's a good place to paste it maybe. It isn't complete and the matter is more complex than the following, and even though it's a bit bare it might give an illustration of at least one idea a young Tolkien was thinking about (according to Christopher Tolkien).

The Eriol story

Eriol's original name was Ottor. He settles on the Island of Heligoland in the North Sea, weds, has two sons named Hengest and Horsa. His wife dies.

Ottor sets out to find Tol Eressea, did so, is made young again (by drinking limpe), weds again and has a son named Heorrenda. Eriol adopts the name Angol and learns the tradition of the Elves or 'fairies' on Tol Eressea. Heorrenda afterwards turns a song of the fairies into the language of his people (Old English) -- thus such things could be rendered again into Modern English by anyone who knows Old English (like JRRT for one).

It is even said that Heorrenda complied the Golden Book from Eriol's writings -- though in other versions it was complied by someone unnamed, or Eriol himself concluded and sealed the book. The Golden Book contained those writings Eriol made in his sojourn in Tol Eressea.

Now in this conception Tol Eressea ultimately becomes England.


Angol -- ancient home of the English (not England itself) from which Ottor (Eriol) first came.

Tol Eressea -- dragged over Sea, becomes England (Osse tried to drag it back, and broke off what was to become Ireland)

Places in Eressea or England

Kortirion -- Warwick (associated with Hengest in the tale)
Taruithon -- Oxford (associated with Horsa in the tale)
Tavrobel -- Great Haywood (associated with Heorrenda in the tale)

Events (as reconstructed by Christopher Tolkien from various evidence)

Eldar and rescued Noldoli depart from the 'Great Lands' and come to Tol Eressea; they build towns (Kortirion for example). Ottor comes, the Elves name him Eriol or Angol. Eriol becomes greatly instructed in the history of Gods, Elves and Men, goes to Tavrobel, writes down what he has learned, drinks limpe, weds, has a half-elven son Heorrenda.

The Lost Elves of the Great Lands rise against the servants of Melko. The 'Faring Forth' occurs, Tol Eressea is dragged over sea to the geographical position of England (Ireland also made).

Battle of Ros, defeated Elves retreat to Tol Eressea. Evil men follow with Orcs and other hostile beings. Battle of Heath of Sky Roof. Elves fade and become invisible to the eyes of almost all Men.

The Sons of Eriol conquer the Isle and it becomes 'England' -- they are not hostile to Elves, and from them the English have the true tradition of the Elves.

Kortirion becomes known as Warwick. According to one version Heorrenda completes the Golden Book. And according to one idea Eriol himself was to 'hasten the Faring Forth', and because of his disobedience 'all was cursed' and the Elves faded before the noise and evil of war.

Note that Hengest, Horsa, Heorrenda are Anglo-Saxon mythic/historic figures from Primary World sources. Tolkien is connecting misty English 'history' or figures with his invented legends, and explaining how the specifically English -- the Germanic settlers of England, not the Celtic peoples or Romans -- have come upon the true stories of the Elves, while the Welsh and Irish have 'garbled' versions by comparison.

Just one thread, but very interesting I think.
Tolkien is connecting misty English 'history' or figures with his invented legends, and explaining how the specifically English -- the Germanic settlers of England, not the Celtic peoples or Romans -- have come upon the true stories of the Elves, while the Welsh and Irish have 'garbled' versions by comparison.

I don't understand. Why did Tolkien go through all this effort to attribute an invented myth to the English whilst leaving the other inhabitants of the British Isles in the cold? I don't see the point.
I think Tolkien's letter to Milton Waldman might help explain it (I especially note 'bound up with its tongue and soil' in the following):

'I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff.' JRRT, letter to Milton Waldman

Also of note is that Eriol told the fairies of Woden, Thunor, Tiw (Old English names for Odin and etc.) and the Elves identified them with Manweg, Tulkas, and a third (illegible) name. Tolkien actually began putting some of his invented history into Old English too (published in The History of Middle-Earth).