II: The Book of Lost Tales part 2, VI: The History of Eriol or Ælfwine and the End of the Tales (2/2)

This post focus on the narrative the “Ælfwine story” which is a later construction developed from the “Eriol story” presented in the previous post. I will present the narrative and how the story attempts to merge history and mythology. The summary presented below is based on the section “Ælfwine of England”. At the end I will have some final comments regarding the End of the Tales and the overall reading experience of The Book of Lost Tales. This narrative is likely to have been the beginning of a complete rewriting of Lost Tales!

Off the westcoast of the Great Lands lies England, called Lúthien by the elves. There still dwelt some Fading Companies, or the Holy Fairies, who had not yet sailed away to the Lonely Island or the Hill of Tûn. In the town Kortirion or Mindon Gwar lies a book called Lost Tales of the Elfinesse. On this island dwells a man called Déor, who is a wanderer and singer. Together with his wife, he went to sing for the Prince of Gwar. While there the town gets attacked by the Forodwaith, Men of the North, and both die. Their son, Ælfwine, survives and is taken to be a thrall.

Ælfwine grows out of childhood and longs for the sea. He manages to escape and travels west. He get to the coast and wants to leave with the elves. The magic of England is growing lesser since the elves are leaving. However, Ælfwine is not allowed to leave with them since he is a man. He lives with fishermen on the coast and learns of crafts of ship and sea. He journeys further than anyone there. Ælfheah joins him on all his ventures.

When he decides to go on a trip as far to the west possible, seven of the greatest mariners of England joins him. On their journey Ælfwine is swept overboard by a wave and he finds himself on an island. There he finds a cabin and an ancient man. He abides there for a while and the man treats him kindly and tells him what lies further west. The ancient man, calls himself “Man of the Sea”. He helps by retrieving a ship that passes the island. The crew is all dead. Ælfwine recognizes on of the men as Orm, a leader of the Forodwaith, who had him enthralled.

Both Ælfwine and the Man of the Sea leave in the ship and they journey west and meet a boatbuilding folk called the Ythlings (not elves or men), children of the waves. At their isle they meet two of the crew that traveled with Ælfwine and learn that they have all survived. The Ythlings build them a new ship and when they continue the journey west Bior joins them. The Ancient man leaves and plunges himself into the sea.

The crew voyaged the archipelagos of the west for many years and got through the magic isles. As they were giving up the hope to find the lands of the elves and thinks to return home, they see lights in the distance and hear elfin music. It comes from the Lonely Island. Ælfwine jumps into the sea as a wind start and caught the ship, drawing it back to the east. The others got back to Belerion from there they first started their long voyage. Upon return they had become aged men.

Characters to note:

  • Ælfwine the mariner – Variant of the character of Eriol. Englishman. Son of Déor and Eadgifu.
  • Déor the minstrel – Father of Ælfwine. Englishman. Wedded to Eadgifu.
  • Eadgifu – Wedded to Déor. Mother of Ælfwine.
  • Prince of Gwar – Englishman and friend of elves. Lived in Kortririon.
  • Ælfheah – Companion of Ælfwine on his journeys.
  • Orm – A leader of the Forodwaith who killed Déor and enthralled Ælfwine.
  • The Man of the Sea – This might possibly Ulmo or a vassal of Ulmo’s. He is revered by the Ythlings and can control aspects of the sea. Befriends Ælfwine.
  • Bior – An Ythling who join Ælfwine’s crew.

Features to note:

  • Forodwaith – Men of the North. They raid and attack the towns of England. Builds good ships. Clearly builds upon the Vikings of Denmark and Norway.
  • Ythlings – A shipbuilding folk that lives further west of England. They are rarely seen by men.
  • Harbour of the Lights of many hues – A harbour on the west of the Lonely Isle.

Places to note:

  • Belerion – Belerion would be the sea on the west of the Great Lands.
  • Archipelago of Harbourless Isles – An archpelago where there is a lot of Shipwrecks. This is where Ælfwine meets the Ancient man.
  • Lonely Island – Also called Tol Eressëa.
  • Kortirtion – Also called Mindon Gwar. A very old town in England. Likely to represent Warwick.
  • Magic Isles – Protective archipelago situated east of Tol Eressëa (in contratiction to earlier writings).
  • England – Also called Lúthien.
  • Eneadur – Isle of the Ythlings.

Comments

If I have interpreted the texts rightly, Ælfwine has been put into an Anglo-Saxon period of men. According to notes there had been seven invasions of England, which in this conception is not the same as Tol Eressëa. When Ælfwine arrives at Tol Eressëa he is called “Lúthien”, the man of Luthany. It is interesting to see that the namae Lúthien previously had been applied to the country of England before being used for the character Tinúviel.

As I wrote in the introduction, this text is likely the beginning of a compete rewriting of the Lost Tales. From what I can tell, this attempt was to really make the Lost Tales the mythology of England. However, since then any fan of Tolkien knows that the world of Tolkien became its own.

Throughout the Lost Tales the theme of the fading or diminuitive elves is present. I have not mentioned this in detail before, but as it have been written, it appears that the stature and visual presence of the elves are responsive to the presence of men. The more men there are and the more they spread, the elves get smalled and more invisible. At first they were of similar stature, but then the elves got smaller. This is interesting, because from the later works of Tolkien, including the stories about the third age; elves are of a majestic stature and often taller than men. Which contradicts there early works. It is one of many things that have changed or developed throughout the conception of Tolkien’s world.

Final comments on The Book of Lost Tales part one and two

From reading these two books I have learnt so much about Tolkien’s working process and how the ideas that turned into Silmarillion developed. It is intriguing to think that these narratives was such an early conception and I am astounded that some of the tales have remained so similar to later versions.

It is easy to notice that there are some contradictions and variations when one read the Lost Tales. The many versions and rewritings cause this and it is clear from the commentary that Tolkien himself did not always remember his own writing. For me, I think that I am more impressed now because I know how many attempts Tolkien made to get the stories right, rather than publishing the first drafts. The stronger ideas have prevailed and some weaker got erased. However, I feel that from reading these book, the concept of the gods is much more clear from what I remember of reading Silmarillion. I look forward to re-reading that book now with all this knowledge in the background!

Have you read this chapter or do you want to know more? Please comment and tell me what you think of this part or if you have something to ask! 

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2 thoughts on “II: The Book of Lost Tales part 2, VI: The History of Eriol or Ælfwine and the End of the Tales (2/2)

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