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While the subject of this article is based on official information, it was replaced or heavily revised in later versions of the legendarium.

Ælfwine (originally named Ottor Wæfre, Wídlást, Éadwines sunu, and by the Elves Eriol, Eldairon, and less commonly Angol [1], and Ælfwine of England/Engaland/Ongulcynne) was a mariner who first appeared in the earliest versions of J.R.R. Tolkien's mythology, providing via narration all main story-lines of The Book of Lost Tales Part One and Part Two. He continued to be an editor and 'presenter' of material into many of the later First Age histories and annals, and appears in most volumes of The History of Middle-earth. This character was reintroduced in the recent publication Beren and Lúthien.

In the complex of "precanonical" stories that contain him, Ælfwine was the first to find the Straight Road and visit the island of Tol Eressëa after many millennia. His character acts as a catalyst for the telling of the early history of Middle-earth during story-telling sessions in and around the Cottage of Lost Play, at which he was a guest of the elves Lindo, his wife Vairë, and Gilfanon on the Isle of Tol Eressëa.[2]

He shares his name with Elendil (whose name also means 'Elf-friend') [3].


Eriol, or Ælfwine, was originally an English mariner of the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ period who, sailing far westwards over the ocean, came at last to Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, where dwelt Elves who had departed from ‘the Great Lands’, afterwards ‘Middle-earth’. During his sojourn in Tol Eressëa he learned from them the true and ancient history of the Creation, of the Gods, of the Elves, and of England.

The Tale of Tinúviel (the earliest conception of the story of Beren and Lúthien) was told to Eriol by the Elves at the Lonely Isle by the Elf-maiden Vëannë.[4] He questions Veanne at different points through the story, and the end and she clarifies a few details.

Eriol is seen to translate stories he had heard and adapt them into a compendium entitled "The Quenta Noldorinwa" (equivalent to the later The Silmarillion). He subtitled it ‘the brief history of the Noldoli or Gnomes’, drawn from The Book of Lost Tales, the content of which Eriol was meant to have written.

Developmental historyEdit

In a summation of real-world mythologies, Ælfwine was a man who lived between (c. 500, 900, 1001 A.D.) near Europe. His main developmental history is discussed in the two divisions of The Book of Lost Tales.

Another version of the history saw development as part of The Lost Road, and is discussed in The Notion Club Papers and elsewhere. These develop a basic concept of how Ælfwine reached Tol Eressëa, or at least saw it in a vision. Other sources build on this and have him reach the Lonely Isle, where he is then associated with Pengolod history (and other authors' works in the sage's collection).

c. 500 A.D.Edit

The earliest account is associated with The Book of Lost Tales, and is given in the chapter "The Cottage of Lost Play", which acts as a prologue to the Lost Tales. More details of this early period and additional notes are included in The Book of Lost Tales Part Two as well.

In this version, Ælfwine is a Danish man who was originally named Ottor Wæfre. He lived in the lands East of the North Sea around c. 500 A.D., and was a mariner for most of his life. He lived in the period preceding the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain.

His father, named Eoh, was slain by his brother Beorn. Both were the sons of Heden, and like many heroes of Northern legend, he traced his ancestry to the god Wóden.

Ottor would come to settle on the island of Heligoland in the North sea, and he wedded a woman named Cwén; they had two sons 'named after his father' Hengest and Horsa 'to avenge Eoh', and around 500 A.D. they took part in the invasion of Britain.

He was said to be a son of Eärendel, born under his beam (beam means 'star-sign' or shining from the star Earendel). It states that if the beam from Eärendel falls on a child, the new-born becomes 'a child of Eärendel' and a wanderer.[5]

After the death of his wife, Cwen, Ottor left his young children, as the sea calls to him. Hengest and Horsa went to avenge Eoh and became great Chieftains; but Ottor set out to sea, and found Tol Eressëa (uncú þa holm, ‘the unknown island’)

In an early outline for what later became ‘The History of Eriol’, or ‘Ælfwine of England’, we are told that after the disaster of the Faring Forth and the final defeat and fading of the Elves, ‘Men come to Tol Eressëa [i.e., the isle of Great Britain] and also Orcs, Dwarves, Gongs, Trolls, etc.’ (BLT II. 283, italics mine). And while Eriol is himself mythical, Tolkien took pains to tie him to historical figures, making him the father of Hengest and Horsa, the Jutes who led the English invasion of Britain in A.D. 449– 455 (BLT II. 290; Finn and Hengest [1982] p. 70).[6]

He met elves and other fairy folk and from them learned stories of ancient times. he was given the names Ælfwine (Elf-friend') and Eriol ('One Who Dreams Alone'), and he adopted the name Angol, and that he was named by the Gnomes (Noldor) 'after the regions of his home' (the region Angol is also known as Eriollo to the Noldor, and relates to the Danish peninsula between Flensburg fjord and the river Schei, south of the modern Danish Frontier, no great distance from the island of Heligoland).

Ælfwine marries Naimi (or Éadgifu), niece of Vairë. They have a son named Heorrenda. Eriol tells stories of interest to the elves including the fairies of Wóden, Þunor, Tíw, etc. The elves identify them with Manwë, Tulkas, and other great Valar. His son grows up and becomes associated with Hengest and Horsa, who invade England. Ælfwine's sons become known as the Engle who are keepers of the true mythological history of Britain.

This took place roughly in the time after the Fall of Gondolin and the march of the Elves of Kôr into the Great Lands for the defeat of Melko, when the Elves who had taken part in it had returned over the sea to dwell in Tol Eressëa; but before the time of the ‘Faring Forth’ and the removal of Tol Eressëa to the geographical position of England (an idea disbanded in later writings).

11th century A.D.Edit

In the next few versions, as discussed in The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, he becomes an Englishman of the Anglo-Saxon period who dwelt in the South-west (of England) in Wessex in the 11th century.

He is said to be the kin of Ing, King of Luthany. The Ingwaiwar ('sons of Ing') (Inguaeones) were the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain (and connected to Ingwë) and his ancestors, who descended from Ermon and Elmir, the first Men.

During his childhood he is said to be a great lover of the elves, especially of the shoreland Elves that still lived in Luthany. He always sought for Tol Eressëa where the fairies were said to have retired. He has learned the ancient tongues of English and Elfin speeches. His mother and father were slain by sea-pirates and he was made captive. He escapes, and driven westward by Normans, he meets the Ancient Mariner (Ulmo), who teaches him where to find Tol Eressëa or seo unwemmede íeg), "whither most of the unfaded Elves have retired from noise, war, and clamour of Men".

Sailing from England out into the Atlantic Ocean, he passes the Magic Islands, and survives a shipwreck. He wakes up on the Lonely Island. It is said that he loved the sign of Orion, and made the sign, hence the fairies called him Lúthien (Wanderer), or (man of Luthany). Luthany is the name the elves gave his homeland, meaning 'friend' and 'friendship' Eldaros or Ælfhâm).

Luthien Ælfwine drinks of the Limpë (much like Ing before him), but thirsted for his home, and went back to Luthany. He then thirsted unquenchably for the Elves, and went back to Tavrobel the Old and dwelt at the House of the Hundred Chimneys (where grows still the child of the child of the Pine of Balawryn) where he wrote the Golden Book: The Book of Lost Tales and the History of the Elves of Luthany: The Golden Book of Tavrobel. The Parma Kuluinen ‘the Golden Book—the collected book of legends, especially of Ing and Eärendel’.

Viking times (c. 500 - 1100 A.D.)Edit

At one point as discussed in The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, Tolkien appears to have been restarting the Lost Tales from scratch, and he wrote notes and a couple of short drafts for a new prologue to them, called "Ælfwine of England". Two versions were made of this.

This version of the story appears to put events closer closer to Middle-earth geography, in which England is a land in fact named "Lúthien" by the elves of the Northern lands upon the Great Sea, off the coast of Forodwaith. Eldairon (Ælfwine) is the son of a prince Déor Elf-friend (Deor the Minstrel of Kortirion) and maiden Éadgifu. The land of England is what remains of an island formerly shattered in prior warfare of the Gods. The Isle of Ivren (Ireland) was the isle west of Tol Eressëa, said to have been broken off during the warfare.

Ælfwine makes his way to Tol Eressëa (possibly with others). He marries Naimi, and they have a son named Heorrenda. His son grows up and becomes associated with Hengest and Horsa who invade England. Heorrenda of Tavrobel goes on to become a poet and writer of Beowulf due to his association with his brother Hengest (Tolkien actually linked Beowulf to Heorrenda during his lectures on the subject at Oxford). Ælfwine's sons become known as the Engle who are keepers of the true mythological history of Britain.

This brings the story back full-circle to the original idea in "The Cottage of Lost Play".

900-918 A.D. (10th century) Edit

The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers suggest yet another background. In this version, Ælfwine is the son of Eadwane, or Eadwane is the son of Ælfwine. The story concerns the idea of 'preincarnation': there are a series of occurrences throughout time of father and son duos sharing names that are etymologically connected with Amandil ('Bliss-friend') and Elendil ('Elf-friend'). These include Eädwine-Ælfwine of Anglo-Saxon legend, Audoin-Alboin of Lombardic, through to "the traditions of the North Sea concerning the coming of corn and culture heroes, ancestors of kingly lines, in boats". In the story the present pair—Edwin and Elwin—travel back through the different phases of the history of their names, eventually reaching the time of Amandil and Elendil and the Akallabêth or "Atalantie" ('Downfall' in Númenórean and Quenya respectively) of Númenor.[7]

There is some shared overlap between The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers. Some of this history is discussed below, though certain characters are switched: Eadwine as father, or son of Ælfwine for example.

Ælfwine was born in 869 A.D. as the grandson of Oswine, and son of Eadwine (aka Eadwine, Oswine's son). He was born just before the death of Saint Edmund. When he was a child his father Eadwine had taken his ship, Earendel, out beyond the deep sea, and  never returned. Ælfwine was 45 during the Danish raids in the region of Severn which took place in 914. Ælfwine named his own son Eadwine, and his wife was from Cornwall.

Ælfwine and Eadwine live in the time of Edward the Elder, in North Somerset. Ælfwine is ruined by the incursions of Danes. The events begin with the attack (c. 915) on Portloca (Porlock) and Waeced. Ælfwine, a seaman of England, waits for Eadwine's return at night. There is a conversation between Ælfwine and Eadwine. Eadwine is sick of of the battle, and says that the Danes have more sense, as they are always pressing on. They go west, and pass round to Ireland, while the English sit "like Wealas" (referring to the Welsh, who were foreigners) waiting to be made into slaves. Eadwine discusses strange tales he heard from Ireland. There is a story of a land in the north-west filled with ice, but fit for men to dwell. It is there that "holy hermits" have been driven out by Norsemen. Ælfwine has Christian objections to traveling to this place, but Eadwine replies that the holy Brendan did so centuries ago, as did many others. They came back stating it was a paradise, unwilling to have left it behind. Ælfwine doesn't believe Paradise can be reached by ship due to the dangerous and deeper waters between them and Garsecg ('Great Sea'). He mentions that the roads are bent: and that a person will circle back in the end, wherefore there can be no escape by ship.

Eadwine didn't believe Ælfwine, hoping he was lying. He believed their ancestors had won new lands by ship, and he references the story of Sceaf. In the end they leave with ten neighbours, and are pursued by Vikings off of Lundy. The wind takes them out to sea, and persists. Eadwine falls sick and begins to say odd things. Ælfwine dreams too, of mountainous and seas. The Straight Road and water off the coast of the island of Azores? Eadwine becomes worse, such that Ælfwine has to restrain him. They believe it a vision of delirium; it turns out to be the vision of Eressëa and the sound of voices. They apparently are lifted into the air. Ælfwine resigns himself believing they are going to die, but prays for Eadwine. He feels a sensation of falling, and they come down landing back in the sea, and the west wind blows them back. They end up Landing in Ireland.

Another scrap of notes and poetry adds these details: Ælfwine sails out to sea (referring to his departure with Eadwine), but is driven off the coast of Erin, passes into the deep waters of the west, and by some strange grace finds the 'straight road' of the Elvenfolk. This takes him at last to the Isle of Eressëa in Elvenhome. Others, however, believe he only received a dream while hungry and dehydrated, and in a trance was granted a vision of the isle as it has once been, and a west wind drove him back to Middle-earth. There are no other stories of anyone reported seeing Eressëa. (This references the 'vision' or dream he had in the The Lost Road account, and it is unclear if he actually ever reached Tol Eressëa, or only had visions of it before returning back to the East.) The idea that Ælfwine never in fact reached the island is found in a version of the old tale of Ælfwine of England, in which he did not leap overboard but returned east with his companions. This would seem to indicate that his said 'vision' was so vivid that he really believed he had visited Eressëa, and could remember the stories he read to record them and transcribe them into English.

However, following his return, Ælfwine was never again able to rest for long on land, and sailed the western seas until his death. Some say that his ship was wrecked upon the west shores of Erin and there his body lies; others say that at the end of his life he went forth alone into the deeps again and never returned. It is at this point he likely finally 'returned' to or made it to Eressëa for the first time, and never returned from there again.

Yet another version of the story, as told in The Notion Club Papers, begins with Ælfwine and another companion, Treowine.

The story discusses their journey on the seas with other cailorsompanions. and coming to the 'straight road' tossed over the island briefly Ælfwine sees the Book of Stories, begins writing down what he can remember. This leaves him with fleeting memories of certain stories the Fall of Númenor and others with Elendil and Voronwë escaping. They discover that Ælfwine is the descendant of Elendil and Treowine is descendant of Veronwe of Numenore. Furthermore their future descendants in the 20th century (Alwin Arundel Lowdham and Wilfrid Trewin Jeremy) would have 'dreams' of these past events.

This leads to history that explains another account of what really happened, as discussed both in The War of the Jewels and The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (c. 1948):

Ælfwine of England in (c. 900 A.D.), called by the Elves Eriol, was blown off-course west from Ireland, eventually came upon the 'Straight Road' and found Tol Eressëa the Lonely Isle. He brought back copies and translations of many works.[8] Much of the works originated from Pengolod; an Elvish sage in Tol Eressëa (or just Eressëa) from whom the mariner Ælfwine heard the legends that make up The Silmarillion.[9]

The Pengolod materials appear to be the version he was settling on, as can be inferred in many of his later sources, and notes and letters. References of it appear as late 1950s/1960s. However, Tolkien fluctuated between Ælfwine translating Pengolod's works (implying he has been long gone) to hearing stories from him directly. "Teachings of Pengolod" (1960) discusses one of the texts as an "...example and record  of the instruction of Ælfwine the Mariner by Pengolod the Wise of Gondolin."

According to The Peoples of Middle-earth, perhaps one of the final of these writings (if not the final writing in Ælfwine is addressed) was likely the Akallabêth which was written in the mid- to late-1960s.

Christopher Tolkien notes that in the original version (which he published in The Silmarillion), that the work is written in the voice of Pengolod, and that the story was originally addressed to Ælfwine by him. The authentic text begins: "Of Men, Ælfwine, it is said by the Eldar that they came into the world in the  time of  the Shadow of Morgoth ..."

He admits that this removal made the whole source lose its anchorage in Eldarin lore, and led him to make excessive vigilance incorrect changes to altar the end of the paragraph (perhaps editorial work that was not his to properly make, as he went against his father's original intent). Christopher also points out the last paragraph of the Akallabêth as published in The Silmarillion, still contains indirect references to AElfwane and other 'future mariners, which he never chose to alter or remove.

Location of Tol EressëaEdit

Depending on the versions of the story Eriol either travels west from Europe to reach the Lonely Island which he remains at, and in time becomes England. Otherwise, he traveled from England to reach the distant island near Valinor.


The name Ælfwine simply means "Elf-friend", and is the Old English equivalent of Elendil. The name Alvin is a modern descendant, which is possibly intended as a cognate of Alboin.[2]


Although there is little evidence of the final story-line of Ælfwine in the published version of The Silmarillion (in some cases due to Christopher Tolkien or Guy Gavriel Kay's tampering of the original text), some of Tolkien's later writings indicate that he had not fully abandoned the idea. However, although Ælfwine is still referred to in some post-Lord of the Rings writings, Tolkien ultimately changed the intended framework of The Silmarillion from the tale of Ælfwine to one based around Bilbo Baggins' Translations from the Elvish.

However, as noted above, this was not the case of the Akallabêth, which was never intended to be part of The Silmarillion but instead to be its own separate work, told in the voice of Pengolod to Ælfwine, and the last paragraph still contains a reference to Ælfwine's voyages that was not removed.

Role as an authorEdit

In addition, the idea of various stories coming from different 'voices' Hobbits, Elves, Man, and others throughout history is not completely dropped in any of the sources, leaving an impression that in the distant 'future' Ælfwine also encountered story-tellers and materials by other writers, and released his own adaptations of them (as noted in Beren and Lúthien) allowing for the 'discrepancies' between accounts to arise.

Ælfwine is also attributed authorship of the various translations in Old English that appear in The History of Middle-earth series. A minor discrepancy is that whereas Ælfwine is described as "hailing from the north-west of England", his Old English texts are in the Mercian dialect, which was Tolkien's favourite.[2] He is also referenced in the The Teachings of Pengolod.

Ælfwine was intended to be the introductory voice adapting Middle-earth, and a number of other legends into his greater 'new mythology for England' concept. Hence his sons Hengest and Heorrenda also appear in other stories. This was a matter to which Tolkien gave much time and thought; he lectured on it at Oxford and developed certain original theories, especially in connection with the appearance of Hengest in Beowulf , and of Heorrenda as Beowulf's unknown poet.

In The History of the Hobbit, John D. Rateliff surmises that Tolkien had briefly thought of making Bilbo Baggins replace the concept of Ælfwine.

That Bladorthin’s chief occupation lay in the organizing and expediting of adventures seems indicated not just by his role here but by Bilbo’s recollection: ‘dear me! – not the Bladorthin who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the blue for mad adventures, everything from climbing trees to stowing away aboard the ships that sail to the Other Side’... He does not, in the course of this book, ever reach the Other Side (i.e., Valinor), 20 although eventually, in the sequel, Bilbo ends his career by undertaking just such a voyage. At one point, early on in the composition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien even considered making the main focus of that story Bilbo’s voyage into the West:
. . . Elrond tells him of an island. Britain? Far west where the Elves still reign. Journey to perilous isle. (HME VI. 41)
– i.e., Tol Eressëa or Elvenhome. Had this story-idea been carried out, the hobbit-hero might well have replaced Ælfwine from the Lost Tales as the travelling adventurer who journeys to the Lonely Isle that later became Britain and hears there the tales that eventually make up The Silmarillion. There is no reason to think Tolkien intended this when he drafted this passage in The Hobbit – indeed, it is clear he did not; rather, the possibilities implicit within it became one of the ‘loose ends’ he picked up on and ultimately addressed in the second book.
Eriol the wanderer hears all the stories that together make up the ‘Lost Tales’, just as much later it is in Elrond’s House (not yet named ‘Rivendell’) 1 that Bilbo in his retirement collected the stories that made up The Silmarillion (cf. LotR. 26– 7 & 1023).
...On the whole, dreams play a less important part in The Hobbit than in many of Tolkien’s other works, but their very presence marks the recurrence of a favorite Tolkienian motif and thus helps link the story to other works that share this element, from The Book of Lost Tales and its Cottage of Lost Play, a place most men can only reach via ‘the Path of Dreams’ (BLT I. 18), through The Lost Road (where the time-travel begins while the main character is dreaming) and The Notion Club Papers (which devotes most of Part I to a discussion of lucid dreaming) to The Lord of the Rings itself. More importantly, it places Bilbo firmly in the tradition of Tolkien’s dreamers, alongside Eriol (whose name means ‘One who dreams alone’ – BLT I. 14) and Ælfwine, Alboin and Audoin Errol, Michael Ramer and Arry Lowdham, Faramir, and Frodo Baggins.

Translations around the worldEdit

Foreign Language Translated name
Esperanto Aelfwine
Russian Эльфвин


  1. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. I: The Book of Lost Tales, chapter I: "The Cottage of Lost Play", Commentary, pg. 24
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The History of Middle-earth, Vol. I: The Book of Lost Tales Part One
  3. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 156
  4. Tolkien, J.R.R.. Beren and Lúthien (Kindle Locations 255-262). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  5. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. I: The Book of Lost Tales Part One
  6. The History of the Hobbit
  8. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. X: Morgoth's Ring
  9. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 115 (c. 1948)