Ælfwine (originally named Ottor Wæfre, Wídlást, Éadwines sunu and by the Elves Eriol, Eldairon, and also, less commonly, Angol[1], Lúthien, and Ælfwine of England/Engaland/Ongulcynne) was a mariner (or perhaps mariners) who first appear in the early versions of Tolkien's mythology, providing via narration the main story-lines for both volumes of The Book of Lost Tales. He continued to be an editor and 'presenter' of material into many of the later First Age Histories and Annals as well as appearing in most of the books in The History of Middle-earth. He is reintroduced in the Beren and Lúthien novel.

He was the first to find the Straight Road and visit 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 where 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 (which also means Ælfwine/Elf-friend),[3] his ancient ancestor.[4]


Eriol or Ælfwine is 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 (which is the beginning of the Beren and Lúthien saga) is one of the stories that was told to Eriol by the Elves in the Lonely Isle, in this case by a maiden named Vëannë: there were many children present at these story-tellings.[5] He questions Veanne at different points through the story, and the end and she clarifies a few details.

From the stories Eriol heard, and other versions he translates them and adapts them into a compendium entitled the Quenta Noldorinwa (a version of The Silmarillion). He subtitled it ‘the brief history of the Noldoli or Gnomes’, drawn from the Book of Lost Tales which Eriol [Ælfwine] wrote.[6]

Developmental historyEdit

Ælfwine was a Man (or men) who lived between (c. 500, 900, 1001 A.D.) near Europe. The main development history is discussed in two parts in The Book of Lost Tales in The Cottage of Lost Play (chapter) and The History of Eriol or Ælfwine and the End of the Tales.

Another version of the history saw development as part of The Lost Road, and discussed in The Notion Club Papers, and other sources. These develop a basic concept of how he reached Tol Eressea 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 discussed in the chapter The Cottage of Lost Play (chapter) (part of the HoMe series), 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 vol 2 as well.

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

His father was named Eoh who 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.[7]

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).[8]

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 (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 Manwe, Tulkas, and other great Valar. His son grows up and becomes associated with Hengest and Horsa (his sons under Cwen), who invade England. Ælfwine's sons become known as the Engle who are keepers of the true mythological history of Britain.[9]

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 that would be lost in later writings).[10]

11th Century A.D.Edit

In the next few versions as discussed in Book of Lost Tales, vol 2, 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 Eressea 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 Eressea 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 Aelfwine 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, vol. 2, 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 for the new Lost Tales, called Ælfwine of England. There are two versions of this generation.

In this Ælfwine is an Englishmen (or an early pagan Englishmen who fled to the west).

This version of the story appears to put events closer closer to Middle-earth geography in which England is a land named Lúthien by the elves of the Northern lands upon the Great Sea, off the coast of Forodwaith (this is said to be a specific reference to the Vikings). Eldairon (Ælfwine) is the son of a prince Déor Elf-friend (Deor the Minstrel of Kortirion) and maiden Éadgifu.

In this version of the story England is what remains of an island that got shattered during the warfare of the Gods. The Isle of Ivren (Ireland) was the isle west of Tol Eressea, said to have been broken off during this warfare.

Ælfwine makes his way to Tol Eressea (possibly with others). He marries Naimi. 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 it somewhat full circle back to his original Idea in The Cottage of Lost Play (chapter).

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 (with a sort of time travel element and reincarnation involved, with the possibility of multiple "Elf-friends" through time). This ties more or less into the Pengolod 900 A.D history.

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.[11]

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 AElfwine for example.).

AElfwine 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. AElfwine was 45 during the Danish raids in the region of Severn which took place in 914.[12] AElfwine 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. AElfwine is ruined by the incursions of Danes. The events begin with the attack (c. 915) on Portloca (Porlock) and Waeced. AElfwine, 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. He says the Danes have more sense, as they are always pressing on. They go west, and pass round and go to Ireland, while the English sit like Wealas (Welsh/foreigner) 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. AElfwine has Christian objections to traveling there. Eadwine replies that the holy Brendan did so centuries ago, as did many others. They came back stating it was a paradise, and that they didn't want to leave it behind. Aelfwine doesn't believe Paradise can be reached by ship due to the dangerous and deeper waters between us and Garsecg (Great Sea). He mentions that the roads are bent: and that a person will circle back in the end. Thus there is no escape by ship.

Eadwine didn't believe Ælfwine, and hopes he isn't telling the truth. He believed their ancestors had won new lands by ship, and he refrences the story of Sceaf. In the end they leave with ten neighbours. They are pursued by Vikings off Lundy. The Wind takes them out to sea, and persists. Eadwine falls sick and begins to say odd things. AElfwine dreams too, of mountainous and seas. The Straight Road..... and water off the coast of the island of Azores? Eadwine becomes worse, such that AElfwine has to restrain him. They believe it a vision of delirium. It turns out to be the vision of Eressea and the sound of voices. They apparently are lifted into the air. AElfwine 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 (they settle there, and this leads to Finntan (a town named after a Nephew of Noah, or meeting the oldest man in the world?).

Another scrap of notes and poetry adds these details...

He sails out to sea (this is a reference to his leaving with Eadwine), but is driven to sea off the coast of Erin, passed into the deep waters of the west, and by some strange grace finds the 'straight road' of the Elvenfolk, and at last to the Isle of Eressea 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 Eressea. (This references the 'vsion' or dream he had in The Lost Road account, and its not clear if he actually ever reached Tol Eressea or only had visions of it before he was returned back to the East) The idea  that AElfwine never in fact reached the Lonely Isle is found in a version of  the old tale of AElwine of  England, where  he did  not leap  overboard but  returned east with his companions,

This would seem to indicate that this dream or 'vision' was so vivid that he really believed he had visited Eressea, and could remember the stories he read to record them and transcribe them into English.

However, following his return AElfwine 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 Eresssea for the first time, and never returned from there again.[13]

Still another version of the story as told in the Notion Club Papers begins with AElfwine 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 AElfwine sees the Book of Stories, begins writing down what he can remember. This leaves him with fleeting memories of certain stories the Fall of Numenor and others with Elendil and Voronwë escaping. They discover that AElfwine is the descendent of Elendil and Treowine is descendent of Veronwe of Numenore. Furthermore their future descendants in the 20th century (Alwin Arundel Lowdham and Wilfrid Trewin Jeremy) would have 'dreams' themselves calling back to these events.

This leads to history that explains another account of what really happened as discussed in War of the Jewels, and Letters of 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 Eressea the Lonely Isle.  He  brought  back copies  and translations  of many  works.[14] Much of the works originated from Pengolod; an Elvish sage in Tol Eressëa (or just Eressëa) from whom the mariner Aelfwine heard the legends that make up The Silmarillion.[15]

The Pengolod materials appear to be the version he was settling on at least in many of his later sources, and notes, and letters. References of it appear as late 1950s/1960s. Though Tolkien fluctuations between Ælfwine translating Pengolod's works (implying he has been long gone), or hearing stories from him directly, and sometimes both. In Teachings of Pengolod (1960) discusses one of the texts as an "...example  and  record  of the instruction of AElfwine 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 AElfwine 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 AElfwine by him.

The authentic  text begins:  Of Men,  AElfwine, 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 Akallabeth 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 EresseaEdit

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


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

Behind the scenesEdit

Although there is little evidence of this storyline 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 the later writings of Tolkien indicate that he didn't fully abandon 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 or at least parts of it from the tale of Ælfwine to one based around Bilbo Baggins' Translations from the Elvish books of "Elvish lore".

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

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 that kernel that in some distant 'future' Ælfwine also encountered story tellers and materials by other writers and released his own adaptations of the stories (as noted in Beren and Lúthien) allowing for the 'discrepancies' between accounts to arise.

Ælfwine is also given as the author 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 also referenced in the The Teachings of Pengolod. Perhaps his most important work he was intended to be part of was Akallabêth.

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 Hengist and Heorrenda also appears within other stories. This was a matter to which J.R.R. 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.[16] ...and Heorrenda as Beowulf's unknown poet.

It's not necessarily that Eriol life extended some 300-500 years, which each of the given dates (500, 900, 1th century) are simply revisions of moving the character and his background several centuries forward or back (as Tolkien was developing the character's history). However, its worth noting that in the Lost Tales Eriol does infact drink a draught (Limpë) which is said to extend his life to that much like the elves. So the idea that could have lived several hundred years is already tied into concepts Tolkien was developing.

Likewise certain elements of "Ing" (who comes to be known as Ingwë, sharing his name with the famous Elven king) and Eriol's own backstory seem to share elements of the early Ottor story (who also traveled to Tol Eressea, and lived there drinking of the Limpe), as such making it possible there were multiple AElwines.("Elf-friends") from different eras. Tolkien even touches on a kind of reincarnation or rebirth (in The Lost Road, and in Notion Club Papers) with the character that could link him to several eras. The Notion Club Papers has a section where characters are talking and saying there have been many great Aelfwines in history (which they mention both historical and fictional ones).

According to The History of the Hobbit the author surmises that J.R.R. Tolkien had briefly thought of making Bilbo Baggins replace the concept of AElfwine.

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 Eriol/ 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.


  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
  3. Letters 156, pg
  4. The Lost Road, pg
  5. Tolkien, J.R.R.. Beren and Lúthien (Kindle Locations 255-262). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  6. [[Beren and Luthien, pg
  7. Book of Lost Tales, part 1
  8. The History of the Hobbit, pg
  9. The Book of Lost Tales, VOl 2, pg
  10. The Book of Lost Tales, VOl 1, pg
  12. Suaron Defeated, pg
  13. Lost Road, pg
  14. Morgoth's ring, pg
  15. Letters 115 (c. 1948), pg
  16. Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Book of Lost Tales, Part One: Part One: 1 (History of Middle-Earth) (p. 13). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.