- "Fela bið on Westwegum werum uncúðra,
wundra and wihta, wlitescéne land,
eardgeard ælfa and ésa bliss.
Lýt ǽnig wát hwylc his langoð síe
þám þe eftsíðes eldo getwǽfeð."
- ― Þus cwæð Ælfwine Wídlást Éadwines sunu
Ælfwine son of Éadwine, son of Óswine was born around 869 AD. An Anglo-Saxon, living in Britain during the 10th century. When Ælfwine was nine years old, his father sailed off with his ship Éarendel and never returned.
Because of the attacks of the Danes, his mother fled with him from Somerset, where they lived, to the West Wales, where she had her kindred.
Having grown up to full manhood and learned the Welsh language and much sea-craft he returned to Somerset to serve the King Eadweard's thegn Odda in the wars. In the service of Odda he sailed and visited both Wales and Ireland many times. On his journeys he always sought tales of the sea, and thus came to hear the Irish legends of Maelduin and Saint Brendan, who both set out to sea, and came to "many islands in succession, where they encountered marvel upon marvel". He heard also of a great land in the west which had been cast down. The survivors of the disaster had settled on Ireland and dwindled there; and the successors of these men all had the sea-longing in their blood, so that many sailed off west and never returned. Ælfwine thought he might be one of these descendants.
Around the year 915, in autumn, the Danes attacked Porlock. They were at first driven off and Ælfwine's company managed to capture a Danish "cnearr" at night. At dawn Ælfwine told to his closest friend, Tréowine, he intended to sail off westward, perhaps to the country of the legendary king Sheaf. Tréowine agreed to accompany him at least as far as to Ireland. They got two other companions: Ceola of Somerset and Geraint of West Wales.
Many days after they passed Ireland the voyagers were exhausted. A "dreamlike death" seemed to come over them, and soon they passed out. The last that is known of the journey is that Tréowine saw the world plunge down under them, while sailing the Straight Road.
When Ælfwine woke up, he found himself lying on a beach of Tol Eressëa and a group of Elves pulling up his ship on the shore. He came to Tavrobel, where lived Pengolodh who told him the Ainulindalë, and he was shown the Lammas, the Quenta Silmarillion, the Golden Book, the Narn i Chîn Húrin, and the Annals of Aman and Beleriand.
Ælfwine learned much of this lore. When he returned to England, he translated the Silmarillion, the Annals and the Narn into Old English, giving explanations on the many names.
Other versions of the Legendarium
Eriol has been a background figure in Tolkien's legendarium, being a frame character to whom many texts are fictionally attributed. Ælfwine is a later version of a figure Tolkien first named as Ottor Wǽfre in The Book of Lost Tales. Ælfwine/Eriol acquired lore from the Elves of Eressea, or translated existing Elvish works into Old English (a minor discrepancy is that whereas Ælfwine is described as hailing from the north-west of England, his texts are in the Mercian dialect, which was Tolkien's favourite).
As a literary device, Ælfwine/Eriol actually serves an in-universe explanation about the origin of the legendarium. On the other hand, The Lord of the Rings suggests that Bilbo Baggins is the originator of the narratives, through his Red Book and his Translations from the Elvish which he compiled in Rivendell (which supposedly included Elvish lore including the Ainulindale and the Quenta Silmarillion).
Still, in some of the later writings of Tolkien written after The Lord of the Rings, Ælfwine is still referred and it is hinted that he didn't fully abandon the idea of Ælfwine's translations, since the two frameworks (Red Book and Ælfwine) are not mutually exclusive.
Christopher Tolkien decided to remove all references of Ælfwine while compiling The Silmarillion since it could make the work too complex. However traces of Ælfwine's 'translations' remain, such as the archaic English 'translations' "Mickleburg" and "Hollowbold". The latest version of the Akallabêth also contained references to Ælfwine, and C. Tolkien had to edit it somewhat in order to fit it in The Silmarillion.
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, p. 44
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "The History of Eriol or Ælfwine and the End of the Tales"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Lhammas"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Quenta Silmarillion"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: II. Ælfwine and Dírhaval"