Lord of the Rings: Who was Eärendil? - The Fantasy Review

Lord of the Rings: Who was Eärendil?

Eärendil was one of the most important figures of the first age of Middle Earth. His actions directly changed the course of the world, and his impact was still widely felt during the third age and the events of the Lord of the Rings.

Lord of the Rings: Who was Eärendil?

Early Life

He was born in the hidden city of Gondolin. He was the son of Tuor, a man of the house of Hador, and Idril, an elf of the Noldor and daughter of Turgon, king of Gondolin. He was thus one of the half-elven, being descended from both men and elves. He was seven years old during the fall of Gondolin, during which he narrowly escaped death, and spent the rest of his youth in Arvernien.

Adult Life

Eärendil eventually became the leader of the people of Arvernien. He married Elwing, the half-elven granddaughter of Beren and Luthien, who possessed the Silmaril that Beren cut from the crown of Morgoth. They had two sons, Elrond (yes, the same Elrond that appears in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings) and Elros.

During his time in Arvernien, Eärendil built a ship named Vingilot, with the help of Cirdan the shipwright. He sailed around the seas west of Beleriand, looking for any signs of his parents, Tuor and Idril, who had sailed westward and were never seen in Middle Earth again.

While he was away on one of these voyages, the sons of Fëanor attacked Arvernien, seeking Elwing’s Silmaril. They killed much of Arvernien’s population and captured Elrond and Elros. Preferring to die than let the sons of Fëanor get the Silmaril, Elwing threw herself and it into the sea. However, Ulmo, the Vala who controlled the sea, intervened and bore Elwing out of the waves, delivering her to Eärendil on Vingilot.

Hearing of what happened in Arvernien, Eärendil decided to sail westwards to Valinor (despite mortals being banned from Valinor), seeking the intervention of the Valar on behalf of men and elves, who were suffering beyond measure due to Morgoth. There, they met Manwë, chief of the Valar. Manwë spared them from the punishment of death for coming to Valinor, because they had come on behalf of others, and not for themselves. He also decreed that they and their children, being half-elven, could choose whether to be counted among the men or the elves. Elros chose to be counted among the men, whereas Eärendil, Elwing and Elrond chose to be counted among the elves, thus gaining immortality.

However, Manwë decreed that Eärendil and Elwing could not return to Middle Earth. Instead, Eärendil and Elwing on Vingilot were sent to sail through the skies, and the light of Elwing’s Silmaril could still be seen as a Star.

Responding to Eärendil’s plea for intervention, the Valar sent a huge host of elves from Valinor to Middle Earth, starting the War of Wrath. During the war, Eärendil on Vingilot fought and killed the dragon Ancalagon the Black, whose falling body crushed the three volcanic peaks of Thangorodrim. 

The War of Wrath ended in victory for the elves and a crushing defeat for Morgoth, who was sent out of the world, unable to return. However, such was the violence of the war that the land of Beleriand was destroyed, and sank beneath the ocean.

Legacy

At the time of the Lord of the Rings, the light of the Silmaril could still be seen shining as a star as Eärendil and Elwing sailed through the skies. This light was captured by Galadriel in a phial, which was given to Frodo as a gift when the fellowship passed through Lothlorien.

Such was the legend of Eärendil, that Bilbo and Aragorn wrote a song of his story, which Bilbo sang as Frodo arrived in Rivendell.

Eärendil’s children, Elrond and Elros, also played significant roles in the history of Middle Earth. Elros founded the kingdom of Numenor, and thus is the ancestor of Elendil, Isildur, and ultimately Aragorn. Elrond has a significant role in the second age, as the herald of the elven king Gil-Galad in the wars against Sauron, and in the third age, as one of the white council, until his departure to Valinor at the beginning of the fourth age.

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