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|First appearance||The Book of Lost Tales|
|Created by||J.R.R. Tolkien|
Ælfwine is a fictional character found in various early versions of J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. Tolkien envisaged Ælfwine as an Anglo-Saxon who visited and befriended the elves and acted as the source of later mythology. Thus, Ælfwine is given as the author of the various translations in Old English that appear in The History of Middle-earth Series.
The unfinished The Lost Road was intended as a tale of "time travel" where descendants of Ælfwine experience memories or visions of their ancestors, connecting the present time with the mythological, back to the fall of Númenor (cf. Atlantis).
In the continuity of The Book of Lost Tales, the character's real name was Ottor Wǽfre (called by the Elves Eriol). He set out from what is today called Heligoland on a voyage with a small crew but was the lone survivor after his ship crashed upon the rocks near an island. The island was inhabited by an old man who gave him directions to Eressëa. After he found the island the elves hosted him in the Cottage of Lost Play and narrated their tales to him. He afterwards learned from the Elves that the old man he met was actually "Ylmir". He was taught most of the tales by the old Elf named Rúmil who is the lore master living on Eressëa. Eriol became more and more unhappy as a man and yearned constantly to be an Elf. He eventually finds out that he can become an elf with a drink of Limpë which he is denied by the leader of Kortirion (Meril-i-Turinqi, great-granddaughter of Ingwë) on multiple occasions.
In these early versions Tol Eressea is seen as island of Britain near a smaller island of Ivenry (Ireland). He earned the name AElfwine from the elves he stayed with, married a second wife (his first wife was the mother of Finn and Hengest), who bore him a third son, Heorrenda, a great poet of half-Elven descent who would later go onto be the writer of Beowulf according to Tolkien's lectures (most of Ottor's relatives share names with Norse historical or mythological connections).
The character "Ælfwine" of the later continuity was not invented until sometime after the writing of "The Book of Lost Tales".
Ælfwine in the later continuity
There is no such framework in the published version of The Silmarillion (though in some cases Christopher Tolkien or Guy Gavriel Kay edited out references to external narrator 'voices' such as in the Akallabêth which was written in mid-late 1960s).
However, the later writings of Tolkien indicate that he didn't fully abandon the idea of a framework akin to the Ælfwine-tradition, far into the latter years of his life. There is some evidence that, even after the Red Book concept was introduced, Ælfwine continued to have some role in the transition of The Silmarillion and other writings from Bilbo's translations into Modern English. For example, the Narn i Hîn Húrin, which Christopher Tolkien dates to the period after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, has this introductory note: "Here begins that tale which Ǽlfwine made from the Húrinien."
J.R.R. never fully dropped the idea of multiple 'voices' (such as Rumil, Pengolodh, Dírhavel) collecting the stories of both Mannish and Elvin sources over the millennia of the world's history. According to Christopher Tolkien, the Akallabêth, which was written in the voice of Pengolodh, 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 in the History of Middle-earth series that this removal made the whole source lose its anchorage in Eldarin lore, and led him to make incorrect changes to 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 Ælfwine and other 'future mariners', which he never chose to alter or remove.
This later Ælfwine (originally named Eldairon in some versions, son of Dior Elf-Friend) was from England, and traveled 'west' to reach the Straight Road where he either visited the Lonely Island or only saw its great book from a distance, or 'dreamed' about the Outer Lands. He was born in either the 10th or 11th century (Tolkien settled in around 918 A.D. in his later writings) and had some connections to English royalty in some versions. His father and/or son is named Eadine, and his son may have gone on the journey west with him.