Earendil Was a Mariner and Elves are Still Dicks

After Frodo met up with Bilbo in Rivendell, they had a little chat and he discovered that Strider and Bilbo were friends. Not only that, we were introduced to the term “Dunadan,” which means Numenorean. We also see that there might be something of a romance between Strider and Arwen.

But the most interesting thing is Bilbo’s poem! He apparently wrote it nearly on the spot and in his head. He needed just a bit of help from Strider to complete it. So the two of them sat down and pounded it out.

Many people skip over or at most skim the poems and songs in Lord of the Rings. This is incredibly unfortunate, because many of them are just fun. Take this one, the Earendillinwe, for example.

Earendil was a mariner
that tarried in Arvernien;
he built a boat of timber felled
in Nimbrethil to journey in

(you should read the rest of it, either in the book or here)

The first thing I noticed about the poem was the crazy rhyme scheme. Now, I’ve written a ridiculous amount of poetry in my days, but mostly it was pretty free of form/meter/rhyme, etc. Here’s an example.

Having tried my hand at meter once or twice, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. This… well, this is just ridiculous. Some of the rhymes are trisyllabic (well, nearly so – there’s a lot of slant-rhyming going on here). There’s an intricate internal rhyme structure. Honestly, I don’t know much about this sort of thing, so I won’t bore you with more words like “trisyllabic.”

The poem is about Earendil the mariner. I wrote a bit about him here. In the poem, he builds a ship and sails in search of Valinor. He had left his wife, Elwing, behind, but she found her way to him on the sea (there’s a bunch more to that story). She carried with her the Silmaril, which she crowned him with. Continuing on, he finally reached Valinor, where he stayed for a time. Them poem really doesn’t go into why he went to Valinor, but it tells that the Valar built him a new ship and the Silmaril was her light.

But this was no ordinary ship. It was to take him “behind the Sun and light of Moon.” Earendil, with the light of the Silmaril would become “the Flammifer of Westernesse” – a star. Technically, Venus, the star by which the Edain followed to Numenor, where they became Numenoreans.

Bilbo “chanted” this poem in the Hall of Fire before the assembled Elves. The point had been for them to guess which lines were his and which were Aragorn’s. They asked to hear it again, supposedly because they couldn’t tell which lines were whose.

“‘It is not easy for us to tell the difference between two mortals,’ said the Elf.”

But Bilbo calls him on it: “If you can’t distinguish between a Man and a Hobbit, your judgment is poorer than I imagined.”

This is the cover to the Chinese edition of the Silmarillion. Lucky bastards.

This is the cover to the Chinese edition of the Silmarillion. Lucky bastards.

And I think Bilbo was right. The Elves could totally tell the difference. They were, as they often were, being dicks. I’ve said it before, many times, Elves are dicks. It’s their nature.

“‘Maybe. To sheep other sheep no doubt appear different,’ laughed Lindir. ‘Or to shepherds. But Mortals have not been our study. We have other business.'”

Like hell. First, comparing Men and Hobbits to sheep was no accident. And come on, the Silmarillion (written by Elves for Elves) is full of stories about Men – Beren, Huron, Turin, Beor, and more!

Now, sure, maybe they were taking the piss out of Bilbo for having the chutzpah to tell the Earendil story in Rivendell. Earendil was Elrond’s father, and it was Elros, Elrond’s brother, who followed the Star of Earendil to Numenor. Maybe a slightly touchy subject.

So obviously, if the Elves wanted to hear it again, they must have liked it. But they apparently couldn’t tell Bilbo that (because they’re dicks), so they made up the (racist) story of not being able to tell mortals apart. In an earlier draft, in response to Bilbo saying that Men and Hobbits were “as different as peas and apples,” The dickish Elves replied : “No! – little peas and large peas!” And: “Their languages all taste the same to us, anyway.”

What dickishness even from the rough drafts!

A Few Notes
Oh, if you were wondering, or couldn’t remember, Aragorn added only one phrase to the poem – one about a “green stone,” which was probably: “upon his breast an emerald,” since no other green stone appears in the poem.

This poem was actually based on an earlier poem that’s even more intricate. I’ll dip into that and a bit of the history tomorrow, I hope.

Camera: Tru-View (Diana Clone, circa 1960) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (x-pro)

Camera: Tru-View (Diana Clone, circa 1960) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (x-pro)

About the Photo
Well, I don’t really have a lot of watery photos, since I mostly shoot in the desert. Nevermind that there’s salt water only a few miles away from me…. This was taken on “Banks Lake,” which is actually the Columbia River flooded over by Grand Coulee Dam.


  • Day 113
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 566 (112 from Rivendell)
  • 355 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,213 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Seventh night out from Rivendell. Yule 1 – Yule 2, 3018-9 TA. (map)

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15 thoughts on “Earendil Was a Mariner and Elves are Still Dicks

  1. I love your analysis of Tolkien, genius sheer genius. It’s been over thirty years since I’ve read it and every post flashes me back in time to when it absorbed me totally . I know many people who have read Tolkien, I know few nowadays who really READ Tolkien. Keep up the good work I look forward to your post.

    • Thank you so much! Honestly, I just picked it up a couple of years ago after pretty well all of my friends demanded that I do so (for the past 20 years). I do my best to really dig into it.

  2. Ah, the Elves. What characters they are. : ) Glad to meet another huge Tolkien fan! (And one who isn’t afraid to say “trisyllabic.”)
    It figures that Aragorn, who would soon become known as “Elfstone,” would add the part about the “green stone” to the poem. Can’t wait to read more of your analysis!

    • Thanks!

      So would that make the green stone left on the bridge by Glorfindel foreshadowing of a foreshadowing?

      Because of how I’m doing this project, I tend to miss a lot of the foreshadowing, at least until we come back round to it.

      • Could be. Could also be that he already knew that he would one day become known as Elessar (Elfstone). I can’t remember for sure how early it appears, but throughout LOTR, he refers to himself as Elessar. Perhaps it’s a reference that the Elves of Rivendell would have understood.

        • I believe he knew that he was to be king (if all went well enough), because that was Elrond’s stipulation for Arwen’s marriage. As for when he first called himself that after Galadriel called him that at Lorien when she gave him the emerald: ‘This stone I gave to Celebrían my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the House of Elendil!’

          But then, the Aragon-is-awesome moment comes when they meet the Riders:
          “Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Andúril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. ‘Elendil!’ he cried. ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!’”

          Another one of the drawbacks of this project is that since I’m following Frodo, much of this stuff will be neglected. I’m trying to figure out a way to include it, but we’ll see.

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