by Anthony Appleyard
Gwaith-i-Phethdain presents a text by Anthony Appleyard about Ælfwine of England, a main character of early J.R.R. Tolkien tales about Eldamar and a great voyage of an Anglo-Saxon hero to Tol Eressëa (see The Book of Lost Tales, Part I and II and Sauron Defeated by J.R.R. Tolkien being a part of the History of Middle-earth edited by Christopher Tolkien. Anthony Appleyard 'reconstructs' here a very interesting Avarin Elvish dialect of his own invention. See its examples.
I do not know whether Tolkien's ventures into writing in Anglo-Saxon makes Anglo-Saxon classifiable as a 'Tolkien language', but here goes, at some venturesomeness at again letting technology into a Tolkien story. I welcome all grammar and vocabulary corrections to my Anglo-Saxon. The apparent Quenya y > Anglo-Saxon g is not a phonetic change but a feature of Anglo-Saxon spelling of the time.
The Anglo-Saxon sailor Æelfwine son of Eadwine son of Oswine, alias Eriol, was one of the first elements of Tolkien's mythos: while looking for remote islands in the Atlantic he found a way to Eressea and was allowed to stay there a while. There he learned much old history of Middle Earth and brought it back to England for it to finally come down to Tolkien.
Sauron Defeated (SD) has most of the information about him. He was born in 869 AD, and was 9 when his father Eadwine vanished at sea aged over 50 in 878 AD (the year King Alfred the Great retreated to Athelney). Eadwine had sailed far, and also knew of Eressëa, either personally or from old tales.
In The Notion Club Papers in SD one of the Notion Club's members was Alwin ('Arry') Arundel Lowdham, born in 1938. His father Edwin had sailed alone much in the North Atlantic. Somewhere he had seen and copied an old document in Anglo-Saxon written in tengwar, but had not revealed it; he disappeared at sea in June 1947 during a remote voyage. Other ancient matter including a Quenya/Adunaic bilingual text and two Anglo-Saxon poems were revealed to some of the club's members by paranormal routes, some during the club's seance-like proceedings which culminated in the violent storm of 12 June 1987, as if to remind Men that the Lords of the West still existed and had their powers.
Few Anglo-Saxons outside the Church were literate; if Ælfwine or Eadwine wrote the original of the document, he likely never learned to read and write in England until after his voyage, and when he first became literate it was in tengwar far over the sea. As to how Edwin Lowdham saw the original, it seems as likely that he also had a paranormal vision of it as that he also was one of the few Men ever to be allowed to land on Eressea. These are the two Anglo-Saxon poems:
(1) [SD p. 244]
Þús cwædhð Ælfwine Wídlást Éadwines sunu:
Fela bið on Westwegum werum uncúðra
wundra and wihta, wlitescéne land,
eardgeard ælfa and ésa bliss.
Lyt ænig wát hwylc his langoð síe
þe eftsíðes eldo getwæfeð.
"Thus said Ælfwine the far-travelled, son of Eadwine: / Many are on the west-ways to men unknown / wonders and strange beings, a land fair to look on, / dwelling-land of Elves and bliss of the Gods. / Little knows anyone what longing is his / whom old age cuts off from return.".
[This seems to be a new composition by Tolkien.]
(2) [SD p. 272]
Monaþ módes lust mid mereflóde
forþ tó féran, þæt ic feorr heonan
ofer gársecges grimme holmas
Ælfwina eard út geséce.
Nis me tó hearpan hyge ne tó hringþege,
ne tó wífe wynn, ne tó worulde hyht,
ne ymb ówiht elles, nefne ymb ýða gewealc.
"[My] heart's desire urges [me] with the sea-flood / forth to fare, so that I far from here over the great ocean's grim 'islands' (= big waves) / the land of the Elf-friends out would seek. Not is [satisfying] to me thought of harp, nor ring-giving, / nor pleasure of a woman, nor the call of the world, / nor anything else, except the rolling of the waves.". [Tolkien modified this from bits of the old Anglo-Saxon poem "The Seafarer". The italics mark his alterations from the original.]
The ut = 'out' seems to be not as in English 'seek out', but to mean 'out far away from all usual lands and sea areas'. Ælfwine seems to have longed very deeply to get back to Eressea. What did he see there? Did he ever get back there, or did he leave his bones in England or in the deep sea still longing for the return? Did Eadwine, or either of the Lowdhams over a thousand years later, ever get there? Whether or not Ælfwine was ever allowed onto mainland Valinor, he would have seen much. We hear of 'the arts of the Eldar', etc; but what in detail were these arts? Apart from a warm climate without winter allowing an easier living and much more varied animal and plant life, and much better conditions for keeping a tradition of learning, what did 'the bliss of the Valar' consist of?
The occasional outbreaks of undoubted or probable powered technology in Middleq Earth times give an impression that these arts and bliss were not all ornament-making and growing ornamental trees and good climate and a vague pervading euphoria, but some allowing of technology without letting it dominate or take over. In which case, Ælfwine, having lived among these things for a while, would have missed them as well as the warm climate and the access to skills and old records when sent out and dumped back in an England of winter ice-cold and laborious ox-drawn farming where the highest technology was crude hammer-and-forge blacksmithing and a few door-locks and suchlike. The last known information that reached Earth from the Undying Lands was what the Istari (Wizards) brought with them in the early Third Age and thought fit to reveal, and the last before that came with the last sailings of Eressean Eldar to Númenor; these may have kept much secret, and in the long ages between then and Ælfwine's time much may have happened over there.
With the arts of the Eldar so highly developed for so long without breaks and settings-back caused by assaults of war, and with physical immortality letting fresh discovery be continuous and not having to compete for time with the continual need to train the next generation, and after the severance of Valinor and Eressea from the rest of Earth greatly cut down the risk of such arts getting into the wrong hands, for example the Noldor could surely easily make for the pearl-diving Teleri (who Tolkien mentions somewhere) a safer and easier way for long days work diving in deep water than unequipped breath-holding with the resulting chronic hypoxia and risks of being trapped underwater longer than a lungful of air lasts and the like.
If so (as I know, for I also have a longing for it, for I am often lack transport to the sea and someone to dive with), if as well as a warm climate without winters and having routine access to a huge living and written archive of ancient learning and history and contact with Elves still living who had taken part in events ancient far beyond anything that Men still remembered, he had scuba dived routinely over there and returned to a cold primitive land with none of it and no hope of it, no wonder he longed for the return, however far he had to sail alone over cold stormy sea to get there. Eressea was tropical or nearly so, as seems from mention of pearl fishing; Legolas in LOTR described Eressea as "where the leaves fall not"; Tolkien somewhere says that Alqualonde is 'nigh the girdle of Arda'. As well as all the other things the Elves let him see or use, Ælfwine had left his diving and its kit behind in the warm of Eressea when home-longing and the island's king's orders sent him back to England; later he realized how much he missed what he had irretrievably abandoned, for often after he dived in his dreams and the diving place and his kit as always dissolved like a ghost on waking in an England utterly lacking in the craftsman-skill and materials needed to make it.
Of more use to his land than a shipload of bright jewels or bygone history would have been a breeding stock of a cold-tolerant tree or bush that made rubber in its sap, but it was not to be so, while cold-water sailors and other outdoor workers needing waterproofs to prevent fatal chilling from frequent soaking by spray or rain had to manage with such things as thick wool with the sheep grease left in and unwashed going foul, or the messy fire-hazard recourse of an outer garment soaked in ship's tar. Even sailors' oilskins (thick cotton cloth soaked in linseed oil) were not available in his time and had to wait for a linen trade enough to provide the linseed oil and for colonies and better ships to change cotton from a silk-type rarity to a common commodity. Other uses that now call for rubber had to manage with such makeshifts as greased leather that leaks at seams and rots when wet.
Ælfwine called Eressea 'Ælfwina eard' = "land of Elf-friends". Allowing 'Elf-friends' or any other Men onto Eressea seems to be a breach of the Ban of the Valar; perhaps that law had by then been slackened, or minor breaches of it accepted, allowing occasional Men onto Eressea for a while as long as they did not start a permanent settlement there, since that was the only way that the Eldar could any more easily find what was happening on the rest of Earth after Cirdan of Mithlond and the last of his shipwrights boarded the last returning Elven-ships and the way into the Old West for Middle-Earth Elves was shut for ever.
After his return, Ælfwine stayed in England a long time, and helped his king to set up a navy to try to stop Vikings before they reached land. He copied and handed over many big books of old history that Men had forgotten. Of some of the things that he had seen where he had been, and how to get there, he only hinted, as if he had been forbidden to speak fully of them. But he seemed restless, and spoke of the sea as not merely something to fish in from boats and to cross to reach other lands. In hot summer he swam in the sea by choice, not merely as practice in case he had to reach shore in emergency, a thing rare in that time and land. That seemed to quiet the restlessness, not but for ever. He had an unusual expertise in swimming down to reach things on shallow seabed, but somehow seemed frustrated that he could not do things that had been familiar to him; once when nearly dead from exhaustion after a long freezing struggle to get a line onto a ship anchor lost in four fathoms depth at the ship-base at Portloca (now Porlock) in north Devon, he desperately let these words slip: "Where I have been, I could have done this easily! Swéot is súgiles bræþ begeondan sæ! [Sweet is the breath of the súyil beyond the sea!]", and at other times similar hints came out.
His hair greyed, and men said that he would some time have to give up sailing; that made his strange sea-restlessness stronger. One morning at Porlock he did not come from his room into the king's hall. He was gone, and so was his horse, and its hoofmarks led towards the sea; he had taken a ship, and was never seen again by Men. In his room was found this written on an oddment of parchment. Its lack of his usual style and polish told of hasty composition. The first two lines were a metrical version of something that he had said a few times hinting about where he had been, but the rest spoke of a thing unknown to Men and that Men would not discover or make or have the skill to make until a thousand years of wars and changes and movements of peoples had passed. It contained two words unknown to them and not in their language or book-Latin or Welsh or Cornish or the language of the Vikings.
Þær swíþe swéot sæ begeondan
is blóstma bræþ beorhtan landes;
and swêot þær éac is súgiles bræþ
under sæ swimman þonne sóhte ic oft
an gewihtléasum wegum wynne under ýðum,
ælfcræft éadig þe ne an eorþe mann,
ná cræftig smiþ, cann gewyrcan.
Is garsecg gréat and georne ic sáre
þæt ic éode þanon, éþel sohte,
ofer hwæles ráde hider an ceole,
land læfende þæt ic lufode wel.
Nú slæpende oft mínne súgil ongean
ic bere an bæce in beorhtum wætrum
and wilgeartar gewundenum rápum
íren geholode, is geholden to mé;
ac morgne melteþ in manna lande,
gæþ feorr heonan swa gast nihtes,
and áwacenum were seo wynn is ná.
Eall nu gé habbaþ þe ic hider ongean
gesendede wæs secgan Seaxna folce
and gewritenra worda wisra bocfela,
ymb þæm an eorþe wæs, ealdum wígum,
rícum rinca, recedum ælfa.
Nú ic ga an scipe þone gegeornedan findan
ofer seolhpaþum, mínne súgil ongean
ic will beran an bæce in beorhtum sæm,
and fela fisca fágra ymb séon,
and in gesuncenum scipum sæ útan niman
þa geo wæron gehygde gehiden æfre.
Ne tó gumena grunde will gegifen ic béon
æt déaþdæge éan dýfe ongean.
"There very sweet beyond the sea is the breath of the blossoms of the bright land. And sweet there also is the breath of the suyil [= "breathing set", c.f.
tec-il = "pen"], to swim under the sea, when often I sought on weightless ways pleasure under the waves, excellent craft of elves, that no man on earth, no skilled smith, knows how to make. The Ocean is great, and I yearn sorely, that I went thence, sought my homeland, leaving that land that I loved well. Now often [while] sleeping I again carry my breathing set on [my] back in bright waters and the wilyartar [= "air-holder"] of hollow iron is held to me with plaited cords, but in the morning it melts, goes far hence, as a ghost of the night, and to a man [who is] awake that pleasure is never. You [plural] now have all that I was sent back hither to say to the Saxon folk, and wise written words [enough for] many books, about what was on earth, old wars, men's realms, elves' buildings. Now I go on a ship to find that yearned-for thing over the seal's paths [= the sea]. I will again carry my breathing set on [my] back in bright seas, and [I will] see many fish of many colours around [me], and in sunken ships [I will] take out of the sea what in old days was thought to be hidden forever. I will not be given to the soil of Men on [my] death-day without a dive again."
The king (Edward the Elder, 899-924, son of Alfred the Great) and his followers dismissed this as magic-tale and wrote off the ship that Ælfwine had taken, and returned to the practicalities of trying to keep Wessex together against Viking attacks; Ælfwine's reports and the books and knowledge that he had brought back from the West lay forgotten in monastery storerooms for a very long time.
Ælfwine sailed into the West, driven by a cold east gale from the steppes of the Huns, and by his desperate will to walk on the land of the Eldar again. His ship's stores were plenty but would not last for ever, and he fished when he could. He escaped the jagged teeth of south Ireland and its sea-marauding tribes, and left cold cheerless war-ridden Europe for ever as the ends of Kerry fell away astern. The wind blew in many directions and sometimes left him becalmed as weather systems passed, and he had to labour hard not to sail astray. As he fought with contrary winds, he made a catchment of spare sail to catch rain water, as his water barrels would not last for ever. He slept when he could. He could tell latitude well, but among Men ships' chronometers were far in the future and he had no accurate way to find his longitude.
He had looked for a fabled island, and he had found plenty: at various times he and others had seen or walked on what were later to be named the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands and Madeira and the Canary Islands; captured Vikings had described Iceland and Spitzbergen; the Romans had known Iceland as 'Thule the Furthest'; Celts may even have reached America before Vikings did. But these were not what he sought, and wild natives who knew no writing or metal were not the Fair Folk. The wind and the sea grew warmer as he ignored these places and sailed away to the southwest into the endless sea.
But he had sailed the Straight Road before, and could tell when he was near it again. He entered it and passed along it, away from the world of Men. Nearly every time Men stray that way, a storm that the Elves call 'the Eagles of Manwe' blows them back away east, usually before they have seen any of the Undying Lands; but for him the previous time the Eagles were leashed and he sailed easily the last leagues to the land of lore and skill and knowledge of ancient times far beyond anything that Men had. But not this time, as he came off the Road into an open far warm sea and tried to keep a straight course in a wind that was no longer steady but now blew in random gusts from many directions under a sky covered with deepening overcast; the sea swell changed ominously. But he did not turn back.
After a brief far sight of the land that he sought, the sky became black from the west, and the Eagles of Manwe were on him, tempest-winged, lightning-taloned, screeching and thunder-growling for their prey. He had not gone through long ordeal, eating food gone foul by long keeping, drinking water gone sewerish by long storage in wooden barrels, having to 'eat Orc's food as the only way to reach the land of the Elves', to see no more of the land of the súyil than a glimpse and a storm. Although he was well advanced in middle-age, he fought the storm and did not run before it. His axe had cut away all superstructure that it could that it could that might catch wind, except the mast and sail, and he had used what spare wood he had to reinforce the mast; rolling wildly and unsafely he tacked and swayed this way and that over mountainous waves whose tops were blown into torrents of spray, north and south, sometimes losing as the gale blew on the ship's side, sometimes gaining. In his home sea he could not have done it, but there the sea and the spray were much warmer and did not chill him. The shelter of the land cut the wind somewhat, and he thought to reach land; but blasts funnelled down the valley behind Avallóne blew him a long way back. He had been awake three days and nights. Desperate to the limit, driven by knowing that súyili were now so near, he made one last effort to tack west against the gale that now was fiercer than ever. If he failed this time, he would have had to let himself be blown away back east; but on that last frantic northward tack his ship hit the East Cape of Eressea just a hundred yards west of its eastern tip.
With his last strength he steered into a narrow cleft. The ship smashed. A big wave lifted him high up the cliff, and he hung onto a ledge of Eressea land which only birds had reached before. Beyond hope he had again crossed all the barrier. He climbed further as the gale and spray and driven rain tried to tear him off the crags, tied himself to a tough salt-hardy bush growing out of the naked rock, and despite the din of thunder and wind slept like the dead among the dirty seabird-nests, having fought the Eagles of Manwe and won.
He woke at last, for it was much warmer than England, and hypothermia did not take him. In an unreal shock of thankfulness he saw real the flowering trees whose leaves never fall and the bright-feathered birds whose year is not ruled by need to flee far south every winter, and felt the land he had sought long as hard under him and no more a hopeless remote vision. The blood had dried on the wounds where rock had torn his skin. As the tail of the storm blew itself out at last and the clouds tattered and cleared, he struggled to the cliff top and west along the rocky shark-toothed hog's-back of the cape and staggered inland through the tree-fern and sapling undergrowth of the huge ancient forest looking for habitation. The ground was strewn with nests and twigs and branches which the storm had blown down. A few trees were down; the Teleri would salvage the wood, and over the years saplings would compete to fill the gaps. Birds and tree-frogs sang overhead. The ordeal of his desperate sea-crossing faded into relief. In the first stream he found he thankfully drank deep of his first clean water for weeks and washed the salt and ship-foulness off himself. Bushes along its banks grew fruit and seeds: he knew that Elves tend the forest and are no lovers of poisonous plants. A village of local Elves gave him food and bed. He was inevitably brought before the king of the island; the king knew him, and was not pleased to see him returned for a repeat of what few mortal Men were privileged to know even once, after he had had much of it before.
Ælfwine pleaded that he had taken good care that the knowledge that the Eldar had told him take away with him had been copied several times and the copies had been safely distributed and were being recopied among Men.
The king ordered Ælfwine to be cared for in tight custody until he recovered his strength, and then to be put in a small ship for Manwe lord of the winds to blow him away east again, for down the ages the Elves had learned the hard way not to let all and sundry go casually among them.
Ælfwine pleaded in his Quenya which was now many years stale from disuse: "Before that fate, grant me one thing: let me dive again with a súyil, even if it be once only!".
"Very well." said the king, "There is much to repair in my harbours after that storm that you set off by coming here unbidden and unwelcomed and then made worse and longer by persisting instead of going back away east after the first warning. You wish to dive; you will, and for a while help my repair divers, to pay for your lodging here until you are fit enough to sail home again. And my order for you not to reveal them and various other things to Men will still hold, same as when you spoke of wanting to take back with you some súyili and a device to refill them, when I sent you home before. After a time they would need repair, and men would have to come or send back here for that. Never again will I or the Valar let the Straight Road become a routine trade-way with mortals: we tried that with Númenor in the Second Age, and you know how that ended. Either that, or as well as súyili and their refillers you would need the skills and devices needed to make and run them. Men would also use those skills and devices to make many other more harmful things and many things that would seem useful but would consume too much that there are other uses for. It is not only you who have to obey such orders: there is lore in Valinor that none east of the Pelóri are allowed to learn or seek after or speak of.".
"As I know." Ælfwine said, "Once they took me west. I did not expect they ever would, but they did. Offshore from the Bay of Eldamar they showed me Ar-Pharazôn's Great Armament [which he made aided by Sauron and led against Valinor]. Under many thousand years of coral growth the form of those ships as we swam among them was not very clear, but some of them were immense. A man used to small boats would say that a big cargo ship such as a Viking knarr is huge, but some of these were as big as villages, and completely the wrong shape to fit a good spread of sail to. A device that one of us had said there were huge bulks of iron there. Elendil said that Númenor in his time had ships that went without sail or oar [Lost Road p67], and indeed no sail or oar could have driven ships so great. There in the deep far from home with a súyil on I prayed to God (for so my folk name Eru), and to all His saints that such hell-power should never again be at the command of Men. The Valar indeed are mighty, to sink even those. Now all that work of Men is no use to anyone but as a shelter for fish and shellfish. I do not blame storytellers who afterwards changed the tale and spoke only of wooden ships. The place is called Karkar Tar-Kaliondova [= Ar-Pharazôn's Rocks, with the objective genitive] as if he is still there with his fleet, although the books say he and his army came ashore and took Tirion. Once that fleet threatened the world; now it lies there until the End among millions of brightly coloured little fish.".
"What were you doing there!?" the king asked sharply, "It is enough to let a Man once in a while onto Eressea despite the Ban, but Aman the Blessed is ours alone and forbidden, as you knew. More so after the damage and despoiling that Tar-Kalion's army did onshore there.".
"To remake moorings and salvage. I went on a ship, as a break from reading and copying." Ælfwine said, "Some Vikings got into the Straight Road and missed Eressea and got to 35 miles from the Araman coast before the storm got up. It sank them; but it also did a lot of damage around the coast islands between Kantanelki and Alta Tarukkár. We had to run before the storm, and we ended up four day's sail away north-northwest of here. The crew reckoned I'd be more use to them underwater as an extra pair of hands than idle using up six days sailing bringing me back here first. The mainland Teleri couldn't do the work as soon as us because they were away inland at Valmar and Ezellohar for a ceremony. Much of the time I and the crew were rebuilding landing stages and suchlike around Pinilya Tarukkár. I didn't go ashore on the mainland.".
"I see, things arose and rules clashed and one of them got bent, even here as among Men." the king said, "Against Tar-Kalion's army the Eldar had to abandon the coast without fighting and try to hold the Kalakirya, but with little hope (and you know why, having seen those ships and realized how many men and fire-weapons they brought to shore). The Valar had to help directly, and all know the rest of the story. He and his army came ashore on Aman, but now lie with his fleet. I will speak no more of that and of how his army was stopped. My heart forbodes that Men will soon enough rediscover unaided how to make and use such things as I spoke of, even likenesses of the fire-powered devices of the Enemy that in one day consumed Gondolin which all hoped would be untakable except by long hunger seige [BOLT 2], and of much that is hidden in Valmar and few even there allowed to know of and none allowed to make; but I will not help it to come sooner than it need. Many on this island are Noldor who were captive in Angband having to make and tend Morgoth's evil devices, and when many came here after the War of Wrath overthrew Morgoth and freed them I remember too well the corrupted Múlanoldorin language that they spoke, full of foul words and mechanics' jargon taken from Angband Orkish, and the labour they had here to learn right use of their own tongue again. Often when speaking of a sick fellow or horse they used words as if he was one of those machines gone wrong, forgetting the words that the Wise in Valinor made to name illnesses and wounds. Two Ages later it was similar after Sauron fell: of the slaves of Mordor who King Aragorn Elessar of Gondor and Arnor freed, many knew no tongue of Men but only the Black Speech which Sauron devised.".
"There were other such devices." Ælfwine replied, "We have no fire-weapons such as you speak of, nor have the Vikings: their poets can call a sword an 'Odin's flame' or the like without causing confusion. But papers that I saw here say that Númenoreans exiled after the Downfall made flying craft [Lost Road p17], which they flew to other lands where many thought they were gods, but in them they could not cross Ilmen or find the Straight Road to come here, and that skill is lost.".
"Yes, that skill is lost." the king said, "In Gondor and Arnor the Eldar spoke against such things, and elsewhere men kept the art of making them a secret known to so few that the tradition was lost in ransack and burn and slaying when men warred over possession of the flying ships' bases. For that the Wise are thankful: Sauron could have made much harmful use of them. Enough harm and peril came in the few years when the Nazgul had their flying steeds and were no longer constrained to where foot and hoof could go.".
"In the War of the Ring the Enemy made fire-devices again [LOTR], the accounts say:" Ælfwine said, "Saruman in Isengard, and in Barad-dúr, and the blasting fire that in one night nearly took Helm's Deep which in the time of Helm had held out against the Dunlendings and Corsairs of Umbar for nearly 5 months. The Valar be thanked that the Corsairs didn't have flying ships, and that the Vikings haven't got them now: they do enough harm raiding by sea. And the papers about the flying ships also say that 'our darts are like thunder and fly over leagues unerringly', whatever they might have been.".
Far out of reach in China there were men who could have partly answered his last sentence. Also the Greek author Philostratus about 200 AD [Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus, book II, chapter 33: vol 1, p205 in the Loeb bilingual version publ. by Harvard Univ Press] wrote of a community of 'wise men' in India who once defended their settlement by firing 'thunders' and prêstêres ('things which eject strongly') from above on the attackers' shields. But the king said nothing about such things.
"Such may come again among Men." the king said, "Men are short-lived and too often rush into an idea without seeing all ends of it or what it would cause after their own lifetimes. Even Earendil the far-traveller is so restricted: because of what he knows and uses, he may not again visit his birth-land or land anywhere on Arda or Valinor except at one place near Valmar.".
"His ship that Elves and Men saw him fly in against Thangorodrim in the War of Wrath must be very great in battle, whether or not it was his wooden sea-ship Vingilóte repaired and given strange powers: it slew nearly all the dragons and even broke the mountain so that Morgoth's caverns were opened. The story says that the mountain was broken by Ancalagon the dragon falling on it, but no dragon that ever flew could fall heavily enough to do that.".
"That and other things is why, as you were told before, because of what had to be brought from hiding and used in the War of Wrath because the Enemy had become so mighty, and what the Enemy used in it, the histories of the Elder Days that you were given say little of the details of that war, and no Elf or Maia who was in that war may speak of those details, although that is the part of that story that men want the most to know about.".
So Ælfwine was allowed to stay: it was hard work-diving in many far and deep places, but it was diving, and beyond hope he again saw súyili and wore one solid real and not yet another mocking night dream-shadow of a thing that he had long despaired of in his cold war- and hardship-ridden land of Angles and Saxons, a thing that as many other things he did not imagine the first time he sailed out of the east to the undying shore.
There is a thing that the old records spoke of, that he had thought was over long before, but he saw it happen. He was at sea east of the island as one of a ship-crew helping to rid a pearl-oyster bed of starfish and collect any food they could find when they got a hurried call to surface as a westerly squall blew up. The crew furled all sail and stowed all loose gear and with the skill of hundreds or thousands of years at sea avoided being blown into reefs or the Straight Road. While sorting out on deck after it, some of the Elves saw on the edge of their vision to the northeast a ship.
"It is not of Elven make, but something is letting it come. The storm stopped." said Tumnakil the captain.
They approached. When it was in range of Ælfwine's sight he saw it was of Viking type, battered by long sailing, its sail a remnant patched with bedding and clothes. But as they close-hauled it he saw that its crew were no Vikings. On board it he only saw shadows which seemed to disappear or slip about if he looked steadily at them; he thought he heard faint echoes of talk in an unknown language. He had half-seen or imagined such things twice before, once in a forest in Dorset in England while looking for shipbuilding timber and once in a mountainside forest in Kerry in Ireland, and he crossed himself and prayed. The Elves seemed better able to see them.
One of them made an effort to become more visible. His face was like those of Elves. He was ragged and looked starved and weary and hopeless. He spoke aloud in more of the same language: "Ntsi elli Ershili? Tsegh an Ersh? Elli eltli? Am tsul Khvent-tor tsas Elperts tsarkher. Am tsartsul ghas pelkh - tsa Pal-art?" [Analysis at [A] below]
With a shock Ælfwine's language lore surfaced from under a layer of sea matters and he recognized it as not Orkish but what many thousand years in mortal lands had made of an Avarin Elven speech and its speakers. As lore said, they had faded since the ages-ago times when Elf-kings ruled on earth.
"Are you Ersh-folk? Me across Sky-gap? Name to me Pertsigh." the Avar said in fragments of distorted Sindarin as if he had not spoken it for centuries.
"We are from Eressea - Ersya - Ersh." Tumnakil replied showly in Sindarin, "We are Elves.".
"This is Vala-arda - Pal-art." Ælfwine added, starting to recognise some words and sound change trends. [Analysis at [B] below]
"Af? Nen foi? Nen an-am tsis ar vagh. Am pakh tsa el mer." Pertsigh pleaded for food and clean water at any price asked, and pointed at his ship's water barrels. The Avari had too clearly forgotten nearly everything except hardship and how to survive in ever-shrinking woodlands and how to hide from Men. Such was one of the last remnants of the Elven peoples who once lived on Arda.
Ælfwine remembered tales of the fate of living men who boarded ghost ships, and feared. But the ship was real and made by Men, and on its woodwork were Viking-type runes. Nearly everything on board had been mended or replaced with makeshifts. He followed Pertsigh onto the ship and looked in the barrels. Most were empty, but one had some liquid in - I will not call it water. Ælfwine smelt it, and recoiled. His dreadful second crossing from Arda and the same smell came all too vividly to his memory. What was left of their food was little better. Tumnakil ordered his crew to throw it all overside and give them fresh supplies. "Say to your people: Follow us. We go to Eressea - to Ersh." he explained in Sindarin, but was not understood.
"Only twice before since the freeing of the slaves of Angband have I seen Elves in so bad a state, and never with their speech so corrupted." said one of his crew with a shudder, "In the old days when Cirdan was still there most returners arrived in better state in ships built and supplied to run the Long Voyage easily.".
"Cume mid ús. We gáþ to Ershlande - to Eressean. Ælfa eard is neah, and hús maceres steorrena." ['Come with us. We go to Ersh-land - to Eressea. The Elves' land is near, and the house of the maker of the stars.'] Ælfwine said in his own Anglo-Saxon language. Some of the Avari knew the language of the Men of their land: a language of north Germany, around ancient woods near where Wilhelmshafen is now, but in those times enough like his, and they understood him. They explained their story quickly: of the spreading of Men and the shrinking of the woods that the wild Elves lived in. Food ran short as Men's livestock ate out the undergrowth and ground plants in much of the woodland that remained, and some of the Elves remembered old stories of Valinor, but many thousand years too late, and there were no more Elven-havens to get a ship and sail-training, and the Elves of Arda continued to fade. Vikings started raiding and made things worse.
Once Vikings landed and raided very near the Avari's forest, and stocked their ships, and went to fight off an attack by local Men. One ship was afloat and moored and wind and tide were right, and Pertsigh, who knew a little Eldarin lore by long-ago rare indirect contacts, saw a once in five centuries chance to obey his ancient longing and escape from Arda and the deepening shadow of Men. Some of his wandering band were not easily persuaded, but they all came out of the wood and boarded, and cast off, and got away into the West along a road which they had thought gone for ever long ago before the lands changed when some of their kin came too late to Mithlond in the old Northwest and found it deserted. They had to learn ship-handling as they went, but their elvish powers helped them to find the way, once they knew what to look for. Their supplies, winter stores looted from North German farms and not meant for a voyage that long in warm weather, dwindled and went bad as lack of sea skill slowed them, but they made the crossing and came at last to Avallóne, the first for over 300 years even to attempt it. It is lucky that Tumnakil's ship found them and took them in tow, for after long sailing they had become too weak to do much but be blown about by the ever-changing winds until starvation at sea made an end.
Ælfwine went back to port with them, and helped to interpret between them and the local Elves; this again delayed plans to send him back home. Over the months they learned the languages of the island and became stronger and easier for him to see as they slowly recovered from their long exile in mortal lands. Pertsigh normalized his name to Sindarin Brethgil, and the rest similarly. The Elves recorded the newcomers' language and such information about events on Arda as they could give. Ælfwine helping to load Tumnakil's inshore work boat one morning watched them sail for Valinor and the presence of the Valar and of She who they had named Elperts, where he could never go. They went in the same ship, repaired and resupplied, helped by a local navigator and crew, and so a ship made by Vikings in Vest Agder in Norway at last entered the Bay of Eldamar and beached under the walls of Tirion on Túna.
The list of duties for him and his work-fellows lengthened, and the king relented, and he was let stay there as the years came upon him, as is with all Men, even in the Undying Lands. He renewed the friendships that he had made on the island, some with Elves now famous from the histories that he had brought to England. When taken onboard Elven ships to sea work sites, he saw again mainland Valinor and the white spire and long shadow of Taniquetil, and dived from ship by the fabulous jewel-strewn shores of Aman, but was not allowed ashore. Behind the harbour-town of Alqualonde he saw the huge shadowy gorge of Kalakirya cutting through the mountain wall: through it no mortal Men ever except Earendil and his wife Elwing had gone, and they never returned, and their fate was strange and far. Further south he once saw from ship the peak of Hyarmentir and the narrow land of Avathar between mountains and sea, where now bright sun lit forest where the Elves said that in the time of the Two Trees an evil darkness and webs of sorcery hid Ungoliant while she grew in might until she allied with Morgoth to slay the Trees and so bring about the Ages of the Sun and the Time of Man.
The years gradually slowed and weakened him, but he still dived, less and less willing to fight against tide-currents as he swam, trailing two sticks which he leaned on when he came on land. He lasted longer than he would have at the hall in Porlock in Devon, but not for ever; but he saw his 102nd winter, if winters can be spoken of in Eressea.
It was the time when the coral spawns, shedding its eggs to re-seed areas stripped by storm or rock-fall or gnawing fish. Perhaps overjoyed by that mass renewal of life, he swam about harder than he had for a long time, until his súyil ran empty and he had to land. He hauled himself laboriously to a shoreside seat, and sat on it in the gentle Eressean sunset, and slept, still in his equipment. Well after morning, some passing native Telerin Elves found him still there, for in the night his heart had given out at last. Even so he had his last wish, and 'died in harness', although not underwater, and not by slow deterioration of incapacity unable to do anything any more. They put his equipment back in store, and buried him in the Cemetery of the Strangers, and on the gravestone carved his name and life summary in their own language and in his, and so that ended.
If any mortal Man afterwards knew of the marvellous súyil that gives the freedom of the deeps, or used one, it is not known of, until Men grew in craft and reinvented it independently, and what was once a secret of the Eldar is now known to very many among Men; and I have often used one myself.
Explanation of the Avarin text: the source words are Proto-Eldarin roots from The Etymologies unless stated otherwise:
- [A]: Ntsi elli Ershili? : ntsi < na ta i, elli < Q. elya li, Ershili < Q. Eressea -ea -li = 'is-it-that you (pl) (are) Eresseans?'; Tsegh an Ersh?: tsegh < tegh, an < Q. an, Ersh < Eressea = "(where is) way to Eressea?"; Elli eltli?: elli < Q. elye li, eltli < eled li = '(are) you (pl.) Eldar?'; Am tsul Khvent-tor tsas Elperts tsarkher: am < S. ammen, tsul < tul, Khvent-tor < Quendi-ndor, tsas < Q. tasse, Elperts < Elbereth, tsarkher < tar kher (compounding to avoid homophony) = 'we go (to) Elf-land where/there Elbereth rules.'; Am tsartsul ghas pelkh: am < S. ammen, tsartsul < thar tul, ghas < ghas, pelkh < *mbelek = S. beleg = 'We across-go the great gap.'; tsa Pal-art?: tsa < ta, Pal-art < bala arda = '(Is) this Vala-realm?'.
- [B]: Af? Nen foi?: Af < ap = 'food'; Nen < nen, foi < poy = 'Clean water?'; Nen an-am tsis ar vagh: an-am < Q. an S. ammen, tsis < tit, ar < Q/S ar, vagh < wagh = 'our water is little (left) and foul'; Am pakh tsa el mer: pakh < mbakh, tsa < ta, el < Q. elye, mer < mer = 'we trade/pay that/what you wish.'. The name Pertsigh = PE bereth gil = 'Beech-star'.