This was an essay I had to turn in for school. I figured someone might like to read a nonpolitical work I had written for once XD
Bilbo's Song of Eärendil the Mariner (Many Meetings, Ch. 2 of Book 2) is a significant part of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series as it intrigues the historically-minded, the lore lovers, and the average reader, foreshadowing what is to come and detailing what once was. This Rivendell chant also marks a major plot point in the story, as it prepares the reader with what is to come in the following chapter (The Council of Elrond, Ch. 1 of Book 2) by defining the great adventures of ancient, mostly forgotten lore. It remains one of the most appealing and descriptive parts of the series as a whole.
Tolkien’s craftsmanship of the written word and his power over language enabled him to create such an elegant work, thereby showing the reader much information without it being overwhelming or too confusing. His use of archaic and lesser-known words, such as “habergeon,” “chalcedony,” and “carcanet” work towards developing the theme of the rest of the chapter and many that followed-- even deeds that seem small and unimportant can prove to be mighty and of the utmost importance.
A poet and linguist at heart, Tolkien emphasizes his uses of rhyme and many of his stanzas include are trisyllabic rhyme schemes, though some are only near-rhymes. His use of metonymies cannot go unnoticed, especially in the final stanzas, where Tolkien describes “Forever still a herald on/An errand that should never rest/To bear his shining lamp afar,/The Flammifer of Westernesse.” Tolkien’s use of adjectives and verbs appropriately dictate all of the information that a reader needs to know to understand the tale of Eärendil, and thus the early years of the Second Age, followed by the goings-on of the Third Age. With his descriptions of Eärendil, Elves, and mere “mortals,” it is more than appropriate to label this poem as highly descriptive high fantasy. Additionally, Tolkien makes use of alliteration, alliterative assonance, grammatical repetitions and variations, and many other elements of both poetry and prose.
Tolkien vividly describes Eärendil as a knight with an eagle-plume upon his helmet and wearing “chainéd rings.” Tolkien goes on to describe the Mirner’s shield, sword, bow, arrows, and other tools and weapons that will be needed on Eärendil’s journey. The written illustration of Eärendil ship, Vingilótë, as a silver-white nautical marvel. Her shell was formed of birch trees, and both her sails and lanterns were made of the finest silver that could be found. Tolkien describes the prow as being “like a swan,” thus enhancing the mental image any reader may have of Eärendil.
Much of the poem describes the future of Eärendil in the form of a chanted song or story. In reciting his poem to the Elves, Bilbo fully details how Eärendil and his men set forth, sailing westward in Vingilótë, to seek the help of the Valar and the Maiar (the gods and goddesses of Tolkien’s mythologies). With the help of his wife Elwing, Eärendil obtains a Silmaril, which Tolkien translates as literally “radiance of pure light.” According to the poem, the gods made a new ship for Eärendil, forging it of mithril and using the Silmaril as the only lantern, hanging it up on the mast of the new ship. Eärendil goes on to sail forever in the skies as a morning star, a beacon of hope in darker times, acting as a navigational tool for simple sailors. His ultimate fate is unknown, though Tolkien seems to say that the fate of Eärendil is meant to be shrouded in mystery, leaving the reader to wonder what happened to both the Silmaril and the Mariner.