Crist is the name of a set of three 10th century Old English poems that concern Jesus Christ, found in the Anglo-Saxon "Exeter Book". The three constituent poems have been simply named Christ I, Christ II (which was known to be written by the poet Cynewulf), and Christ III. They concern topics such as Christ's advent and ascension.

Relevance Edit

The character Eärendil, who at the end of the First Age was responsible for the intervention of the Valar upon Morgoth and Morgoth's subsequent defeat, originated from a seeming revelation J.R.R. Tolkien experienced in 1913 when he first read a particular line from Christ II:

Eala éarendel engla beorhtast
 ofer middangeard monnum sended

In English, this is closest to meaning Hail Earendel, brightest of angels, sent over middle-earth to mankind!

Tolkien stated (through a character in Notion Club Papers) that upon reading this he "...felt a curious thrill as if something had stirred in me.....There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond the ancient English."[1] This moment and inspiration is noted by Tolkien scholars to have been important in the first shaping of the legendarium of Middle-earth as a mysterious philological realization[2][3], or even in fact to have been the legendarium's first cause [4][5] (since Eärendil was the first character to take shape). It prompted Tolkien's writing of a poem initially entitled "The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star", of which he would write five successive versions [6], starting in September of 1914[7]. From the poem would stem The Tale of Eärendel which Tolkien later composed, also in multiple schemes and emendations, but never completed. This tale became the fifteenth of the posthumously published Lost Tales - and it was implied by its narrator, the character Gilfanon, to be the great culmination of all tales that preceded it.[8]

The Tale of Eärendel also evolved into the final climax of Quenta Silmarillion: the chapter "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath", in which Eärendil indeed journeys across Middle-earth to and from the West, seeking and then gaining the help of the Valar, and carrying the morning star across the sky. Two ages after this event, Frodo Baggins invoked Eärendil in two different instances - calling him "brightest of stars" as the original poem suggested - in the Quenya outcries Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! and Aiya elenion ancalima!.[9][10]

The quoted line of Cynewulf from Christ II also inspired Tolkien's use of the very term "Middle-earth".

References Edit

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, pg. 72 (1978 paperback edition)
  2. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, ch. 7: "Visions and Revisions", Eärendil: A Lyric Core
  3. Colin Duriez, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, ch. 5: "The Shadow of War", pgs. 77-78
  4. Tolkien: A Celebration, 2: Stratford Caldecott, "Over the Chasm of Fire: Christian Heroism in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings", pg. 22
  5. Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien, ch. 3: "Angelology", pgs. 71-72
  6. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. II: The Book of Lost Tales, chapter V: "The Tale of Eärendel", I, pg. 267
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, pg. 71 (1978 paperback edition)
  8. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. II: The Book of Lost Tales, chapter IV: "The Nauglafring", pg. 242
  9. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Chapter I: "Shelob's Lair"
  10. the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter I: "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"