Crist is the name of a trio of 10th century Old English concerning Jesus Christ, originally from the Anglo-Saxon "Exeter Book". The constituent poems are named Christ I, Christ II (those two written by Cynewulf), and Christ III. They concern topics such as Christ's advent and ascension.

In his formative academic years, J.R.R. Tolkien was introduced to Crist when perusing Christian Grein and Richard Wülker's 1883 collection Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Poesie.[1]


The character Eärendil, who at the end of the First Age was responsible for the intervention of the Valar and Morgoth's subsequent defeat by them, originated from a seeming revelation J.R.R. Tolkien experienced in 1913 when he read a particular line from Christ I[2]:

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."[3] This inspiration is noted by Tolkien scholars to have been important in the first shaping of Tolkien's legendarium as a mysterious philological realization[4][5], or even in fact to have been its first cause[6][7] 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[8] starting in September of 1914[9]. From the poem would later stem The Tale of Eärendel, which too evolved in multiple schemes and emendations, but was 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 preceding it.[10]

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 and Sam Gamgee invoked Eärendil in different instances - calling him "brightest of stars" as the original poem suggests - in the Quenya outcries Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! and Aiya elenion ancalima!.[11][12]

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


  1. John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War, Part One, Ch. 2, pg. 44
  2. Advent Lyrics (Christ II), Section 5,
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, pg. 72 (1978 paperback edition)
  4. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, ch. 7: "Visions and Revisions", Eärendil: A Lyric Core
  5. Colin Duriez, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, ch. 5: "The Shadow of War", pgs. 77-78
  6. Tolkien: A Celebration, 2: Stratford Caldecott, "Over the Chasm of Fire: Christian Heroism in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings", pg. 22
  7. Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien, ch. 3: "Angelology", pgs. 71-72
  8. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. II: The Book of Lost Tales, chapter V: "The Tale of Eärendel", I, pg. 267
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, pg. 71 (1978 paperback edition)
  10. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. II: The Book of Lost Tales, chapter IV: "The Nauglafring", pg. 242
  11. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Four, Chapter IX: "Shelob's Lair"
  12. the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter I: "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
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