Ancient Mariner

Also called the Man of the Sea.

A strange man whom Eriol meets after he has escaped from the ruin of his homeland and has set on his voyages to find the Land of the Elves.

Hinted at to be Ulmo himself!!!


Here is the story about that personage of the Ancient Mariner, as told in a tale, called by Christopher TolkienÆlfwine II” (BoLT2) - a character never to appear in the later writings.

A great storm fell upon their ship even as they had sighted the isles of Ælfwine's desire, and a great sea swept over her, but Ælfwine was lost in the waves, and coming to himself saw no sign of ship or comrades, and he lay upon a bed of sand in a deep-walled cove. Dark and very empty was the isle, and he knew then that these were not those MagicIsles? of which he had heard often tell."

A lonely cabin looking westward he found at last upon the further shore, and it was made of the upturned hull of a small ship.

An ancient man dwelt there, and Ælfwine feared him, for the eyes of the man were as deep as the unfathomable, sea, and his long beard was blue and grey; great was his stature, and his shoes were of stone, but he was all clad in tangled rags, sitting beside a small fire of drifted wood.

And many things before unheard did Ælfwine hear tell of him beside that smoky fire at eve, and strange tales of wind-harried ships and harbourless tempests in the forbidden waters.

From the Man of the Sea Eriol learns all about the MagicIsles? to the West…and how the old mariner had once voyaged the far seas….

Beyond and on the confines of the Shadows lies the LonelyIsland looking East to the Magic Archipelago and to the lands of Men beyond it, and West into the Shadows beyond which afar off is glimpsed the Outer Land, the kingdom of the Gods - even the aged Bay of Faery whose glory has grown dim. Thence slopes the world steeply beyond the Rim of Things to Valinor, that is God home, and to the Wall and to the edge of Nothingness whereon are sown the stars. But the Lonely Isle is neither of the Great Lands or of the Outer Land, and no isle lies near it.

After a great storm one morning Eriol finds a splendid large ship thrown onto the sands of the Isle of the Ancient Mariner. When the old man sees the ship…

Then went the Man of the Sea out when the tide began to creep in slow and shallow over the long flats. He bore as a staff a timber great as a young tree, and he fared as if he had no need to fear tide or quicksand until he came far out where his shoulders were scarce above the yellow waters of the incoming flood to that carven prow, that now alone was seen above the water.

Then Ælfwine marvelled watching from afar, to see him heave by his single strength the whole great ship up from the clutches of the sucking sand that gripped its sunken stern; and when it floated he thrust it before him, swimming now with mighty strokes in the deepening water. At that sight Ælfwine's fear of the aged one was renewed, and he wondered what manner of being he might be, but now the ship was thrust far up on the firmer sands, and the swimmer strode ashore, and his mighty beard was full of strands of sea weed, and sea weed was in his hair.

Then they both sail on board of the great ship and reach the island of the Ythlings. The Ancient Mariner seems to be highly respected by those people. Following his request, the Ythlings build a ship for Eriol for his voyage to TolEressëa.

There stood many men of the Ythlings upon the shore beside that vessel for they had builded her in a cove of the steep shore that looked to the West, and a bar of rock with but a narrow opening made here a sheltered pool and mooring place, and few like it were to be found in that island of sheer cliffs.

Then the ancient one laid his hand upon her prow and spoke words of magic, giving her power to cleave uncloven waters and enter unentered harbours, and ride untrodden beaches. Twin rudder paddies, one on either side, had she after the fashion of the Ythlings, and each of these he blessed, giving them skill to steer when the hands that held them failed, and to find lost courses, and to follow stars that were hid.

Then he strode away, and the press of men parted before him, until climbing he came to a high pinnacle of the cliffs. Then leapt he far out and down and vanished with a mighty flurry of foam where the great breakers gathered to assault the towering shores.

Ælfwine is amazed and asks the Ythlings:

'Why was he thus weary of life? My heart grieves that he is dead, 'but the Ythlings smiled, so that he questioned some that stood nigh, saying 'Who was that mighty man, for meseems ye know him well, 'and they answered him nothing.

Never after was the Man of the Sea, the Ancient Mariner ever seen or heard of.

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