Tolkiens interest in creating his own - fictional - mythology was raised early in the 1910s and the following few lines:

''Éala, Éarendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended,
And soðfæsta sunnan léoma,
Torht ofer tunglas - þu tída gehwane
of sylfum þé symle inlihtes.''
Crist of Cynewulf; [1]

of a Middle-English poem Crist by Cynewulf seems to have played an important role in this, as Tolkien lateron admited in a draft for a letter:

The most important name in this connexion is Eärendil. This name is in fact (as is obvious) derived from A-S éarendel. When first studying A-S professionally (1913 –) – I had done so as a boyish hobby when supposed to be learning Greek and Latin – I was struck by the great beauty of this word (or name), entirely coherent with the normal style of A-S, but euphonic to a peculiar degree in that pleasing but not 'delectable' language. Also its form strongly suggests that it is in origin a proper name and not a common noun. This is borne out by the obviously related forms in other Germanic languages; from which amid the confusions and debasements of late traditions it at least seems certain that it belonged to astronomical-myth, and was the name of a star or star-group. To my mind the A-S uses(*) seem plainly to indicate that it was a star presaging the dawn (at any rate in English tradition): that is what we now call Venus: the morning-star as it may be seen shining brilliantly in the dawn, before the actual rising of the Sun. That is at any rate how I took it. Before 1914 I wrote a 'poem' upon Earendel who launched his ship like a bright spark from the havens of the Sun. I adopted him into my mythology – in which he became a prime figure as a mariner, and eventually as a herald star, and a sign of hope to men. Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima 'hail Earendil brightest of Stars' is derived at long remove from Éala Éarendel engla beorhtast. But the name could not be adopted just like that: it had to be accommodated to the Elvish linguistic situation, at the same time as a place for this person was made in legend.
Letters #297

and in the footnote of this letter Tolken elaborates a little further on Éarendel:

(*)Its earliest recorded A-S form is earendil (oer-), later earendel, eorendel. Mostly in glosses on jubar = leoma (A-S leoma = Lat. jubar; 'ray of light, radiance -- ChW); also on aurora. But also in Blickling Homilies 163, se niwa 'éorendel applied to St John the Baptist; and most notably Crist 104, éala! éarendel engla beorhtast ofer middangeard monnum sended. Often supposed to refer to Christ (or Mary), but comparison with Bl. Homs. suggests that it refers to the Baptist. The lines refer to a herald, and divine messenger, clearly not the soðfæsta sunnan léoma = Christ.

And indeed, as Tolkien hints at, the myth of Éarendel has much older origins: In Snorri's (Prose-) Edda (Skaldskaparmal, Faulke's transl. p. 79-80) it is told how Thor carried the giant Aurvandil from Jotunheim in a basket on his back, and one of Aurvandil's toes stuck out of the basket and got frozen. Thor broke it off, and threw it up in the sky, and made a star of it, which is called Aurvandil's toe (Orvandelsta, Örvandilstâ).

Other forms of the name are Orendel, Erentel, Earendel, Oervandil and Horvandillus.

Jacob Grimm in his famous Deutsche Mythologie throws some more light on this issue:

We have still remaining a somewhat rude poem, certainly founded on very ancient material, about a king Orendel or Erentel, whom the appendix to the Heldenbuch pronounces the first of all heroes that were ever born. He suffers shipwreck on a voyage, takes shelter with a master fisherman Eisen, (65) earns the seamless coat of his master, and afterwards wins frau Breide, the fairest of women: king Eigel of Trier was his father's name. The whole tissue of the fable puts one in mind of the Odyssey: the shipwrecked man clings to the plank, digs himself a hole, holds a bough before him; even the seamless coat may be compared to Ino's veil, and the fisher to the swineherd, dame Breide's templars would be Penelope's suitors, and angels are sent often, like Zeus's messengers. Yet many things take a different turn, more in German fashion, and incidents are added, such as the laying of a naked sword between the newly married couple, which the Greek story knows nothing of. The hero's name is found even in OHG. documents: Orendil, Meichelb. 61; Trad. fuld. 2, 24. 2, 109 (Schannat 308); Orendil a Bavarian count (an. 843 in. Eccard's Fr. or. 2, 367); a village Orendelsal, now Orendensall, in Hohenlohe, v. Haupts zeitschr. 7, 558.---But the Edda has another myth, which was alluded to in speaking of the stone in Thôrr's head. Grôa is busy conning her magic spell, when Thôrr, to requite her for the approaching cure, imparts the welcome news, that in coming from Iötunheim in the North he has carried her husband th bold Örvandill in a basket on his back, and he is sure to be home soon; he adds by the way of token, that Örvandil's toe had stuck out of the basket and got frozen, he broke it off and flung it at the sky, and made a star of it, which is called Örvandils-tâ. But Grôa in her joy at the tidings forgot her spell, so the stone in the god's head never got loose, Sn. 110-1. Grôa, the growing, the grass-green, is equivalent to Breide, i.e., Berhta (p. 272) the bright, it is only another part of his history that is related here: Örvandill must have set out on his travels again, and on this second adventure forfeited the toe which Thôrr set in the sky, though what he had to do with the god we are not clearly told. Beyond a doubt, the name of the glittering star-group is referred to, when AS. glosses render 'jubar' by earendel, and a hymn to the virgin Mary in Cod. Exon. 7, 20 presents the following passage:

''Eala Earendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended,
and sôðfæsta sunnan leoma
torht ofer tunglas, þu tîda gehwane
of sylfum þe symle inlîhtes!

i.e., O jubar, angelorum splendidissime, super orbem terrarum hominibus misse, radie vere solis, supra stellas lucide, qui omni tempore ex te ipso luces! Mary or Christ is here addressed under the heathen name of the constellation. I am only in doubt as to the right spelling and interpretation of the word; an OHG. ôrentil implies AS. eárendel, and the two demand ON. aurvendill, eyrvendill; but if we start with ON. örvendill, then AS. earendel, OHG. erentil would seem preferable. The latter part of the compound certainly contains entil = wentil. (66) The first part should be either ôra, eáre (auris), or else ON. ör, gen. örvar [[arrow]] (sagitta). Now, as there occurs in a tale in Saxo Gram., p. 48, a Horvendilus filius Gervendili, and in OHG. a name Kêrwentil (Schm. 2, 334) and Gêrentil (Trad. fuld. 2, 106), and as geir (hasta) agrees better with ör than with eyra (auris), the second interpretation may command our assent;(67) a sight of the complete legend would explain the reason of the name. I think Orentil's father deserves attention too: Eigil is another old and obscure name, borne for instance by an abbot of Fulda who died in 822 (Pertz 1, 95. 356. 2, 366. Trad. fuld. 1, 77-8. 122). In the Rhine-Moselle? country are the singular Eigelsteine, Weisth. 2, 744 (see Suppl.). (68) In AS. we find the names Aegles burg (Aylesbury), Aegles ford (Aylesford), Aegles þorp; but I shall come back to Eigil presently. Possibly Orentil was the thundergod's companion in expeditions against giants. Can the story of Orentil's wanderings possibly be so old amongst us, that in Orentil and Eigil of Trier we are to look for that Ulysses and Laertes whom Tacitus places on our Rhine (p. 365)? The names shew nothing in common. (69)

But there is a second myth preserved in the Eddas, which somehow resembles the fate of Tolkien's Eärendil: In the "Harbarthsljoth" of the {Poetic Edda}? - which is part of the {Codex Regius}? we find the tale of the giant Thiassi (Thjazi):

Thor spake:
19. "Thjazi I felled, | the giant fierce,
And I hurled the eyes | of Alvaldi's son
To the heavens hot above;
Of my deeds the mightiest | marks are these,
That all men since can see.
{Poetic Edda}? - Harbarthsljoth; transl. by Henry Adams Bellows

Unfortunately it is not known which stars were called "Thiassi's Eyes" (or "Thjazi's Eyes").

In Snorri's version (Skaldskaparmal, Faulke's transl. p. 60-1) Thiassi is killed in a concerted action of the Aesir and lateron - as one of the recompensations afterwards granted to Thiassi's daughter Skathi - Odin throws Thiassi's eyes up into the sky and made two stars of them.


Lucifer, Phosphoros, 'Light-bearer', is also a mythological character representing Éarendel, the evening-star, Venus. These may in fact be the oldest "incarnations", where Lucifer/Phosphoros represents the the 'star of life' and is the son of the goddess and her lover/spouse (who is portrayed as a serpent)...

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