Eärendil the Mariner


“Hail Eärendil brightest of angels,

over Middle-earth sent unto Men!”


Eärendil was arguably the first figure in Tolkien’s legendarium that he ever devised and gave a story to. In the designs, I went for rather archaic Germanic and Anglo-Saxon elements, some found in an edition of the Edda I own, which is over a hundred years old and belonged to my grandparents. I like to think Tolkien knew it.

Germanic lore, with its brisk heroism, has always fascinated me. Tolkien wrote once in a letter that something he hated Hitler for was for taking those old Germanic myths, sagas and lore and twisting them into his sick ideology, and even sixty years after Tolkien wrote those words, they’re even more painfully true. I own several beautifully illustrated Eddas, and the pictorial “language” in all of them just says “Nazi” to most people, which is so, so sad.

So this is something else to love Tolkien for: For rescuing those old Germanic myths and sagas in a different incarnation.

Media used: Schmincke tube watercolours for the first transparent layers; liquid watercolours from Rohrer&Klingner for the dark ones, and some white Ecoline Talens ink for some of the highlights and the clouds, all on Canson Montval paper.

Not many progress shots for this one; just a couple of ones documenting the “underpainting” and lighting. I built this up of considerably more layers than I often do, and used wet into wet, which I do even less often.

This one was a first layer of blotchy bright yellow with darker purple splashed into it while still wet.


A next layer has some of the backlighting and darkening of some areas, and some purplish blue for the sea.


28 thoughts on “Eärendil the Mariner

  1. So beautiful! Even if the sketch was beautiful on its own, I didn’t envision how good it would turn!
    Just a question: why an Earendil blond? Honestly, I’ve read the Silmarillion about 5 yeast ago the last time, so I don’t remember this particular… Had he inherited his mother’s hair?
    However, about the Germanic lore and its sick Nazi incarnation, I, as an Italian, can sadly say the same thing about the glorious Imperial tradition of Rome and the fascism; but these two had a common ground, after all. So good that you can make your little own to heal the beautiful story of your people! Keep it going!

    • I didn’t know that Italy had an ambivalent view of Rome because of fascism! Rome, interestingly, still has its high reputation in Germany.

      Eärendil’s hair colour is not mentioned anywhere; he’s the father of two dark-haired sons and the child of two golden-haired parents – I always imagined him blonde.

      • Here in Rome, you can still view the ugly tokens of the fascist era: they mock the Roman visual language quite ridiculously. But of course, we know what the Roman Empire really was – there are tokens and reminders everywhere :)

        However, it is interesting how different people imagine the same things differently: in your last drawing, I noticed that I always bestowed the gorgeous, wavy mane of your Fingolfin to Feanor instead, even if I, as you and apparently the very best part of Tolkien artists, tend to imagine Fingolfin with a wide and masculine jaw and Finrod with hollowed cheeks… Bizarre! It’s one of the things I like the most, the way in which everyone reads the same story.

    • That thing about Rome is extremely ridiculous since if some people were really opressed/discriminated, they were the germanic/gallic tribes.Anyway all fascist claims are twisting the truth.
      Btw, are you half Hungarian? :)

      • I was talking about the way in which Mussolini used the visual language and symbols of the Roman Empire for his own purposes, being a nationalist.
        However, no, I’m not partly Hungarian, for as far as I know about my family’s history, even if I’m partly austrian. I know what you meant, but I was specifically referring to the statues and buildings of the fascist era, and their visual tokens, honestly. I live in Rome, so I know what I’m talking about.

        • I know what you speak about, I just wrote why his ideology was ridiculous in my oppinion, and I absolutely agree with you. I never meant to hurt you or to doubt your truth and if I did I shall now apologise. I shall also declare that Rome is my favourite city and I take it personal if some people, like the fascist intendedly misinterpret it’s history for their evil, twisted reasons.
          And I just guessed that you were partly Hungarian because your username “Erzsébet” means Elizabeth in Hungarian.

          • I’m sorry if I answered quite dryly – I had misenterpreted your comment :)
            However, I use the name Erzsebet because it is the Hungarian version of my name, and because when I was a teen I had a deep interest in Elizabeth of Austria, who loved Hungary and therefore used the Hungarian version of her name herself :)

            • I understand it now for I myself have an even stranger connection between my username and my real name, as my real name /Mathias of Bear-ville if translated/ has the root “bear” which means Beowulf in old-english, so I chose a modern-day name which is as close to it as possible, (don’t ask how long has this taken to make up, please) :)

  2. Beautiful painting, love the golden hues to it. :) And I never knew that about Tolkien either, how interesting – makes me wish I knew more Germanic myths!

  3. Great picture. Is that Elwing on his arm? Funny, I also always pictured Eärendil having dark hair.
    I agree your work displays certain Eddaic features underlining heroism. Then again thinking about it, how else would Eärendil stand at the bow of a ship looking in front. And sooner or later being on a ship he would end up standig there. It always fascinates me anew, how certain arrangements of light, colour and pose create emotional associations in the eyes of the spectator.

    I agree with you on the Germanic sagas. It’s very said how things get twisted in order to serve a political purpose. I can see how a similar feeling could be present in Italy with Roman heritage. I never thought about it before, but then history is a very narrow subject in schools most often only spotlighting exemplary events mostly of your own country’s history.

    On a completely different level that being true for almost all perceptions of history and extending the list of examples I remember reading a book on the development of the Robin Hood legend and how it changed throughout time. I never realized Sir Walter Scott might have deliberately created his story line in Ivanhoe in order to underline certain ideas on nationhood. I felt quite betrayed. But then again, it was so obvious, I still wonder how I could have missed it as a child.

    A good reminder one should always take into account where information comes from and what purpose it is presented the way it is.

    • It is Elwing, yes :) I’ve always been intrigued with the many layers that myth and History have, ever since I delved deep into Hannibal and the Punic Wars when I was fourteen and was struck by the differences between Greek and Roman accounts of the same events. I think it’s very un-human to simply recount something without a purpose. Even the spark of inspiration that each of us has when he or she sits down to write or draw something is a purpose, and it can be heavily ideologically clouded without us ever realising it.

  4. “éala éarendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended”
    Brightest angel sent to Men — thank you, Jenny!

  5. Wow, this is beautiful! I especially like Earendil’s expression: determined and watchful, and also his Anglo-Saxon outfit.

    Your tutorials and walk-throughs have been quite helpful to this watercolor amateur. :-) Thank you for creating and posting them!


  6. On that subject of Edda and style and… Funnily enough, to me it all evokes Kalevala to some extent, maybe because the Czech editions of Kalevala I’ve encountered probably drew on similar inspirations around the same time. And that’s perfectly all right for Tolkien, too.
    (In other words, this could perhaps be Lemminkäinen sailing to Pohjola, except of course it isn’t, because there’s Elwing as well and he and his purpose are way too grave for him to be Lemminkäinen…)

  7. A lovely painting, Jenny. I laughed after a few seconds, realising that it was a romantic, husband-and-wife one! :D In terms of the discussion about whether Eärendil’s hair was blond, what I have read about him (though I could be wrong!) doesn’t say anything about his hair colour; so you were free to decide. Idril Celebrindal, his mother, was certainly a blonde, taking after her mother, who was of the Vanyar.

    • And I’ve always seen Tuor depictied as blonde, too… I haven’t read the tale in some time, so I can’t remember if it was specifically mentioned, but he sure is put in contrast with Túrin, who, I believe, was dark-haired.

      • And to add to that, I always have imagined Elwing with blonde hair, despite being the granddaughter of Luthien and Beren, who were both dark-haired, but I have also imagined Nimloth as being blonde.

  8. Its great to see a golden ring on his forefinger, that means he’s married. Your details are amazing!

  9. This seems the appropriate place to belatedly congratulate you, Jenny, on winning the Tolkien Society’s Award for this year, in the category of Best Artwork!

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