What is Aerlinn?
AERLINN(aer+ lin, “ocean-song): As part of his subcreation, Tolkien sought to fill out his imaginary words with complete histories, mythologies, and poetic traditions. Accordingly, he invented the aerlinn, an imaginary genre of Elvish poetry that Tolkien devised to be background for The Lord of the Rings.
Aerlinns are hymns with a seven-line stanza-structure rhyming aababcc. The form may be loosely inspired by the seven-line stanza invented by Chaucer in the fourteenth century that later came into its own as rhime royal. The aerlinn’s conventional theme would be a paean or an apostrophe, usually to Elbereth or another of the Valar. Tolkien’s etymology for the word aerlinn connects the idea of holiness with the ocean.
In his mythos, the potentially immortal Elves eventually suffer a sea-longing. They feel a compulsion that calls them to sail over the western sea to join the Valar and leave behind the world of men. Below is a sample aerlinn in Elvish from the end of chapter one, “Merry Meetings,” in The Two Towers:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna miriel
o menel aglar elenath!
o galadhremmin ennorath
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
Categories: English Literary Terms