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Built in I 534 or soon before; landed in Aman in I 542, and continues to the sail the sky bearing the Star of Eärendil
Set out from the Mouths of Sirion to sail the Great Sea, eventually landing on the shores of Aman
Built by Eärendil with the aid of Círdan
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 14 February 2024
  • This entry is complete


The famous ship of Eärendil

"Neath cliffs of carven crystal sheer
  The foam there flowers upon the Sea"
The History of Middle-earth volume V
The Lost Road
The Song of Ælfwine

The translated name of Vingilot, the white-timbered vessel of Eärendil in which he sailed the Great Sea to reach the forbidden shores of Aman in the West. Eärendil chose the name in part to reflect that of his wife, Elwing (where wing was a word meaning 'spray' or 'foam' in the tongue of the Bëorians).1

The Voyages of the Foam-flower

With the Wars of Beleriand drawing to their close, and victory for Morgoth seemingly inevitable, Eärendil the Mariner became determined to make the perilous journey into the West to seek the aid of the Valar. Aided by Círdan the Shipwright, he cut white timbers from the Birchwoods of Nimbrethil and built a fair vessel with golden oars and silver-white sails. He named this vessel Vingilot the Foam-flower, and with a crew of three fellow mariners, Eärendil sailed from the Mouths of Sirion and set out onto the pathless Sea.

On that long voyage, Eärendil failed to pass the dangers that protected the realm of the Valar, and at last he turned the Foam-flower toward home. As the ship sailed back toward the Mouths of Sirion, a shining light appeared in the sky, a Silmaril borne by a white bird that landed, exhausted, on the vessel's deck. This bird transformed into Eärendil's wife Elwing, and she revealed what had happened on land as Eärendil roamed the seas. The refuge at the Mouths of Sirion had been attacked by the Sons of Fëanor, desperate to recover the Silmaril that was held there. In desperation, Elwing had cast herself into the Sea with the Jewel, but Ulmo had saved her and transformed her into a bird so that she could reach her husband far out on the waves.

With no home left to which he could return, Eärendil turned his course once more toward the West. Sailing now with the hallowed Silmaril bound to his brow, he was able to pass the Shadowy Seas and the Enchanted Isles, and to come at last to the shores of Aman. He set out from the Foam-flower to journey inland, and after a time Elwing also left the ship. Its crew, three faithful mariners named Falathar, Erellont and Aerandir, waited aboard the vessel.

Into the High Airs

Eärendil's embassy to the Valar was a success, and they were moved to aid the Children of Ilúvatar against the power of Morgoth. Eärendil himself, having landed upon the Undying Lands, could not set foot again in Middle-earth, and nor could his wife Elwing. The three mariners aboard the Foam-flower, however, were permitted to return, and they were placed on a boat and sent back across the Sea to the lands of their birth.

Eärendil's vessel, Vingilot the Foam-flower, was hallowed by the Valar. They carried it from the eastern shore of their realm to the far west, where the waters of the Outer Sea lapped on the shores of Aman. From there, filled with glimmering light, the Foam-flower lifted into the airs. Eärendil himself held its helm, glistening with the dust of diamonds, and with the Silmaril bound to his brow. The Foam-flower now shone with brilliant light as it rose into the sky.

Eärendil piloted his vessel out through the Door of Night and into the Void, so that the shining light of the Silmaril was visible across the world. In Middle-earth, far to the east, the Foam-flower could be seen rising like a brilliant star in the western sky. The surviving Elves and Men took this as a sign of hope, calling the new light Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope, while Morgoth dreaded what it might portend.

Morgoth was right to tremble in the pits of Angband. In answer to Eärendil's prayer, the Valar sent an overwhelming force into Middle-earth to confront the Dark Lord. In the War of Wrath that followed, Morgoth loosed flying Dragons against his besiegers, but Eärendil himself piloted Vingilot the Foam-flower into the fray. With the aid of Thorondor the Eagle and many great birds, he defeated the Dragons and threw down the greatest of them, Ancalagon, onto the peaks of Thangorodrim.

After the Defeat of Morgoth

After the fall of Morgoth and the end of the First Age, Eärendil continued his voyages into the high airs, and his Star could be still be seen from Middle-earth, low in the sky in the evening or the morning. At times as he returned, Elwing, who had given her name in part to the gleaming vessel Vingilot, would fly to meet him.

Eärendil and the flights of the Foam-flower played a crucial part in the formation of Númenor early in the Second Age. The Edain, those Men who had aided the Eldar in the Wars of Beleriand, were rewarded by being granted a new homeland. This was an island raised from the Sea, and the Edain were guided to their new island home by the light of the Star of Eärendil gleaming in the western sky. Thus the first Númenóreans reached their new home, led by Eärendil's own son, Elros Tar-Minyatur. For this reason, among Númenor's many names was Elenna, the 'Starwards' land.

Eärendil continued his voyaging into the outer airs through the Second Age and the Third. His connection with the twilight of evening gave rise to the surname of Arwen Evenstar (who was in fact his granddaughter, her father Elrond being Eärendil's son). According to the legends of the Elves, Eärendil still sails his shining Foam-flower out into the Void to this day, and the Star of Eärendil can often be seen low in the sky as the brilliant evening and morning star.



The derivation of wing or ving as 'foam' is explained in several sources, but the significance of the 'flower' in the ship's name is less clear. In the Song of Ælfwine quoted above, the foam of the waves 'flowers' in the sense of bursting on the shore. As part of a ship's name, therefore, we're perhaps intended to imagine a similar 'flowering' of the foam against the prow of the vessel as it cut through the ocean waves.


About this entry:

  • Updated 14 February 2024
  • This entry is complete

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