Voronwe is an Elf of Gondolin who plays an important, supportive role in the Tuor and Gondolin myths of
J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth. His name translates as "The Steadfast". As in many myths the character's name
reflects his personality and how he behaves in the story. It is thus for Voronwe.
Voronwe guides Tuor to the hidden city of Gondolin. This is a supportive role, but critical to the eventual
salvation of the Elves against the evil of Melkor, a fallen Archangel (Lucifer counter-part). Tuor marries
the princess of Gondolin, Idril, daughter of Turgon. Their son, Earendil the Mariner, is the one able to
reach the Blessed Realm of Valinor to request aid from the guardians of the world. Reaching
the Blessed Realm was a major problem for the elves as described by Voronwe and his unsuccessful effort.
The elves had left Valinor centuries earlier in a fit of anger over the theft of the Silmarils, great jewels
of unsurpassing beauty. Curses were made, a battle broke out, and innocent elves were killed so those that
left the Blessed Realm were under the Doom of Mandos - never able to return to Valinor. Mandos is one of the
leaders of the Valar. In later times as the battles against Melkor went badly for the elves,
they sought help from Valinor, but generally to no avail. Some of the Valar aided the elves in ways that didn't
violate the Doom of Mandos. Ulmo, Lord of Waters, (nee Poseidon) provided such aid. In the present context he
helps Tuor in several ways, one of which is to rescue Voronwe and send him to guide Tuor.
Voronwe was the only mariner from seven ships sent from Middle-Earth to sail to the Blessed Realm to request help. He
was an citizen of Gondolin. The seven ships were sent by Turgon, the Elf Lord who founded of the hidden city as a
stronghold against the evil of Melkor. None of the ships returned to Middle-Earth and as far as the inhabitants
of Gondolin knew, they were all lost. They did not know otherwise until Voronwe returned to Gondolin guiding the
In the following excerpt from the story "Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin", Voronwe describes his near death
experience at sea:
"...the Great Sea is terrible, Tuor son of Huor. It hates the Noldor
(elves under the Doom of Mandos), for it works the Doom of the Valar. Worse
things it holds than to sink into the abyss and so perish: loathing, and
loneliness, and madness; terror of wind and tumult, and silence, and shadows
where all hope is lost and all living shapes pass away. And many shores evil
and strange it washes, and many islands of danger and fear infest it. I will
not darken your heart, son of Middle-Earth, with the tale of my labour seven
years in the Great Sea from the North even unto the South, but never the
West (Blessed Realm). For that is shut against us.
At the last, in black despair, weary of all the world, we turned and fled
from the doom that so long had spared us, only to strike us the more cruelly.
For even as we descried a mountain from afar, and I cried: 'Lo! There is
Taras, and the land of my birth,' the wind awoke, and great clouds thunder-laden
came up from the West. The waves hunted us like living things filled with
malice, and the lightenings smote us. When we were broken down to a helpless
hull the seas leaped upon us in fury.
But as you can see, I was spared. For it seemed to me that there came a wave,
greater and yet calmer than all the others, and it took me and lifted me from
the ship. It bore me high upon its shoulders and rolling to the land it cast
me upon the turf. It drained away, pouring back over the cliff in a great
Then but one hour had I sat when you came upon me, still dazed by the sea.
And still I feel the fear of it, and the bitter loss of all my friends that
went with me so long and so far, beyond the sight of mortal lands..."1
In spite of his loss, Voronwe consents to guide Tuor to Gondolin because Tuor had been commanded thus by Ulmo. Voronwe
is concerned because no one other than Turgon's people are allowed to enter or even know the location of Gondolin,
but he guides him nonetheless. The journey is told in "Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin" in Unfinished Tales.
Voronwe remains steadfast as guide in spite of the troubles they encounter on the journey.
- Unfinished Tales, page 35-36.
- Tolkien, JRR, Unfinished Tales, edited by Christopher Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1980.