By Darth Fingon
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Ingwë, King of the Vanyar, is yet another one of those characters who plays one critical role in the history of the Elves and then disappears into obscurity, thereafter surfacing only occasionally as a reference. In the earlier versions of the stories seen in the Book of Lost Tales, Ingwë, there called Inwë, is seen as a character of greater importance, with more emphasis placed on his leadership at Cuiviénen and expanded deeds in later years. Much of this, however, is removed for the published Silmarillion and its source material.


In all versions of his story, Ingwë is an Elf of Cuiviénen who either was born there or awakened under the stars. The Lost Road mentions Ingwë as being the oldest of the Elves and the one who first awoke (1), thus equating him with Imin of the awakening legend, but whether or not this early idea is still valid in the Silmarillion era is unknown.

In all versions of the story, Ingwë was one of three chosen by Oromë to travel to Aman:

[Oromë] chose from among [the Elves of Cuiviénen] ambassadors who should go to Valinor and speak for their people; and these were Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë, who afterwards were kings. (2)

Interesting to note here is the qualifier that only afterward were these three considered kings; there is no exact description of their status prior to the journey, though elsewhere they are mentioned as chieftains. The three went with Oromë to Valinor, where they beheld the light of the Trees. The Silmarillion glosses over this entire journey in one sentence, but the Book of Lost Tales provides more detail, including Inwë's speech:

Last spake Inwë, who had been gazing upon Laurelin while the others spake, and he said: "Knowing neither whence I come nor by what ways nor yet whither I go, the world that we are in is but one great wonderment to me, and methinks I love it wholly, yet it fills me altogether with a desire for light." (3)

Further, upon returning to Cuiviénen, it was Inwë who spoke to the Elves and convinced the greater part of them to journey to Valinor:

Standing upon a boulder Inwe spake the embassy to all those hosts of the Eldalië that Ilúvatar waked first upon the Earth, and all such as heard his words were filled with desire to see the faces of the Gods. (4)


When the Eldar first came to Aman, both Noldor and Vanyar together built and resided in the city of Tirion. There Ingwë built the Tower of Ingwë, more commonly known as the Mindon Eldaliéva, which was tallest of all the towers in the city (5). The Vanyar, though did not remain long in Tirion, but departed shortly after its completion:

Tirion was full-wrought, and the Tower of Ingwë was built, Mindon Eldaliéva, and its silver lamp was kindled. But Ingwë and many of the Vanyar yearned for the Light of the Trees, and he and many of his household departed and went to Valinor, and dwelt forever with the people of Manwë. (6)

'Valinor' here refers to the land west of the Pelóri where the Valar make their homes. The close bond between Ingwë and Manwë is also mentioned in several other sources: The Silmarillion states that Ingwë 'abode ... at the feet of Manwë upon Taniquetil' (7), while the Book of Lost Tales tells us that 'the Teleri (8) whom Inwë ruled were especially beloved of [Manwë], and got of him poesy and song' (9).

In Valinor, though other kings such as Finwë and Olwë ruled their own people, Ingwë was deemed to be the High King of the Elves, and 'all Elves revere his name' (10).

Later Years

One aspect of Ingwë's story that did not survive past the Book of Lost Tales was his participation in the Elven assault on Morgoth. Originally, it was Ingwë who led the Vanyar into Middle-earth, where he was killed.

Meril-i-Turinqi told Eriol that Inwë, her grandsire's sire, 'perished in that march into the world,' but Ingil his son 'went long ago back to Valinor with Manwë'. (11)

The original statement ... that Ingwë 'never came back into the Outer Lands until these tales were near their end' is a reference to his leadership of the March of the Elves of Valinor in the second assault on Morgoth, in which he perished. The revised statement ... saying that Ingwë never came back from the West, is virtually the same as that in The Silmarillion. (12)

The revised statement referred to in the second quote is that Ingwë 'never came back, nor looked again upon Middle-earth' (13). In this new version of events, it is instead Ingwë's son who leads the army of the Vanyar in the War of Wrath.

One other mention of Ingwë outside of Valinor in the Years of the Trees occurs in Gondolin, where Galdor defended 'the western entry by the Arch of Inwë to a horde of the goblins' (14).

The name Ingwë does appear in the Book of Lost Tales alongside Inwë, though here it belongs to an entirely different character not associated with the Elven High King: Ingwë (also Ing) is instead a Mannish king of Luthany (England) (15).

Name and Language

Ingwë's 'proper title was Ingwë Ingweron 'chief of chieftains'' (16). The element ING in the Lost Road is listed as meaning 'first' or 'foremost' (17), which corresponds to the later Quenya adjective inga meaning 'first'. The generic ending -wë means 'person'. The older version, Inwë, has a different meaning: it derives from the Qenya root INI (small), which also provides words meaning 'little Elf' and 'tiny' (18).

Ingwë's name is also attached to an archaic dialect of 'Qenya' called Ingwiqenya, spoken exclusively by those close to him:

Qenya is the Elf-latin ... But a purer and more archaic form is used by Ingwë High-king of the Elves and his court and household, who never use the common Oromian Lindarin: this is Ingwiqenya. (19)


Ingwë had 'many children' (20) according to Finwë, but only one son is ever mentioned. Three names for Ingwë's son are provided: Ingil, Ingwiel, and Ingwion. All of these seem to refer to the same person. None of the other children is ever mentioned, and Ingwë's wife is not named.

Two other named family members are Indis, who is either his sister or niece depending on the source, and Meril, his great-granddaughter in the Book of Lost Tales.

Works Cited

  1. Lost Road, 171
  2. Silmarillion, 52
  3. Book of Lost Tales 1, 116
  4. ibid. 118
  5. ibid. 59
  6. Morgoth's Ring, 84-85
  7. Silmarillion, 62
  8. Teleri was the original clan name for the Vanyar. Those who later became known as the Teleri were at this time called the Solosimpi.
  9. Book of Lost Tales 1, 59
  10. Silmarillion, 53
  11. Book of Lost Tales 2, 258
  12. Shaping of Middle-earth, 168
  13. Silmarillion, 53
  14. Book of Lost Tales 2, 181-182
  15. ibid. 305
  16. Peoples of Middle-earth, 340
  17. Lost Road, 361
  18. Parma Eldalamberon 12, 42
  19. Lost Road, 193
  20. Morgoth's Ring, 206

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