Meaning: Endurance, faithfulness, lasting quality
Other Names: Bronweg
Location(s): Gondolin, Nevrast, Mouth of Sirion
Dates: First Age
Parents: Father - Aranwë / Mother - unnamed Sindar, kin to Círdan
Children: Littleheart (earlier versions: Elfrith, Elfriniel, Elfriniol, Ilfrin, Ilfiniol)
"...his face shown in the ray, hard and clear, as if graven in stone; and Tuor marveled to see its beauty."
"Then the Elf turned and looked up, and Tuor met the piercing glance of his sea-grey eyes, and knew that he was of the high folk of the Noldor."
Timeline - since Tolkien changed dates with versions, there are discrepancies. Some of the dates are extrapolated:
488 Voronwë sails West.
495 Voronwë meets Tuor in Nevrast, they travel to Gondolin.
510 Fall of Gondolin.
511-528 Dwells at Havens of Sirion.
528-536 Sails with Eärendil.
In the very early versions of Tolkien's tales, Voronwë was a thrall of Melko, as were all Noldor outside Gondolin. He is one of the Noldoli sent to guide Tuor by Ulmo. The other Noldoli desert in fear when they enter lands that are known to be infested with Melkor's creatures, and only 'Voronwë the faithful' remains. In this version he is a craftsman: "I am not of the road-learned of the Noldoli, being a craftsman and maker of things by hand of wood and metal, and I joined not the band of escort til late."
In the later versions he is a Noldor of Gondolin, and is sent by Turgon to Círdan as messenger, eventually to sail seeking the Valar's help for Middle-earth. (In one version Voronwë is captain of one of the ships. The War of the JewelsThe Grey Annals 257.) He is at sea for seven years, but the ships cannot come to the west, kept out by the curse of the Noldor. All seven ships sent are wrecked, and only Voronwë is saved by the intervention of Ulmo, so that he may guide Tuor to Gondolin.
They travel through peril and hardship such that Tuor is unsure he will survive the trip, at last arriving at the Gate. Here they are challenged, as Voronwë has broken Gondolin's law by guiding a stranger, especially a man, to the city. He is to be taken before Turgon as a prisoner and judged, and by their law Tuor should be slain. Tuor bears the tokens Ulmo had told Turgon to leave for his messenger, and although Turgon does not heed his message, he allows Tuor to stay in Gondolin.
It is clear that there was trust and affection between Tuor and Voronwë. In Gondolin:
"Now Tuor learnt many things in those realms taught by Voronwë whom he loved, and who loved him exceeding greatly in return; or else was he instructed by the skilled men of the city and the wise men of the king."
This trust is also much in evidence during the Fall of Gondolin, where Voronwë is charged with guarding Idril:
"Then Tuor and his men must get them to the battle of the Gate, for the noise of it has grown very great, and Tuor has it still in his heart that the city may stand; yet with Idril he left there Voronwë against his will and some other swordsmen to be a guard for her till he returned or might send tidings from the fray."
"At length they had fallen in with a band somewhat too numerous, and Voronwë had dragged her thence but by luck of the Gods, for all else with them perished, and their foe burned Tuor's house; yet they found not the secret way. 'Therewith,' said Voronwë, 'thy lady became distraught of weariness and grief, and fared into the city wildly to my great fear - nor might I get her to sally from the burning.' "
After escaping Gondolin the survivors wander in the wastes, and Voronwë is instrumental in their escape:
"Here did Voronwë guide them, for he had caught a whisper of Ulmo's in that stream one late summer's night - and he got ever much wisdom from the sound of waters. Now he led them even till they came down to Sirion which that stream fed, and then both Tuor and Voronwë saw that they were not far from the outer issue of old of the Way of Escape, and were once more in that deep dale of alders."
From The Book of Lost Tales 2.
The later years of Voronwë:
In the earlier versions of the tale Voronwë is mentioned as accompanying Eärendil on his voyages; an alternate version has him sailing into the west with Tuor and Idril. In one brief note Tolkien had Voronwë left with Elwing at Sirion, after which he is the one to tell Eärendil of the Sack of Sirion. Voronwë then sails with Eärendil on his next voyage.
In The Book of Lost Tales 2 there is reference to a version of the tale where Earendil and Voronwë later return to the ruins of Gondolin, finding Men and Gnomes (Noldoli) there.
Early versions are in The Book of Lost Tales 2, and a very brief version in The Lost Road.
Later versions are in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
The most complete version of the meeting of Voronwë and Tuor is in Unfinished Tales. The most complete version of The Fall of Gondolin is in The Book of Lost Tales 2.