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Revision as of 19:46, 15 August 2010
|Location||West of Belegaer|
|Inhabitants||Valar, Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri|
|Description||Beautiful realm split by the Pelóri|
|Other names||Frequently generalized as Valinor|
|Etymology||Q. "Blessed Realm" or "Free from Evil"|
|Events||Flight of the Noldor, death of the Two Trees|
Aman ("Blessed Realm" or "Free from Evil" in Quenya, pron. [ˈaman]) is a continent that lies to the west of Middle-earth, across the great ocean Belegaer. It is the home of the Valar, and three kindreds of Elves: the Vanyar, some of the Noldor, and some of the Teleri. The island of Tol Eressëa lies just off the eastern shore.
Seeking to isolate themselves, they raised a great mountain fence, called the Pelóri, on the eastern coast; the highest of them was Taniquetil, on the peak of which was the throne of Manwe and Varda. They later set the Enchanted Isles in the ocean to prevent travelers by sea from reaching Aman.
For reasons unknown, the Valar left two lands outside the wall of the Pelóri: Araman to the northeast and Avathar to the southeast. Ungoliant, a great spider of unknown origin, had managed to escape notice in Avathar.
The Elves who arrived to Aman in the Years of the Trees were called Amanyar or Calaquendi because they saw the light of the Two Trees. The Valar opened a cleft between the Pelóri, the Calacirya, so that the Light reached the Elves in their lands and cities, Eldamar, Tirion, Alqualondë and Tol Eressëa.
After the Exile of Feanor, the Noldor were not allowed to return to Valinor, and it was hidden from the Mortal lands. The Valar raised the Pelóri more, fortified Calacirya and raised the Enchanted Isles in the Shadowy Seas. There have been many attempts to reach the Undying Lands from Beleriand by ships, of which only Voronwë Aranwion survived; it is told that maybe Tuor was, alone of the mortals, allowed to find Aman before his son Eärendil.
Eärendil was the first known navigator to succeed in passing the Isles of Enchantment, guided by the light of the Silmaril, who came to Valinor to seek the aid of the Valar against Melkor, now called Morgoth. His quest was successful, the Valar went to war again, and also decided to remove the Isles.
After the War of Wrath and the destruction of Beleriand, Aman was no more connected to Middle-earth by the Helcaraxë but could be reached by the ships of the Elves.
Soon after this, the great island of Númenor was raised out of Belegaer, close to the shores of Aman, and the Three Houses of the Edain were brought to live there. Henceforth, they were called the Dúnedain, and were blessed with many gifts by the Valar and the Elves of Tol Eressëa. The Valar feared—rightly—that the Númenóreans would seek to enter Aman to gain immortality (even though a mortal in Aman remains mortal), so they forbade them from sailing west of the westernmost promontory of Númenor. In time, and not without some corrupting help from Sauron, the Númenóreans violated the Ban of the Valar, and sailed to Aman with a great army under the command of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden. The Valar collapsed a part of the Pelóri on this army, trapping it but not killing it. It is said that the army still lives underneath the pile of rock.
In light of this new development, the Valar decided to again isolate themselves from the other lands by a decisive method. The flat Arda was cloven in two, and made the rest round, so that a mariner sailing west along Eärendil's route would simply emerge in the far east. For the Elves, however, they crafted a Straight Road that peels away from the curvature of the earth and passes to Aman. A very few non-Elves are known to have passed along this road, including Frodo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins, and possibly Samwise Gamgee and Gimli.
There has been some debate whether the protagonists who sailed in the West became immortal or not. Robert Foster in his foreword to The Complete Guide to Middle-earth says that he did not provide death dates for those characters "for they still live". In reality, the Undying Lands were called like that because immortals dwelled in them, not because they granted immortality, something which becomes clear in the Akallabêth.