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Aman

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Aman
Physical Description
TypeContinent
LocationWest of Belegaer
InhabitantsValar, Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri
DescriptionBeautiful realm split by the Pelóri
General Information
Other namesFrequently generalized as Valinor
EventsFlight of the Noldor, death of the Two Trees

Aman, the Blessed Realm, was a continent that lied to the west of Middle-earth, across the great ocean Belegaer. It was 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 was located just off the eastern shore.

Upon the destruction of Almaren in very ancient times, the Valar fled to Aman, and there established the realm of Valinor.

Contents

Description

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 Manwë 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.

Aman was connected to the north with Middle-earth via the narrow straits of the Helcaraxe, a road that was taken by Melkor and later Fëanor when leaving for Beleriand.

History

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.

Etymology

The Quenya name Aman is glossed as "Blessed Land",[1] or "blessed, free from evil".[2]

The etymology of the name Aman changed over time in Tolkien's writings. In early linguistic writings, Aman was intended to be a "native Quenya form", derived from the root MAN ("good"). However, in later writings (such as Quendi and Eldar), the name is said to derive from a Valarin word.[1]

Other names

Aman was also called the Ancient West, Blessed Realm and the Undying Lands or just Valinor. In Adûnaic it was called Thâni anAmân or Amatthâni.[source?] In The Hobbit Tolkien also calls this continent "Faerie in the West".

Immortality

Robert Foster said in his foreword to The Complete Guide to Middle-earth that he did not provide death dates for protagonists who sailed in the West "for they still live". Steuard Jensen, while noting that Tolkien "seems to have been initially unsure" if the "mortals who sailed to the West would remain mortal", comments that are strong arguments in favour of the opposite view, citing from two letters by Tolkien:[3]

...certain 'mortals', who have played some great part in Elvish affairs, may pass with the Elves to Elvenhome...I have said nothing about it in this book [The Lord of the Rings], but the mythical idea underlying is that for mortals, since their 'kind' cannot be changed for ever, this is strictly only a temporary reward: a healing and redress of suffering. They cannot abide for ever, and though they cannot return to mortal earth, they can and will 'die' - of free will, and leave the world.
Letter 154
Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over Sea to heal him - if that could be done, before he died. He would have eventually to 'pass away': no mortal could, or can, abide for ever on earth, or within Time.
Letter 246

Other important arguments against the immortality of the mortals who sailed to Aman can be found in another letter and in a passage from The Akallabêth:

As for Frodo or other mortals, they could only dwell in Aman for a limited time - whether brief or long. The Valar had neither the power nor the right to confer 'immortality' upon them. Their sojourn was a 'purgatory', but one of peace and healing and they would eventually pass away (die at their own desire and of free will) to destinations of which the Elves knew nothing."
Letter 325
The Eldar reported these words to the Valar, and Manwë was grieved, seeing a cloud gather on the noontide of Númenor. And he sent messengers to the Dúnedain, who spoke earnestly to the King, and to all who would listen, concerning the fate and fashion of the world.

‘The Doom of the World,’ they said, ‘One alone can change who made it. And were you so to voyage that escaping all deceits and snares you came indeed to Aman, the Blessed Realm, little would it profit you. For it is not the land of Manwë that makes its people deathless, but the Deathless that dwell therein have hallowed the land; and there you would but wither and grow weary the sooner, as moths in a light too strong and steadfast.’

J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"

The Undying Lands were likely thus called like that because immortals dwelled in them, not because they granted immortality.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals and Related Writings — Part Three" (edited by Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 49, June 2007, pp. 26-7
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar", p. 399
  3. Steuard Jensen, "Did Frodo and the other mortals who passed over the Sea eventually die?" , Tolkien Meta-FAQ (accessed 25 March 2012)