Tolkien Gateway

Aman

Ted Nasmith - The Shores of Valinor.jpg
Aman
Physical Description
TypeContinent
LocationWest of Belegaer, east of Ekkaia
RealmsValinor
InhabitantsValar
Maiar
Vanyar
Noldor
Teleri
DescriptionBeautiful realm protected by the Pelóri
General Information
Other namesBlessed Realm
Frequently generalized as Valinor
EventsDeath of the Two Trees
Flight of the Noldor
Destruction of Ar-Pharazôn

Aman, the Blessed Realm, was a continent that lay 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.

Contents

[edit] Description

The continent of Aman had great oceans on both sides, Ekkaia to the west and Belegaer to the east. When the Valar chose this land for their dwelling they needed a defense against Melkor and thus upon Aman's eastern coast they raised the Pelóri, the highest mountains on earth, of which Taniquetil was the tallest of all. Upon this peak were the thrones of Manwë and Varda.

Behind the mountain wall was established the domain of Valinor which became more beautiful than Middle-earth in the Spring of Arda. In Valinor was Valmar, the city of the Valar. To the west of Valmar was a green mound called Ezellohar and from this mound grew the Two Trees that lit the land.[1]

Through the Pelóri was opened a pass, the Calacirya, which brought light to the narrow coastland of Eldamar and the island of Tol Eressëa.[2] Also beyond the mountain wall were two more regions of Aman: Araman to the northeast[3] and Avathar to the southeast. Ungoliant, a great spider of unknown origin, had managed to escape notice in Avathar.[4]

In the north Aman was separated from Middle-earth by the narrow straits of the Helcaraxe. These ice-filled straits served as a path for Melkor and later the host of Fingolfin to return to Middle-earth.[3]

The Valar later set the Enchanted Isles in the ocean to prevent travelers by sea from reaching Aman.[5]

[edit] History

In Year of the Lamps 3450[6] the Spring of Arda ended when Melkor cast down the Two Lamps and destroyed the original dwelling of the Valar upon the isle of Almaren. The Valar departed from Middle-earth and settled in Aman. There they established the realm of Valinor.[1]

After the destruction of the Lamps came the Years of the Trees and in Y.T. 1050 the Elves awoke.[7] At first the Elves were unwilling to heed the summons of the Valar to come to Valinor. The Vala Oromë selected three ambassadors, Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë[8] in 1102[9] who were swiftly brought to Aman and beheld the light of the Trees. These three Elven-kings persuaded many of the elves to journey to Aman. In 1132[10] the Vanyar and Noldor departed from Middle-earth upon an island that was drawn across the Sea to Aman. The third group of the Elves, the Teleri remained in Middle-earth until 1149[11] when many of them were brought to Aman.

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.[2]

After the Exile of Feanor, the Noldor were not allowed to return to Valinor,[3] and it was hidden from Mortal lands. The Valar heightened the Pelóri even more, fortified Calacirya and raised the Enchanted Isles in the Shadowy Seas.[5] There were many attempts to reach the Undying Lands from Beleriand by ship, of which only Voronwë Aranwion survived;[12] it is told that maybe Tuor was, alone of the mortals, allowed to find Aman before his son Eärendil.[13]

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 and the Valar went to war again.[14]

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, far from 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 from 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. A part of the Pelóri collapsed upon this army, trapping it but not killing it. It is said that the army still lives underneath the pile of rock in the Caves of the Forgotten.

In light of this development, the land of Aman was decisively and forever isolated from the other lands. The flat Arda was cloven in two, and the rest was made round, so that a mariner sailing west along Eärendil's route would simply emerge in the far east. For the Elves, however, a Straight Road remains that peels away from the curvature of the earth and passes to Aman.[15] A very few non-Elves are known to have passed along this road, including Frodo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins, and possibly Samwise Gamgee and Gimli.[16]

[edit] Etymology

The Quenya name Aman is glossed as "Blessed Land",[17] or "blessed, free from evil".[18]

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.[17]

[edit] Other names

Aman was also called the Ancient West, Blessed Realm and the Undying Lands[19] or just Valinor. In Adûnaic it was called Amatthāni.[20] In The Hobbit Tolkien also calls this continent "Faerie in the West".[21]

[edit] 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:[22]

...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.

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Beginning of Days"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Darkening of Valinor"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Two. The Annals of Aman: First section of the Annals of Aman"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §3
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §7
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §11
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §13
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring", S.R. 1482 and S.R. 1541
  17. 17.0 17.1 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
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar", p. 399
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Númenor"
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Three: The Drowning of Anadûnê: (vi) Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language: [Author's Footnotes]", p. 435
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  22. Steuard Jensen, "Did Frodo and the other mortals who passed over the Sea eventually die?" , Tolkien Meta-FAQ (accessed 25 March 2012)