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"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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"The Sea" by Ted Nasmith
General Information
Other namesAlatairë (Q), The Great Sea, Sundering Seas, Western Sea
LocationEast of Aman, west of Middle-earth
RegionsBay of Balar, Great Gulf, Forochel, Gulf of Lune, Bay of Belfalas
EventsWar of Wrath & Downfall of Númenor
GalleryImages of Belegaer

The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm.

Belegaer, the Great Sea, the Sundering Seas, or the Western Sea,[1] was the sea of Arda that was west of Middle-earth.


Before the Second Age, Belegaer stretched from the Gap of Ilmen in the far north, where a bridge made of ice known as the Helcaraxë connected Middle-earth and Aman, to the far south, where it also connected with Ilmen and froze, although no strait was formed there. Belegaer was narrower in the north than in the south, with its widest part near the equator of Arda.

The full extent of Belegaer after the Downfall of Númenor is never made clear, but it reached far enough to the north to be ice-covered, and far to the south.

Before the end of the Second Age, the continent of Aman, home of the Valar, formed the western edge of Belegaer. Before the ruin of Beleriand at the end of the First Age, the sea was narrow and ice-filled in the north, forming the strait of Helcaraxë, the Grinding Ice. It was thus possible to cross from Aman to Middle-earth on foot, though with difficulty, as did Fingolfin and his people of the Noldor when fleeing Valinor.

After the War of Wrath, Belegaer was widened by the drowning of a large part of Middle-earth, (and possibly parts of Aman). The bridge of ice in the north was removed, removing land access to the western continent. During the Akallabêth in the Second Age, the seas were bent and the world was made round. Aman was removed from the world, Belegaer washed "new lands", and only the chosen could find the Straight Road to Valinor. The new western end of Belegaer is never described in the narrative, although there are indications that Númenórean refugees reached them in search for Valinor.


Belegaer by Angelo Montanini


Belegaer had several islands and island chains:

Bays and inlets

Other features of Belegaer:


Belegaer is Sindarin for "Great Sea", from beleg ("mighty") + aer ("sea").[2] The Quenya name of Belegaer, never used in primary writing, is Alatairë.[3]


Karen Wynn Fonstad has noted that "Belegaer was comparable to the Atlantic".[4]


  1. Quite often also "the western sea" in small letters.
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names", entries beleg, eär
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entry "AY", see also "AYA(R)"
  4. Karen Wynn Fonstad, The Atlas of Middle-earth, p. 194