From Tolkien Gateway
The name Arda refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Arda (disambiguation).
The World
J.R.R. Tolkien - Ambarkanta Map (colorized).gif
"Ambarkanta Map" (coloured) by J.R.R. Tolkien
General Information
PronunciationQ, [ˈarda]
Other namesAþāraphelūn (V), Ardhon (S)
TypeThe World
DescriptionA habitable round mass of land, water and airs under the Sun, Moon and stars.
RegionsAman (including Valinor), Middle-earth (including Beleriand), Dark Land, Númenor, Land of the Sun
People and History
InhabitantsAinur, Elves, Men, Dwarves, and others.
CreatedV.Y. 1 or earlier
EventsSee: Category:Events
GalleryImages of Arda
"Behold I love the Earth, which shall be a mansion for the Quendi and the Atani!"
― Ilúvatar in Of the Beginning of Days

Arda (Q: "Realm") was the Quenya name for the world as a whole. Arda was created within by Eru Ilúvatar. It was then shaped by the Valar, with continental masses such as Middle-earth and Aman, and oceans, like Belegaer.

Arda was the home of Elves, Men, Dwarves and other races as well as the kelvar and olvar. Some of the Ainur govern the world under Eru's mandate.

"Creation of Arda" by Jacek Kopalski

Beginnings[edit | edit source]

Main article: Days before days

Arda was first brought into existence with the Music of the Ainur, for the purpose of creating a home for the Children of Ilúvatar. Ilúvatar appointed the Valar as its masters, and it was built mainly by Manwë, Aulë and Ulmo.

But even before the coming of some Ainur there were other beings inhabiting Arda, perhaps without the Ainur's involvement or knowledge.[note 1] One of them was Iarwain Ben-adar[1] and other mysterious nameless things that eventually withdrew in caves under mountains.[2][3]

The Valar invented its geography, for at the time it was largely without feature and gave it symmetry and form. But then Melkor wanted Arda for himself, and the two sides engaged in the titanic First War where Arda was marred and its plan was altered.[4]

As for light source, the Valar decided upon two lamps. One, a blue light, was placed at the north, and it was called Illuin. The other, a golden light, was placed at the very southernmost point, and was called Ormal. Aulë, craftsman of the Valar, forged two towers: Helkar and Ringil, placed at the north and south respectively. The Valar chose as their own home the green isle Almaren in the center of Arda between the two towers.

It was at that time that Melkor made his first attempt, spreading chaos across Arda. He destroyed the Lamps and the Towers, ruining the symmetry of the world. At this time, the continents of Aman, Endor, and the Land of the Sun were formed. In the midst of Endor where the Two Lamps fell into ruin, the Sea of Helcar and the Sea of Ringil formed.

See also: History of Arda

Geography[edit | edit source]

Before the Shifting[edit | edit source]

Original symmetric shape of Arda with Almaren in the middle. The Iron Mountains can be seen on the North, created by Melkor to protect himself from the Valar.

Arda was originally flat, like a plate. Encircling the continents was Ekkaia, the Encircling Sea. Farthest to the West was the great continent of Aman, composed primarily of two geographical features: the Plain of Valinor, and the Pelóri Mountains. Taniquetil was the highest mountain in this range, and in the world. Separating Aman from the lands to the east was the great sea of Belegaer.

Across Belegaer was Middle-earth, known also as Endor or the Hither Lands. The west side of this land mass was called Beleriand, the north Dor Daedeloth, and the east Palisor. According to Tolkien's earlier maps, it was in Palisor that there was the great inland Sea of Helcar, and the shores of Cuiviénen. At its farthest northwestern point, Middle-earth was joined to Aman by the Helcaraxë, a deathly cold region of grinding ice.

Middle-earth was dominated by many mountain ranges. Separating Beleriand from the inner lands of Middle-earth were the Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains. To the far east there were the Orocarni, the Red Mountains. Between the Blue Mountains and Red Mountains, Melkor had raised up the Hithaeglir, the Misty Mountains, to hinder the hunts of the Vala Oromë in Middle-earth. These three northern ranges were joined together at their northernmost ends by the Iron Mountains, raised by Melkor in the ages before the fall of the Two Lamps.

In the south of Middle-earth were the Grey Mountains, and in the southeast there were the Yellow Mountains. In the far east between the Orocarni in the north and the Yellow Mountains in the south there lay the Mountains of the Wind. However, when the Valar went to war against Melkor in the Battle of the Powers, much of Arda was changed again. The Yellow Mountains and the Mountains of the Wind were lost, and the Great Gulf formed between Beleriand and the lands to the far south. To the east, the East Sea and the Sea of Ringil joined together, dividing Middle-earth from a new continent known only as the Dark Land or the South Lands. [5]

In its earliest days, Middle-earth was dominated by a great forest spanning from the western shores to the Misty Mountains and possibly beyond. However, this great forest dwindled throughout the ages, remaining only in the regions of the Old Forest, Fangorn Forest, Lothlórien, and Eryn Vorn. Greenwood the Great may also have been a remnant of this vast forest.[6]

To the farthest east possible was the Uttermost East, with a great curved mountain range called the Walls of the Sun. In the Ambarkanta it is called the “Dark Land of the Sun”. Corresponding to Taniquetil was the mountain Kalormë.

Second Age and Beyond[edit | edit source]

The Fall of Númenor by Darrell Sweet

During the tumultuous War of Wrath, the Valar broke and reshaped much of the world. The lands of Beleriand sank beneath the Great Sea in this conflict, drowning many lands west of the Blue Mountains. There were some islands that remained of the old world: Tol Fuin, Tol Morwen, and Himring. On the mainland, only the realm of Lindon survived the sinking of Beleriand. Lindon and the Blue Mountains were split in two after the conflict by the Gulf of Lune, possibly an eastward expansion of the ancient Bay of Balar.[7] The mainlands shrank back furthest in the far north of the world, where the Icebay of Forochel was formed. To the south, the sinking of Beleriand robbed the Great Gulf of its northwestern ends, forming the Bay of Belfalas out of what remained.

After this catastrophic conflict, Ossë raised Elenna – a large, star-shaped isle – out of Belegaer, where the kingdom of Númenor would soon be settled.

The second great change was the Drowning of Númenor. In this cataclysm, the world was stretched and made into the shape of a sphere. At that time Aman and the island of Tol Eressëa were removed from the Circles of the World, and became inaccessible save by the Straight Way. It is said that new continents were made in place of the Undying Lands. Once again, the western coasts of Middle-earth changed, retreating in some places and advancing in others. It is unknown if the Uttermost East survived the Fall of Númenor.

Eschatology[edit | edit source]

The Elves held to the concept of Arda Marred. In the beginning, at the time of the Music of the Ainur, was Arda Unmarred. According to the idea of Arda Unmarred, the world was originally "unstained" by evil. It became Arda Marred after Melkor entered and introduced chaos. They also clung to the idea that one day the world would become Arda Healed. According to this belief, Arda Healed will not come about until the Dagor Dagorath, the Last Battle.

Tengwa[edit | edit source]

Arda (tengwa).gif

Arda is also the name in Quenya of the twenty-sixth letter of the Tengwar alphabet.[8] It is a modification of Rómen (letter 25). In written Quenya Arda is used for RD. In other modes this letter represents voiceless R (or RH).[9] The Westron name for this letter is Rhó.[10]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Arda derives from the Primitive Quendian word gardā meaning "bounded or defined place, region".[11]:402, 413

Other names[edit | edit source]

Arda is the Quenya name of the World, with its atmosphere and the celestial objects. The term Ambar is roughly equivalent and it probably refers to Earth without the celestial objects. It was also called Kingdom of Earth/Arda/Manwë and Little Kingdom. The Valarin name, from which Quenya Arda derived, was Aþāraphelūn ("appointed dwelling").[11]:401

The Sindarin version for Arda is Ardhon, only attested in the name Mîr n'Ardhon ("Jewel of the World").[12] However, it could be a lenited form of gardhon (a combination of gardh ("region") with a suffixal element -on).[13]

In Adûnaic the words kamât ("earth")[14] and dāira ("Earth")[15] are given at different points. Another possible word is Abat-, seen in the royal name Abattârik (Quenya: Ardamin).[16]

Theories[edit | edit source]

Using the known sizes of Beleriand and Middle-earth when compared to the size of Beleriand on Map V of the Ambarkanta maps, Karen Wynn Fonstad has speculated that flat Arda's diameter was probably about 6,800 miles.[17] However, Diagram III of the Ambarkanta shows that the "Old Lands" made up half of Arda made round,[18] implying that flat Arda would have been around 12,451 miles across, half the earth's circumference.[19] Precise estimations of the size of Arda are difficult to determine with Map V of the Ambarkanta, which is said by Christopher Tolkien to be "a very rough sketch not to be interpreted too strictly".[18]:258

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

In the early Book of Lost Tales, the Qenya name for the Earth was kemi as well as mar.[20] An early schematic map of that era, displays the flat earth like a ship floating in the ocean of Vai.

Early Arda and the waters and airs surrounding it, as shown in the Ambarkanta.

In the next phase of the legendarium, as described in The Ambarkanta, the world has the Qenya names Ilu (being the wholeness of existence, the world, with its sky and air, equivalent to Arda of the later legendarium) or Ambar (being the "earthy", concrete part of Ilu) suspended in the Void.[21]

Above the lands of Arda was Vista, the lowermost airs where the birds fly. Surrounding Vista were the airs of Ilmen, the upper airs where the stars were set. The airs of Ilmen met with the earth in Valinor and the Uttermost East where it was widest, and the airs of Ilmen were narrowest in the far north and south. Beyond Ilmen was Vaiya, the Encircling Sea which surrounds Arda on all its sides. It is said that the waters of Vaiya were more alike to air in the regions farthest above the earth, and alike to water beneath the earth. Surrounding all of Arda beyond the Vaiya was the Ilurambar, the Walls of the World, a cold and transparent globed barrier like ice and glass and steel, passable only by the Doors of Night. Beyond the Ilurambar there is naught but the Outer Void.[18]:235-240

The name Arda first appears in a later version of the Ainulindalë from 1951, where the term Ea also appears, with Arda now being just a small part in the vast regions of Creation[22] and not equated with it.

In the later Round World version of the Silmarillion, there is the consideration that there are other worlds in Eä beside Arda where the innumerable Ainur labored, but Arda is of central importance in the Great Tale of Eä, as it is the stage of the conflict between the Great Enemy and the Eruhini. The distant worlds, and the Ainur who shaped them, are beyond the thought of Elves and Men.[23]

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


  1. In The Book of Lost Tales, the nature and origin of Ungoliant is said to be a mystery even for the Valar.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniv. Ed.), The Fellowship of the Ring, "In the House of Tom Bombadil", p. 131
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniv. Ed.), The Two Towers, "The White Rider", p. 501
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "V. The Ambarkanta" p. 250-251
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"
  7. Hisweloke - Géographie - Mystère géographiques (1) : Mont Dolmed et cités naines...
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, "Writing", "The Fëanorian Letters", Note, The names of the letters
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, "Writing", "The Fëanorian Letters", Note, The additional letters
  10. See Westron Tengwar
  11. 11.0 11.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar: Appendix D. *Kwen, Quenya, and the Elvish (especially Ñoldorin) words for 'Language': Note on the 'Language of the Valar'"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XI. The Shibboleth of Fëanor": The names of Finwë's descendants, p. 348
  13. Paul Strack, "S. Ardhon loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 31 January 2020)
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Two: The Notion Club Papers: Major Divergences in Earlier Versions of Part Two, (iii) The earlier versions of Lowdham's 'Fragments' in Adunaic (Night 67)", p. 311
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Two: The Notion Club Papers Part Two: Night 67", p. 247
  16. Helge Fauskanger, "Adûnaic", Ardalambion (accessed 18 April 2024)
  17. Karen Wynn Fonstad (1991), The Atlas of Middle-earth
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "V. The Ambarkanta"
  19. "Circumference of the Earth", Universe Today (accessed 18 April 2024)
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part II"
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "V. The Ambarkanta: Diagram I"
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part One. Ainulindalë: Commentary on the Ainulindalë text D"
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Five. Myths Transformed", "[Text] II"
Middle-earth Cosmology
 Constellations  Anarríma · Durin's Crown · Menelmacar · Remmirath · Soronúmë · Telumendil · Valacirca · Wilwarin
Stars  Alcarinquë · Borgil · Carnil · Elemmírë · Helluin · Luinil · Lumbar · Morwinyon · Nénar · Star of Eärendil · Til 
The Airs  Aiwenórë · Fanyamar · Ilmen · Menel · Vaiya · Veil of Arda · Vista
Narsilion  Arien · Moon (Isil, Ithil, Rána) · Sun (Anar, Anor, Vása) · Tilion
See also  Abyss · Arda · Circles of the World · · Timeless Halls · Two Lamps · Two Trees · Void