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"The Shores of Valinor" by Ted Nasmith
General Information
Other namesAvon (S)
Amatthāni (A)
The West
Undying Lands
Blessed Realm
Uttermost West
LocationWest of Belegaer, east of Ekkaia
RegionsAraman, Avathar, Eldamar, Gardens of Lórien, Halls of Mandos, Tol Eressëa, Valinor
People and History
InhabitantsValar, Maiar, Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri
CreatedBetween V.Y. 3450 & 3500
DestroyedS.A. 3319
EventsDarkening of Valinor
Flight of the Noldor
Destruction of the Great Armament
Changing of the World
GalleryImages of Aman

"We look towards Númenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be.

Aman, the Blessed Realm, was a continent that lay to the west of Middle-earth, across the great ocean Belegaer. It contained Valinor, the home of the Valar, and Eldamar, the kingdom of the Calaquendi.


Map of Aman by Steven White Jr.


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 defence 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.

Through the Pelóri was opened a pass, the Calacirya, which brought light to the narrow coastland of Eldamar and the island of Tol Eressëa.[1] Also beyond the mountain wall were two more regions of Aman: Araman to the northeast[2] and Avathar to the southeast. On the shores of Araman there was a land of mist called Oiomúrë, which Fingolfin passed through during the flight of the Noldor, and Ungoliant had managed to escape notice in Avathar.[3]

In the north Aman was separated from Middle-earth by the narrow straits of the Helcaraxë. These ice-filled straits served as a path for Melkor and later the host of Fingolfin to return to Middle-earth.[2]

The Valar later set the Enchanted Isles in the ocean to prevent travelers by sea from reaching Aman.[4]

Flora and fauna

The olvar (plants) and kelvar (animals) in Aman were sometimes different from those of Middle-earth, though they were in essence "ordinary beasts and plants with usual conditions of mortality".[5]


The Quenya name Aman is glossed as "Blessed Land",[6] or "blessed, free from evil"[7] or "The Unmarred State".[8]

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.[6]

Other names

Its Sindarin name was Avon ("Unmarred State").[9]

Aman was also called the Ancient West,[10] Blessed Realm[11] and the Undying Lands[12] or just Valinor. In Adûnaic it was called Amatthāni.[13] In The Hobbit Tolkien also calls this continent "Faerie in the West".[14]


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 there are strong arguments in favour of the opposite view, citing from two letters by Tolkien:[15]

...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.

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.

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."

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.’

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

Other versions of the legendarium

In his later life, Tolkien pondered the fate of Aman after Eru's intervention. Since Aman was indeed a physical or "real" place, any true removal of it would have had to be physical as well. Therefore, unlike in previous versions of the legendarium where Aman was ambiguously rendered inaccessible to mortals but still a part of Arda, Tolkien decided that Aman would have been greatly changed by Eru during his catastrophic intervention. The landmass once known as Aman would eventually become the American continents: "Aman and Eressëa would be the memory of the Valar and Elves of the former land". He also changed his mind regarding what exactly the term "Aman" would refer to.[16]

This would seem to suggest that said beings would enter into some form of incorporeal existence and no longer be physically present. This contradicts Tolkien's own earlier writings, such as Frodo going to Tol Eressëa in the flesh,[16] or several of his letters, wherein Tolkien confirms that mortals would indeed die in Aman, which they could not do if they went to some form of non-corporeal existence.[17]


The concept of the "Paradise in the West", a happy, deathless land outside time, is an old idea. In classical times some earthly afterlife was imagined with Elysium at the "world's end", and some Greek heroes who dwell serenely in "the isles of the blessed". Other later concepts came mainly from the northern Europe, although those Paradises were not associated with afterlife; they could occasionally be encountered by travelling mortals, like Faerie, when the gods allowed it. Ireland had rich Celtic traditions of such travels, not only in the underground Otherworld, but also over the sea. During the Christian eras the imrama literature of fantastic ocean voyages, often by monks, flourished. One of them was the travel of Saint Brendan, about which Tolkien composed a poem, with elements of his Legendarium: Númenor, Tol Eressea, and the Straight Road.[18]

In The Lost Road Tolkien made specific mention of those utopian myths. In the episode set in Anglo-Saxon times, Éadwine has heard strange tales from Ireland and wants to sail West like Brendan and Maelduin, hoping to find Paradise. The story of King Sheave also shows that there is such a place reachable by ship.[note 1] Other notes planned a story of Tir-nan-Og that wasn't written.[19]

According to Norma Roche, the concept of a western Paradise was recurring in Tolkien's legendarium and a vital part of it, including the regret for its loss. The pattern of Eriol and later Ælfwine belong to this example, as mortals who somehow reached the Blessed Realm, forming the frame story for the Legendarium.[18]


  1. Regarding the Viking sea-burial as seen in the legend of King Sheaf, Tolkien says that "an actual belief in a magical land or otherworld located 'over the sea' can hardly be distinguished." Quoted in J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part One: III. The Lost Road, (iii) The unwritten chapters", p. 95-96


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Darkening of Valinor"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Númenórean Catastrophe & End of ‘Physical’ Arda" (edited by Michaël Devaux with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien and Carl F. Hostetter), in J.R.R. Tolkien, l'effigie des Elfes, La Feuille de la Compagnie, Nr. 3, p. 150
  6. 6.0 6.1 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
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar", p. 399
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "III. The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor": "Notes and Commentary"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings: Eldarin Roots and Stems", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 162
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names", entries "Aman" and "Blessed Realm"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Númenor"
  13. 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
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  15. Steuard Jensen, "Did Frodo and the other mortals who passed over the Sea eventually die?", Tolkien Meta-FAQ (accessed 25 March 2012)
  16. 16.0 16.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Three. The World, its Lands, and its Inhabitants: XV. The Númenórean Catastrophe & End of "Physical" Aman"
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 154, (dated 25 September 1954)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Roche, Norma (1991) "Sailing West: Tolkien, the Saint Brendan Story, and the Idea of Paradise in the West", Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature: Vol. 17: No. 4, Article 3.
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part One: III. The Lost Road, (iii) The unwritten chapters", p. 77-80