From Tolkien Gateway
General Information
Other namesThe Encircling Sea, The Outer Sea
LocationSurrounding Arda

Ekkaia (also called the Encircling Sea, the Outer Sea, or the Outer Ocean) was the mighty sea that surrounded all the lands of Arda, Middle-earth and Aman alike. Ulmo's halls were within the Outer Sea.

At its distant unknown edge stood the Walls of Night.[1] Beyond its edge was also a chasm, into which Tilion plunged and carried the Moon beneath the roots of Arda.[2]

Its dark waters lapped the western shores of Valinor,[1] and during their time in Valinor Fëanor and his sons visited the shores of these waters.[3]

In the North, the Helcaraxë was the narrow strait between the Outer Sea and Belegaer, where in the chilled waters clashed hills of ice amidst vast fogs of deathly cold.[4]


The name Ekkaia, commonly understood to be Quenya,[5][6] was not explained by Tolkien.

Helge Fauskanger has tried to explain Ekkaia by deriving it from the unattested form et-gaya ("out-sea"; cf. et "out").[5]

Robert Ireland links Ekkaia to the root KHAYA ("far, distant"), which appears to include among its derivatives an adverb similar in form: ekkaira ("far off, far away").[6][7]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit]

Ekkaia appears first time in The Later Quenta Silmarillion, replacing the earlier concept of Vaiya. In earlier works such as the Ambarkanta, Vaiya is not a sea, but an exotic material that encloses the flat Ambar, becoming air above it, and water below it. In the published Silmarillion Ekkaia is clearly mentioned only to be a sea. However in the cosmological models of The Atlas of Middle-earth (and fan-made maps), Ekkaia is conflated with the earlier concept of Vaiya, shown as an atmospheric layer that encloses the world.

See also[edit]