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"Between Ilmen and Vista" by Šárka Škorpíková

Ilmen (Q, pron. [ˈilmen]) was a part of the atmosphere that surrounded the world of Arda, the region of airs where the stars are.[1] Flesh cannot survive the airs of Ilmen unaided.[2]

In the First Age, Varda gave power to the Sun and Moon to traverse the lower regions of Ilmen, and, being closer than the stars, they would outshine them. Initially they voyaged upon appointed courses above the girdle of Arda from Valinor unto the East and back, so that they would meet at the middle of each day above the middle of the earth. At some point Morgoth sent spirits of shadow against Tilion and after a strife beneath the stars, he defeated them.[3]

After the Changing of the World, the Straight Road can traverse Ilmen and reaches Tol Eressea and Valinor.[2]


Christopher Tolkien has noted that Ilmen contains the stem ilm- and is related to such words as Ilmarë and Ilmarin[4].

In the Etymologies however, Ilmen is derived from the root GIL signifying "the region above air where stars are".[5] See also -men

Other versions of the legendarium

In the early schematic titled I Vene Kemen, the middle layer of airs was marked as Ilwe (Qenya).

In the Ambarkanta, Tolkien initially wrote it as Silma, which then was changed to Ilma and finally Ilmen. In those texts, Ilmen formed the outer layer of normal air, enclosing the inner air, Vista, and itself enclosed by Vaiya beyond. According to the Diagram II, Ilmen is narrower along North and South, allowing some ice mountains to be formed on the surface of Vaiya. As Valinor lays outside Vista, its main air is Ilmen which is breathed by the Valar; it is cleansed and purified by the Light of Valinor, and the celestial bodies, preventing it to be darkened into mists and shadows. It is said that descending from Vista one may land on the earth, but from Ilmen one may land on Valinor.

Ilmen fills the gap between the edge of the world and Vaiya, and thus encloses Ambar above and below. The waters of Middle-earth are a compound of Vaiya and Ilmen, which Ulmo blends under the Earthroots.

Ilmen is the level of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars so it was also called Tinwe-malle (star-street) and Elenarda (Stellar Kingdom).[6][7] The Moon passed through Ilmen on its way around the world, plunging down the Chasm of Ilmen on its way back.

In Diagram III which shows the round Earth after the Changing, Ilmen is an upper layer of air (still between Vista and Vaiya) showing Valinor and Eresea there, with Valinor at the boundary with Vaiya.


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