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Frozen glacial desert
"Helcaraxe" by Stefan Meisl
General Information
Other namesGrinding Ice, Narrow Ice
LocationBetween Araman and northern Middle-earth
TypeFrozen glacial desert
DescriptionDangerous, foggy waste with icy hills
EventsMigration of the Noldor under Fingolfin
GalleryImages of Helcaraxë

In the north these shores, in the ancient days after the Battle of the Powers, bent ever westward, until in the northernmost parts of Arda only a narrow sea divided Aman [...] from the Hither Lands; but this narrow sea was filled with grinding ice, because of the violence of the frosts of Melkor.

Helcaraxë was the perilous icy wastes that formerly lay between Araman (a region in the north of Aman) and Middle-earth in the far north of Arda.[1] Here met the Encircling Sea and the Belegaer, creating "vast fogs and mists of deathly cold, and the sea-streams were filled with clashing hills of ice and the grinding of ice deep-sunken."[2]

Fingolfin Leads the Host Across the Helcaraxë by Ted Nasmith

After the beginning of the First Age, when the Elves awoke, Oromë decided not to lead the Eldar of the Great March there, on their way to Valinor, because of the ice and extreme cold, but rather took them by the Sea.[3]

Escaping the pursuit of the Valar after destroying the Two Trees of Valinor, Morgoth and Ungoliant fled to Middle-earth across the treacherous wastes of the Helcaraxë. Later, Fingolfin and his people also made their way into Beleriand across the Helcaraxë. Many died while crossing it, including Elenwë, Turgon's wife.[2]

Helcaraxë was also referred to as the Ice of the North[4] and the Grinding Ice.[5] Another name for this region was perhaps also the Narrow Ice, used by Bilbo Baggins in his poem Eärendillinwë.[6]


In the Etymologies, the second element in Helkarakse is said to be the Quenya word karakse ("jagged hedge of spikes").[7] Helge Fauskanger has suggested that the first element (hel-) derives from the root KHELEK ("ice").[8] Robert Foster suggests the translation "ice fangs".[9]

Also in the Etymologies, Tolkien experimented with Noldorin translations of Helkarakse: elcharaes, helcharaes or Helcharach.[7][10]

See also