From Tolkien Gateway
Tuor's first view of the sea by Anke Eißmann

The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm.

Sea-longing, or the Unquiet of Ulmo,[1] was a strong desire to return to the sea that typically affected the Eldar.

The Noldor who lingered in Middle-earth had an unquietable yearning for the Sea, coupled with their nostalgia of their home. It was slumbering in the hearts of the Sindar, until it awoke[2] after seeing Belegaer, the Great Sea to the west of Middle-earth, for the first time. The cry of the gulls awakened the sea-longing in Legolas' heart when he heard them at Pelargir.[3]

Tuor first felt the sea-longing when he looked upon Belegaer, and he felt it ever afterwards. This longing was also passed on to his son, Eärendil.[4] In addition, those that heard the music of the Ulumúri, the horns of Ulmo, would always feel a longing for the sea.[5]

Other versions of the legendarium

The concept of the lust for the sea is already present in the drafts for The Tale of Eärendel; in the several versions, Tuor or Tûr, hears the conches of Ulmo or 'groweth sea-hungry', takes a boat to disapear in the sea leaving Idril and Earendil behind.


'Twas in the Land of Willows that I heard th' unfathomed breath
Of the Horns of Ylmir calling—and shall hear them till my death.

In the summer of 1914 Tolkien visited the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall where the sea left a great impression on him, and inspired him to write a poem.[6]

According to Norma Roche, the pull of the Sea in Tolkien's works is not for the sake of the sea and sailing itself, but about what lies beyond the sea: the paradise of the West.[7]

See also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: V. The Tale of Years"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of the Elves"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Last Debate"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Valar"
  6. Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, "II. 1892-1916: Early years", pp. 70-71
  7. 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.