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"Ulmo, Lord of the Waters" by John Howe
Biographical Information
PronunciationQuenya, [ˈulmo]
Other namesUllubōz (V)
"King of the Sea", "Lord of Waters", "Dweller of the Deep", Ulu, Gulma
PositionLord of Waters
AffiliationOssë, Uinen, and possibly Salmar
Physical Description
ClothingGreen armor
GalleryImages of Ulmo

Ulmo loves both Elves and Men, and never abandoned them, not even when they lay under the wrath of the Valar.

Ulmo was a Vala, also known as King of the Sea, Lord of Waters, and Dweller of the Deep.[2] One of the mightiest of the Ainur, he was third in majesty of the Aratar, after Manwë and Varda.

At several points Ulmo was notable for setting himself apart from his brethren, and also for being the friendliest to the Children of Eru.


Ulmo was the Lord of Waters and King of the Sea.[3] He was the Ainu most deeply instructed in music, and it was said that in water the Eldar could hear the echo of the Music of the Ainur.[4] He lived in the deeps under Ambar who alone saw where he devised his music and whence he governed all waters, bays and rivers.[3][1]

From the beginning Manwë had been his closest friend and ally and they came together when the vapors of the water become clouds high in the air, or mists and dew. The two most faithfully served the purpose of Eru.[4]

Ulmo was unique among the Valar in several ways; he was alone, taking no spouse among the Valier; he didn't dwell in Valinor but in Ekkaia from the beginning, preferring the deeps of the seas around and below Ambar, and the rivers. He seldom appeared to the councils of his brethren, save in matters of great importance.[3]

Likewise, he seldomly wore a fana and rather came to the shores unseen or entered firths of the sea and rivers. It was said his spirit was in the very veins of the world. He spoke through the sound of water, and made music with his horns the Ulumúri. But whenever he appeared, he was dreadful and terrible "as a mounting wave that strides to the land"; he wore a dark foam-crested helm and a shimmering silver-green mail, and his voice was deep like the ocean.[3]

Ulmo cared about Arda and the Children of Eru, and through the veins of the world he kept in touch with them and saw every grief and need, and thus knew more of the goings on with them than even Manwë. Even while the Valar were secluded in Valinor or when the Children were under the wrath of his brethren, Ulmo, alone of the Valar, was the one who never forsook them.[3][1] However, it was not done as rebellion towards other Valar, but because it was a role to which he was "appointed ere the making of the World"[2].


Ulmo was very close in friendship to Manwë before Ea was made, and although Manwë was the most dear to Ilúvatar, of all the Ainur Ulmo was most deeply instructed in music. Ulmo with Manwë and Aulë were the architects of Arda.[4] Ulmo's vassal Ossë, and Ossë's spouse Uinen were, to the elves, the best known of the Maiar. Through them Ulmo would learn much of the elves.[3]

When the Valar retreated to Valinor, Ulmo remained to the Outer Sea, and while his brethren neglected the Outer Lands during the Sleep of Yavanna, Ulmo kept the earth alive under the darkness.[1]

He seldomly came to the Councils of Máhanaxar, such as the time when the Valar were to prepare to attack Melkor's fortress of Utumno. He also was the chief of a minority of the Valar who believed that the Elves should remain free in Middle-earth, and order and heal the hurts of the land with their skills and grace, but this opinion was overruled.[5]

Nevertheless he eventually helped them get to Aman, because he knew that was what they wanted, and he accepted that. He tore a great piece of land off the shores of Beleriand and used it to transport the Eldar to the blessed coasts of Aman. He anchored the island (it was renamed Tol Eressëa) in the Bay of Eldamar, which he did because he knew the minds of the Teleri.

When the time came for Melkor to be given a second chance and was pardoned, Ulmo and Tulkas were still distrustful of him, but both obeyed Manwë's bidding.[6]

During the First Age Ulmo protected Sirion and Gelion and directed more than any other Vala the Children of Ilúvatar. He urged Turgon to build Gondolin and Finrod to build Nargothrond.

He chose Tuor as his instrument before his birth, by helping Huor and Húrin reach Gondolin and telling Turgon to accept him, as aid would come from the House of Hador. Years later, he guided Tuor directing him to Gondolin as a messenger for Turgon. Despite Ulmo's warning, Turgon chose not to abandon Gondolin. Tuor eventually married Turgon's daughter Idril and fathered Eärendil the Half-elven; Ulmo saved Elwing from the sack of the Havens of Sirion, and thus she took the Silmaril to her husband Eärendil which allowed them to gain admittance to Valinor and plead for their mercy.


The name Ulmo is said to derive from the Valarin Ullubōz.[7]

Alternatively, Ulmo is a Quenya title, which means "the Pourer", from ulya- ("to pour") + -mo (agentive ending "-er").[7]

Other versions of the legendarium

In the earlier writings his Gnomish name was Gulma.[8] Later his Gnomish name was Ylmir[9][10] (see Tuor's The Horns of Ylmir). Noldorin translations of his name were given as Nûron and Ulu.[11][12]

In the Gnomish Lexicon he is given the name Vailimo.[13]:18

In Eriol's Old English translations, Ulmo is referred to by various names: Garsecges frea ("Ocean ruler"), ealwaeter-frea ("All-waters ruler") or agendfrea ealra waetera ("owning lord of all waters").[14]

His palace, on the bottom of the Outer Sea, was called Ulmonan.[15]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Beginning of Days"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Valar"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar: Appendix D. *Kwen, Quenya, and the Elvish (especially Ñoldorin) words for 'Language': Note on the 'Language of the Valar'"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part II", p. 349, note "Ulmonan"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "I. The Lay of the Children of Húrin: III. Failivrin", p. 93
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "II. The Earliest 'Silmarillion' (The 'Sketch of the Mythology')", p. 13
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entries "NŪ-" and "ULU"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part Two" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 46, July 2004, p. 7
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne)
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Appendix 1: Fragments of a translation of The Quenta Noldorinwa into Old English, made by Ælfwine or Eriol; together with Old English equivalents of Elvish names"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part I, p. 270
Valar Lords Manwë · Ulmo · Aulë · Oromë · Mandos · Irmo · Tulkas · Melkor
Valier Varda · Yavanna · Nienna · Estë · Vairë · Vána · Nessa
Maiar Arien · Blue Wizards · Eönwë · Gandalf · Ilmarë · Melian · Ossë · Radagast · Salmar · Saruman · Tilion · Uinen
Úmaiar Sauron · Balrogs (Gothmog · Durin's Bane) · Boldogs
Concepts and locations Almaren · Aratar (indicated in italics) · Creation of the Ainur · Fana · Máhanaxar · Ainulindalë · Order of Wizards (indicated in bold) · Second Music of the Ainur · Timeless Halls · Valarin · Valinor · Valimar

Realm of Gondolin
Ondolindë · Hidden City · City of Seven Names
Outside locations Amon Gwared · Anghabar · Echoriad (Crissaegrim · Eithel Nínui · Fingolfin's cairn) · Seven Gates of Gondolin (Gate of Wood · Gate of Stone · Gate of Bronze · Gate of Writhen Iron · Gate of Silver · Gate of Gold · Gate of Steel) · Orfalch Echor · Tumladen
Inside locations Alley of Roses · Arch of Inwë · Caragdûr · Fountains of the South · Gar Ainion · Great Market · Lesser Market · Idril's secret way · Place of the Fountain · Place of the Well · Road of Arches · Road of Pomps · Tower of the King · Way of Running Waters
Objects Anguirel · Axe of Tuor · Crown of the Hidden Kingdom · Elfstone · Glamdring · Glingal and Belthil · Orcrist · Sting
Houses House of the King · House of the Wing · House of the Mole · House of the Swallow · House of the Heavenly Arch · House of the Pillar · House of the Tower of Snow · House of the Tree · House of the Golden Flower · House of the Fountain · House of the Harp · House of the Hammer of Wrath
People Aranwë · Aredhel · Dark Guard · Duilin · Eärendil · Ecthelion · Egalmoth · Elemmakil · Elenwë · Enerdhil · Eöl · Exiles of Gondolin · Galdor · Glorfindel · Huor · Húrin · Hendor · Idril · Legolas · Maeglin · Meleth · Pengolodh · Penlod · Rog · Salgant · Tuor · Turgon · Ulmo · Voronwë · Warden of the Great Gate
Events Fall of Gondolin · Gates of Summer · Nirnaeth Arnoediad · Ulmo's warning · Wanderings of Húrin
Main texts Lost Tale of The Fall of Gondolin (1916-20) · The Lay of the Fall of Gondolin (c. 1920) · Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin (1950) · Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin (1977) · The Fall of Gondolin (2018)