A map of Valinor
|Tolkien's legendarium location|
|Creator||J. R. R. Tolkien|
|Notable characters||Valar, Elves|
|First appearance||The Lord of the Rings|
Valinor (Land of the Valar) is a fictional location in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the realm of the Valar in Aman. It was also known as the Undying Lands, along with Tol Eressëa and the outliers of Aman. This latter name is somewhat misleading; the land itself, while blessed, did not cause mortals to live forever. However, only immortal beings were generally allowed to reside there; amongst the exceptions to this were the surviving bearers of the One Ring — Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and also Samwise Gamgee, who bore the One Ring for some time during their perilous journey to Mt. Doom — and perhaps Gimli son of Glóin who, it is said, accompanied his friend Legolas to Valinor.
Geography and residents
In Tolkien's works Valinor is the home of the Valar (singular Vala), spirits that often take humanoid form, sometimes called "gods" by the Men of Middle-earth. Other residents of Valinor include the related but less powerful spirits, the Maiar, and most of the Eldar. Valinor lies in Aman, west of which is Ekkaia, or the encircling sea; it surrounds both Aman and Middle-earth.
Valinor is located in the middle of Aman, in the tropical and subtropical latitudes. The land has a warm climate generally but experiences snow on the peaks of the Pelóri. Every animal and plant found elsewhere in Middle-earth exists in Valinor along with species endemic to Valinor.
While Valinor proper is the part of Aman inside the Pelóri, the "shore of Valinor" where the Elves live is considered a part of Valinor as well.
Each Vala has its own region of the land where they reside and alter things as they please. The Mansions of Manwë and Varda, two of the most powerful spirits, resided upon the highest mountain of the Pelóri, Taniquetil. Yavanna, the Vala of Earth, Growth, and Harvest, resided in the Pastures of Yavanna in the south of the land west of the Pelóri. Near-by were the Mansions of Aulë, the Smith who made the Dwarves, and who was the spouse of Yavanna. Oromë, the Vala of the Hunt, lived in the Woods of Oromë to the north-east of the pastures. Nienna, the lonely Vala of Sorrow and Endurance, lived in the far west of the island where she spent her days crying about all the evil of the world, looking out to sea. Just south of Nienna's home and to the north of the pastures, there were the Halls of Mandos. Mandos was the Vala of the After-life. Also living in the Halls of Mandos was his spouse Vairë the weaver, who weaves the threads of time. To the east of the Halls of Mandos is the Isle of Estë, which is situated in the middle of the lake of Lórellin which is in turn to the north of the Gardens of Lórien (not to be confused with Lothlórien in Middle-earth). Estë and Lórien were married.
In east-central Valinor at the Girdle of Arda (the term for Middle-earth's Equator) is Valmar, the capital of Valinor, otherwise known as the City of Bells and as Valimar, where the Valar gather, and the Maiar spirits and the Vanyar Elves live. It is the residence of the Valar and the Vanyar in the realm of Valinor. The mound of Ezellohar, on which stood the Two Trees, and Máhanaxar, the Ring of Doom, are outside Valmar. Further east is the Calacirya, the only easy pass through the Pelóri, a huge mountain range fencing Valinor on three sides, created to keep Morgoth out. In the pass is the city Tirion, built on a hill, the city of the Noldor Elves. By the shore of the sea, north-east of Tirion, is the Teleri Elves' port Alqualondë, which is described as being fairly close to Tirion but may be as much as several hundred miles to the north.
In the northern inner foothills of the Pelóri, hundreds of miles north of Valmar was Fëanor's exile city of Formenos.
In the extreme north-east, beyond the Pelóri, was the Helcaraxë, a vast ice sheet that, in the beginning before Valinor was risen after the fall of Númenor into the sky to prevent people from travelling there, joined the two continents of Aman and Middle-earth. Also, for a time before the ruin of Númenor, a long chain of small islands called the Enchanted Isles ran the full length of the east coast to the continent. These were erected to prevent anyone, mortal or immortal, from reaching the land by sea.
After the destruction of Númenor, the Undying Lands were removed from Arda so that Men could not reach them and only the Elves could go there by the Straight Road and in ships capable of passing out of the spheres of the earth. By special permission of the Valar, the Hobbits Frodo Baggins and Bilbo Baggins were also permitted to go to Valinor. Samwise Gamgee and perhaps Gimli the Dwarf were also permitted to go there.
The size of Valinor is never specified, and Tolkien created no detailed maps of Aman, but the maps of Karen Wynn Fonstad, based on a rough sketch Tolkien did of Arda's landmasses and seas, show Valinor as being about 800 miles wide west to east (from the Great Sea to the Outer Sea) and about 3000 miles long north to south - similar in size to the United States. The entire continent of Aman runs from the Arctic latitudes of the Helcaraxë to the subarctic far south of Middle-earth; about 7000 miles.
Valinor was established on the western continent Aman when Melkor (a Vala later named Morgoth, "the black foe", by the Elves) destroyed their original home on the island Almaren. To defend their new home from attack, they raised the Pelóri Mountains. They also established Valimar, the radiant Two Trees, and their abiding places. Valinor was said to have surpassed Almaren in beauty.
Later, the Valar heard of the awakening of the Elves in Middle-earth, where Melkor was unopposed. They proposed to bring the Elves to the safety of Valinor. However, to get Elves to Valinor, they needed to get Melkor out of the way. A war was fought, and Melkor's stronghold Utumno was destroyed. Then, many Elves came to Valinor, and established their cities Tirion and Alqualonde, beginning Valinor's age of glory.
There was a problem, however. Melkor had come back to Valinor as a prisoner, and after three Ages was brought before the Valar and he sued for pardon, with a vow to assist the Valar and make amends for the hurts he had done. Manwë then granted him pardon, but confined within Valmar to remain under their watch. After being released, he started planting seeds of dissent in the minds of the Elves (particularly, the Noldor - the Vanyar would not hear him and Melkor considered the Teleri weak) in Valinor, saying that the Valar had brought them here so that they would control them and claim their lands in Middle-earth as their own and that they were prisoner of the Valar. He also spread dissent between Fëanor and his brothers Fingolfin and Finarfin.
The Valar learned of this and saw what Melkor had done, but it was too late to stop Melkor. Melkor himself, knowing that he was discovered, had gone to the home of the Noldorin elves' High King Finwë and stolen the Noldorin elves' prized jewels, the Silmarils, killing the king in the process. Melkor destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor with the help of Ungoliant (bringing an endless night to Valinor), and fled back to Middle-earth, to his other stronghold, Angband.
The Two Trees, from which all light both in Valinor and in Middle-earth came, were dead. The last flowers of the Trees were given to two Maiar each in their own ship to sail around the world forever at different times of the day so that neither Valinor nor Middle-earth would forever be in darkness. One was called the Sun, and it shone a bright yellow. The other was called the Moon and it shone with a pale white light.
As a result of the killing of king Finwë, the majority of the Noldor, led by Fëanor son of Finwë, the maker of the Silmarils, declared their rebellion and decided to pursue Melkor, ever after known as Morgoth, to Middle-earth to win back their jewels and avenge their king. The Noldor would not listen to Manwë, the lord of the Valar, telling them that they had themselves come to Valinor of their own free will and that the Valar had no desire to rule or control any of them. But Manwë's messenger said also that if they choose to leave and to fight Melkor on their own, the Valar would not help them and that they would suffer great pain and grief on their journey.
Valinor took no part in the struggle between the Noldor and Morgoth, but when the Noldor were in total defeat, the mariner Eärendil convinced the Valar to make a last blow to Morgoth. A mighty host of Maiar, Vanyar and the remaining Noldor in Valinor destroyed Morgoth's gigantic army, destroyed Angband and cast Morgoth into the void.
During the Second Age, Valinor performed a single action: the building of the island Andor as a reward to the Edain (who had fought with the Noldor), where they established Númenor. Soon, the kingdom of Númenor grew powerful, and even invaded Valinor. Then Eru Ilúvatar was called upon by the Valar and the island was destroyed, and Aman was lifted out of Arda as the world became bereft of Valar and was left for Men to govern. Arda also became spherical in this time.
During the Third Age, recognizing that an outright confrontation with dark Maia Sauron would be disastrous, the Valar sent the Istari to Middle-earth with the intent of giving counsel to Men in their resistance to the growing power of the Dark Lord.
It has been suggested[who?] that the concept may be based on Hy Brasil, a mythical land that can reputedly be seen off the coast of Ireland for one day in every seven years, as well as other paradise islands like Avalon, Saint Brendan's Island etc.
Other fantasy uses of the word
In the Arcanis Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting the word "Valinor" also refers to celestial servants of the Gods. Their names often are in the style of the god, such as the Mercy of Neroth or the Judgement of Nier.
The Townes van Zandt song, "The Silver Ships of Andilar", makes mention of a land called Valinor, although it is unclear if it is meant to be the same location, since van Zandt describes it as a lifeless plain.
The song could be telling the story of Númenóreans sailing the Encircling Sea to reach Valinor. Aldarion was not only a mariner, but a Númenórean king as well. Van Zandt also describes a "lifeless plain" as only immortal beings are allowed to live in Valinor.
- Oberhelman, David D. (2006). "Valinor". In Drout, Michael D. C.. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 692–693. ISBN 0-415-96942-5.
- Fonstad, Karen Wynn (1991), The Atlas of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lothlórien, ISBN 0-618-12699-6