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What exactly is it like in the Undying Lands?

GiantMushroomBear
Bree

Mar 9 2014, 12:04am

Post #1 of 17 (542 views)
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What exactly is it like in the Undying Lands? Can't Post

What does it look like? What happens there, more importantly, what exactly does Frodo do when he goes there?


squire
Valinor


Mar 9 2014, 3:07am

Post #2 of 17 (386 views)
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As an "earthly paradise", Elvenhome (not Valinor) is like earth, only perfect. [In reply to] Can't Post

In several of his letters, Tolkien developed his thoughts about what happened to mortals, in particular Frodo, who reached the Undying Lands - which was generally forbidden:
But in this story it is supposed that there may be certain rare exceptions or accommodations (legitimately supposed? there always seem to be exceptions); and so certain 'mortals', who have played some great part in Elvish affairs, may pass with the Elves to Elvenhome. Thus Frodo (by the express gift of Arwen) and Bilbo, and eventually Sam (as adumbrated by Frodo); and as a unique exception Gimli the Dwarf, as friend of Legolas and 'servant' of Galadriel.
I have said nothing about it in this book, but the mythical idea underlying is that for mortals, since their 'kind' cannot be changed for ever, this is strictly only a temporary reward: a healing and redress of suffering. They cannot abide for ever, and though they cannot return to mortal earth, they can and will 'die' – of free will, and leave the world.
- JRRT, Letter 154, 9/25/1954

Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over Sea to heal him – if that could be done, before he died. He would have eventually to 'pass away': no mortal could, or can, abide for ever on earth, or within Time. So he went both to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of 'Arda Unmarred', the Earth unspoiled by evil.
Bilbo went too. ... His companionship was really necessary for Frodo's sake – it is difficult to imagine a hobbit, even one who had been through Frodo's experiences, being really happy even in an earthly paradise without a companion of his own kind...
- JRRT, Letter #246 (drafts), Sept. 1963

As for Frodo or other mortals, they could only dwell in Aman for a limited time – whether brief or long. The Valar had neither the power nor the right to confer 'immortality' upon them. Their sojourn was a 'purgatory', but one of peace and healing and they would eventually pass away (die at their own desire and of free will) to destinations of which the Elves knew nothing. - JRRT, Letter #325, 7/17/1971



squire online:
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Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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demnation
Rohan

Mar 9 2014, 10:38am

Post #3 of 17 (336 views)
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Is it safe to say that hobbits and men "suffer" the same fate? [In reply to] Can't Post

At least, after they die. Tolkien never really expanded on that, and perhaps it's best that he didn't. So it seems that the Undying Lands where a place of brief respite for mortals before they died and went to wherever.

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." Gandalf, "The Last Debate."


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Mar 9 2014, 12:40pm

Post #4 of 17 (348 views)
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this excerpted letter stokes many thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

 
this excerpted letter stokes many thoughts...

1. that somehow, in the undying lands, mortals can choose the time of their passing (something not possible in the same way back on the mainland)

do they do their actual dying in the undying lands? wasn't death in the undying lands seen by its inhabitants as a stain, and almost blasphemy (see the deaths of finwe, miriel, and the two trees)?


2. that an individual (e.g., arwen) can confer the entree into elvenhome

so did frodo and bilbo go to tol eressea? or to aman itself? how could arwen grant access? wouldn't that be the jurisdiction of the valar?


3. as a ringbearer and arguably the most marred by the ring, would gollum (had he survived) been granted a visa to elvenhome, for a chance at healing? what could have been done, by elda or vala, to heal him?


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo

(This post was edited by Maciliel on Mar 9 2014, 12:41pm)


squire
Valinor


Mar 9 2014, 4:20pm

Post #5 of 17 (324 views)
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Tough questions, but Tolkien tends to ask them and ask us to ask them. [In reply to] Can't Post

Let me try to answer yours, to the best of my understanding.

1. I don't think we have a very clear description of what "the undying lands" means for the life forms that aren't the First Children, i.e. the Elves. Is it really natural or good for life never to come to an end across the entire spectrum of the plant and animal kingdoms?

I have always used Lorien as my model of what Elvenhome was like in this regard, with the idea that that was what Galadriel (and Celebrimbor and the other Eldar who forged the Three Elvish Rings) wanted to use her Ring to do: to preserve the mortal lands of Middle-earth in the same manner as in Aman. In Lorien it seems clear that there are seasons of growth and decline, and there is a cycle of living and dying among plants and animals. But the dying part is natural and accepted, not violent or tragic or ugly.

Under this interpretation, and also following Tolkien's own statements in these letters, it's clear that yes, Frodo and Bilbo "do their actual dying" in the undying land of Tol Eressea, and it is neither a stain nor a blasphemy to the Elves who live there, any more than is the death of a short-lived bird or the withering of an annual plant in winter. Your questions about deaths in the undying lands as a stain and blasphemy aren't really comparable: Finwe and the Trees were murdered, and Miriel committed suicide; more to the point, all three entities were not "mortal" as the hobbits were, and so were not "meant" to die.

2. The hobbits clearly go to Elvenhome which is Tol Eressea. That island is part of Aman, the 'other world' that is dimensionally separated from Middle-earth since the end of the Second Age, but it is also different from Valinor itself in that it is not inhabited by the Valar or by the Elves who never revolted against the Valar.

Arwen's transfer of her "passage" to Frodo is quite a mystical thing and must be accepted as an artistic statement by Tolkien; as he says in one of the letters we have been examining,
It is not made explicit how she could arrange this. She could not of course just transfer her ticket on the boat like that! - JRRT Letter #246.
So no ticket or "visa", as you put it. Tolkien goes on to explain that Arwen could not grant but could only ask for Frodo's acceptance in her place, and that Gandalf acted as the agent of the Valar in this matter, and it was he who allowed the hobbits their journey to the other side at the end of LotR.

3. Gollum is much too damaged both physically and morally from his possession of the Ring, to have survived its destruction. If nothing else, he is far too old by several centuries. As he himself recognizes, in this classic monologue:
‘Don’t kill us,’ he wept. ‘Don’t hurt us with nassty cruel steel! Let us live, yes, live just a little longer. Lost lost! We’re lost. And when Precious goes we’ll die, yes, die into the dust.’ He clawed up the ashes of the path with his long fleshless fingers. ‘Dusst!’ he hissed. - LotR VI.3.
(Note the reference to the classic funeral service: "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust".)

Interestingly Tolkien addresses this survival question in that same letter #246, where he speculates on the consequences of Gollum's redemption had Sam not interrupted his bonding with the sleeping Frodo at the top of the Stairs. He concludes that Gollum would still have seized the Ring from Frodo, but then would have voluntarily thrown himself into the Fire, with the Ring, in order to save Frodo whom he now loved. Either way, good or evil, marred or healed, there could be no "survival" for Gollum.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd & 4th TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion and NOW the 1st BotR Discussion too! and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Elizabeth
Valinor


Mar 9 2014, 6:37pm

Post #6 of 17 (307 views)
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Blasphemy? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
1. that somehow, in the undying lands, mortals can choose the time of their passing (something not possible in the same way back on the mainland)

do they do their actual dying in the undying lands? wasn't death in the undying lands seen by its inhabitants as a stain, and almost blasphemy (see the deaths of finwe, miriel, and the two trees)?

Well, we have a very small sample (Frodo and possibly Sam). Tolkien seems to think that being able to die "when you're ready" is a good and virtuous thing for mortals, in ME as well as the undying lands. The issue of Miriel is quite a different matter, because Elves aren't supposed to die, so doing so appears to be a rejection of an intended destiny. For mortals it is appropriate to "die when ready," but for Elves it is more appropriate to live on. I have often mused on how the virtue of mortals "dying when ready" squares with Catholics' prohibition of suicide.


Quote
2. that an individual (e.g., arwen) can confer the entree into elvenhome

so did frodo and bilbo go to tol eressea? or to aman itself? how could arwen grant access? wouldn't that be the jurisdiction of the valar?

I assume that Arwen interceded with the Valar (possibly with the assistance of Gandalf) to allow Frodo to go over sea.


Quote
3. as a ringbearer and arguably the most marred by the ring, would gollum (had he survived) been granted a visa to elvenhome, for a chance at healing? what could have been done, by elda or vala, to heal him?

Gollum was pretty much entirely without virtue. He was an involuntary agent in the Ring's destruction. I can't imagine the Valar taking an interest in his healing, given his utter failure to repent or seek forgiveness.








Kristin Thompson
Rohan


Mar 9 2014, 7:01pm

Post #7 of 17 (291 views)
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In Letter 246 [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien says that Arwen "put in a plea for him [Frodo] to Gandalf (direct or through Galadriel, or both), and she used her own renunciation of the right to go West as an argument [..] No doubt it was Gandalf who was the authority that accepted her plea. The Appendices show clearly that he was an emissary of the Valar, and virtually their plenipotentiary in accomplishing the plan against Sauron. He was also in special accord with Cirdan the Ship-master, who had surrendered to him his ring and so placed himself under Gandalf's command. Since Gandalf himself went on the Ship there would be so to speak no trouble either at embarking or at the landing." (p. 327, footnote).


ltnjmy
Rivendell


Mar 9 2014, 11:33pm

Post #8 of 17 (259 views)
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But this still makes me ponder the fate of Tuor [In reply to] Can't Post

What happened to the servant of Ulmo ?


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Mar 10 2014, 12:11am

Post #9 of 17 (257 views)
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Maybe Smeagol was allowed, but Gollum not? [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 10 2014, 2:46pm

Post #10 of 17 (226 views)
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What happenes in Valinor, stays in Valinor. / [In reply to] Can't Post

 

******************************************
Brothers, sisters,
I was Elf once.
We danced together
Under the Two Trees.
We sang as the soft gold of Laurelin
And the bright silver of Telperion,
Brought forth the dawn of the world.
Then I was taken.

Brothers, sisters,
In my torment I kept faith,
And I waited.
But you never came.
And when I returned you drew sword,
And when I called your names you drew bow.
Was my Eldar beauty all,
And my soul nothing?

So be it.
I will return your hatred,
And I am hungry.




dreamflower
Lorien

Mar 13 2014, 1:26am

Post #11 of 17 (171 views)
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We can only speculate... [In reply to] Can't Post

Frodo and Bilbo did not go to Aman, but to Tol Eressea. That island was once a part of Middle-earth, so they would not be subjected to the unbearable (for mortals) light that was on the mainland. There they lived out the rest of their natural lives--however long or short those might be. My guess is that Bilbo lived at least long enough to see Frodo healed, and that Frodo lived at least long enough to greet Sam on his arrival. This is simply a guess, based on hints we are given in the Appendices and the Letters.

I don't believe that their lives were prolonged indefinitely, but they were dwelling in an Elven realm where time may have been somewhat...flexible...(like Lothlorien).

As for how they lived, we are given no hints whatsoever, but my own speculation is that the two hobbits lived with Elrond as part of his household (as Bilbo had for many years in Rivendell) there on the island.

I have lots of other ideas about it, but those are fanfiction. Wink


Elthir
Gondor

Mar 13 2014, 7:24pm

Post #12 of 17 (150 views)
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time and light [In reply to] Can't Post

What is the unbearable light [fpr mortals] that you refer to?

I don't believe actual time in Lothlorien was flexible or variant. Tolkien tinkered with the idea in the drafts, but settled on preservation. The perception of time could be bemusing, especially to mortals, but time was time, even in Aman.


dreamflower
Lorien

Mar 13 2014, 8:28pm

Post #13 of 17 (147 views)
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Light [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
‘The Doom of the World,’ they said, ‘One alone can change who made it. And were you so to voyage that escaping all deceits and snares you came indeed to Aman, the Blessed Realm, little would it profit you. For it is not the land of Manwë that makes its people deathless, but the Deathless that dwell therein have hallowed the land; and there you would but wither and grow weary the sooner, as moths in a light too strong and steadfast.’ From the Silm "The Akallabeth"





Most interpretations I've seen of this seem to indicate the Light is from the Valar, and that it is too strong for mortals to bear, which is why Frodo and Bilbo would have continued to live on the island.

You are right that time would continue to pass, yet just as the preservation factor worked to make the effect of time pass more slowly in Lorien, I think that effect would work both to somewhat preserve the mortals long enough for their needed healing to take place. And I think they'd have a hard time realizing how much time actually had passed, not being able to perceive it properly. For all practical purposes, time would feel flexible to them


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 13 2014, 9:06pm

Post #14 of 17 (140 views)
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Beatific vision [In reply to] Can't Post

For there is no light of justice or temperance or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with difficulty. There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw beauty shining in brightness-we philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we beheld the beatific vision and were initiated into a mystery which may be truly called most blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence, before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we beheld shining impure light, pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned in the body, like an oyster in his shell.
-Plato, Phaedrus, Translation by Benjamin Jowett

******************************************
Brothers, sisters,
I was Elf once.
We danced together
Under the Two Trees.
We sang as the soft gold of Laurelin
And the bright silver of Telperion,
Brought forth the dawn of the world.
Then I was taken.

Brothers, sisters,
In my torment I kept faith,
And I waited.
But you never came.
And when I returned you drew sword,
And when I called your names you drew bow.
Was my Eldar beauty all,
And my soul nothing?

So be it.
I will return your hatred,
And I am hungry.




Elthir
Gondor

Mar 14 2014, 1:33pm

Post #15 of 17 (119 views)
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light and time [or time and light part II] [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree about the confusing feel of time, but with respect to this light I think it is part of a metaphor, and in any case Tolkien seems to explain this matter more fully in Morgoth's Ring. I don't think a mortal's life would necessarily be shortened in Aman. In Tolkien's essay Aman (and Aman and Mortal Men), the idea put forth (as I read it anyway) is that mortals do not actually age faster in Aman.

Part of the essay Aman and Mortal Men reads...


'If it is thus in Aman, or was ere the Change of the World, and therein the Eldar had health and lasting joy, what shall we say of Men? No Man has ever set foot in Aman, or at least none has ever returned thence; for the Valar forbade it. Why so? To the Númenóreans they said they did so because Eru had forbidden them to admit Men to the Blessed Realm; and they declared also that Men would not there be blessed (as they imagined) but accursed, and would 'wither even as a moth in a flame too bright.'

'Beyond these words we can but go in guess. Yet we may consider the matter so. The Valar were not only by Eru forbidden the attempt, they could not alter the nature, or 'doom' of Eru, of any of the Children, in which was included the speed of their growth (relative to the whole life of Arda) and the length of their life-span. Even the Eldar in that respect remained unchanged. Let us suppose then that the Valar had also admitted to Aman some of the Atani, and (so that we may consider a whole life of a Man in such a state) that 'mortal' children were there born, as were children of the Eldar. Then, even though in Aman, a mortal child would still grow to maturity in some twenty years of the Sun, and the natural span of its life, the period of cohesion of hroa and fea, would be no more than, say, 100 years. Not much more, even though (...)'

'But in Aman such a creature would be a fleeting thing, the most swift passing of all beasts. For his whole life would last little more than one half-year, and while other living creatures would seem to him hardly to change, but to remain steadfast in life and joy...'

JRRT, Aman and Mortal Men

Here the idea of withering even as a moth in a flame too bright is considered, and seems to not necessarily mean (in my opinion) a mortal actually ages faster in Aman.


dreamflower
Lorien

Mar 14 2014, 2:04pm

Post #16 of 17 (119 views)
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Light in Aman [In reply to] Can't Post

Still, a few things are clear: mortals do not live forever; even in the West, they won't live longer than what is natural for their kind; and that being in Aman proper is not good for them. I still have the impression that they might wither sooner, for even as a metaphor, "moth to a flame" conjures the picture of something that quickly burns up.

At any rate, we are told that Frodo and Bilbo remained on the Island, so what would have happened to them in Aman we will never know.


Elthir
Gondor

Mar 14 2014, 5:26pm

Post #17 of 17 (133 views)
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living like moths [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes quickly, and that is in step with the metaphor, but I should add that the fuller essay deals with the fact that [in this essay anyway] I Valian Year = 144 Sun Years.

So say you live in Aman, and you are a mortal, but now it's not simply comparison to the Elves that makes you feel like you are a relatively swift being, it's your whole environment. Growth and change -- again effects of time but not time itself -- are not the same in all places; as was essentially said, if I recall correctly, by Legolas, about Lothlorien after the Fellowship leaves the realm...

... so let's say you are 20 years old in Aman and you get a puppy. That little beastie is not even going to grow the worth of 'one year' before you are dead, because a relative 'year' of growth and change for it [as a beast of Aman] takes 144 years in Aman. A sapling tree will also not grow more than one year of its expected growth [in Middle-earth], before you are dead...

... you are indeed a relatively quickly dying thing in Aman, like a moth too near a flame, even though you might live to be 100. The Valar cannot alter your span.

But this is not the scenario for Frodo, Bilbo and Sam in any case. They have already lived much of ther lives in mortal lands [and Frodo has special circumstances of pain and regret], they weren't born in Aman, and they do not desire the Elvish 'immortality'.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Mar 14 2014, 5:37pm)

 
 

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