At the end of the Lord of the Rings Series, Bilbo, Frodo and Sam eventually go to Valinor, known commonly as the “Undying Lands.” Tolkien also notes this as well, in letter #246, all while defending what Frodo has gone through on his journey.
They all went at different times (well – sure Bilbo and Frodo went together, while Sam went after the passing of his wife Rosie). And one thing they had in common was that they had held the One Ring.
But what made them go to Valinor? Today we will be exploring what made certain characters go to the Undying Lands, especially the hobbits.
What is Valinor?
Valinor, the realm of the Valar, was located in central Aman where the Valar moved after the end of the Spring of Arda, when the lamps and later, Almaren was destroyed by Melkor. The term means ‘land of the Gods.’ Off the eastern shore was Tol Eresseä – the ‘lonely isle.’ The Valar established their domain there behind the walls of Pelóri, with their houses, gardens and towers. It became more beautiful than Middle-earth, even during the Spring of Arda.
After the full development of Valinor, they built the city, Valmar, in the midst of the plain beyond the mountains. There was also Ezellohar, also Corollairë, which was a green mound hallowed by Yavanna. There she sat on the green grass singing a song of power, while the Valar gathered together to hear her song. Nienna watered the mould with tears while sitting and thinking in silence. They all sat silent in their thrones of council in the Ring of Doom, Máhanaxar, near the golden gates of the city, and watched Yavanna sing before them.
The regions of Valinor
Each of them had their own region within Valinor that they altered to their desire. This was also related to what their gifts were. For example:
- Yavanna in the Pastures of Yavanna in the south
- Oromë in the Woods of Oromë in the north-east of the pastures
- Nienna in the lonely Vala of sorrow and endurance
- Mandos in the Halls of Mandos
- Irmo in the Gardens of Lórien
- Estë in the middle isle in the Lake of Lórellin in Lórien
- Aulë at the Mansions of Aulë the smith
- Manwë and Varda at the Mansions of Manwë and Varda, the west of which stood the Two Trees of Valinor.
The downfall of Númenor
The Valar seldom went back to Middle-earth over the mountains, but stayed in the Blessed Realm. After the destruction of Númenor, Valinor, the Undying Lands, were no longer a physical part of Arda. This meant that for a time after that, only the Elves were allowed to sail there by the Straight Road.
Who were the hobbits that sailed west to Valinor?
At the end of Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Bilbo went to the Undying Lands together, while Sam went after the passing of his wife Rosie.
Frodo was wounded after the destruction of the One Ring. He took this out of love, and could not heal from it had he stayed in Middle-earth. He went in order to be healed from his wounds.
Bilbo went as well, as he had a great affection with Gandalf, and dealt with a sense of pride and possessiveness while bearing the ring before Frodo.
Sam carried the ring for one day, and that was when he started to perceive the evil of Sauron and realized he didn’t have the strength to keep it for an extended period of time.
This sailing west was a special permission granted to them by the Valar.
Do the mortals like hobbits die in Valinor?
It is a common question among many fans whether Valinor signifies death – and also a common belief that sailing west meant they willingly passed. It seems to make sense, especially as you see in the Legendarium and in most Wiki pages, the exact date of death was never signified.
However, it does not seem to be true that Valinor = death or heaven. There is also the “Timeless Halls,” which seems to fit more with the heaven arc than Valinor. Tolkien describes Valinor as a temporary experience, an “Elvish paradise,” which was in Eresseä, the lonely isle, which was removed from the physically attainable earth.
Mortals like Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, who went to Valinor go there but will not be able to return to Middle-earth. Thus, they will die eventually there.
It is clear that the mortals do not become immortal there, despite the term “undying lands,” with the exception of Tuor, which was a very special case. Tolkien mentions it briefly in Letter #154, again in letter #246 and letter # 325.
We learn that the mortals, like Frodo, who sail west, will die there, of free will, and leave the world. However, when they’re there, they are unable to return to Middle-earth. The exact time period for remaining in Valinor is unknown, and the Valar don’t have the power or the right to confer immortality.
The last sentence of the pullquote from Letter #325 implies a main purpose, that they would experience a sort of “purgatory” – and their main purpose of going there involved peace and healing. In conclusion, the first two quotes described their mortality in Valinor, while the last quote described their purposes.
While there’s no exact moment as mentioned when mortals die in Valinor, there are many theories and we will be discussing a possible one.
Frodo goes to Valinor with Bilbo. Once they get there, Bilbo had just passed the Old Took, turning 131 shortly beforehand. Thus, he may not have been expected to live much longer.
Since Bilbo had bore the ring, without really knowing that it was the One Ring for a while – he still would’ve been able to use the healing that was to be achieved in Valinor. Additionally, as evident in the beginning of the Lord of the Rings, he had grown attached to the Ring and the special abilities such as his youthful appearance and the ability to disappear. And not to mention being worn out from the Ring as well. Thus, he would be headed to Valinor for some much needed spiritual healing.
Frodo, who went with his cousin Bilbo, had some lasting wounds to mend in Valinor. First, he had suffered a wound at the end of Book I of the Fellowship, as the Riders pursued him. Additionally, Sam bore the ring for a day because he didn’t know if Frodo was ever going to be saved by Shelob at the end of The Two Towers. He had a finger bit by Gollum who tried to take the ring as well, who eventually went down Mount Doom with the Ring.
This was after he had ‘failed’ in his quest, which was not at any fault of his own – since by then, the temptation had been at its maximum which was impossible. He had done all he could to this point, and few others would’ve been able to go so far.
Towards the end, we see that he was also wounded by a knife sting, tooth, and a long burden – which Arwen was the first to notice.
While many wounds were able to be healed physically, he still had some to mend in Valinor, especially the mental and physical wounds incurred in Mount Doom.
Sam bore the ring for one day, and he had a hard time noticing the weight of the ring. However, after Frodo got captured by Shelob, Sam bore the ring for one day.
This made him start to perceive the evil of Sauron, and realized he didn’t have the strength to keep it for an extended period of time.
All in all, he had a devoted connection to Frodo. Thus, he would’ve possibly been able to reunite with Frodo in the Grey Havens when he went. He could’ve gone in order to be with Frodo in the Grey Havens.
After all, the last part was only what I think could’ve happened upon their entering, and it is also based on nothing aside from what I’ve heard from these three quotes. However, Tolkien had originally intended to create a sequel but eventually decided against it.
So feel free to agree or disagree with my conclusions. And stay tuned for next week’s post + video, for further discussion on this theory…