The "island" is not an island and it is called Valinor
Long story short is that Valinor was another continent west of Middle Earth where the Valar (the "gods") lived some 10,000 years before the events of LOTR. Their big evil brother Morgoth was bullying everyone in Middle Earth, so the Valar brought the Elves (only those who wanted to go) to Valinor as a way of protecting them, hence the moniker "Undying Lands". Skipping over many, many events, and a long time later the men of Numenor are tricked into attacking Valinor by Sauron. Eru ("God") and the Valar decide enough is enough and move the continent into what is effectively outer space/off the planet and teach some Elves how to sail off the planet if they so wish to go there (which they all eventually do).
The Commonwealth of Lindon-Rivendell is right in saying that the ringbearers (Frodo, Bilbo, and Sam) had to go. Also, I think, it is also due in part to the fact that there is no "evil" (Sauron) left in Middle Earth except in those who carried the ring, so they must leave. Gandalf is from Valinor, and Elrond, Galadriel, and Cirdan (the Elf guy standing by the ship in movie) go because they are Elves and that is where they "belong".
I hope that clarifies things, though it is very condensed.
I enjoyed the read, as well. It's always informative to hear how others might sum up something.
Personally, I always thought of Valinor as having been moved more to a separate dimension/otherworld, though I don't recall what the actual text says. I really like the idea of envisioning it more as off-planet. Pretty cool.
In one of Tom Shippey's books on Tolkien, he talks about his own interpretation of the departure to the west undertaken by the hobbits at the end of the book. Keeping in mind Tolkien's own disdain for allegory and insistence that such devices are impractical for analyzing his works, Shippey discusses Tolkien's own experiences in the first world war, his and other returning vets' experiences in attempting to rejoin the civilized world, and how many of them felt such a re-acclimation to be impossible and had to "leave" once again. It doesn't have to be a one-to-one allegory, but the emotions and experience certainly seem to have contributed, in some way, to depicting how and why story shows the ring-bearers departing after all is said and done.
March of Maedhros offered a nice short but thorough answer. The island and the history behind it is explained in more detail in other Tolkien's books, especially in The Silmarillion. If you feel that you'd like to know more, or are still unsure, feel free to reply! Until then, I do have some questions to add to the conversation ...
This is interesting. Never thought about it like that, ie, they carry bits of the "evil" of Sauron with them so they must depart to the undying lands / Valinor so that Middle Earth is cleansed.
Can you, or someone else, evolve a bit more on this? Why Middle Earth was unsafe for the ringbearers, especially after the events after Mount Doom?
Except "getting a free pass" because they did valiant actions regarding the demise of Sauron / destruction of the One Ring and so they were deemed "worthy" to board the ship for Valinor.
Are you referring to the Hobbits departing for Valinor with the above quote? Ie, They had to "leave" because it was impossible morally / spiritually for them to remain in Middle Earth because they suffered great emotional and psychological toil that messed up their perception and enjoyment of life in The Shire?
I don't think it was unsafe per se, it's that they could not be rid of the effects. For Frodo it was also the sword wound he took, it would never properly heal unless he left. Essentially they could not live in proper peace unless they departed.
From Dwarf.. "Shippey discusses Tolkien's own experiences in the first world war, his and other returning vets' experiences in attempting to rejoin the civilized world, and how many of them felt such a re-acclimation to be impossible and had to "leave" once again. It doesn't have to be a one-to-one allegory, but the emotions and experience certainly seem to have contributed, in some way."
I quite like this, though I might wonder if it was a yearning for pre-war. There were massive cultural changes in Europe, the social order falling, the ahem.. pandemic.. so it may have more been a desire to return to things as they were - but it's a nice thought nonetheless
Yes. I read back through my post and I don't think I made it clear that's what I was talking about...
The hobbits return to the Shire, and their inability to rejoin society. On one level, the Shire itself had been touched by Saruman's industrial warfare, and so was a changed place from that which they remembered. And on another level, they themselves had been touched by their great ordeal, and were returning quite traumatized, especially Frodo.
I am unsure. I could easily see both being true. Certain theatres of WWI sounded like about the height of human suffering yet seen on our sorry planet. And then, as you say, Europe was forever changed, not just physically by the war machine, but the massive social changes, as well.
It must have been a mind-boggling time to live through and attempt to make sense of. Those who accuse the "appeasers" for allowing a second world war to break out, just don't comprehend the experiences of those who lived through the first and the lengths they were willing to go to avoid seeing such a thing reoccur.
A strange reading recommendation: " Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age" by Modris Eksteins. Doesn't involve Tolkien, if memory serves. But a pretty wild look at the origins and outcomes of WWI. The thesis may not exactly hold, but I think the journey is worth the read, regardless.
My personal opinion on the matter is something close to Lindon-Rivendell's, but with less supernatural.
First of all, it must be noted that there exists the version of the old world (First Age) existing in a flat world (which turned to a sphere after the events of the Second Age where Numenor got flooded) and also existing in a spherical world (although is not the story in the Silmarillion, it does appear in The History of Middle Earth, mentioning that the flat world was just an old legend based on true events but told by men of the past and transmitted through generations).
Most texts, however, do treat the world in the First Age as flat but that got warped into a sphere by Eru once bits of it were removed (like Valinor), and from here stems the dimensional portal talk or its position in outer space - as you could only access Valinor via some magical route since its no longer physically on the sphere world (which now contains only Middle Earth, from one side of it to the other side of it now pulled and linked together).
With that out of the way, some more to add here.
Secondly - Valinor, or the Undying Lands, were a part of the continent of Aman. To the South of Valinor were some tricky places (place of Ungoliant the spider) and to the North of Valinor were some icy realms. Valinor, in itself, was protected to the North, South and to the East (since in the West was the end of the planet) by some very, very, very tall mountains called the Pelori (which got even taller at one time), raised by the Valar to protect their little part of the world. So Valinor, which existed in the continent of Aman, was fully encircled by unpassable mountains (they were tall, very slippery and very sharp / perpendicular). However, there was a small passage made through them, near the coastline, so you could enter or exit Valinor through there. From there you could sail on or you could just move through the coastline to the South or to the North (many elves actually resided on the coastline of Aman and not really inside Valinor).
Thirdly - At the start of the First Age, Valinor was on the same "planet" with what we know as Middle Earth at the start of the world. It was off to a side, just like the tectonic plates of our own Earth moved the continents around in our own distant past (or rather splitted the big chunk of mass into the continents of today). So, Valinor was cut off from the rest of the known world, but it was not 100% removed like an island, as it was linked to the extended Middle Earth (including Beleriand) at the top by a path of dangerous ice, Helcaraxe. When they fled Valinor, Morgoth and Ungoliant crossed this icy path from the north of Valinor and reached Beleriand and Middle Earth, but so did a large host of elves when they left for Middle Earth, so this shows that it was possible to cross back and forth from Beleriand to Aman (the continent hosting Valinor) - as an alternative route to the ships sailing the ocean.
Fourthly - In the Second Age, the whole part of Western Middle Earth, which included Beleriand, got sunk, and so the icy path connecting Aman to Middle Earth was removed and the continent that had Valinor was now actually an island. The way to reach it was, always (if I am not mistaken), via the sea route directly for the passage carved into the mountains near the coastline. If one is to notice the sea route, you can imagine it like departing from the the coastline of France and towards the bottom part of Argentina (so it was down to the South and towards West). Moreover, in the Second Age, in the front of the passageway into Valinor, a number of islands appeared, all covered in some very dense mists and home to treacherous winds and dangerous rocks to destroy ships and hallucinogenic and aenesthesic airs to incapacitate living beings. These acted as a layer of defense against those that wanted to reach Valinor but were not elves or worthy to enter / find Valinor.
With the background set forth, unless I am mistaken in what I wrote above, now comes my addition to the topic and what I view as exploitable gaps.
1) In the Second Age, one could also sail due West directly and reach the icy dangerous realms of Araman (which was the Northern part of Aman). It is challenging and probably extremely difficult, but so is sailing through misty treacherous islands set to destroy your ships and put you to sleep. And if the icy realms to the North are too dangerous for your ships, you could still sail close and reach the Southern part of Araman, and from there you could simply walk close to the mountain edge of Valinor until you reach the mountain pass near the coastline and from there hop into Valinor.
There is some indication that some Numenorean refugees at the end of the Second Age actually made it to these Southern parts of Amaran in their quest to find Valinor, so it is possible.
What can stop this "gap" from being super-exploitable is the presence of extremely strong sea currents, dragging all ships to the South. That would explain the South-West route taken by elves sailing in order to reach the mountain gap into Valinor.
2) Now we're at the end of the Second Age, where the Valar were fed with the Numenoreans trying to attack them and called on Eru to sink their island and cut off Aman from the rest of the Middle Earth (which turned the world of Middle Earth into a sphere). I view this, to some extent, pretty much in tune with The History of Middle Earth and say that the world was never flat to begin with but it was just the history told by sages to some that had less brain power than them so they can understand difficult and confusing notions if presented in simple terms (like you would explain string theory to a child). So, after the events at the end of the Second Age, I believe that Aman is still there but is unaccessible due to extremely strong currents that now move from West to East, one that goes from West to North-East and one that goes from West to South-East, barring all movement except a peculiar route where the two currents almost meet and where there is a place like the eye of a storm (of calm) that the elves know about and can exploit in order to reach the mountain pass of Valinor. Simple as that, with no supernatural dimensional portals involved.
Feel free to correct me or to add more information!
That's intersting The LOTR Nation of Tatarica! I'd never thought of the world being round the whole time (but then again, I've only read one of the History of Middle Earth books). Would this also imply that other related stories, such as the way the sun and moon are created, are similarly simplified by men?
Another way to explain the way I see Valinor is maybe not so much as IN outer-space but before it... If "outer-space" is the Void, the one must enter it through the Door of Night, which is in Valinor. We know that it is traversable (at least to my understanding) since Earendil sails in it, along with the Maiar that control the sun and moon, and that is why his Silmaril can be seen as a star. So my understanding is that Valinor is off of the planet, but since the Void/outer-space must be entered though Valinor, then Valinor is between the two.
Adding a few quotes from LOTR just to illustrate what has already been written. The motivations for going to Valinor need to be looked at separately for elves, for maiar (Gandalf), and for hobbits (ringbearers).
I have always thought it interesting that elves use the term "exile" for Middle-Earth. Also Galadriel, even though she liked having her own realm away from the Valar, returns, once her ring has no power any more. Middle-Earth is a temporary exile. The voyage to Valinor is not going away, it's returning home.
Gildor: 'We are Exiles, and most of our kindred have long ago departed and we too are now only tarrying here a while, ere we return over the Great Sea....' FOTR book 1 chapter 3, Three is Company.
Narrator: Varda is the name of that Lady whom the Elves in these lands of exile name Elbereth. FOTR book 2 chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien.
Gandalf was sent to Middle-Earth for a task - as were the other, less successful or less faithful Istari. For Gandalf, even more so than for the elves, the journey is a return home.
Gandalf: '...I am going to have a long talk with Bombadil: such a talk as I have not had in all my time. He is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another.' ROTK book 2 chapter 7, Homeward Bound.
Does Radagast return to Valinor? Does anyone have an idea?
Frodo's wistful but realistic 'but not for me' illustrates it best. It's definitely an echo of Tolkien's war memories, I believe, as you have mentioned:
Frodo: But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. ROTK book 2 chapter 9, The Grey Havens.
I like how it's done in the ROTK film, when at the Grey Havens after a tearful goodbye, Frodo turns around once more with a blissful expression on his face. It gives the viewers hope that yes, even beyond that sorrow of parting, there is a prospect of contentment and bliss.
Then there's the lovely story of Legolas and Gimli going to Valinor together...
Yeah, there's this whole story about Tolkien wanting in his later years to revisit LoTR and Silmarillion to ground them into less mythological roots and his vision about a spherical world was in tune with that. However, it did pose to him a great deal of trouble and it was mostly left to wishful thinking - although he did try to put some of these ideas into writing (but with the majority of them published at a later time by his son). So the most important thing to note is that these stories are unfinished.
Anyway, one of these revisions was his changing ideas regarding the creation of the sun and the moon, and the nature of the world itself, with anything that resembles flat world or other ancient concepts to be attributed to confusion and to old lore and myths passed down through generations, so they can be, at best, inaccurate. There are online resources that talk more about these concepts and debate about why they were not integrated into the bulk of his writing and what that might mean, but I am not going to dwell into that and will simply answer your question with what I know;
There is a back story behind the Sun and the Moon, although I am a bit unsure right now about that. From what I remember I believe that it was something like the Sun existed since the ancient past, and Melkor wanted to destroy it and managed to darken the Sun and so the Two Trees were created to hold the pure light of the Sun of a time before Melkor darkened it. So the Sun was from before the Two Trees (and that the Lamps were just a myth). And the Moon was either broken from the world after the conflict in the First Age or that it was created at an earlier time in order to give light in the night, since Melkor was most evil at night. And the stars always have existed but there was a shroud of darkness at night in the sky, and after the Elves awokened the shroud of darkness dissipated.
You can take this all with a grain of salt.
There are also some (and I share their opinion) that view this Tolkien's legendarium in the following way: In the past, before and during the First Age, physical and magical laws were intertwined, as in a mortal plane of existence shared the same space with a spiritual plane of existence. As the years progressed, various cataclysmic events (fights between spiritual entities in a mortal world) pushed away these two planes of existence, and actually separated them by the end of the Second Age (which coincides with the "move" of Valinor to "outer space"). So it is not so much "outer space" as actually an other plane of existence, the spiritual world. And elves have an easier "access" to this spiritual plane of existence.
That's a great resource, nice!
I've found that it is helpful that when I add a link to an external resource to also add a short description about it, so that other players know what they check when they visit the page. I remember adding a picture resource without saying what it was about and people got a real shock when they checked it and saw a table of LoTR actors with the faces swapped around and saw Gollum's face over Gandalf's. Oops!
Regarding your link, its about Recasting the Lord of the Rings movies for a more "recent" public. Its a playlist that includes 6 parts each of roughly 10 minutes, and each part tackles a different part / section of the actors involved in LoTR. It takes the actor, talks about his play and the redeeming actions and what it was known about in the movies and then tries to find a similar actor that could fit that role. Its pretty interesting, and it gets even more interesting the more you get into the video(s).
I would say that it's the same with any other number of movies that were remade. A very few of them are said to be "better than the original" (including here movies made in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's that were recreated in the last 15-20 years) but, then again, I may not be able to bare watching a movie of that era if I am used to the amount of CGI of today's era.
So if its just about a deepfake video that swaps the faces around I wouldn't be interested, but if its actually a remake of the movies with new actors (that each will act and pour their own emotions into the new movie) I think that'll be interesting and a worthy watch. Definitely it may not be as good as the "original", but its for new audiences that may want a little more CGI thrown around to stand to watch a movie. And maybe with actors they know better. But that's just to keep the flame of LoTR and Tolkien alive and shared to a more bigger audience.
That was a really great read-through! I learned a lot, especially about the Second Age, which I've always been a bit hazy on. I'm going to save this for future reference :)
With the information you've laid out, it does seem like it's within our world and that otherworldly forces are unnecessary. However, I am experiencing a strong desire for it to have been made into one of those floating islands in folklore and myth -- imagine a Blessed Realms that can never be reliably pinned down on a map, while still definitely existing on that same map.
Yeah, that's a good illustration of that sentiment.
Frodo's words really get to me. Tolkien did a great job with them, and Elijah Wood perfectly captured them in his expression. Great acting, there.
"...but not for me"
For the likes of me I can not remember who offered this link earlier, as I have saved it. Maybe it was Dwarven Mines or March of Maedhros, but please forgive me if I am mistaken. I can't find the original post, but its highly interesting!
If you ever have half an hour to watch, there is a great youtube video explaining the events of the Second Age.
Lord of the Rings: Second Age (Complete)
On that channel there is also a First Age video, a Before the First Age video etc. The events following the start of the Second Age are a bit ... uneventful, but things do grow in intensity. Maybe not as much as the conflicts in the First Age. The Second Age is basically mellow times in Middle Earth (except a few times when Sauron goes on to attack) and expansion and corruption in Numenor.
Then you definitely would like the idea I expressed above, that there is a mystical and a physical world that at one point were linked together, but as time and Ages passed, the mystical world separated from the physical world and so, Valinor could be on a floating island, but just that people no longer can see it, since its part of the mystical world. So its there, but its invisible to our eyes / in an other dimension of existence.
Exactly what Lindon-Rivendell's video was mentioning at one point; the actors did a near-perfect job in the movies, regarding the emotions and expressions. So its hard to find other actors to impart the same sentiment.
All of this talk about the First and Second Ages, about Numenor and about Valinor made me remember an important aspect of the world created by Tolkien. I haven't mentioned it in my above post, but I got reminded of it after watching that youtube video linked above, so I'll share it here to be kept for posterity.
Its probably not worth talking more about it since it tackles religion and religious beliefs, even if its confined to the world of Tolkien.
Anyway, Eru gave Elves their own gift and Humans their own gift.
Elves, as much as the Valar, they are part of the world created by Eru, and can never leave it; they remain, either with a physical form or as a spirit. They never fully cease to exist (even Melkor / Morgoth who was cast away in the Void is said to return again at the "end of the world", so the essence of his soul is not lost in the Void), and so are bound to his creation.
Humans, and other lesser beings (like Hobbits, for example) do have a soul, it ends up in the Halls of Mandos, but from there it goes to an undisclosed destination that not even the Valar know. This was the gift of the Men, to have shorter lives but to have a purpose after death and not to be bound by the world of Eru (to not be part of it after death, and its not just to be expelled into the Void, since they'll meet with Morgoth who's still alive there). And, of course, they had to "blindly" trust that purpose, because no Man ever returned to say what it was about and no Elf or Valar knows what it is about. This made many Men speculate its all a trick and sought the immortality of the Elves, since it was something they could see, touch, feel - rather than the abstract notion of something after their death.
So you could see the similarities with our own world and why I have to thread carefully while talking about this. It would be interesting to see any opinion on this matter, regarding what could be the "destiny" or "purpose" that Eru has with the men after their death, or if its just a theological aspect; personally, I think that it is something more, since if its just a Garden of Eden then Elves have that blissful Undying Lands that act as a Garden of Eden for their souls. So it must be something more than that. Obviously, what ... we'll never know.
Ah yes, I see that I skipped over that post inadvertently. But yes, indeed, that is a very attractive interpretation of the situation, for me. Especially as it somewhat aligns with my amateur understanding of the original Celtic concept of their Otherworld -- a sort of parallel world to ours that can "phase" in and out of alignment with our own, seemingly at random, though also in conjunction with specific times. It just seems "right" for such a place.
Thanks for linking that youtube channel. Seems like a pretty interesting place, with all sorts of other fictional worlds explored, as well.
In today's world, movies have a tendencies to diverge from the original envisionment of the Author. It happens because of current shifts in mentality of the movie consumers, the target audience for any movie.
You may have seen many a number of recent movies that were partially, if not fully, recasted with female (lead) actors for roles that were male in the original. But also to incorporate other races or minorities, basically be fully or as much politically correct. I am not going to number the dozens of big-name movies of recent years, we all know who they are. Some had big success, some had moderate success, some failed; the reasons why are not necessary to be debated here.
Casting Gandalf as a female falls into that category. Obviously that's just a recasting idea and not something actually thought of to be a real deal. Changing the gender of someone from a printed book / story is not something I personally like or want to see, but there are others that view things with other eyes, and, generally, when it comes to movies, its a fine line between pleasing the genre-watchers, the fans-of-the-book-watchers, the casual-watchers and the politically-correct-watchers. You may lose one viewer here but gain 5 more there, and in the end its all about the money or the good press for the movie companies.
Obviously, that's just a hypothetical discussion.
Later edit: The works of Tolkien are really not so politically-correct, they have enough racism to go around (I talk here mainly about Men, Dwarves and Orcs). And the movies did a great job at making these issues more politically-correct (even the latter Hobbit movies portrayed Dwarves in a more positive manner than the book)
For some it may be about the money and/or checking off a box ("politically correct") - it would be naďve to think otherwise. But for others it may be about retelling an old story with a new perspective. How many times have Shakespeare's plays been told with a modern point of view that radically changes aspects of the original story? As a viewer we may not like the new interpretation, and we may believe that Shakespeare (or in this case, Tolkien) would also have been displeased, but that doesn't invalidate the new interpretation. It is not just "politically correct", but a fact, that the stories and roles of minorities in history have been largely omitted from the history books and the stories and the movies (at least in the US) and, when they have been included, they have generally been marginalized and stereotyped.
Tolkien wrote in some strong and memorable female characters in his works - but none of them were in the band of adventurers on the way to the Lonely Mountain in the Hobbit or in the fellowship in the Lord of the Rings. I get it if people want the original story retold as is - there are plenty of times we will criticize movies for not being true to the books and I have done this myself. But I am not going to dismiss out of hand a retelling that allows someone to see someone like themselves in a main role in the story.