Tuesday 22 February 2022

Where did Frodo and Bilbo go after leaving the Grey Havens - Lonely Island or Blessed Realm?

For many years after reading The Lord of the Rings, I did not understand that the Undying Lands were two-fold - the original land occupied by the gods (the Valar) and the original habitation of the elves - was called Aman or the Blessed Realm

(I long thought it was called Valinor, but that is only a part of Aman.)

But the Noldor elves that returned from Middle earth at the end of the First Age, dwelt in a different place; an island to the east of Aman called Tol Eressea or the Lonely Island/ Isle. My understanding is that this was maybe due to lack of space on Aman, partly due to allowing the elves their own society in which they (rather than the Valar) were rulers... 

But perhaps mainly as a punishment for them having left Aman and gone to Middle Earth in pursuit of Morgoth and the Silmarils - after which they were forbidden ever to return. The Lonely Island was therefore a way of allowing the Noldor to return from Middle Earth to a land where there would be no death (until the end of the world), but without breaking the terms of the prohibition. 

If this prohibition still stood, it would seem to imply that the Elves on Tol Eressea were not allowed to visit (or transfer to) Aman; but must remain on the Lonely Island. (Although presumably they might get visitors from Aman, perhaps including the Valar and Maia.)

So, what does this imply about Frodo's destination at the end of Lord of the Rings? I had always assumed he would be going to Aman to stay with the Valar and the high elves who had never left Aman - because Aman would surely be Gandalf's destination (since he was a Maia - a lower, angelic, level of Valar). 

Yet Galadriel would, I presume, be going to Tol Eressea and staying there - since she was one of the Noldor rebels. 

This seems to suggest that the boat carrying Frodo and Bilbo would be calling at the Lonely Isle and dropping-off Galadriel and presumably other high elves - perhaps also Elrond; then moving on to 'terminate' at Aman to deliver Gandalf.

But where did Frodo and Bilbo go? With Gandalf of Galadriel - Eressea or Aman? Or first the one, then the other? And did Galadriel ever get to visit Gandalf? 

I don't know for sure - although Tolkien in a letter said Aman for Frodo; any suggestions? 


Luke said...

My presumption was that Bilbo would have gotten off at the Lonely Isle. He seems to have been waiting to die, but was kept alive by the lingering power of the Ring. The Lonely Isle would be the first place not under the Ring's influence, so I think he would have stopped there. And also he would have died around the elves of Middle Earth that he loved so much.
Frodo I thought needed healing primarily in the form of understanding, and I thought only the Valar could give him that as they knew more of the mind of Eru than anyone else. So I have always thought he went on to the Blessed Realm.

Bruce Charlton said...

Like - A good theory!

No Longer Reading said...

Searching Tolkien's letters for "Aman", there is a footnote to letter 297, which says:

"At the time of her [Galadriel's] lament in Lorien she believed this to be perennial, as long as Earth endured. Hence she concludes her lament with a wish or prayer that Frodo may as a special grace be granted a purgatorial (but not penal) sojourn in Eressea, the solitary Isle in sight of Aman, though for her the way is closed. ... Her prayer was granted - but also her personal ban was lifted, in reward for her services against Sauron, and above all for her rejection of the temptation to take the Ring when offered her. So at the end we see her taking ship."

But then, as you point out, in letter 325 Tolkien says "As for Frodo or other mortals, they could only dwell in Aman for a limited time – whether brief or long."

From the letters themselves, it is ambiguous; I think this is one of those things, like the cats of Queen Beruthiel, that Tolkien was not able to "find out".

Luke's theory makes sense as well.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NLR - I had forgotten that passage in the letters. Although, since it is about Galadriel's wish for Frodo, it is not conclusive about what actually happened to him.

It is interesting to think about have Aman and Eressea would have differed - they may have been extremely different in terms of the nature of 'everyday life'. Therefore the kind of healing they offered a mortal may also have differed.

That Eressea was called a 'lonely' and 'solitary' island seems to suggest that it was less blissful than Aman - perhaps the sadness of the elves of Middle Earth permeated it?

I could also have mentioned Gimli - another mortal - who went with Legolas, presumably to Eressea. This seems to have been differently motivated from the healing of Bilbo/ Frodo/ Sam as Ring Bearers. Gimli did not need special healing. It is more as if he were an emissary, trail-blazing a new and better relationship between the dwarf and elf races.

Anonymous said...

"If this prohibition still stood, it would seem to imply that the Elves on Tol Eressea were not allowed to visit (or transfer to) Aman; but must remain on the Lonely Island. (Although presumably they might get visitors from Aman, perhaps including the Valar and Maia.)"

Reading this, it strikes me that there is an analogical relationship between Aman and Tol Eressea and Tol Eressea and NĂºmenor (as originally intended, and for much of its history).

There is also the matter of the Caves of the Forgotten in Aman itself (with what parallels to the Paths of the Dead?).

What of the long-lasting 'matter' of Aeflwine and Tol Eressea?

David Llewellyn Dodds