so in LOTR’s appendices it says that legolas eventually builds a boat and takes gimli across the seas and into the west, the gray havens. you know, the place arwen isn’t allowed to go because she’s in love with a human dude bUT LEGOLAS (AKA ‘YOU LITTLE SHIT’) JUST SAYS “FUCK IT” AND SNEAKS GIMLI INTO THE GODDAMN UNDYING LANDS LIKE CONTRABAND TWIZZLERS INTO A MOVIE THEATER
best literary analysis ever
For the record Arwen was never “not allowed” to go to the Grey Havens. She was part human (remember, Elrond is a half elf) and thus able to CHOOSE to give up her immortality and live as a human woman with Aragorn, then leave…well, the cosmology of Middle Earth is complicated.
It’s important to remember that what we call Middle Earth is actually a continent on the planet Arda, and that Valinor (where the Grey Havens are) is actually just another continent, though it’s a really beautiful and special one because of the presence of the Valar (who are like archangels). When elves go to the Havens, they are literally just sailing across the ocean. But if a human were to set sail at the exact same time, from the exact same place as an elf, they’d simply get lost at sea, because of an enchantment or something (Tolkien describes Valinor as “having been removed from the circles of the earth,” so maybe it’s in a pocket dimension or something). When elves die, they go to the halls of Mandos on the western shore of Valinor, to await the return of the Creator and the end of the world. So if you’re an elf, it doesn’t matter if you get stabbed by an orc or sail away in a silver ship, you’re going to Valinor. You may not get to have as much fun there if you go by stabbing, but you’re still going. You don’t really have a choice in the matter.
But humans don’t go to Valinor. Their souls go somewhere else, possibly straight back to the Creator? Nobody knows. This USED to be considered a special gift of Man (the elves really aren’t all that keen on spending thousands of years hanging around Mandos and a bunch of people who all died violently) until Sauron poisoned the minds of the Numenorean kings, Aragorn’s ancestors. The fate of dwarf and hobbit souls are also a mystery, though dwarves believe that their father, the Valar Aule gathers them together and will give them a special role of their own in the end of the world and the remaking that follows. Some elves think dwarves don’t actually have souls at all, because some elves are real dicks.
So when Arwen had to choose between marrying Aragorn or sailing to Valinor, she was literally choosing between untold millenia in Valinor (because nobody knows when the Creator will return) or death and mysterious afterlife with him. She chose to stay with him, through mortal life AND INTO DEATH AFTERWARDS.
THAT’S WHY HER CHOICE WAS SUCH A BIG DEAL. THAT’S WHY SHE DIES LIKE SIX MONTHS AFTER HE DOES.
It was a never a question of Arwen “not being allowed” because she loved a mortal man. It was Arwen loving that mortal man SO MUCH that she gave up eons of bliss JUST TO STAY WITH HIM.
Also this is why Legolas taking Gimli with him is such a big deal, because he KNOWS all these stories. XD He tried to imagine life without Gimli, said nope fuck that, and took him along. This is also a really big deal from Gimli’s POV, cause like I said dwarves believe that when they die they go to be with their ancestors. GIMLI GAVE UP HIS AFTERLIFE TO STAY WITH LEGOLAS.
Like do you understand what a big deal that is???? CAUSE IT’S A REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL. AND THAT’S WHY BOTH PAIRINGS ARE MY FOREVER OTPS.
Thank you for this explanation! Eternal OTPs are the best. <3
One point of clarification: it’s not that Valinor is a pocket dimension. It’s just… in an alternate geological reality.
When Eru (Tolkien’s version of the Judeo-Christian God) first created the universe, the world was as flat as a pancake, and anybody could get on a boat and sail to Valinor if they wanted to. Then, the second age happened, and the Men of Numenor were heretics and fucked up everything forever. (Like actually, the King of Numenor at the time sailed a fleet of warships toward Valinor with the intention of overthrowing the Valar).
So, Eru went all Old Testament on Numenor and drowned the whole damn kingdom, and then he set about making sure that no surviving humans could ever try to reach Valinor again. Basically, he did this by smiting the laws of physics even harder than humanity.
Eru transformed the world from a flat disc into a globe, because when you’re God apparently you can just do ridiculous shit like that. As a result, any mortals who tried to sail to Valinor again would just… keep sailing, until they went all the way around and got back to where they started. But! Eru decreed that if any elf tried to do that, they would be able to find the straight road.
The. Straight. Road.
*teeth grinding noises*
The Straight Road: As in… the route that is literally straight, which does not subscribe to the curvature of the earth, which elves sail on to get to Valinor! And it’s not like this thing takes them up into the sky. Nope! They just sail along on the ocean, and because God loves them so much, their little swan-ships just skull-fuck the universe and reality curves itself around their boat
without anybody noticing?? and they end up somewhere that doesn’t exist at all under other circumstances.
Yup. That straight road.
Honestly, this sounds to me like Somebody spent to much time listening to scientists argue whether the world was flat or not, and was just too indecisive to pick a side.
Really though, can we just take a second to reflect on all this?? According to Tolkien, the world USED TO BE FLAT, and now it’s NOT anymore, EXCEPT TO SOME PEOPLE, all because the rest of us fucked it up. When Gandalf goes on one of his old-man grumbles about ‘before the world was bent’ he’s not being poetic, he’s referring to the literal time before God picked up the world and twisted it around like a soggy piece of inter-dimensional origami. HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK? SERIOUSLY ERU, YOU CAN’T MAKE A SPHERE OUT OF A FLAT CIRCLE WITHOUT DISTORTING THE SHIT OUT OF IT.
Batman you are my hero.
You beat me to most of the good ranting, so I’m just going to nitpick instead. The “Grey Havens” do not refer to Valinor or Aman. They are ports on the Gulf of Lune, in the realm of Lindon, which is the domain of Cirdan the shipwright (and just about all that’s left of Beleriand after it got sunk with extreme prejudice at the end of the First Age. Tier-One beings in the LotR universe are kind of hard on continents). They are the last stop for someone planning to set sail for Valinor, not Valinor itself.
While we’re on this subject, can we take a moment to appreciate Cirdan? Way back in the Zeroth Age, before the sun existed (and there’s room for a whole angry rant on just that topic, but I’ll leave it to 10FF), many of the Nelyar (the ancestors of the Teleri) were on their way to the Undying Lands. The group lead by Cirdan was at their vanguard, and when they reached the coast, were among the first to learn the arts of shipbuilding. Their king Elwë got kind of side tracked, so his brother Olwë asked Cirdan to stay behind and wait for him. You know, a few hours, maybe a couple days, no big deal, right?
Several centuries later, Elwë had renamed himself Elu Thingol, begun establishing the kingdom of Elgador, which would become Doriath. He effectively became king of all the elves who had made it to Beleriand but then stayed there, and gave Cirdan some domains along the Western coast, so he could sail along the coasts as much as he liked even if he couldn’t make the journey to Aman.
Many thousand years after THAT, Melkor came back to Middle Earth and immediately began fucking shit up, followed by several crowds of angry Noldor who solved only slightly more problems than they caused. Cirdan got along pretty well with Finrod Felagund, less well with the sons of Feanor, and not at all well with the orcs (who were quite fond of burning down his stuff). He was responsible for moving around a lot of refugees and occasionally trying to send messengers to Valinor, although until he built Vingilot for Eärendil, none of them got anywhere.
When the Valar finally got off their asses and intervened, they intervened hard, with the result being the destruction of Belariand. Cirdan shrugged and moved his domain to the new Western coast of Middle Earth, (which was now de-facto ruled by Gil-Galad), and went right back to building ships. His people did very good trade with Númenor, and likely met with some of his Erassean kin …until they fucked everything up. He was responsible for sheltering Elendil and his people when they last fled the continent.
He was also pretty skeptical of the whole “Ring” business, and along with Eldrond and Gil-Galad, went toe-to-toe with Sauron during the Last Alliance of Men And Elves. When Gil-Galad fell, he inherited Narya, the Ring of Fire, but passed it on to Gandalf who he felt could use it better. With the possible exception of Treebeard and his kin, Cirdan is by a fair margin the oldest of the Children of Illuvatar left on Middle Earth. Old enough, should the mood strike him, to tell Galadriel to get off his lawn.
He kept moving pilgrims and refugees around all through the Third Age, and he personally fashioned the ship that carried the ring-bearers into the undying lands. He stayed behind, however, to command the very last ship to head into the West. Then, and only then, could he finally go home.
AFAIK, Cirdan is also the only elf in all of Tolkein’s work who explicitly has any facial hair, and that’s in the form of a beard to rival Gandalf’s.