There are various places around Middle-earth, and very often we see that the dwellers of a certain land and the land itself are a good match for each other. There can be observed a particular interdependence between an area and its inhabitants, but is it the land that shapes the dwellers or vice versa?When the Fellowship found themselves in Lothlórien, the beauty and the magical atmosphere of the realm were sensed from the very beginning. It felt as if time stood still there and the land was under the power which was nowhere else present: to Frodo Lothlórien seemed like an Elvish kingdom of the Elder Days. The domain of Galadriel and Celeborn was peaceful, beautiful and safe: neither a shadow, nor a stain lay on that fair land. There was a great difference between the magnificence of Lórien and the bleakness of the world without. When Frodo climbed to Amroth’s flet with Haldir and looked around him, the contrast struck him:
Frodo looked and saw, still at some distance, a hill of many mighty trees, or a city of green towers: which it was he could not tell. Out of it, it seemed to him that the power and light came that held all the land in sway. He longed suddenly to fly like a bird to rest in the green city. Then he looked east-ward and saw all the land of Lórien running down to the pale gleam of Anduin, the Great River. He lifted his eyes across the river and all the light went out, and he was back again in the world he knew. Beyond the river the land appeared flat and empty, formless and vague, until far away it rose again like a wall, dark and drear. The sun that lay on Lothlórien had no power to enlighten the shadow of that distant height.
(Fellowship of the Ring, p. 461)
This Elvish land is indeed a marvel. Apart from a special atmosphere that kept the company in awe, Lothlórien also enjoyed safety. One of the reasons for that was that due to the mounting disquiet in Middle-earth, the Galadhrim led very secretive lives: they guarded the borders of their realm and watched out for strangers, did not often venture outside themselves (when they did it was for collecting news mostly) and rarely had dealings with other people. Some of the Galadhrim could not even speak the Common Tongue.
Impressed and enchanted, Sam called Lothlórien the most Elvish thing he had ever seen. Being very perceptive to the world around him, Sam acutely felt how special the land and the Galadhrim were:
They’re all Elvish enough, but they’re not all the same. Now these folk aren’t wanderers or homeless, and seem a bit nearer to the likes of us: they seem to belong here, more even than Hobbits do in the Shire. Whether they’ve made the land, or the land’s made them, it’s hard to say, if you take my meaning. It’s wonderfully quiet here. Nothing seems to be going on, and nobody seems to want it to. If there’s any magic about, it’s right down deep, where I can’t lay my hands on it, in a manner of speaking.
(Fellowship of the Ring, p. 473; emphasis mine)
Here Sam posed a crucial question of the interdependence between the land and its people. Lothlórien had already been long in existence by the time the Fellowship found themselves there, but it was only under the rule of Celeborn and Galadriel that the land acquired the magical atmosphere of early Elvish realms.
Wielding Nenya — one of the three Elvish Rings of Power made by Celebrimbor — Galadriel was able to keep Lothlórien beautiful, guarded and free from evil. By calling it the most Elvish thing of everything he had seen, Sam captured the very essence of the Lothlórien of Galadriel and Celeborn: it is the Elder Days that had come alive in that realm in the Third Age, bringing back into existence the times of Elvish kingdoms in their prime and majesty, but in the world where Elves no longer played such a great role as they used to in the First Age.
It is fair to say then that the land of Lothlórien was made by Galadriel and Celeborn. While flets and caution appeared in the times of the earlier Elvish settlers’, it was Galadriel’s ring that made Lothlórien the well-protected, otherworldly realm where time stood still and enabled mallorn trees, found nowhere else in Middle-earth, to grow there. After the One Ring was destroyed, Galadriel’s Nenya lost its power and Lothlórien was deprived of everything that made it so Elvish and ethereal.
The influence of people on their land is the concept that many Númenóreans totally failed to grasp in their desire to gain immortality. Forbidden to sail West by the Valar, the Númenóreans began to grow discontent, even being the fairest mortals and dwelling closer to the Blessed Realm than any other Men could afford. The unquiet arose during the times of Tar-Ciryatan and Tar-Atanamir: people began to envy the Valar and the Elves, murmur against the Fate of Men that is to die and leave the world no one knew whither, and thus a shadow fell upon Númenor. The Eldar reported their rebellious moods to the Valar, who sent the messengers to Tar-Atanamir to counsel him on the manner of the world:
‘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.’
(The Silmarillion, p. 315-316)
But Atanamir was proud and did not heed the messengers’ words, and many people followed him. This was the beginning of the downfall of Númenor as things only went from bad to worse from that time.
The idea of Aman giving eternal life to its inhabitants — which was not true — was readily promoted by Sauron when he came to Númenor as a prisoner. After persuading a lot of Númenóreans to worship Melkor and the darkness, Sauron cast his final stroke by talking Ar-Pharazôn into attacking Valinor to wrestle the Undying Lands from the Valar. This was achieved by a simple lie which was totally opposite to what the messengers had said to other rulers many years before:
The Valar have possessed themselves of the land where there is no death; and they lie to you concerning it, hiding it as best they may, because of their avarice, and their fear lest the Kings of Men should wrest from them the deathless realm and rule the world in their stead.
(The Silmarillion, p. 329)
This lie was all the more readily accepted by the king as it was in accord with his own ambitions. Hearkening to the false and intentionally misleading counsel of Sauron, who had long been harbouring a grudge against the Númenóreans, these Men went against their nature and tried to occupy the place which was not theirs to take. Driven by the lack of estel and Sauron’s words, the Númenóreans rebelled against Eru and his will, which, unsurprisingly, caused destruction to them.
In reality, being the realm of the Deathless, Valinor would have brought weariness and death on the Men much sooner as their mortal spirits would not have been able to stand the very air of Valinor for long. It is thus said of the establishment of the land that…
….Valinor became more beautiful even than Middle-earth in the Spring of Arda; and it was blessed, for the Deathless dwelt there, and there naught faded nor withered, neither was there any stain upon flower or leaf in that land, nor any corruption or sickness in anything that lived; for the very stones and waters were hallowed.
(The Silmarillion, p. 30)
So, like in the case of Lothlórien, it is safe to conclude that the Undying Lands were made by the Valar: the realm became known as Deathless because of the immortal eternal beings dwelling there.
Undoubtedly, a land can have a certain influence on its inhabitants, suggesting a certain way of life, types of dwellings or cultural traditions but it is the dwellers that shape the land, add character to it and make it associate with a particular people, as if sharing a part of themselves with the realm they inhabit.
- J. R. R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1999.
- J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2001.
- J. R. R. Tolkien – Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1998.
Featured image – Creative Common Licence found at Pixabay. Other images – Wikimedia Commons.