16

At the end of the Third Age / early Fourth Age, Samwise/Gimli/Bilbo/Frodo/Galadriel got on boats and went to Valinor. How did they know that they would be allowed into Valinor? Valinor is usually closed to mortals, and Galadriel was banned from returning at one point.

Only other ways I can think of are:

  • The Valar sent a messenger to Middle Earth to tell them that they can go.
  • They didn't actually know. They took the voyage with the hope that the Straight Road would be open.
  • Or they hoped that the presence of the immortal beings they were travelling with (Legolas, Elrond etc.) would "grant" them access.
  • The Valar had some method to communicate telepathically with Cirdan and told him who would be allowed over.

None of these seem very probable. The first seems highly uncharacteristic of the Valar. For the second, all these people seemed to know they would be able to traverse the Straight Road before they departed. If the third worked, then presumably lots of mortals would want to go to Valinor. The fourth would remove the need for Eärendil or Amandil to cross the sea to talk to the Valar.

How did these people know they were allowed into Valinor?

11
  • 10
    Gimli's departure is only a possibility: We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Gloin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him. More cannot be said of this matter. Commented Apr 18 at 7:57
  • 1
    "The first seems highly uncharacteristic of the Valar" - other than when they sent Eönwë, and Glorfindel and all the Wizards.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Apr 18 at 9:14
  • 7
    My money's on "they Just Knew"
    – AakashM
    Commented Apr 18 at 11:13
  • 2
    The Valar sent the tickets via Eagle Express. Commented Apr 18 at 11:57
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox Samwise did eventually go to Valinor (he did not go with Frodo/Elrond/Galadriel, but he went eventually).
    – Allure
    Commented Apr 18 at 12:09

2 Answers 2

30

A wizard did it

Tolkien's conception is illuminated a little in his Letter 246 (September 1963), where he has an aside to talk about Frodo taking Arwen's place. With my emphasis:

It is not made explicit how she could arrange this. She could not of course just transfer her ticket on the boat like that! For any except those of Elvish race 'sailing West' was not permitted, and any exception required 'authority', and she was not in direct communication with the Valar, especially not since her choice to become 'mortal'. What is meant is that it was Arwen who first thought of sending Frodo into the West, and put in a plea for him to Gandalf (direct or through Galadriel, or both), and she used her own renunciation of the right to go West as an argument. Her renunciation and suffering were related to and enmeshed with Frodo's: both were parts of a plan for the regeneration of the state of Men. Her prayer might therefore be specially effective, and her plan have a certain equity of exchange. No doubt it was Gandalf who was the authority that accepted her plea. The Appendices show clearly that he was an emissary of the Valar, and virtually their plenipotentiary in accomplishing the plan against Sauron. He was also in special accord with Cirdan the Ship-master, who had surrendered to him his ring and so placed himself under Gandalf's command. Since Gandalf himself went on the Ship there would be so to speak no trouble either at embarking or at the landing.

This is enough explanation for the ship carrying Bilbo, Frodo, and Galadriel. Gandalf was aboard in his capacity as victorious emissary of the Valar. His will was aligned to theirs and so he would "know" that this was the right thing to do. (And it is not a matter of communicating with them in advance in order to gain permission; Gandalf himself is already the messenger.)

While Galadriel was very well-informed, it is not obvious whether she shared this confidence. After her mirror confrontation where she declares that she "will go into the West", she still sings a lament that a ship may not come for her: so her rejection of the Ring was not decisive. The defeated Saruman later taunts her using the same words:

"And now, what ship will bear you back across so wide a sea?" he mocked. "It will be a grey ship, and full of ghosts." He laughed, but his voice was cracked and hideous.

I think that Saruman had an awareness that she would indeed be allowed to return, but for him that is twisted into bitterness. This is similar to other classic portrayals of a fallen angel as someone who still knows a lot about God, but doesn't like it. (Compare Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae Iª q. 64 a. 1 co., saying that the demons retain a degree of angelic knowledge concerning higher things, but are "utterly deprived" of love and the wisdom that comes from it.)

As to Sam and Gimli, whose journeys are described in LotR Appendix B as respectively "the tradition is handed down" and "it is said", we can only speculate that they left in the hope that they would be received. Frodo and Sam share a conversation in the final chapter where this seed is planted:

"Where are you going, Master?" cried Sam, though at last he understood what was happening.
"To the Havens, Sam," said Frodo.
"And I can't come."
"No, Sam. Not yet anyway, not further than the Havens. Though you too were a Ring-bearer, if only for a little while. Your time may come. Do not be too sad, Sam. You cannot be always torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do."

At this point, Frodo has certainly been told all about the plan, and he would not have raised the possibility with Sam as a careless remark. He is speaking with wisdom and it appears that although he lacks Gandalf's explicit authority, he has some insight into the workings of this particular grace. On the pure logistics level, as Sam set sail from the Havens, it may be that Cirdan or other elves there had been notified by Gandalf that Sam would turn up one day, and to let him on board. But there is nothing textual here and I am interpolating based on the references in Letter 246 to Gandalf's influence being needed at embarkation - equally possible that an elderly, stubborn Sam just said "I'm going and that's that" and the elves conceded.

For Gimli, all we have is the following from the end of Appendix A (quoted by @Mustapha Mond in comments), suggesting that some "authority" might have been wielded by Galadriel herself:

We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Glóin's son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him. More cannot be said of this matter.

4
  • 6
    Also, by this time, Gandalf was more than just an emissary of the Valar: after Zirak-Zigil, he had an additional mandate directly from Eru. Commented Apr 18 at 18:45
  • Do you mean that Gandalf is the person who authorizes who gets to go? Or did the Valar tell Gandalf (how?) and Gandalf relay it to Frodo/Bilbo/Galadriel?
    – Allure
    Commented Apr 19 at 2:48
  • Also even if Galadriel got permission for Gimli to go, how did she communicate that to Gimli?
    – Allure
    Commented Apr 19 at 2:49
  • Gandalf had authority himself, per Tolkien. He surely explained things to the other voyagers because it would be absurd for them to get on the ship if they didn't know where they were going or why. As to Gimli, I have nothing beyond Tolkien's "More cannot be said of this matter".
    – alexg
    Commented Apr 19 at 6:04
1

Turns out there is a way for the people in Aman to "communicate telepathically with Cirdan"! One of the Palantiri, the Master-Stone, is held in Tol Eressëa in Aman. Anyone with access to it can presumably contact those who hold one of the other Palantiri, and there definitely were Palantiri still in Middle Earth in the Fourth Age.

Big caveat: there's absolutely no indication that this is how the Eldar communicated to Cirdan than Samwise/Gimli will be allowed to go to Aman, and there's no indication either that Cirdan even had one of the Palantiri,* but it's conceivable.

As for why Eärendil and Amandil needed to cross the sea to talk to the Valar: Tol Eressëa isn't in Valinor, and the Valar don't live there. Possibly the Valar didn't actually have a Palantir, so the only way to talk to them would be to visit them directly.

*Cirdan did have access to the Elostirion-stone, but this stone was brought to Aman by the White Ship carrying Gandalf & Frodo/Bilbo.

1
  • Círdan is probably in direct contact with Ossë.
    – Spencer
    Commented Apr 25 at 22:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.