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A comment on a recent question stated

The Undying Lands doesn't prevent mortals from dying so, in fact, [Frodo] died... maybe sixty years (or more, if his life was prolonged) after the end of the story.

If this is correct, Gimli certainly would have died. Is there any direct reference to his death (preferably with age)? Failing that, what canon states or implies that mortals will still die there?

The Undying Lands might not prevent death, but the One Ring seems to. Gollum lived for over 500 years because of it. Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam all aged slowly before making their way to Valinor, even after the Ring's destruction. My impression was that because of the Ring's influence they were expected to live forever, and their residence in Valinor served not only to make them comfortable, but also (perhaps even moreso) to protect them from becoming wraiths due to the Ring's effect.

So, did the Ring Bearers live until the End of Days in Valinor, or did they eventually expire, and at what age? Were they mortal once again because the Ring's power had been broken by its destruction, or the magic of the Undying Lands, or did the Valar themselves reverse it?

I'd also appreciate canonical references to age at death if it did happen.

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  • 18
    In a nutshell they're called the undying lands because immortal people live there not because anyone there becomes immortal.
    – IG_42
    Mar 12 '15 at 0:19
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    In the Akallabêth (the tale of the fall of Numenor) it is stated that the immortality of the people who live in the undying lands does not come from the land itself, but from what the people themselves are (the land is named after the people, not the other way around). Sauron tricked Ar-Pharazôn (the last king of Numenor) into believing that the land would grant him eternal life, so he set sail with a mighty host to invade the undying lands. It did not work out very well for the king.
    – Hoffmann
    Jul 12 '15 at 1:32
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    Earendil was half elven thus was given the choice for mortal or immortal by the Valar. Frodo and the rest are pure mortal, so Earendil's case doesn't apply here.
    – user49161
    Aug 4 '15 at 10:42
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    @hoffman actually Sauron was literally correct. Ar-Pharazôn did in fact achieve immortality by going to Aman, albeit imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten. It appears Illuvatar withrew the Gift of Men from those who were imprisoned. " But Ar-Pharazôn the King and the mortal warriors that had set foot upon the land of Aman were buried under falling hills: there it is said that they lie imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten, until the Last Battle and the Day of Doom"
    – WOPR
    Aug 4 '15 at 11:36
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    I think that them going off to Valinor is the end of their story, since it marks the end of any part of their life that has anything to do with our world. They likely died there, since they are mortal - but it seems to me that not giving us information about what exactly happened to them there is intentional on Tolkien's part. The LotR doesn't work the same way in this regard as The Silmarillion.
    – Misha R
    Apr 9 '19 at 20:37

10 Answers 10

93

Frodo is mortal, and going to Valinor doesn't change this. I don't remember this being explicitly stated in The Lord of the Rings. Book VI closes as Frodo sails away. Gandalf, Galadriel and the others do not make any prophecies regarding what will happen in Valinor. One of the appendices provides a timeline for “later events concerning the members of the Fellowship of the Ring”, but strictly limited to Middle-earth. The Ring is destroyed in 1422 by Shire reckoning, Sam sails West in 1482 when his wife dies, and Legolas and Gimli (“it is said”) are the last of the Fellowship to leave Middle-earth in 1541. That's all you'll find in The Lord of the Rings: that story is told from the point of Middle-earth and does not chronicle what happens in the Elven lands that Man cannot reach.

Mortality is a gift to Men (this is clearly established in the Silmarillion). This is a gift of Ilúvatar and not even the Valar can affect it. Although Hobbits are not mentioned, they are probably close enough cousins of Men to be mortal in the same way. The case of Dwarves may be less well-established but nothing indicates otherwise.

We can turn to Word of God in the form of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. There it is clearly stated (letter 246):

‘Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured’, said Gandalf — not in Middle-earth. Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over Sea to heal him — if that could be done, before he died. He would have eventually to ‘pass away’: no mortal could, or can, abide for ever on earth, or within Time. So he went both to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of ‘Arda Unmarred’, the Earth unspoiled by evil.

Letter 325:

As for Frodo or other mortals, they could only dwell in Aman for a limited time — whether brief or long. The Valar had neither the power nor the right to confer ‘immortality’ upon them. Their sojourn was a ‘purgatory’, but one of peace and healing and they would eventually pass away (die at their own desire and of free will) to destinations of which the Elves knew nothing.

There you have it: the Ring-bearers were mortal, they remained mortal, and they eventually died in the manner of mortals, albeit after a time of their own choice.

A final note, still in letter 325:

(…) But the legends are mainly of ‘Mannish’ origin blended with those of the Sindar (Gray-elves) and others who had never left Middle-earth.

As this last passage shows, we don't know precisely what happened to Frodo and the other Ring-bearers in Valinor because what we know is the legends of Middle-earth. We have no knowledge of what happened in Valinor after it was removed from this Earth, save through what little contact it still had with Middle-earth until the end of the Third Age.

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    The first quote (letter 246) is certainly an authoritative answer, but is there anything more about the One Ring's influence? While it existed it seemed to keep Gollum, the Hobbits, and even the Nazgûl alive (for some definition of "alive"; their spirits attached to their bodies at least) while it existed. Is there anything about whether that effect would endure indefinitely if it remained extant, and whether its destruction ended that effect or just reduced its duration?
    – Kevin
    Aug 27 '13 at 0:03
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    I feel like there's a common misconception that the Gift of Men is mortality -- Dwarves are also mortal. The Gift of Men is the combination of not being bound to Arda and the ability to shape their own lives beyond the Music of the Ainur (free will of a deeper sense than that of the Elves).
    – Plutor
    Aug 27 '13 at 12:22
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    @Plutor dwarves are mortal but in a different way. Dwarves were not part of Ilúvatar's plan but were creations of Aulë. When they die they return to his halls at death. The Silmarillion makes a point of differentiating human mortality from that of other races and mortality, in the sense that after death humans go off to mysterious lands that only Ilúvatar knows about (not even the Valar) is indeed his gift to men and is exclusive to them. I have no idea where you get the free will thing.
    – terdon
    Aug 28 '13 at 13:07
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    You're right -- the free will thing is important ("they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else", The Beginning Of Days) but not the Gift. But "dwarves are mortal but in a different way" is my whole point. It's not mortality that's the gift, but the leaving of Arda completely.
    – Plutor
    Aug 28 '13 at 14:30
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    @Kevin I believe the quotes in this answer support the idea that the destruction of The One Ring did end that effect.
    – Beofett
    Oct 3 '13 at 14:14
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Yes, every mortal who goes to Aman (the Undying Lands) will eventually die. The Undying Lands were likely called that because immortals dwelled in them, not because they granted immortality.

Other important arguments against the immortality of the mortals who sailed to Aman can be found in a letter:

As for Frodo or other mortals, they could only dwell in Aman for a limited time – whether brief or long. The Valar had neither the power nor the right to confer 'immortality' upon them. Their sojourn was a 'purgatory', but one of peace and healing and they would eventually pass away (die at their own desire and of free will) to destinations of which the Elves knew nothing."

Letter 325

And in a passage from The Akallabêth:

The Eldar reported these words to the Valar, and Manwë was grieved, seeing a cloud gather on the noontide of Númenor. And he sent messengers to the Dúnedain, who spoke earnestly to the King, and to all who would listen, concerning the fate and fashion 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.’

—J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"

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  • Those quotes certainly answer the first part, but what about the Ring's effect? Was the longevity never permanent? Did its effects break with its destruction? Did the Undying Lands override it?
    – Kevin
    Aug 27 '13 at 0:20
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    The effects of the ring were likely lost when the ring was destroyed. Sauron was a Maiar and his power even in his degenerate state would have still be far beyond most things in Middle Earth. So the limited immortality of the ring would likely sustain any mortal creature that touched it. And its effects would likely linger on any creature that used it. Once destroyed, Sauron's essence would likely fade and along with it, the appearance of halted youth. Characters would likely resume aging normally becoming long-lived members of their species. Aug 27 '13 at 0:39
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The elves believed that Tuor, a man, set sail from the havens at the mouth of Sirion with his elvish wife Idril, daughter of Turgon, King of Gondolin. The silmarrilion states that Tuor and Idril arrived safely in Valinor, bypassing the ban of the Valar, and that Tuor was accounted one of the elder race, and granted immortality after the manner of the elves.

It is possible, in other words, for a mortal to live on in the undying lands like an elf. However, Tolkien indicated in his private letters that Frodo and Sam and the others were not counted as elves, and indeed died, even in the "Undying Lands."

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In addition to the other answers dealing with mortality in Valinor, it's clear from the books that the effects of the Ring are only temporary, and that they will wear off in time. For example, Gandalf's comment in Shadow of the Past:

he possessed the ring for many years, and used it, so it might take a long while for the influence to wear off...

So it's clear that:

  • the effects of the Ring do wear off after you no longer have it,
  • this wearing off takes time,
  • how much time it takes depends on how long you have the Ring and how much you use it.

Looking now at the Ring-bearers, we see that

  • Sam had it the least amount of time (excepting Déagol, who was killed almost immediately), 2 days maximum, and gave it up willingly, so it shouldn't be expected that it had much lasting effect on him.
  • Frodo had it about 18 years, but the Ring completely claimed him at the end and was taken off him by force; that's obviously going to have a lasting effect.
  • Bilbo had it about 60 years, only used the Ring for tricks (and escaping from the SBs), and also gave it up willingly; he was without it for almost 20 years when he went West.
  • Gollum had it for almost 500 years, obtained it by force, used it for evil, lost it unwillingly, and was without it for close on 80 years at his death.

Obviously, in the light of Gandalf's statement, it's going to take longer for the effects of the Ring to wear off both Bilbo and Gollum. Even when we meet Bilbo in Many Partings they're still wearing off - he asks to see the Ring. Gollum of course still wants it right to the very end, and as such is still under its influence.

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  • +1 Though I wonder what weighs more: that Bilbo had it more time (but gave it up willingly) or that Frodo was unwilling to part with it (but had it for less time)?
    – Andres F.
    Dec 28 '13 at 16:16
  • Or if it mattered at all at the rings destruction?
    – Clay
    Aug 13 '15 at 4:18
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That King of Numenor complained to a herald from Valinor that he also loves Arda and would not leave it and wants to live in Valinor. The herald says the Valinor itself doesn't confer immortality in fact a mortal would burn too bright and die sooner if he went there. (I can't recall the exact words.)

There's another time when Manwe says he has no means to hold a man in Arda for longer than his mortal life.

Only Illuvator himself can grant immortality and he did so for Tuor and he gave Beren a second life. On the other hand Illuvator didn't create Dwarves and it's unknown whether he granted them the gift of Illuvator. They were mortal, but not by Illuvator's will. So while the land of Valinor itself couldn't change Gimli's mortality, there's no clear rule that one of the Valar couldn't have granted Gimli immortality.

3

To add another quote about this:

Eru committed the Dead of mortals also to Mandos. (That had been done long before: Manwë knew they would be mortal.) They waited then a while in recollection before going to Eru. The sojourn of say Frodo in Eressëa – then on to Mandos? – was only an extended form of this. Frodo would eventually leave the world (desiring to do so). So that the sailing on ship was equivalent to death.
"Reincarnation of Elves"

This is from a text called "Reincarnation of Elves", which is briefly quoted from by Christopher Tolkien in his commentary to Morgoth's Ring, and published in full as "Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation" in La Feuille de la Compagnie #3 and "Elvish Reincarnation" in The Nature of Middle-earth.

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Once the influence of the ring was gone, the films show Bilbo rapidly aging to appear his true age.

Here he is in Fellowship of the Ring

And Later

Before and after pics

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    I love the films, don't get me wrong, but they are divergent enough from the literary world of Tolkien that I don't think they can be used to provide canonical answers. Also, even if Bilbo aged in Middle Earth, that point alone doesn't tell us anything about his aging or dying in the Undying Lands.
    – FoxMan2099
    Aug 27 '13 at 9:38
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    With all due respect to the films (ie, very little), that makes no sense: Gollum had had the Ring for hundreds of years, so he should have died immediately on losing it if this was what happened. Plus, Tolkien explicitly makes it clear that he would "just stop as he was when he parted with it". Aug 27 '13 at 9:56
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    The books make very clear that a great span of years passes between Bilbo losing possession of the Ring and his advanced age in Rivendell, and later at the end of ROTK. He advanced more quickly than he should have, but only in the sense that he was "catching up" to his actual age. In other words, he went from looking 50 to looking 131 in the time it took for him to age from 111 to 131.
    – user44330
    Apr 22 '15 at 22:00
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    This doesn't really answer the question. It just shows that in the movie, Bilbo visibly aged much faster without the powers of the One Ring.
    – TylerH
    Dec 7 '17 at 21:39
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There are already excellent answers to the bulk of the question, but perhaps not to "Were they [the Ring-Bearers] mortal once again because the Ring's power had been broken by its destruction, or the magic of the Undying Lands, or did the Valar themselves reverse it?"

Tolkien does answer this. When Bilbo is talking with Gandalf, he says:

'I am old, Gandalf. I don't look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!' he snorted. 'Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.

(Some useful dates: Bilbo was born in 2890. He acquired the Ring in 2941 at age 50. He gives up the Ring in 3001 at age 111. Frodo sees Bilbo in Rivendell in 3018 when Bilbo is 128 and he is 129 when the Ring is destroyed. He leaves for Aman at age 133. He possessed the Ring for 60 years.)

So when Bilbo is 111 (comparable to mid-late 80s for a human) he looks fifty, but feels "stretched" and "like butter that has been scraped over too much bread". The Ring confers unending life but not more life. The "immortality" of the Ring is a poisoned chalice.

Bilbo lives in outward vigor and youth until he gives up the Ring. When Frodo sees him in Rivendell (Bilbo is around 130 -- like one of us at 100), Bilbo is depicted as older, but not yet showing his full age. Bilbo says:

I have thought several times of going back to Hobbiton for it; but I am getting old, and they would not let me: Gandalf and Elrond, I mean. They seemed to think that the Enemy was looking high and low for me, and would make mincemeat of me, if he caught me tottering about in the Wild.

When Bilbo asks to hold the Ring, Frodo sees him as

a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands.

Now the emotional part of this is false and due to the Ring, but note that Bilbo is objectively described as "wrinkled" with "bony" hands. Also, Bilbo is usually described as the "old Hobbit" while in Rivendell.

So while Bilbo no longer has the Ring, but the Ring still exists, he began to age normally or perhaps a bit faster than that. When Frodo meets him in Rivendell, Bilbo is 128 years old (human ~100) but held the Ring for 60 years and looks like he is getting old, but is still healthy. This fits very well with him show a hobbit-age of just the years he was without the Ring: 50+18 or about 68. It is consistant with the book that the years Bilbo held the Ring do not affect his age as long as the Ring exists.

But once the Ring has been destroyed, Frodo returns to Bilbo in Rivendell:

[Frodo] found him all alone in his little room. It was littered with papers and pens and pencils; but Bilbo was sitting in a chair before a small bright fire. He looked very old, but peaceful, and sleepy.

He's now fully showing his great age -- he's a centenarian by our standards and showing every year of it.

Bottom line: Once Bilbo gave up the Ring he started ageing again normally. When the Ring was destroyed, his full age quickly returned. By the time he left for Valinor, he was a very old Hobbit -- the oldest for which there was a record -- but not yet into supernatural territory.

With the Ring destroyed, the various Ring-Bearers were their true ages and the Ring's physical effects were gone. They were mortal.

-1

I believe that the Ring-Bearers and Gimli did in fact die, some time after reaching Valinor. Bilbo, Frodo and Sam went there for healing after their ordeal with the Ring, a grace that was granted to them when Arwen chose mortality. "For I am the daughter of Elrond. I will not go with him when he goes to the Havens. For mine is the choice of Luthien, and as she, so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead, you shall go, Ring-Bearer, when the time comes and if you so choose." The Return of the King, Many Partings.

As for Gimli, he went with Legolas after the passing of King Elessar, because he desired to see the Lady Galadriel again, and it is said that she obtained this grace for him. But it does not say that he was granted immortality, only that he was allowed to go into the West.

-3

Maybe not!

As stated on Silmarillion:

As Eärendil set foot on the Undying Lands the Valar asked if a mortal can keep being mortal

(I don't remember the exact words) IMHO No one can really die (unless by violence) at Undying Lands. Remember even Fëanor's mother didn't "really" die after giving birth.

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  • Could you look for quotes to support your final paragraph? If that's true, it's really relevant and worth the effort. Aug 4 '15 at 11:44
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    Eärendil has Elven ancestry. His mother was an elf.
    – user46509
    Aug 8 '15 at 18:39
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    @AlfredoHernández Although wrong in that nobody can die there (what about the Númenóreans? They certainly died during their assault!) - because it has to do with mortality rather than where (this is one of the plots of Sauron: tricking the Númenóreans into the belief that landing there would give them immortal life) elves 'die' differently - and they can be returned to life (e.g. Glorfindel).
    – Pryftan
    Dec 22 '17 at 3:12
  • @user46509 Eärendil was human. An half-even is able to choose between elf and human and he chosed to life as a human. There are any human half-even lived forever without setting foot on the undying lands to support your affirmation?
    – jean
    Dec 22 '17 at 14:07

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