I listened to the LotR book and appendix, and understood that immortality was tied to the west, though also granted to the elves in Middle Earth (via blessing, was it?) until the end of the third age. If an elf wanted immortality after the third age, they would have to go to the west. Arwen decides to stay in Middle Earth to be with Aragorn and assumes there will be no ship to bear her back to the west. With no way to go back, she eventually dies.

After Aragorn's death, however, Legolas and Gimli go to the west, meaning there still were boats. With no reason to stay, why didn't Arwen go with them? Even if she would die in the west, why didn't she go back to be with her kinsmen instead of staying in Middle Earth, sad and alone?

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    It just wouldn't feel right: "I take the love of my life, eternal life, oh and some Lembas with parsley, please!" It sounds spoiled, to neither commit to the elven-way of going west, nor to the human way of dying together but nonetheless to consume the benefits of both worlds. If I were Elrond, I'd draw the line right there: Girls need to learn, that their decisions have consequences, and that they cant always have both!
    – Einer
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:01
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    You're lacking quite a bit of information. Immortality was not tied to going to the west, even after the third age ended. Arwen's mortality does stem from her decision to be with Aragorn, but that's a choice all half elves have to face (eg Elrond chose to be immortal). I don't have my books with me to support this, that's why it's a comment not an answer. There is also a lot of information out there: eg scifi.stackexchange.com/a/31349/28222
    – cfrei89
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:20
  • @cfrei89 Doesn't she mention the reason being no ships will bear her? If it was a choice, why mention that at all? Jul 8, 2014 at 13:23
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    I saw the question there. The question here is why did she not return with Legolas and Gimli, when she mentioned the reason was there was not a boat to bear her. Was the boat an excuse or lie? If not, how does it fit in with the choice? Jul 8, 2014 at 13:55
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    She became human by choice, even if she went back she wouldn't be immortal. Besides she did not want to go back, after Aragorn dies she retreats to what remains of Lorien to die so she can rejoin him. Also death is not the end for humans, it is said that when Morgoth gets released Arda will be unmade and the humans will join the Ainur in singing a new song to create a new world.
    – Hoffmann
    Jul 10, 2014 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


She says that no boat will bear her back; this is not because there are no boats available, but because no boat will take her, a woman who has become mortal, into the West.

Gimli goes into the West (and I should note that in The Lord Of The Rings proper, this is just a legend or a speculation) because Galadriel seems to have intervened, as Arwen did for Frodo. But there is no one to intervene for Arwen herself; she has knowingly become a mortal, and doesn't truly belong in the West: this is the reason that the boats will refuse her.

Note: "Intervention" of this sort is something that has only happened, so far as I can recall, for Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and Gimli. It happened for the three hobbits to allow them to recover, before they died, from the ravages of being a Ringbearer; it happened for Gimli presumably because of his great friendship with Legolas and his love for Galadriel. It would not happen for Arwen, because Arwen freely chose to become mortal; there's no going back for her, and no need for her to go over Sea.

  • Ah, intervention being the key point. Which makes me wonder, how did Gimli know he could go back? Were boats then going back and forth? Jul 8, 2014 at 16:00
  • Yes; that's how Legolas left. It's not stated in The Lord Of The Rings proper how Gimli knew; it might be in The History of Middle-Earth, or in Tolkien's letters, but I don't have access to them right now. Jul 8, 2014 at 16:42
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    @BrianTkatch: to my knowledge, the last boat to come FROM the west was the boat that brought the five wizards to Middle-Earth. Jul 10, 2014 at 17:00

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