When Arwen implied she would 'give up' her immortality for the sake of Aragorn this seems to contradict Gandalf talking about when he 'died' and then saw a white shoreline and green forests or something like that.

Was Tolkien implying that Aragorn would have a finite life span yet Gandalf talks of an after-life?

  • 5
    As it stands I am unsure what you are asking. Arwen, the female elf, gave up immortality to live with Aragorn, the ranger. Aragorn is a mortal man. Gandalf says to Pippin in the movie, though this is not in the book., “ The far white shore waits behind the gray curtain of the world”. So what exactly is your question?
    – Firebat
    Oct 18 '14 at 6:02
  • My Question is, these statements as presented in the movie , are they contradicting?
    – user128932
    Oct 19 '14 at 4:01

The three people involved in your question are not the same kind of people. Which is why, there is no contradiction, even if the movies make somewhat different implications.

In short:

  1. Arwen is an immortal elf who could make the choice to become mortal and die, or remain immortal and go to the home of the elves and gods, Valinor.
  2. Gandalf is an immortal Wizard whose body was destroyed, but got sent back to Middle-Earth by the Gods (from Valinor) because his work was not yet done.
  3. Aragorn is a mortal man who dies just like normal people and does not have anything to do with Valinor.

Arwen is of the Half-Elven lineage

This means she got to choose whether she wanted to be Elf or Human. [1]

ARWEN: Do you remember what I told you?
STRIDER: You said you'd bind yourself to me, forsaking the immortal life of your people.
ARWEN: And to that I hold. I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone. I choose a mortal live.

Granted, the movies do a really bad job (as in no job) of explaining why she can make this choice etc. Going simply from the movie dialogue, I guess the "idea" seems to be that Arwen is a normal elf, and giving up their immortality is something doable by all Elves, and a prerequisite for marrying a mortal; or that the thing she is choosing is the knowledge that once Aragorn is dead she'll die/fade away from grief:

ELROND: Arwen, it is time. The ships are leaving for Valinor. Go now... before it is too late.
ARWEN: I have made my choice. ....
ELROND: If Aragorn survives this war, you will still be parted. If Sauron is defeated, and Aragorn made king and all that you hope for comes true, you will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality. Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die. And there will be no comfort for you. No comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death, an image of the splendor of the kings of men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt. As nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell, bound to your grief, under the fading trees, until all the world is changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent. Arwen... there is nothing for you here, only death.

Following this idea, the reason for the parting between Elrond and Arwen would be that Arwen having faded away from grief, would become a 'ghost' bound to the world by it.

Gandalf is an Istar/Maia

That is, he is an angelic being given bodily form and sent to Middle-Earth for a mission by the gods, Valar. This means that when he 'died', that just meant his body was destroyed, and his spirit sent back to the Valar. The Valar decided his mission was not yet complete, and he was still needed in Middle-Earth, plus they learnt of Saruman's fall, so Gandalf got a 'promotion' and got sent back.

In the movies, though no information is given about the Istari, the implication that Gandalf and Saruman are not mere humans is clear, as is the implication of the involvement of higher powers in Gandalf being 'sent back'.

GANDALF: From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth. Until at last, I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside. Darkness took me. And I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead and everyday was as long as a life-age of the earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I've been sent back until my task is done.

The 'white shore and green forests' are Valinor, the land of the Gods, aka the place where Elrond and Galadriel and Gandalf and Bilbo and Frodo sailed to at the end of the trilogy, the place where Arwen would have also gone to if she had not chosen to be Mortal.

This is also what happens to 'true' elves according to the books, - ie. if they die, their spirits go to Valinor where they may or may not be re-embodied. This is the fate Elrond chose. However, he never died (in battle etc) so he got to physically sail to this place, instead.

In the movies, however, no mention of this is made, which could mean that elf-death is as 'permanent' as mortal death in this 'version' - which could be another explanation for the parting of Elrond and Arwen - if she stayed on, and eventually died due to any reason including from grief, by the movie logic, she wouldn't meet up with Elrond again.

Aragorn is a Mortal Man
This means he dies like all Men, and after death his spirit does not go to Valinor, but beyond the known world, to Capital-G God (aka Eru/Illuvatar). This is the fate that Arwen chose (according to the books, again)

  • 4
    While the answer is essentially true, it's not quite correct. The Valar are not gods. Tolkien's legendarium knows only one god, Eru. Eru is also the one to send back Gandalf. A rare instance of him actually taking action. The Valar are more like angels and not seen/described as deities. Oct 18 '14 at 11:53
  • 5
    Technically, Aragorn of half-elven lineage as well. It's just that the elf/mortal choice had already been made for him. Oct 18 '14 at 12:23
  • You say Arwen is an immortal elf who wanted to become mortal to be with Aragorn , who is mortal. Gandolf is an immortal wizard who died then was sent back, yet he talked to Pippen of an Afterlife that supposedly Pippen would see too ,or else why would he be trying to cheer up Pippen with this information? Does mortality in these stories only refer to the finite existence of the human body and not the mind or soul? After all Tolkien was a Catholic.
    – user128932
    Oct 19 '14 at 4:09
  • Also of note that Aragorn's lifespan is quite elongated (being a descendent of Elros - Elrond's twin brother)...
    – Möoz
    Oct 19 '14 at 22:27
  • 1
    @user128932 That is a conversation added solely by Peter Jackson to my information - and as such can be held to any standards more than 'makes a good movie'; many movie additions of this nature cannot be reconciled with the theology set up for ME by Tolkien. But even within PJ-verse, if men after death did just go to Valinor, that makes the whole 'forever separation of Elrond and Arwen' completely moot.
    – Shisa
    Oct 19 '14 at 23:14

As I recall, Arwen was the daughter of Elrond. The thing about Elrond is, he was actually half-elven. And as such, he had the ability to choose either elven immortality, or human mortality, though with a great lifespan. He had a brother, Elros, long ago who took the human route, and so died at the age of about 500 or so. Arwen, as Elrond's daughter, had the same choice; the ability to give up her immortality. One interesting idea is that human mortality is actually a gift, though most humans don't see it that way. If an Elf dies, he or she may eventually be reborn into the world. They don't get the cool afterlife that humans get.

  • 3
    false: humans don't get a 'cool' afterlife, they just leave the confines of the world and noone what happens after. The elves, remain always within the world, they get sent to the Halls of Mandos, and unless they'd done evil, they get re-embodied in Valinor.
    – Shisa
    Oct 18 '14 at 7:21
  • @Shisa ; so Peter Jackson remarked about 'many movie additions of this nature cannot be reconciled with the theology set up for ME by Tolkein' , so I was right ,there are inconsistencies in the story , even though it is a GREAT movie. So why the downvotes?
    – user128932
    Oct 24 '14 at 3:30
  • 1
    @user128932 I'm not one who did, so I can't say for certain, but it seems to me that your downvotes were gained before it got edited by the community for greater clarity. IIRC it's original form was not very well structured or clear in what it was asking, even now some of the info about your question comes from comments - which could have been the reason for the downvotes.
    – Shisa
    Oct 24 '14 at 6:33
  • 1
    Technically, Eru is the only one who knows the ultimate fate of Men. Even Mandos doesn't know.
    – user35971
    Nov 29 '14 at 4:03
  • Peter Jackson doesn't have the rights to the Silmarillion. Or is it New Line Cinema? I can't tell.
    – user35971
    Nov 29 '14 at 4:06

At the end of "The Return of the King", Arwen and Aragorn are both human. They will go to the Halls of Mandos, and eventually, depart from Arda forever, like all Men will.

Gandalf is one of the Maiar; he's one of the Wizards who arrived in Middle-Earth about 2000 years before the War of the Ring.

The Undying Lands are Gandalf's home. The term afterlife doesn't really apply to him.

  • P.S. Although I'm aware that Men are predicted to sing with the Elves and Ainur, at the Second Music, this prophecy was abandoned by Tolkien himself.
    – user35971
    Nov 29 '14 at 3:58

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