I just saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for the second time last night. I have questions about this movie. In the very end of it Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, Elrond and some other elves were boarding a boat leaving Middle Earth. Where were they going to and why did they leave Middle Earth? Are the answers available in the books (I haven't read the book)?
The short answer would be, "they sailed off into the sunset and lived happily ever after."
The official TolkienGeek answer would be: Valinor. Briefly, the Elves originally came from a land off to the West where they lived with alongside other beings who were more or less "gods" who created the world (and subsequently screwed it up). When Elves live long enough to grow tired of life (assuming they don't die otherwise), they simply return to this land of immortals to live out the rest of their days (which are infinite, at least in theory.) One of the ideas in The Lord of the Rings is that the Elves have realized that Men (and presumably also Wimmin) are going to surpass them over time (thanks to a faster breeding rate and greater incentive to do something in the finite time that Men have available) and so the Elves have decided it's time to exit the stage gracefully. The fact that they did this in the middle of a major war instigated by outside forces (Sauron was ultimately a servant of Melkor/Morgoth, one of those "gods" from the West) always seemed pretty stupid to me, but oh well. Guess they have a recent election or something. When things are a mess (for which you are partially responsible), you can try to fix them first, or you can just leave. Which strategy seems preferable probably depends on what you think the chances are for success. Applying this idea to current events is left as an excercise for the reaser. (A mental excercise, because we're really not able to sustain extended political discussions here.)
In a more general vein... in western civilization, "The West" has often been the place where unknown things may reside. Maybe they are brand new things, unexplored, or maybe they are old things long forgotten. (Hm, when did someone from Europe "discover" America, anyway?) Mythologically, there have been a number of "magical isles" located somewhere west of Britain &/or Europe (if only because east of Britain and Europe was relatively well-known). Hy-Brasil, Avalon, T�r na n�g, Atlantis, America... and in Tolkien, N�menor and Valinor. [ December 23, 2006: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
Valinor though is not in the Middle Earth though it is part thereof. Yet at the same time ancient tales tell how Numenor (or Westernesse as it's called in the Westron tongue) was created by the Valar as a reward so men could live within sight of Valinor (men and other lesser races were not permitted to go to Valinor which was reserved for Elves and Valar, the only ever exceptions that are AFAIK documented are Sam, Bilbo, and Frodo for their role as Ringbearers). Numenor was if memory serves destroyed when its inhabitants decided to try and land on Valinor anyway.
Joined: Jan 30, 2000
[Jeroen]: Valinor though is not in the Middle Earth though it is part thereof.
Well, that certainly cleared things up.
N�menor is long gone before the time of Frodo and Sam; I just metioned it because of the obvious similarity with Atlantis and other mythic isles. I was trying to give a relatively short and simple answer to the question, and was already less than successful. Many of the points along the way would be open to further digression from anyone who cared to elaborate. But those details don't really help much in answering the original poster's question, do they? [ December 23, 2006: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
The Lord of the Rings represents only a small story within the whole Tolkien's cosmology. You can understand much of what it is really happening reading The Silmarillion.
Within Tolkien's cosmology what happens in The Lord of the Rings is happening in the Third Age of Middle Earth. What happened in the other two ages? Great part of the story is in The Silmarillion.
In the begining Eru (aka Iluvatar) a supernatural and powerful creator entity created the Valar, some sort of semi-gods. They are very powerful and magical. They all, but one, seem to love peace and beauty. They are very creative and create many beautiful things in Middle Earth One of these Valar, however, became evil, this was known as Melkor (aka Morgoth). He manages to destroy every single thing the other Valar do. This is how the fight between good and evil starts in Arda (the world where Middle Earth is located).
Although Melkor is alone, he is extremely porwerful and awfully smart. He gets to defeat the rest of Valar every time. When the elves are created, he gets to corrupt some of them turning them into orcs. He also created many dangerous creatures to fight the other Valar and the elves in the beginings of the world, like balrogs and dragons and wargos.
Since the elves are very near Melkor's realm, the Valars accept them to live in Valinor, which seems to be paradise-like continent hidden somewhere in Middle Earth where it is possible to get by sea. Some of the elves decide to stay in Middle Earth, however and the fight against Melkor continues for centuries.
Finally the Valar cannot stand it any longer and get all together, along with the Elves, to defeat Melkor, who was ultimately captured and imprisoned for a long, long, long time.
When the Valar believed Melkor has changed, that he has become good, then they release him, and he pretends to behave for a while, but behind the scenes, he is just pretending to be a good guy and he has been planing his evil deeds. He starts corrupting the elves minds, and makes them fight against each other.
After destroying the two magical tress created by the Valar, Melkor plunders the beatiful Silmarils and runs away to Middle Earth. The Silmarils were magical jewels created by an elf craftman know as Feanor. A fight started between the elves, some wanted to come back to Middle Earth to fight Melkor, others wanted to stay in Valinor.
Feanor loses his mind, initiates a war against his own kin and swears to get the Silmarills back from Melkor. This war ultimately takes ages and becomes the central theme of The Silmarillion.
The rebel elves are ultimately casted away from Valinor by the Valar and they are prohibited to come back to Valinor. That is why they are living in Middle Earth by the Third Age.
When the elves come back to Middle Earth the race of men was already created and they have been fighting both: the other elves remaining in Middle Earth and the evil forces of Melkor.
At the end, the elves get tired of fighting Melkor and ask the beg for the help of the Valar. All the races, men, elves and valar get together in final battle against evil. They finally defeat and kill Melkor.
The elves and men are allowed to enter Valinor again. That is why in The Lord of the Rings most of the elves are comming back to the "Undying Lands" and they no longer care about Sauron.
However, evil was not totaly defeated, one of the Melkor minions known as Sauron, was still alive. He took refuge in the land of Mordor and started a war this time against men.
He was ultimately defeated by the men of Numenor and some of the remaining elves but he was not destroyed completely. He managed to deceive the men of Numenor and because of this the race of men lost again the right to enter Valinor. Numenor was ultimately destroyed along with most of this powerful race of men. That is why only elves are allowed to come back to Valinor during the third age.
When you read a bit of Norse mitology you would realize that Tolkien's cosmology is based on very similar concepts.
The norse gods reside in Asgard, while mortal races reside in th Midgard. When the brave warriors die they are taken to the halls of Valhalla, where they wait with the great Odin, for the the day they will join the gods in the final battle against evil forces, this ultimate battle is known as Ragnarok. [ December 24, 2006: Message edited by: Edwin Dalorzo ]
Jeroen T Wenting
Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Even the Silmarillion doesn't tell the whole story. You need the Lost Tales as well, and the Unfinished Tales (sadly unfinished, hence the title).