Thread: The Grey Havens
Some have suggested that Valinor represents Heaven, but this is entirely untrue too. I think it is in the Silmarillion that discussion of the fate of Elves and Humans after death are discussed. And Elves do not know the fate of humans as they are "immortal" and part of Nature. Only Eru Illuvatar knows that, which explicitly suggests that if Heaven does exist in Middle Earth it is not Valinor. Valinor is actually based on the myth of Avalon, where King Arthur's body was sent to rest (a possible source for the misunderstanding that Avalon was a Celtic "Heaven" and hence that Valinor might be also).
The misconception that the Grey Havens or Valinor might be Heaven is most often based on the fact that Bilbo and Frodo go to spend the rest of their Earthly life there, and it is known as The Undying Lands. Frodo has wounds that will never fully heal and Bilbo is near death. In Valinor they will be more comfortable and at peace, something many people equate with Heaven. But make no mistake, Bilbo and Frodo (not being Elves or Gods) will die there eventually, and go to Hobbit Heaven .
Once, in the early ages of Middle-Earth, the world was flat and there was one huge ocean in the middle of it. The land on the right side of the map was Middle-Earth and the land on the left side was Valinor. Valinor was where the Valar lived, and that is where they brought some of the elves so that the elves wouldn't be exposed to the brutality of Morgoth in Middle-Earth.
Then, when the world was reshaped (which almost always happens at the end of one age and the beginning of another), it was made round, but Valinor stayed on the same plane. I best explain things by illustration:
So Valinor was hanging there in space, and, as Tolkien described it, one could sail and sail and sail in Middle-Earth and never reach Valinor, because one would just be going around the circle. One had to find the secret path that would enable them to leave the circle and travel a TRUE straight line.
So, with all that said, Valinor is a physical country. Since Elves are immortal, they cannot spend eternity in Middle-Earth. They need rest. So they can go to Valinor. That is their final resting place. And on VERY rare occasions do they let others come with them.
As GB said, this is not to rule out the possibility of a heaven. No one knows where the men, dwarves, hobbits, etc. (but especially men) go when they die. Some people think they go to Mandos' halls (in a different region of Valinor), some think they go to another waiting place where they wait until the final day, and some think that they go to be with Illuvatar.
Have just read your reply Beren, thank you.. I bought The Silmarilion many years ago, but never finished it.. So I would probably know much more about Valinor if I did.. I must say, you really know your stuff here.. I only know the basics in comparison, lol.. It just amazes me how much Tolkien imagined & created.. But im so glad he did
As to Valinor as Heaven, I'll take a different route that what has been presented thus far.
Is Valinor/the Gray Havens, is this heaven?
What is heaven?
I know that second sentence looks like a question, but it's actually my answer. Or even better, what is heaven to you?
As I do from time to time, I am going to point you (Galadriel and any other readers) to my signature block. I love that quote from Tolkien.
As GB and Beren noted, according to how Tolkien wrote the Silmarrillion, it would appear that Valinor is not heaven.
But, if the question is "Is Valinor Heaven?" or "Is Valinor Heaven according to Tolkien?"; the difference in an answer is monumentally different!
While GB and Beren's answers are right, they are not by definition right for you.
I for one consider a good book, a comfortable chair, and a front porch to enjoy them on during a light rainstorm to be heaven. I also believe I could find these things in Valinor. When I'm lucky, I can find them at my home as well.
So the question really becomes, Do you see heaven in Valinor?
I suspect a number of people might see purgatory in Valinor, or at least in the Halls of Mandos. The Halls are when Elves go after they are killed. There to await the end of time when Eru will bring his children before him (elves and men) to make music.
What is more important in Tolkiens work is not so much what he wrote, but what you see in his words.
You would think that me being an elf, I would know far more, but I don't, lol..
"Here follows one of the last notes in the Red Book
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. It 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."
About your comment, Show. Merriam-Webster defines "Heaven" as:
a: the dwelling place of the Deity and the blessed dead
b: a spiritual state of everlasting communion with God.
So, although many people compare extreme comfort and satisfaction (physical and spiritual) to Heaven, it is not, in itself, Heaven. The definition of Heaven requires the presence of the Deity. You must be in real and tangible communion with God to be in Heaven. So, when one applies this to Middle-earth, Valinor is NOT Heaven. The place where Iluvatar (Eru) dwells is Heaven. The place where the events of the Ainulindale (the beginning of the Silmarillion) take place is heaven. Eru created the world, and the Valar went into it. Eru is in a different place, and that place is Heaven.
It is true that Iluvatar is what modern people think of as God, that is, an almighty being (probably an old man with a beard) who dwells nowhere and everywhere, and whos will permeates all. In that sense, the Valar are not gods.
But in an older sense, they are. Think of the Greek, Roman or Norse gods. Or the gods from India, or China, or most other places. These gods are manifestations of nature, they are the embodiment of the powers of nature. Ulmo is the power of the seas, Aulė of the earth, and Javanna of life. So the Valars are gods, although a more primitive kind of gods that are still subjects to fate.
Therefore Valinor IS a heaven - but not necesarily a biblical heaven. Just as the old Norse heaven was a place of endless battle and celebration, much different from the modern place with clouds and harps. In Valinor you may find comfort, understanding, or rest. But Valinor is only undying in the sense that the people who are native to it, the Valars, are immortal. Being the powers of nature, the land itself can thus never die - it is a kind of eternal spring. Finwė, the father of Feanor, dies in Valinor - he is slain by Morgoth - so elves are not immortal there. Morgoth on the other hand, being a Valar, is not killed - he is expelled from the world.
Bilbo and Frodo (and in the end Sam, or so people say) goes to Valinor to find peace, not immortality. They probably lived there longer than they would have in MiddleEarth, though. The only creatures that apparently are not allowed in Valinor are humans - the last attempt anyone made at that cost them their entire civilisation.
Finally, the place where Ainulindale takes place is also a heaven, but a more modern one than Valinor. This is due to Iluvatar being a more modern God than the Valars.
And finally (for the second time), sorry, but I sometimes talk too much...
Though I see your point in a loose way, I think you lost track of the original meaning of the question. Heaven is a very specific place that one only really finds in the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Heaven is the final resting place of spirits that have departed this mortal coil (if they are "good" ).
Pagan religions have fairly different concepts of the afterlife that don't necessarily equate directly with Heaven. Valinor is like [i:15ry3rys][b:15ry3rys]a[/b:15ry3rys][/i:15ry3rys] heaven, but it is not equivalent in any sense with the Biblical Heaven. This is evidenced by the fact that Frodo, and Bilbo will die there and then move on to whatever afterlife Tolkien may have conceived for them. Again, Valinor is Tolkien's version of Avalon, i.e. Fairy Land...which is, as you aptly point out, where the Nature Spirits reside. Very Pagan, but not Heaven.
But also notice that, in the definition, it says that it is the dwelling place of "THE Deity and the blessed dead." It speaks as if it is talking about the "head God" (if you will), and it is singular. In Tolkien's world, the head God is Iluvatar, and he resides in Heaven.
Plus, Heaven is the dwelling place of the blessed dead. In Christianity, this means it is the dwelling place of those who believed in Christ. If Middle-Earth is merely a forgotten dark age of our world, then it would imply that Heaven is where MEN go when they die (if they're, as GB put it, "good." Tolkien always said that no one knew where the mortals went when they died. The elves go to Mandos' halls and await the Great End, but where do the mortals go? I think Tolkien implied that they go to Heaven, in other words, to go to be with Iluvatar. The Elves are "blessed" with immortality, but it is always suggested that Men are "blessed" in a more powerful and meaningful way. Perhaps their blessing is being able to spend eternity with Iluvatar.
No doubt this comes from being lovers and scholars of Medievalism, which also syncretised Classical Pagan and Christian Thought. In this way of thinking, polytheism with the ancient Gods and Goddesses was seen as a part of Nature with a Monotheistic Supreme Deity that ruled over them. This actually borders on pan(en)theism (or monism) which posits that the lesser deities are actually aspects of the Godhead (as in Hinduism), or that all spirits are part of one Great Spirit. But it doesn't [i:5alb0z5k][b:5alb0z5k]quite[/b:5alb0z5k][/i:5alb0z5k] go there as it separates everything else from The Creator.
In any case, Middle Earth reflects this blend of Monotheism and Polytheism. The Ainur are more than angels (as they are co-Creators of Middle Earth) yet they are less than the Supreme Deity, hence they are, for all intents and purposes, Demigods. Those that reside in Valinor are in fact residing on a different "plane" of Middle Earth, as you point out Beren.
It's worth pointing out that different Pagan religions had very different perspectives on the afterlife. In many Eastern religions, including Hinduism, one reincarnates until one can break the cycle of Karma, and there are many levels of "heavens" and "hells", and one does not necessarily reside in any for Eternity after death. And the more Enlightened one becomes, the more "at One" with the Godhead one becomes.
In most of the European Pre-Christian religions, all the dead would pass on to the Underworld, presided over by a deity of the Underworld. The Underworld would be divided into sections. Which section you ended up in, depended how well you lived your life, some more pleasant than others. And as hador notes, in Norse Mythology, Great Warriors would be taken by the Valkyries to their own special place full of Feasting and Brawling .
In one way it could be argued that Valinor is a paradise...much like the Christian Garden of Eden. Considering its description, "the undying lands," this comparison seems a good fit.
On the other hand, in Valinor the Elves enjoy the company of the Ainur. If one considers the Ainur to be deities (perhaps in a Greek mythology sense), then Valinor is absolutely "heaven".
What more, I think Valinor is the intended final residence of "resurrected" elves. This would suggest again that it is their intended heaven. Perhaps, after the last of the elves arrives at Valinor (either in life or in death), it will be further removed, changed, and elevated to an even greater realm.
Now, for Frodo and Bilbo (and I think Sam, too) Valinor was a paradise to rest and heal from their mortal sufferings until actual death took them.
Sometimes I view heaven as a state of being as much as a physical location.
In response to Gandalfs Beard, I don't think I deviated from the original question in my talk of different 'heavens' for different religions. But I should probably have used a wording like 'the realm of afterlife' instead - I believe that is what the question is really about. Of course, that would mean that only a part of Valinor is heaven (sorry, the realm of afterlife), namely the Halls of Mandos. That is where the elves go, before they are reborn (or released?).
Humans likely go to Iluvatar when dying, but we'll never know (not before we try it ourselves, at least). But what about hobbits? They probably count as a special variant of humans, and therefore should go to the same place.
And dwarves? Supposedly they go to a corner of the Halls of Mandos, but do they stay there, or leave like the elves? Tolkien mentions descendents of Durin that were so alike that people believed it WAS Durin reborn - but he does not reveal whether it was actually the case.
If we follow that line of thought, we end up having to explain what happens to the ents, the trolls, and the balrogs. And what about the orcs, that were originally elves? Do they still go to Mandos?
I didn't mean that you had "deviated" from the original question per se. But generally, when people refer to Heaven (with a capital H ), they are referring to the Biblical concept of Heaven. I think I've made a fairly solid case that Valinor is not a representation of the Biblical Heaven. Though Shane makes a good comparison of Valinor to Paradise. I think that could be "applicable" as Show's Tolkien quote suggests.
I also like Shane's notion that heaven (with a small h ) can be a state of Being, though that would be more similar to the concept of Nirvana. Which works if one has a Universalist perspective and interpretation of the Bible.
If we follow that line of thought, we end up having to explain what happens to the ents, the trolls, and the balrogs. And what about the orcs, that were originally elves? Do they still go to Mandos?[/quote:3girla0n]
What is the final destination of Melkor and the Maia and other spirits that followed him? In "Unfinished Tales" it is hinted that a great final battle called Dagor Dagorath will take place. That Melkor will break free from The Void and return to Middle Earth and rally all evil forces for one last battle, where Turin himself will return and run his black sword through Morgoth's black heart, finally killing Morgoth (ultimate payback for Hurin's kin).
But since this is from Unfinished Tales, who knows if Tolkien would have kept that story or revised it.
Either way, it begs the question where the evil spirits of Morgoth, Sauron, the Balrogs, Ungoliant, Shelob, orcs, trolls, and the fell spirits of barrow weights go in the end?
Are they completely destroyed, or face some kind of permanent banishment? Or are they simply held somewhere until Eru Iluvatar finds a need for "opposition" on some other world?
In Tolkien's world I don't know these answers. Interesting to think about, though.
By the way GB, are you a Brit living in the US? .. Hope you don't mind me asking, only you mentioned Brits on another thread.. Im from the UK myself
Shane, those are some fascinating questions. I think the original Orcs might have a chance at redemption as they were first Elves, tortured and mutilated through no fault of their own. As to the later Orcs who seem to relish their evilness, I'm not so sure. And for the rest of the critters, from the minor ones like Trolls and Spiders to the Dark Spirits such Melkor, his followers, and Balrogs, I suspect that Tolkien may have postulated a Dark Realm similar to the Christian concept of Hell for them if queried on the issue. Though, its hard to say for sure, as he made every attempt to avoid directly referencing his own religion in Middle Earth.
yorkshire man living in OZ.
According to a passage quoted [i:16oshlqn]The History of Middle-earth XII: The Peoples of Middle-earth[/i:16oshlqn]: "some (Galadriel) were [of the] opinion that when Yavanna discovered the mercy of Eru to Aule in the matter of the Dwarves, she besought Eru (through Manwe) asking him to give life to things made of living things not stone, and that [b:16oshlqn]the Ents were either souls sent to inhabit trees, or else that slowly took the likeness of trees owing to their inborn love of trees[/b:16oshlqn]."
Obviously though this is not conclusive, and it could conflict with the statement that Ents "ascribed not their own language but the desire for speech" to the Eldar." Considering it more carefully though, it is possible that the two statements can fit together, in that "souls" were sent by Eru to inhabit trees or become like trees who later began to speak after contacting elves. What these souls were is anyone's guess, though I would assume they were Ainur of some sort. Therefore, it is quite possible that their spirits would live on after bodily death, though I can't say where those spirits would go.
We don't know much about trolls, and I find it likely that they have a fate similar to orcs (see below). In [i:16oshlqn]HoMe X: Morgoth's Ring[/i:16oshlqn], "Myths Transformed", Text IX he states that "Elves would have classed the creates called 'trolls' ... as Orcs - in character and origin - but they were larger and slower. It would seem evident that they were corruptions of primitive human types."
[quote:16oshlqn]and the balrogs.[/quote:16oshlqn]
Balrogs were of course Maia from before the creation of the World and the beginning of Time. They were spiritual beings who could not be killed, though their bodies could apparently be destroyed. It is possible thus that they had - as happened to Morgoth - become stuck in a single form, so that when that form was destroyed (and they were "killed" they could not (immediately) create another one. Therefore, I would think that their spirits would linger on in some dark corner of Middle-earth, malignant but impotent.
I admit that I am not certain on this, though.
[quote:16oshlqn]And what about the orcs, that were originally elves? Do they still go to Mandos?[/quote:16oshlqn]
Tolkien discusses this somewhat in [i:16oshlqn]HoMe X: Morgoth's Ring[/i:16oshlqn], in the section "Myths Transformed". In Text VIII he wonders: "are Orcs 'immortal', in the Elvish sense? Or trolls? It seems clearly implied in [i:16oshlqn]The Lord of the Rings[/i:16oshlqn] that trolls existed in their own right, but were 'tinkered' with by Melkor."
Using this quote and the one mentioned earlier about Trolls, it would seem that Orcs are corruptions of existing beings - Elves or Men, likely - that had souls given by God (Eru) that would go to whatever fate awaits them after bodily death. However, in Text VIII of "Myths Transformed" Tolkien asserts that Eru would not have given souls to Orcs, despite their ability to talk. So my conclusion as to Orcs and Trolls would be that with the cessation of bodily functions their personalities and minds would cease to exist, and that they have no fate after death.
I apologize if I've diverted the thread from it's original topic, this just made me start thinking about this.
I share your idea of the orcs and trolls simply ceasing to be when they die. I'll have to look up the part about the ents - I seem to have missed that one.
Judging from Saruman and Sauron, the maiar (and therefore also the balrogs) are simply reduced to spirits 'malign, but impotent' as you put it. Sauron certainly is - it says so in Lord of the Rings. The smoke rising from Saruman's body when he is killed in the Shire is rejected by the West, being dissolved by a cold wind, which indicates he remains but is utterly powerless. This is also in thread with Tolkien's ideas of how the evil forces use up their power through their evil doings.
I've consulted with a few people I know and it seems like Balrogs [i:2havc6r0]probably[/i:2havc6r0] couldn't change their form (indicating, in my mind at least, a loss of power). Which is how I came to the conclusion that I did.
I think the closest thing to hell in Arda would be Utumno, Angband, and/or Mordor, all of which are referred to as hell (or Udun, which means hell) at some point. Of course, they are not afterlives though.
More Powerful Dark non-human spiritual entities in some beliefs, are depicted as "ruling" a particular Hellish dimension or bardo, among many levels of Hellish dimensions.
So I think you could see how some these concepts, might connect with some of Tolkien's work.
The only reincarnation by the wicked is done by themselves, and in the end both Morgoth and Sauron (and, presumably, Balrogs) lose that power through overuse (every time they do it they expend some of their innate spiritual energy and eventually they run out).