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Old 01-22-2013, 09:44 AM
Small Hen Small Hen is offline
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Where do the peoples of Middle Earth go when they die?

This morning, while skimming the news sites and making an attempt at being a socially literate human being, I was struck with an important question: does the Tolkien-verse have a heaven and hell? Where do the people of Middle Earth go when they die?

In the films, the answer seems to be Valinor, at least for those on the side of good, since that’s what Gandalf describes to Pippin during the battle of Gondor. But is that true of the books as well? I kind of got the idea that Valinor was a place for Elves, which was why it was so special that Frodo, Bilbo, and later Sam (as bearers of the one ring) got to go there. But why could Gimli sail there too? Did Legolas have to talk to the Valinor bouncer? What about Men? What about non-ring bearing Hobbits? Was Rosie there to meet Sam on the silver shores, no doubt interrupting an eternity of UST between him and Frodo? If Hobbits go to Valinor automatically when they die, why did Sam bother building a boat and sailing alone? And what about orks? Where do the orks go!?

Okay, back to the news. I swear, I have to make myself read articles about Syria, but Hobbit theology is the shit that keeps me up nights.

ETA: I read LOTR when I was 16, more than 10 years ago. If it's all laid out in there and I've forgotten, sorry.

Last edited by Small Hen; 01-22-2013 at 09:47 AM..
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  #2  
Old 01-22-2013, 09:59 AM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Elves go to Valinor, which once was a physical place (The West), but is now no longer physically connected to Middle Earth (though still part of the World). They hang around there until the World ends.

Men go beyond the World when they die. Where, and what that means, nobody knows. Hobbits being basically short Men, it's assumed they do too. I think the understanding is that the Ringbearers got to go to Valinor, but only to heal up, and they would eventually move on beyond the World like all Men.

I can't recall what happens to Dwarves, or if Tolkien ever said anything about Ents, Orcs, Trolls, or other conscious creatures.

It's made pretty clear that Gimli got into Valinor only because Legolas worked the doorman, though it didn't hurt that Gimli was also one of the Fellowship, which the Powers that Be are grateful to.

Someone with more knowledge will undoubtedly soon come along and quote a note Tolkien left on the back of a pub bill that lays out his thoughts in more detail...
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:16 AM
Small Hen Small Hen is offline
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Originally Posted by Quercus View Post

Someone with more knowledge will undoubtedly soon come along and quote a note Tolkien left on the back of a pub bill that lays out his thoughts in more detail...
Which is exactly why I came here instead of trusting the ever useful, often inaccurate Google search. You know you're getting a quality geek analysis at the Straight Dope.

Thanks for the info.
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:24 AM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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The elves like Elrond who voluntarily went to Valinor are not dead. They are just back in the old country. Elves that are slain in battle, or die of a broken heart, go to The Halls of Mandos (which is in Valinor), which sounds pretty awful, but I don't get the impression it was all that bad.

Tolkien specifically said that nobody knew what happened to men after they die except Illuvator (and he ain't talkin'), other than that they became "free of the bonds of the world." This was variously referred to as "the gift of men" or "the doom of men," depending on your perspective.

Last edited by Tim R. Mortiss; 01-22-2013 at 10:26 AM..
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  #5  
Old 01-22-2013, 10:43 AM
mbh mbh is offline
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Living Elves go to Valinor, and hang around until the end of the world. The spirits of dead Elves go to the Halls of Mandos (within Valinor), and stay there for a while. Eventually, they get re-incarnated into a new body. Whether this involves being re-born as an infant, or simply being handed a new adult body, is not entirely clear. If you have been naughty, you stay longer in Mandos. Feanor will supposedly get re-incarnated just in time for the Last Battle at the end of the world.

Humans go first to Valinor, but don't stick around very long. They leave the World, and not even the wisest of the Elves know where they go. But Tolkien was careful to make Middle-Earth consistent with Roman Catholic theology, so we can assume that Moses and Jesus come along later and reveal it.

Nobody is certain about Dwarves. Many Elves believe that they return to the stone from which Aule carved them. The Dwarves themselves believe that Aule has prepared a place for them in the Halls of Mandos, where they will await the end of time, when they will help Aule re-build the world after the Last Battle.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:01 AM
randwill randwill is online now
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Originally Posted by mbh View Post
The Dwarves themselves believe that Aule has prepared a place for them in the Halls of Mandos, where they will await the end of time, when they will help Aule re-build the world after the Last Battle.
Many Shuvs and Zuuls will know what it is to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you.
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Old 01-22-2013, 12:09 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is online now
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Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
Tolkien specifically said that nobody knew what happened to men after they die except Illuvator (and he ain't talkin'), other than that they became "free of the bonds of the world." This was variously referred to as "the gift of men" or "the doom of men," depending on your perspective.
I did a thread a few years ago, polling members as to whether they would pick the choice of Elrond (elf) or his brother Elros (human). It's not quite as simple a question as it might seem. Somewhere or other Tolkien noted that, eventually, "even the Valar" would envy the gift of men.

Elrond or Elros?

Last edited by BrotherCadfael; 01-22-2013 at 12:14 PM..
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  #8  
Old 01-22-2013, 12:45 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Originally Posted by mbh View Post
Living Elves go to Valinor, and hang around until the end of the world. The spirits of dead Elves go to the Halls of Mandos (within Valinor), and stay there for a while. Eventually, they get re-incarnated into a new body. ...
Humans go first to Valinor, but don't stick around very long. They leave the World, and not even the wisest of the Elves know where they go. But Tolkien was careful to make Middle-Earth consistent with Roman Catholic theology, so we can assume that Moses and Jesus come along later and reveal it.
For an elf, then, "speared by an orc" and "traveling by boat" are merely two paths to the same place.

And Tolkien hedged his bets wrt to humans. As a Catholic, he felt that humans go somewhere nice (but unknown) after death, and he built his alternate reality with the same rules.
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  #9  
Old 01-22-2013, 08:29 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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It's also not a given that reborn Elves are always reborn in Valinor, and in any event, it's certainly possible for them to get back to Middle Earth somehow or another (note: Middle Earth is the continent, not the whole World). Glorfindel, who met the Hobbits at the ford just before Rivendell, was slain way back in the First Age while fighting a Balrog. It's not clear how he ended up back in Middle Earth, though I think there are some indications that he came over in the same ship as the Wizards.
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Old 01-22-2013, 08:49 PM
Pork Rind Pork Rind is offline
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Originally Posted by mbh View Post
Humans go first to Valinor, but don't stick around very long.
Technically yes. But you really mean that they go to the Halls of Mandos temporarily.

Last edited by Pork Rind; 01-22-2013 at 08:49 PM..
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  #11  
Old 01-23-2013, 12:24 AM
the_diego the_diego is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Glorfindel, who met the Hobbits at the ford just before Rivendell, was slain way back in the First Age while fighting a Balrog. It's not clear how he ended up back in Middle Earth, though I think there are some indications that he came over in the same ship as the Wizards.
I'm assuming the two are not the same. Glorfindel FA was a captain of Gondolin (Noldor, house of Turgon-Fingolfin.) Glorfindel TA was based in the havens with Cirdan (House of Olwe?) Both were eldar (high elves) by their description but Glorfindel TA was considered an elf lord.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:36 AM
BigT BigT is online now
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I'm assuming the two are not the same. Glorfindel FA was a captain of Gondolin (Noldor, house of Turgon-Fingolfin.) Glorfindel TA was based in the havens with Cirdan (House of Olwe?) Both were eldar (high elves) by their description but Glorfindel TA was considered an elf lord.
Tolkien has said they were the same elf when asked about this. Tolkien doesn't violate his own rules even when it was likely a mistake on his part. He says that no two elves have the same name, and he means it.

I read it in the LotR faqs.
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Old 01-23-2013, 03:44 AM
Steophan Steophan is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
(note: Middle Earth is the continent, not the whole World).
That's only sort of true. In the ancient times, when Valinor was a part of the physical world, it would have been true. By the Third Age, when the world had been made round, and Valinor separated, Middle-earth referred to the planet.

The term derives from Midgard, one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology, which was the world inhabited by humans.

On topic, the answers given so far have been correct. To give a little more detail on death being the Gift Of Man, the idea is that Elves will be trapped within the world (including Valinor and Middle-earth) whilst Men get to leave it, with a very strong implication that they get to go somewhere better that Iluvatar (the Creator God) has put aside for them. It's also said that Elves will get there at the end of time, but not before. They will eventually suffer severe ennui from being there so long, even in the earthly paradise of Valinor.

Men, of course, don't tend to see it that way. In the mythology, the men of Numenor used to be content to die when their time was up, dying by choice at the end of their strength rather than lingering into decrepitude (cf Aragorn at the end of his life, in Appendix A to LOTR). Sauron came among them as a false prophet, and claimed that death was not, in fact, a good thing, but immortality was, and if they just sailed to Valinor, they could obtain it. Which was false.

The Elves and Gods weren't particularly happy about this, so they destroyed Numenor and cut Valinor off from Middle-earth. Men still have, for the most part, the false belief about death.


Sorry for no cites to the books, and apologies if any details are wrong, I'm rather ill and doing this from memory. If anyone wants more detail, let me know and I'll dig some stuff up when I'm feeling better.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:03 PM
Malacandra Malacandra is offline
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Excellent effort from memory, with one minor detail about the downfall of Numenor - the Elves and the Valar kicked that one upstairs to Eru Himself, who sank the island and made the planet curved.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:13 PM
Filbert Filbert is online now
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Note it is very occasionally possible for elves and humans to switch fates, when they intermarry: Lúthien took her husband Beren's human fate (after singing her way back from death, by totally sucking up to Mandos); Arwen also presumably accepted a human fate, though she was a 'half-elf' (ok, technically she was a 25/32 elf, 1/32 maian, 3/16 human, but that just doesn't have the same ring); and Tuor, a human who married the elf woman Idril went with her to Valinor and was 'reckoned with the Elf kindred' there.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:36 PM
well he's back well he's back is offline
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my tiny addition to the discussion - regarding Hobbits, only the ringbearers (Bilbo, Frodo, and probably Sam) were allowed to sail to the west with Elves. After they, esp Frodo ,healed and were ready for death, they died to the world as any other mortal man or hobbit. So, no Rosie will only be reunited with Sam in the same mysterious way that Arwen will be reunited with Aragorn after death. (no comments on Sam hanging out with Frodo in the meantime).

Wish the dear Professor had thought through what happened to Orcs/trolls/goblins a little more. If they were sentient beings, wanton killing of them does raise issues.

I'm unclear about the afterlife of the dwarves, wizards, ents, eagles, balrogs, wraiths, and Bombadil/Goldberry also.

Last edited by well he's back; 01-23-2013 at 02:37 PM..
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Old 01-23-2013, 03:16 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Originally Posted by well he's back View Post
I'm unclear about the afterlife of the dwarves, wizards, ents, eagles, balrogs, wraiths, and Bombadil/Goldberry also.
Since wizards are just maiar wearing old man clothes, I think we can safely assume that once back in Valinor, they revert to their demi-godlike form, and resume hobnobbing with their fellow maiar and valar.

Which leads to the question: what is their fate? I think I recall that the Valar and Maiar who chose to enter the world are tied to it; so they're basically in the same boat as the elves (although more in tune with The Big Picture, having been there during the Music.)

Last edited by jsc1953; 01-23-2013 at 03:17 PM..
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Old 01-23-2013, 03:17 PM
jayjay jayjay is online now
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I'm unclear about the afterlife of the dwarves, wizards, ents, eagles, balrogs, wraiths, and Bombadil/Goldberry also.
Wizards, most likely, return to Valinor to don new fana (divine bodies), unless they're rejected as Saruman was.

Bombadil and Goldberry...it depends. If Bombadil is really a maia "gone native", it's likely that his spirit will return to Valinor if he should ever be killed. If both of them are a kind of elemental, then they'll probably cease to exist when Arda ends.

Ents and eagles are an interesting but inconclusive case. As much as ents want to lump themselves into the grouping of Free Peoples with elves, dwarves, hobbits and men, they were originally created for the same reason as the eagles, to be the guardians of their particular taxonomical Kingdoms...plants for the ents and animals for the eagles. Both were alive and extant before the elves, which seems to suggest that they are NOT actually Children of Eru, as the men, elves, dwarves and hobbits are (remember that Iluvatar decreed that the dwarves, created prior to the awakening of the elves, had to be put back to sleep until his First Children had appeared).

Balrogs were maiar, but I highly doubt they're getting an invitation back to Valinor, so I have to assume they either just cease to exist (as Saruman did) or they get stuffed into the Outer Darkness where they can hang out with their old boss. And as for the Nazgul, I'd imagine that they were pretty much sustained only by Sauron's will by the time of the destruction of the Ring, and without that to hold them together, simply ended.

Last edited by jayjay; 01-23-2013 at 03:18 PM..
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:41 AM
Lightray Lightray is offline
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Saruman didn't cease to exist any more than Sauron did -- they're both Maiar, and eternal. They're simply unembodied and evermore unable to affect or interact with Middle-Earth. Basically, doomed to be impotent spectators until the ending of Arda.

The Nazgul were mortals, despite whatever shennanigans they got up to. Without the One Ring to sustain their existence, they presumably die and go off to whatever fate awaits all men. If the Valar themselves were unable to alter whatever it is that happens to men after they die, there's no way some artifice of Sauron is going to do do so.
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Old 01-25-2013, 04:37 AM
mbh mbh is offline
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A couple more data points.

Thorin and Gimli are "Longbeards", a clan of Dwarves descended from Durin. He is called "Durin the Deathless" because the Dwarves believe that he gets re-incarnated every now and then. Every few millenia, a Dwarf will be born in the royal family who so resembles the original, that the Dwarves believe he is the reincarnation of their founding father. Durin VI was killed by the balrog in Moria.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durin
Quote:
Durin VII or Durin the Last was the direct descendant of king Thorin III Stonehelm (according to some sources, his son),[15] ruler of Erebor and the Iron Hills in the Fourth Age. His birth was apparently prophesied upon the accession of Dáin II after the Battle of Five Armies[16] (although no record exists of the actual prophecy itself). He led Durin's Folk back to recolonize Khazad-dûm (Moria) some (unspecified) time after the beginning of the Fourth Age, where they remained "until the world grew old and the Dwarves failed and the days of Durin's race were ended".[17]


At some point in LOTR, a couple of Orc are talking, and one of them mentions that if you tick off a Ringwraith, he will "strip you and leave you naked on the other side". This metaphor of the physical body as a suit of clothing for the soul, is a common meme among the Elves, and hints that Orcs may also be subject to re-incarnation.
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Old 01-25-2013, 09:13 AM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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This metaphor of the physical body as a suit of clothing for the soul, is a common meme among the Elves, and hints that Orcs may also be subject to re-incarnation.
I wonder if the Halls of Mandos is segregated?
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