The first episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power covers a lot of ground, and we're not just talking about its extensive location-hopping. The show is dense in Tolkien lore and there are several mentions of the First Age, Morgoth, Sauron, and countless introductions to new characters and peoples (hi, Harfoots). In short, it's a lot to take in.
Towards the end of the opener, Morfydd Clark's Galadriel and several other Elves set off on a journey to Valinor, too – and if you're a little confused as to what that actually is, then we've got you covered. While Galadriel ends up jumping ship and swimming back to Middle-earth before the boat reaches it, we're likely to visit Valinor again later on in the series. So, before that happens, let's get up to speed on the mysterious location.
What is Valinor?
Valinor, or Valinórë, meaning 'Land of the Valar', is a place in the blessed realm of Aman (also known as the Undying Lands) and is said to be free from all evil (read: heavenly). The angel-like Valar – great beings who helped shaped the world in Tolkien's mythology – built Valinor following their initial battle with Melkor, better known as Morgoth, a corrupted Valar who caused chaos. This was before even the First Age had begun.
At a later stage, something called the Sundering of the Elves took place, in which the immortal Elves – born on Middle-earth – were allowed to travel to Valinor to live in eternal bliss. The trip itself was called the Great Journey, though some Elves remained on Middle-earth. Helcaraxë, a vast icy wasteland, joined Valinor and Middle-earth prior to the War of Wrath – that's the battle seen in The Rings of Power's prologue in the First Age – but was destroyed in the conflict.
The realm of Aman was later removed altogether from the rest of the Earth (known as Arda) and Elves were only capable of getting to Valinor by going on the Straight Road, an invisible bridge that left the curve of the Earth. The Elves have to travel in ships capable of making the journey (this is the voyage Galadriel almost makes in the opening episode of The Rings of Power). Elves were only allowed to actually leave Arda by the grace of the Valar – so, no mortal man, hobbit, or dwarf would be allowed to make the journey.
Of course, there were some famous exceptions: ring-bearers. Frodo Baggins and Bilbo, as seen at the end of The Return of the King, took a boat to the Undying Lands as they had both held the Ring of Power. Samwise Gamgee is also said to have traveled to Valinor after his wife, Rosie, died – though that's only by the account of his own daughter Elanor. Meanwhile, following King Aragorn's death, Legolas, the Elf, sailed to Valinor alongside Gimli, making him the first and only dwarf to travel to the Undying Lands. They all said to have lived out their days happily ever after there.
Now, some real nerdy stuff: Valinor's capital is Valmar, while the cities Alqualondë and Tirion act as the homes of the Teleri and the Ñoldor, respectively. Tol Eressëa is the most important island off its east coast. Each Valar is believed to have their own domain in Valinor. For example, Yavanna, the Vala of nature, growth, and harvest, resides in the Pastures of Yavanna in the south, while Oromë, otherwise known as the Vala of the hunt, lives in the Woods of Oromë to the north-east. Other areas include the Halls of Mandos, Halls of Tienna, Isle of Estë, Gardens of Lórien, and the Mansions of Manwë and Varda. The languages spoken in Valinor are Valarin and the Elvish, Quenya.
It has been rumored that Tolkien's Valinor was inspired by Hy Brasil, a mythical island that can supposedly be seen off the coast of Ireland for one day in every seven years. Chances are, though, it was based more heavily on the Christian version of heaven, as Tolkien was heavily influenced by the religion.
Will we *see* Valinor in season 1?
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is set during the Second Age, following the defeat of Morgoth. It's worth noting, then, that – and this could end up being a spoiler – during this period of Middle-earth history, Sauron poisoned the Men of Númenor with ideas of immortality, prompting them to plot an invasion of Valinor. Worried about the Men's schemes, all-mighty creator Ilúvatar himself got involved, and sunk the kingdom of Númenor to thwart them. To stop another uprising against the Valar, Ilúvatar then made the previously-flat world round, detaching Aman from the rest of Arda and letting it float out west.
The first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power are streaming now on Prime Video.To ensure you don't miss an episode, be sure to keep our The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power release schedule to hand.