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In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Belegaer, the Great Sea or the Sundering Seas, is the sea of Arda that is west of Middle-earth. It represents a loose mythical view of the Atlantic Ocean.

J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
TypeGreat Sea of Arda
Other name(s)The Sundering Seas,
the Great Sea,
the Western Sea,
the Great Water
LocationWest of Middle-earth

Before the Second Age, Belegaer stretched from the Gap of Ilmen in the far north, where a bridge made of ice known as the Helcaraxë connected Middle-earth and Aman, to the far south, where it also connected with Ilmen and froze. Belegaer was narrower in the north than in the south, with its widest part near the equator of Arda.

The full extent of Belegaer after the Akallabêth is never made clear, but it reaches far enough to the north to be ice-covered, and far to the south.

The name is Sindarin, and has the elements beleg ("might") and aer or eär ("sea"), the latter also present in the name Eärendil ("sea-lover"). The Quenya name of Belegaer, never used in published writing, is Alatairë.

Before the end of the Second Age, the continent of Aman, home of the Valar, formed the western edge of Belegaer. Before the ruin of Beleriand at the end of the First Age, the sea was narrow and ice-filled in the north, forming the strait of Helcaraxë, the Grinding Ice. It was thus possible to cross from Aman to Middle-earth on foot, though with difficulty, as did Fingolfin and his people of the Noldor when fleeing Valinor.[1]

After the War of Wrath Belegaer was widened by the drowning of a large part of Middle-earth. During the Akallabêth in the Second Age, the seas were "bent" and the world was made round. Aman was removed from the world, Belegaer washed "new lands", and only the chosen could find the "Straight Road" to Valinor. The new western reaches of Belegaer are never described in the narrative, although there are indications that Númenórean refugees reached them in search for Valinor. The "new lands" have been compared before to the Americas by fans, although Tolkien himself never indicated whether that was what he intended.

Geographic featuresEdit

The Atlantic ocean looking towards the Aran Islands, Ireland

On the west, before Aman was removed from the world near the end of the Second Age, features of Belegaer included:

Features near Beleriand, drowned at the end of the First Age:

After the drowning of Beleriand:

  • Númenor (Second Age only)
  • the Western Isles (remnants of Beleriand)
  • Ice Bay of Forochel
  • Gulf of Lune
  • The Bay of Belfalas was the large bay of the Great Sea on the south of Gondor. It was the remainder of the eastern edge of the Great Gulf that had divided Beleriand from the Lands to the South in the First Age. After the end of the War of Wrath a large section of western Middle-earth was drowned, and with the new coastline the Bay of Belfalas extended from the cape of Andrast to the Mouths of Anduin, and then south past Umbar to unknown southern shores. The Bay of Belfalas was an important inlet for incoming ships. It served as a passageway for Corsairs coming from the Havens of Umbar in the South.
Most of the Rivers of Gondor flowed into the Bay of Belfalas, and it had many smaller bays and capes. The mouths of the Anduin and the Rivers Lefnui, Blackroot, Ciril, Ringló, Gilrain (which was joined by the River Serni), and Harnen all emptied into the Bay of Belfalas.
The Bay was named for the region of Belfalas (S. 'bel'=strong, great, 'falas'=shore, coast), and in it lay the rocky island of Tolfalas at the mouths of the Anduin.


  1. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "Of the Flight of the Noldor", ISBN 0-395-25730-1

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