In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...
, the Great Sea
or the Sundering Seas
, is the sea of Arda
In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Arda is the name given to the Earth in a period of prehistory, wherein the places mentioned in The Lord of the Rings and related material once existed...
that is west of Middle-earth
Middle-earth is the fictional setting of the majority of author J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy writings. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place entirely in Middle-earth, as does much of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales....
Before the Second Age
The Second Age is a time period from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy writings. Tolkien intended for the history of Middle-earth to be considered fictionally as a precursor to the history of the real Earth....
, 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
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....
The full extent of Belegaer after the Akallabêth
Akallabêth is the fourth part of the fantasy work The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is relatively short, consisting of about thirty pages.-Synopsis:...
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
Sindarin is a fictional language devised by J. R. R. Tolkien, and used in his secondary world, often called Middle-earth.Sindarin is one of the many languages spoken by the immortal Elves, called the Eledhrim or Edhellim in Sindarin....
, and has the elements beleg
("might") and aer
("sea"), the latter also present in the name Eärendil
Eärendil the Mariner is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is depicted in The Silmarillion as a great seafarer who, on his brow, carried the morning star across the sky.-Etymology:...
("sea-lover"). The Quenya
Quenya is a fictional language devised by J. R. R. Tolkien, and used in his Secondary world, often called Middle-earth.Quenya is one of the many Elvish languages spoken by the immortal Elves, called Quendi in Quenya. The tongue actually called Quenya was in origin the speech of two clans of Elves...
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
The Valar are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. They are first mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, but The Silmarillion develops them into the Powers of Arda or the Powers of the World...
, formed the western edge of Belegaer. Before the ruin of Beleriand
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional legendarium, Beleriand was a region in northwestern Middle-earth during the First Age. Events in Beleriand are described chiefly in his work The Silmarillion, which tells the story of the early ages of Middle-earth in a style similar to the epic hero tales of Nordic...
at the end of the First Age
In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the First Age, or First Age of the Children of Ilúvatar is the heroic period in which most of Tolkien's early legends are set...
, 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
Fingolfin is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, appearing in The Silmarillion.-Internal history:He was a High King of the Noldor in Beleriand, second eldest son of Finwë, full brother of Finarfin, and half-brother of Fëanor, who was the eldest of Finwë's sons. His mother was...
and his people of the Noldor
In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Noldor are Elves of the Second Clan who migrated to Valinor and lived in Eldamar. The Noldor are called Golodhrim or Gódhellim in Sindarin, and Goldoi by Teleri of Tol Eressëa. The singular form of the Quenya noun is Noldo and the adjective is Noldorin...
when fleeing Valinor
Valinor is a fictional location in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the realm of the Valar in Aman. It was also known as the Undying Lands, along with Tol Eressëa and the outliers of Aman. This is something of a misnomer; only immortal beings were allowed to reside there, but the land itself,...
After the War of Wrath
The War of Wrath, or the Great Battle, is a key plot development in J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium, portraying the final war against Morgoth at the end of the First Age....
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
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...
by fans, although Tolkien himself never indicated whether that was what he intended.
On the west, before Aman was removed from the world near the end of the Second Age, features of Belegaer included:
- Tol Eressëa
In early versions of J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium , Tol Eressëa was an island visited by the Anglo-Saxon traveller Ælfwine which provided a framework for the tales that later became The Silmarillion. The name is the Elvish for "Lonely Island"...
, the Lonely Isle close to the shore of Aman
- the Twilit Isles or Enchanted Isles seaward of Tol Eressëa
- Bay of Eldamar
Features near Beleriand, drowned at the end of the First Age:
- Bay of Balar
- Isle of Balar, in the Bay of Balar
- the Great Gulf
- Firth of Drengist
After the drowning of Beleriand:
Númenor is a fictional place in J. R. R. Tolkien's writings. It was a huge island located in the Sundering Seas to the west of Middle-earth, the main setting of Tolkien's writings, and was known to be the greatest realm of Men...
(Second Age only)
- the Western Isles (remnants of Beleriand)
- Tol Morwen
- Tol Fuin
- Ice Bay of Forochel
- Gulf of Lune
- Bay of Belfalas
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth, the Bay of Belfalas was a large southern bay in the Great Sea.The Bay of Belfalas 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...
- Tolfalas, in the Bay of Belfalas