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  • Updated 9 November 2003
  • This entry is complete

White Ship

The ship that carried the Ring-bearers into the West

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"In the twilight of autumn it sailed out of Mithlond, until the seas of the Bent World fell away beneath it…"
The Silmarillion,
Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

The ship that sailed from the Grey Havens into the Uttermost West, carrying the Ring-bearers to Aman. Its departure marked the end of the Third Age. On the White Ship sailed Elrond, and Galadriel, and Gandalf the White, who had been the Keepers of the Three Rings. With them went the two Hobbits who had kept Sauron's Great Ring, Bilbo the Ring-finder and Frodo the Ring-bearer. They were accompanied to the Grey Havens by Gildor Inglorion and many other Elves besides, but whether any of these others went aboard the ship with them is not told. It does seem, though, that Gandalf's horse Shadowfax did make the journey: we see him waiting at the quayside in The Lord of the Rings, and in his Letters, Tolkien makes it clear that he sailed away with Gandalf.

For most of the travellers, the voyage to the Undying Lands was a journey into the unknown, but not for all. Gandalf had originally come to Middle-earth from Aman, some two thousand years before, and so the White Ship was carrying him home to the place where he was known as Olórin, the wise Maia. For Galadriel, too, it was a homecoming, but of a quite different sort. She had been born in Aman long ago, and in the courts of Tirion she had listened to the words of Fëanor, following him willingly into exile in Middle-earth in defiance of the Valar. For her, the granting of a return from exile was a pardon for her past misdeeds, and a reward for her aid in the War against Sauron.

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