Resources for Loss

A Passage from "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien, contributed by Laura Martens (2023)

"To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying,
The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying.
West, west away, the round sun is falling.
Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling,
The voices of my people that have gone before me?
I will leave, I will leave the woods that bore me;
For our days are ending and our years failing.
I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing.
Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling,
Sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling,
In Eressëa, in Elvenhome that no man can discover,
Where the leaves fall not: land of my people for ever!"

This passage comes from J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings, set in the world of Middle Earth. There are many peoples that populate Tolkien's novels, the most notable of which (after Hobbits, naturally) are the Elves. The oldest of all races, Elves are immortal in the narrative and preternaturally wise. As the Age of the Elves comes to an end, they embark on a final journey across the Sundering Seas to the Undying Lands, their original home. These lands, unreachable to any but the Elves, would have been the equivalent of heaven in Tolkien's works. The Elves' sadness at parting with their home in Middle Earth is tempered by a longing for the Undying Lands that haunts them for the thousands of years that they spend away from it. Elves who have heard the cry of the gulls or the sound of the sea cannot remain content in the forests that had been their home.

The 'death' of Elves in the narrative is not a physical one, and yet once they have boarded the grey ships they can never return to Middle Earth.

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