“And at that hour the sun went down beyond the rim of the world, as a mighty fire; and Tuor stood alone upon the cliff with outspread arms, and a great yearning filled his heart.”
The image of Tuor looking upon the Belegaer for the first time never fails to inspire me in its symbolism of the conquerabilty of the unknown. This is the moment he is struck by sea-longing, a phenomenon present in both Elves and Men and perhaps an indicator of their natural attunement to the Music as Children of Ilúvatar. Tuor perceives the Music in the water as an overwhelmingly powerful force, using imagery of battle interspersed with musical metaphors to describe its movement in The Horns of Ylmir. The force of the Music in the form of sea-longing is what propels him and his descendants to play central roles in the events of the First Age and beyond.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of sea-longing, which to me represents harmony of the Music and an individual’s soul/fëa. The Men in Tolkien’s legendarium most afflicted by it—those who can hear the water’s music the most—all achieve higher deeds. Tuor is the only Man to be counted among the Eldar. Eärendil is the keeper of a Silmaril, and Eriol/Ælfwine was the “bridge” between cultures. Even Tar-Aldarion, whose sea-longing was depicted as more of a curse, brought his kingdom to the height of its political power by pioneering lasting relations between Númenor and the Elves of Middle-Earth. The Gift of Ilúvatar was for Men to be able to decide their own fates beyond the boundaries of the Music, but those acting on their sea-longing choose to live in harmony with the Music and thereby achieve extraordinary feats, securing them a place in legend.
When picturing Tuor looking out across the Great Sea with his arms outstretched, accepting the sea’s call to adventure, I am always reminded to take life’s challenges head-on, no matter how daunting they may seem. Tuor yearns for and eventually fulfills the sea’s call by sailing to Valinor, demonstrating that seemingly impossible tasks can still be achieved. In this he teaches us to take risks, to have the courage of one’s convictions in order to reach our full potential in life.
Hailey is a law student who enjoys collecting copies of The Silmarillion in languages she doesn’t understand. When not reading a Tolkien book, she can be found watching hockey or playing the piano.