Valar: Ulmo

Other names: Gaerys (the Awesome), Balar, Yssion

Mate: Uinen

Ossë is Master of the seas around Middle-earth. He does not go to the deeps, but loves the coasts and the isles. He rejoices in the wind of Manwë, as Ossë delights in storms and he laughs amid the roaring of the waves. He is the governor of the waves and the movements of the Inner Seas, and many other spirits beside.

“At times with his storms [he] caused great mists and darkness to be wafted off the Shadowy Seas, encroaching even the bright airs of Valinor, though in this he met the anger both of Ulmo and of Manwë.” Book of Lost Tales

Melkor and Ossë

Melkor hated the Sea, for he could not subdue it. In the making of Arda, he tried to draw Ossë to his allegiance so that he might gain mastery of the realm. He promised Ossë all the realm and power of Ulmo if only he would serve him. During that time, great tumults arose in the sea and wrought ruin to the lands. However, Uinen, at the prayer of Aulë, restrained Ossë and brought him before Ulmo, and he was pardoned and he returned to his allegiance. But his delight in violence never totally deserted him, and at times he raged in his wilfulness without any command from Ulmo.
Ossë taught the Teleri all manner of sea-lore and sea-music.

When the Teleri were lingering on the coasts of the Western Sea, Ossë and Uinen came to them, and Ossë taught them, sitting on a rock near to the shore.

Love of the Teleri

When Ulmo came to the Teleri, bidding them to follow him to Valinor, Ossë grieved for his charges, feeling sorrow that their voices would no longer be heard in his domain. So some he persuaded to remain, and these became the Falathrim.

He also followed Olwë when his Telerin host was journeying on an island to the Blessed Realm. He called out to the elves, who recognised his voice and begged Ulmo to stay their voyage. Then, at Ulmo’s bidding, Ossë made their island fast, and rooted it to the bottom of the sea.

His love for the Teleri continued, and while he could not aid the Teleri during the Kin-slaying, he caused the seas to rise up in tumult around the Noldor ships.

Creation of Andor

Ossë raised the land of Andor out of the Sea for the dwelling place of the Edain.

Notes from HoME

Ossë’s position in the Ainur

From Morgoth’s Ring:

“These are the nine chieftains of the Valar that dwelt in Arda: Manwë, Ulmo, Aulë, Oromë, Tulkas, Ossë, Mandos, Lórien and Melkor.”

At the same time, Tolkien created seven queens of the Valar. It seems sensible to suggest then that two of the male Valar needed to be dropped to level out the numbers. These two were Ossë and Melkor. However, that the fact that he was once numbered among the Valar could explain why he, alone out of the male Maiar, has a wife.

In The Lost Road, it is said that Ossë was one of the Ainur conceived later in the thought of Ilúvatur (along with Oromë, Tulkas, and Lórien).

The Book of Lost Tales contained a very early version of the Coming of the Valar:

“Now behind those greatest chieftains came Falman-Ossë of the waves of the sea, and Ónen his consort, and with them the troops of the Oarni and Falmaríni and the long-tressed Wingildi, and these are the spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean. Now Ossë was a vassal and subordinate to Ulmo, and was so for fear and reverence and not for love.”

This early version may well help explain one of the more puzzling sentences concerning Ossë in the Silmarilliion, that is “He is the governor of the waves and the movements of the Inner Seas, and many other spirits beside”. In the Book of Lost Tales version, these spirits were described as those of the foam and the surf – maybe subordinate Maiar, or maybe nature spirits.

The only physical description of Ossë is in the Book of Lost Tales.

“Ossë was there and his beard of green was torn and his eyes were dim, and he gasped leaning on a staff and was very much athirst, for mighty as he was about the seas and tireless, such desperate travail on the bosom of Earth spent his vigour utterly.”

Melkor and Ossë

Melkor’s hatred of the sea was clearly shown in Morgoth’s Ring:

“There he cursed the Sea, saying: ‘Slime of Ulmo! I will conquer thee yet, shrivel thee to a stinking ooze. Yea, ere long Ulmo and Ossë shall wither, and Uinen crawl as a mud-worm at my feet!’”

Love of the Teleri

In The Lost Road, it is said that when the Teleri begged Ulmo to let them pause before reaching the Blessed Realms, Ossë seized the isle and chained it to the sea-bottom. When Ulmo returned, the isle could not be moved without injury to the Teleri. However, by the time of the writings in Morgoth’s Ring(Annals of Aman), Ossë made fast the island at the request of Ulmo.

While the Teleri remained on the Isle, they learnt of strange musics and sea-lore from Ossë, and he made the sea-birds for their delight. Eventually Ossë submitted to Ulmo, and he brought to the Teleri strong-winged swans as a farewell gift, and these were used to draw the Telerin ships to Valinor.

In The Lost Road, Ossë had been summoned to Valmar to the vigil and council of the Gods, so that he could not come to the aid of the Teleri. It was one of his rare visits to Valinor.

Ossë and Valinor

The Book of Lost Tales has a description of his house in Valinor.

“Ónen [Uinen] and the Oarni brought thousands of pearls for its building, and its floors were of sea-water, and its tapestries like the glint of the silver skins of fishes, and it was roofed with foam.”

Ossë stayed there when a conclave of the Valar was held in Valinor, or when he grew weary of the noise of the waves. However, this mansion was lost from all later versions of the story.

It was also Ossë that created the islands surrounding and protecting the Blessed Realm in the Book of Lost Tales.

“He aided them in Ulmo’s despite; and of Ossë’s labour in those days are come the Magic Isles; for Ossë set them in a great ring about the western limits of the mighty sea, so that they guarded the Bay of Faëry.”