The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
The Maiar are immortal beings who entered the world at its beginning
The seas of Arda
Beings created by Ilúvatar before the making of the world
Maiar is pronounced 'my'arr' (the final 'r' should be pronounced; 'rr' is used here to emphasise this)
The meaning of Maiar is uncertain (see the entry for Maiar for a discussion of possible sources)
Title of


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  • Updated 4 March 2024
  • This entry is complete

Maiar of the Sea

A title for Ossë and Uinen

The collective name for two of the Maiar, servants of the Vala Ulmo, in whose power lay the inner seas1 of Arda and their shores. These two Maiar were spouses: Ossë and Uinen. Ossë had a tempestuous nature, and raised the Sea into great storms, but Uinen had to power to calm Ossë's raging waters.

Ossë A Maia of the coastal waters, said to be a bringer of storms. At one time Ossë was corrupted by Melkor, but his spouse Uinen returned him to the allegiance of the Valar, and especially his master Ulmo.
Uinen The spouse of Ossë, whose hair, it was said, passed through all the world's waters. As a bringer of calm, Uinen was an important Maia to the mariners of Middle-earth, and especially to the Númenóreans.

Ulmo the Lord of Waters was the Vala in whose power were all the seas and other waters of the world. When he descended into Arda at the beginning of the world, he was accompanied by many lesser spirits, of whom Ossë and Uinen were the chief. (These spirits also included one named Salmar, about whom almost nothing is known other than the fact that he made Ulmo's famous horns, the Ulumúri.)

The particular province of Ossë were the coastward waters of the ocean, and his tempestuous nature often saw these waters raise in violent storms. Though his earlier allegiance to Melkor had long been broken, and he remained loyal to Ulmo, it was nonetheless in his nature to revel in raising the seas to raging tempests. His spouse Uinen was, by contrast, a bringer of calm, and she was able to restrain Ossë's wildness and hold back the ocean storms.

The Maiar of the Sea and the Children of Ilúvatar

The Maiar of the Sea were notable as being among those most familiar of their order to both Elves and Men. In ancient times, this was especially true of Ossë, who formed a particular friendship with the Elves of the Teleri. He would come to them on the coasts, especially to the headland of Taras-ness and to the Isle of Balar, and teach them the arts of the Sea. Círdan and his people were eager pupils, and when the others of their kind were drawn across the Great Sea to Aman, Ossë persuaded these people to remain behind in Middle-earth, giving rise to the Falathrim of the Havens.

Those of the Teleri who wished to journey over the Great Sea were drawn across on the island of Tol Eressëa, but when the island reached the Bay of Eldamar - with the coasts of Aman in sight - Ossë called for the island to halt. For the love of the Sea, the Teleri agreed, as did Ulmo, and for that reason these Teleri remained for a time on their island off the shores of the Blessed Realm. They stayed there for many long years, but at last they yearned to continue to Aman itself. Then Ossë returned to them and taught them the craft of ship-building, and they set out across the Bay in their new vessels. Drawn by swans sent by the Maia, they landed at last on the shores of the Undying Lands. Their vessels were ever afterward crafted with prows carved as swans in memory of Ossë's gift, and the city they built was named Alqualondë, the Haven of the Swans.

The friendship of Ossë and the Teleri was a deep one, but not without its limits. At the time of the Kinslaying, in which Fëanor's Noldor descended on Alqualondë to take the ships of the Sea-elves, Ossë offered no aid. Though the Teleri called on the Maia to protect them, Ossë had been instructed not to hinder the departure of Fëanor's people, and so he did not raise his waves against the attacking Noldor.

Long afterward, at the end of the First Age, the Edain were rewarded with a new island on which to dwell. This was Númenor, the land of the Dúnedain, and it was Ossë who raised it from the depths. Though Ossë had literally brought Númenor into being, the Men who dwelt there nonetheless turned to Uinen, the bringer of calm waters. Among the mariners of Númenor, Uinen was held in reverence close to that of the Valar themselves, and the sailors of the Guild of Venturers named themselves Uinendili, 'devotees of Uinen'. The Venturers anchored their great vessel Eämbar off the isle of Tol Uinen in the bay of Rómenna, a small island said to have been placed there by Uinen herself.

The raising of Númenor and the making of Tol Uinen are our last direct mentions of the Maiar Ossë and Uinen. After the early part of the Second Age, the Maiar of Sea faded from history, and seem to have withdrawn from direct contact with the Children of Ilúvatar, or at least with those in Middle-earth.



The 'inner seas' were distinct from the vast Outer Sea that surrounded Arda, which was the province and home of Ulmo himself. For practical purposes, these 'inner seas' refer to the Great Sea that lay between Middle-earth and Aman, but there were evidently other inner seas far to the south and east of the known regions of the world.


About this entry:

  • Updated 4 March 2024
  • This entry is complete

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