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Applied after the Downfall of Númenor in II 3319
Refers to Downfallen Númenor, which lay far westward of Middle-earth in the Great Sea
Númenor was ruled by the House of Elros
Important peaks
The peak of the Meneltarma was said to have survived the Downfall as an island, known as the Isle of Meneltarma
Other names
The timeline for this entry shows the time when the name Atalantë would meaningfully be used, starting with the time of the Downfall itself near the end of the Second Age


About this entry:

  • Updated 8 June 2015
  • This entry is complete


A name for the Downfallen isle

"What I might call my Atlantis-haunting. This legend or myth or dim memory of some ancient history has always troubled me."
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
No. 257, dated 16 July 1964

An Elvish name for Númenor after the Downfall, variously translated as 'the Falling', 'the Ruin' or simply 'Downfall'. It is essentially equivalent to Akallabêth, the Adûnaic name used by the Exiles of Númenor themselves, which meant 'the Downfallen'.

The name Atalantë is evidently similar to Atlantis, and the connection is unmistakable: each referred to a mighty, highly advanced civilisation lost under the waves of the great ocean (and indeed Tolkien's Great Sea is geographically equivalent to the modern Atlantic).

Though the connection between the two cannot be ignored, Tolkien is not explicit about the nature of that connection. Perhaps the simplest explanation would be that the Atlantis legend was intended to reflect a faint folk memory of the story of Númenor and its Downfall, though perhaps Tolkien did not mean to imply such an explicit and literal relation between the two stories.

One thing that is clear is that the name Atalantë was intended to be the original form, derived from an Elvish word-stem talat that meant 'slipping, sliding, falling down' (ibid). The a- prefix in this context means 'complete', so the entire name means 'place that has fallen completely'. If this is the ultimate derivation, then it seems to follow that - in Tolkien's world - it must be the source of our own word Atlantis. Following this logic, the Atlantic Ocean would actually take its name originally from Elvish.3



A comparison between Elvish Atalantë and Greek Atlantis seems almost irresistable, especially as both names referred to island kingdoms in the great western ocean that sank beneath the sea. Tolkien himself denied any linguistic connection, and stressed that the name Atalantë is a natural Elvish construction. On the other hand, he did clearly acknowledge the similarity between the two stories, even going so far as to say that the tales of Númenor '...are my own use for my own purposes of the Atlantis legend... (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien No. 227, dated 1961).


These are strict equivalents of Atalantë, referring to Númenor after the Downfall. During the Second Age, the isle and kingdom of Númenor was known by many other names, including Anadûnê, Andor, Elenna, The Land of Gift, Númenórë, Starwards, Westernesse and Yôzâyan.


Actually, the names Atlantis and Atlantic both derive from the Greek titan Atlas, who bore the spheres of the sky on his shoulders. The etymology of Atlas is unclear, but one possible interpretation is 'steadfast, enduring', which curiously enough is the exact opposite of the fictional roots Tolkien created for the name Atalantë.


About this entry:

  • Updated 8 June 2015
  • This entry is complete

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