Henneth Annun Reseach Center

Things of Middle-earth


Type: Artifacts

Other Names:
the horns of Ulmo
the horns of Ylmir
Ylmir's conches


The horns of the Vala, Ulmo, made of white conch shells, which awaken the sea-longing in the hearts of those who hear them:
Salmar... made the horns of Ulmo that none may ever forget who once has heard them....

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 1, Of The Beginning of Days

Triton blowing a conch-shell horn
Roman mosaic of the sea-god Triton blowing a conch-shell horn similar to the Ulumúri.
At times [Ulmo] will come unseen to the shores of Middle-earth, or pass far inland up firths of the sea, and there make music upon his great horns, the Ulumúri, that are wrought of white shell; and those to whom that music comes hear it ever after in their hearts, and longing for the sea never leaves them again.

The Silmarillion, Valaquenta: Of the Valar

Now Ulmo, by the counsel of the Valar, came to the shores of Middle-earth and spoke with the Eldar who waited there, gazing on the dark waves; and because of his words and the music which he made for them on his horns of shell their fear of the sea was turned rather to desire.

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 5, Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië

[Ulmo] spoke to them, and made music upon his conches, and changed the fear of all who heard him into a great desire for the Sea.

The War of the Jewels, HoME Vol 11, Part 1, The Grey Annals

Tuor recalleth in a song sung to his son Eärendel 1 the visions that Ylmir's 2 conches once called before him in the twilight in the Land of Willows.

The Shaping of Middle-earth, HoME Vol 4, Ch 3, App 2, The Horns of Ylmir

'Twas in the Land of Willows that once Ylmir came at eve.

In the twilight by the river on a hollow thing of shell
He made immortal music, till my heart beneath his spell
Was broken in the twilight, and the meadows faded dim
To great grey waters heaving round the rocks where seabirds swim.

From The Horns of Ylmir, Lines 6-10
The Shaping of Middle-earth, HoME Vol 4, Ch 3, App 2, The Horns of Ylmir

Then the magic drifted from me and that music loosed its bands —
Far, far-off, conches calling 3 — lo! I stood in the sweet lands,
And the meadows were about me where the weeping willows grew,
Where the long grass stirred beside me, and my feet were drenched with dew.
Only the reeds were rustling, but a mist lay on the streams
Like a sea-roke 4 drawn far inland, like a shred of salt sea-dreams.
'Twas in the Land of Willows that I heard th'unfathomed breath
Of the Horns of Ylmir calling — and shall hear them till my death.

From The Horns of Ylmir, Lines 67-74
The Shaping of Middle-earth, HoME Vol 4, Ch 3, App 2, The Horns of Ylmir

1This text is from one of Tolkien's early drafts; the name is an earlier version of the proper name as published in The Silmarillion.
2Ylmir  Gnomish form for Ulmo.

The Shaping of Middle-earth, HoME Vol 4, Index

Child blowing a conch-shell horn
Bronze of a child blowing a conch-shell trumpet like the horns of Ulmo.
Conch shells have also been used as primitive instruments since Neolithic times, and must be numbered among the antecedents of the natural trumpet..... The spiral interior of the shell acts as tubing, and a mouthhole is created either by breaking off the point of the shell... or by boring a small hole in the body....

Conch-shell trumpets are found in almost every part of the globe, including inland areas like Tibet, Central Europe and the Andes. They are especially common throughout Oceania, where the conch-shell trumpet was once used on religious, ceremonial and military occasions.

"History of primitive and non-Western trumpets, (section Conch-shell trumpets)".
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 5 May 2010.
<Wikipedia.org en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_primitive_and_non-Western_trumpets>.

4'sea-roke'; roke is a medieval English word surviving until recent times in dialect meaning 'mist, fog, drizzling rain'.

The Shaping of Middle-earth, HoME Vol 4, Ch 3, App 2, The Horns of Ylmir: Notes, Note on line 72

Dim Genesis, 7Jun03
Elena Tiriel 29Nov05, 1May10, 25Dec11

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