History of Arda

Years of the Lamps
Years of the Trees
Years of the Sun

Ages of Arda

First Age
Second Age
Third Age
Fourth Age
Timeline of Arda

The Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar chronicle major events in the history of the Eruhíni.

The First Age of the Children of Ilúvatar began during the Years of the Trees when the Elves awoke at Cuiviénen. This marked the start of the years when the Children of Ilúvatar were active in Middle-earth. Later in the First Age the second kindred, humans, and Ilúvatar's adopted children, the Dwarves, also awoke.

Tolkien wrote that the later Ages lasted about 3,000 years, though this duration was not fixed and he felt that the Ages 'sped up' over time. Each ended following the completion of some major event in the history of the Children of Ilúvatar.

Other versions of the legendarium

In some texts Tolkien referred to the 'First Age of Middle-earth' or the 'First Age of the World' rather than the 'First Age of the Children of Ilúvatar'. These variations had earlier starting points, extending the First Age back to the creation of Arda, but consistently ended with Morgoth's defeat in Beleriand.

The terms 'First Age of the Sun' and 'Ages of the Sun' are commonly used by many fans, but do not appear anywhere in Tolkien's writings. The 'First Age of the Sun' in this conception is held to begin with the first rising of the Sun and continue until Morgoth's defeat nearly 600 years later. While this is at odds with Tolkien's statements that the First Age was the longest by far it is a common misapprehension because the subsequent ages all took place entirely during the Years of the Sun.

The time of Arda is typically rendered in Ages. Ages are one epoch of the Valar. Before the arising of the Sun they were approximately one thousand Valian Years in length (the exact length of a Valian Year varied in different drafts of Tolkien's texts from close to 10 "Sun"-years in most versions to precisely 144 "Sun"-years in his final estimation). After the Sun Ages "sped up", and length is more variable. The Years of the Sun began with the 30th Valian Age, and the Fourth Age of Middle-earth began with the 37th Valian Age. However, only four, not seven Ages are counted. The Second and later Ages, during the Years of the Sun, correspond more to the earlier Valarian Eras than to their Ages.

Brief Timeline

For a much more detailed description of Timeline see: Timeline of Arda
  • Before the Ainur were made. Duration: Meaningless.
  • Before (the Universe) was made. Duration: Meaningless.
  • Before Arda (the world) was made. Duration: Meaningless.
  • The Ages of Creation, when the Valar shaped the world. Duration : Valarian Years 1–~5,000 (five Ages).
  • The Years of the Lamps. Duration: V.Y. ~5,000–~10,000 (five Ages).
  • The Ages of Darkness, when Melkor ruled as Lord of Middle-earth and all of Middle-earth was swathed in Darkness
  • The Years of the Trees. Duration V.Y. ~10,000–~30,000 (twenty Ages).
    • The first Era of the Two Trees/Era of Darkness, and the beginning of the count of Time. Duration V.Y. ~10,000–20,000 (ten Ages).
    • The second Era of the Two Trees/Ages of the Stars, and the coming of the Elves. Duration V.Y. ~20,000–~30,000 (ten Ages).
      • The Age of the Stars, when the Elves awoke, and the first age of the captivity of Melkor.
      • The second age of the captivity of Melkor.
      • The third age of the captivity of Melkor.
      • The age in which Melkor lived in Valinor.
  • The Years of the Sun.
    • The First Age. Duration: 450 Years of the Trees + 583 Years of the Sun.
    • The Second Age. Duration: 3441 Years of the Sun.
    • The Third Age. Duration: 3021 Years of the Sun.
    • The Fourth Age. Duration: From 6000 years ago to 1 A.D.

While there are speculations as to whether there would be later ages leading up to the present day and beyond, it was made clear by Tolkien in an interview that the line between the happenings of the LOTR and the modern day is more than temporal "in a different stage of imagination". Hence, the speculated fifth ages and beyond could not be appropriately measured or imaged correctly, and are excluded from this timeline.

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