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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 Arda chronicle major events in the history of the Eruhíni, the Children of Ilúvatar.

The First Age began in 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.

J.R.R. 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 historical event.

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 final banishment into the Void outside Arda in FA 590.

The time of Arda is typically rendered in Ages. One Age of the Valar is equal to one hundred Valian Years called randa. Before the arising of the Sun they were five thousand Valian Years, or fifty Ages of the Valar. However, the exact length of a single Valian Year varied in different drafts of Tolkien's texts from precisely 9.582 solar years in most versions to precisely 144 solar years (or yén) in his final estimation. After the Sun Ages "sped up", and length is more variable. The Years of the Sun began with the 51st Valian Age, and the Fourth Age of Middle-earth began with the 57th Valian Age.

Condensed timeline

Main article: Timeline of Arda
  • Before the Ainur were made by Ilúvatar (span unknown)
  • Before , the universe, was made (span unknown)
  • Before Arda, the World, was made (span unknown)
  • The Valian Years
    • The shaping of Arda by the Valar and their First War against Melkor. Duration: 1900 Valian Years (nineteen Ages of the Valar)
    • The Years of the Lamps. Duration: 1600 Valian Years (sixteen Ages of the Valar)
    • The Years of the Trees. Duration: 1500 Valian Years (fifteen Ages of the Valar)
      • The first period of the Years of the Trees, or Age of Darkness, when Melkor dominated limitlessly in Middle-earth and all of it was swathed in his darkness, while the Valar resided in Valinor. Duration: 1050 Valian Years (approximately ten Ages of the Valar)
      • The second period of the Years of the Trees, or Age of the Stars, when the Elves awakened at Cuiviénen in YT 1050. Duration: 450 Valian Years (approximately five Ages of the Valar)

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 Lord of the Rings 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.