Tolkien Gateway

First Age

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Timeline of Arda

The First Age describes the events near the beginning of time. Also known as the Elder Days the First Age saw the creation of the races of Arda, their flourishing in Valinor and Beleriand, their feats against Morgoth and eventualy overthrow by the combined armies of Valar, Elves and Edain.

Contents

Definition

When exactly the First Age began is not clear and perhaps it was not defined by the chronicles. Possible beginnings of the First Age must have been the creation of Arda itself; the creation of the Two Trees which also kept track of time; or the Awakening of the Elves. With the creation of the Moon and Sun, the time was measured with the coranar.

History

The chronicles describe primarily the events that occurred in Beleriand. These were centered around a series of wars waged by the Sindar, the Noldor and the Three Houses of the Edain, against the armies of Angband and the evil Men. There had been Elves in Beleriand for uncounted millennia, but they sought merely to exist, and Morgoth had little to do with them. The Noldor, on the other hand, particularly the Sons of Fëanor, had come with the express purpose of defeating Morgoth. The wars had actually begun before the creation of the Sun, but began again with renewed fury after the arrival of the Noldor in Beleriand.

Soon after the arrival of the Ñoldor the Dagor-nuin-Giliath (Battle under the Stars, so named because it was fought before the rising of the Sun) was fought. Morgoth sent a raiding party from Angband to attack the Noldor encampment in Hithlum, but the Elves drove it back. Feanor was killed. It is considered the second battle in the Wars of Beleriand, after one that took place during the Years of the Trees.

The most important event of the Age was perhaps the creation of the Moon and Sun by the Valar, and with them, the awakening of Men, the Younger Children of Eru. Like the Eldar before them, they started to migrate to the West, but most remained in the East, in Rhovanion and Eriador.

75 years after the first battle, Morgoth again attacked the Noldor, and again with no success. The Dagor Aglareb (Glorious Battle) made the Ñoldor so bold as to besiege Angband and begin the Long Piece. It was during that time when some Men (the Edain) reached Belerian eager to find the "Gods" as they believed, and entered the service of the Eldar. However, the Siege of Angband was of limited effectiveness, because the northern side of Angband was on the north side of the Ered Engrin, and was unapproachable.

Indeed Morgoth poured rivers of fire out of Angband, ruining the besieging Noldorin armies. The green plain of Ard-galen had been permanently laid waste by the rivers of fire, and was now called Anfauglith, the Choking Dust; and the highlands of Dorthonion, which had been inhabited by Edain, were made inhospitable. The Dagor Bragollach (Battle of Sudden Flame) began. The Ñoldor eventually mustered a defense, but their losses were severe.

The Noldor initiated a battle for a first time. They massed an army composed of Elves, Edain, and the houses of Bór and Ulfang allied to the Sons of Feanor. The Elves and their allies advanced very close to Angband, but Morgoth's trickery had upset their battle plan, and Ulfang proved treacherous. Τhe battle became known thereafter as Nirnaeth Arnoediad (Unnumbered Tears) from the destruction of the Elves' last hope of victory. The land of Hithlum was lost, the Sons of Fëanor were largely scattered, and the peoples of Beleriand had been decimated. Morgoth's Orcs made a heap of the Elven and Mannish dead in the center of Anfauglith.

The War of Wrath took place after Eärendil sailed to Valinor and persuaded the Valar to help those whom they had forsaken. The Valar gathered an army composed of Maiar, Vanyar, and those Ñoldor who had stayed in Valinor. The Teleri refused their aid, due to an old offense dealt them by the Ñoldor of Beleriand, but consented to ferry the armies of the Valar in their famous ships. This battle marked the first appearance of the winged dragons, most notably Ancalagon the Black, but the Valar had the day. Morgoth was captured, and cast out of Arda, but his lands, as well as most of Beleriand, had been destroyed and sunk under the sea in the heat of battle.

Terminology

In the Appendix B and the Quenta Silmarillion Tolkien never gives First Age dates. In works such as The Annals of Aman Tolkien measures the First Age with Valian Years (VY) and then Years of the Sun (YS).

Robert Foster among other Tolkienists attempted to chronicle the First Age; by convention these sources use the Years of the Sun as "First Age" keeping a format similar to Appendix B. For example the twentieth Year of the Sun is referred to as I 20 or F.A. 20. Tolkien Gateway also uses this format. Foster admits that the definition YS 1 would be more accurate than FA 1[1].

This convention however creates the ambiguation that F.A. 1 was the first year of the First Age, or its beginning, marked as such by the first sunrise. This led to the fanon term "Ages of the Sun" and the misconception that the Ages measured from the first rising of the Sun. According to that definition, the First Age 'proper' followed the Years of the Trees and lasted only c. 600 years until the beginning of the Second Age.

However Tolkien's division of the history of Arda uses the term "Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar" not "of the Sun". Furthermore, in The Peoples of Middle-earth, Tolkien mentioned that the First Age was the longest, signifying therefore that the term "First Age" expands before the first rising of the Sun.

References

  1. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, Appendix A, p. 436