First Age

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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 his eventual overthrow by the combined armies of Valar, Elves and Edain.


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.[1]

With the creation of the Moon and Sun, the time was measured with the coranar.


The chronicles describe events before the creation of the Elves: Arda was inhabited by the Ainur who shaped the earth and waged war. Eventually the Valar retreated to Valinor to the West, and created the Two Trees that gave light to the world and also kept track of time (see: Years of the Trees). The Awakening of the Elves followed, and they were invited by the Valar to the West, while some remained in Middle-earth. The Trees died by the actions of Morgoth the Enemy who fled to Angband, and near the end of the Age[2] the Noldor came to Middle-earth.

The known events of the First Age were centered around its last six centuries, a series of wars waged by those Noldor, the Sindar and the Three Houses of the Edain (Men who also migrated westwards), against the armies of Angband. The Elves in Beleriand 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.

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. 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. Within the first century since the arrival of the Noldor, the settlements of Brithombar and Eglarest, Gondolin, Nargothrond and Minas Tirith were built.

It was during the Long Peace, in the 4th century after the arrival of the Noldor, when some Men (the Edain) reached Beleriand eager to find the "Gods" as they believed, and entered the service of the Eldar. The Forest of Brethil was given to the House of Haleth and Dor-lómin to the House of Hador.

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 in the 5th century, 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 defence, but their losses were severe. It was in the years following that battle when the Man Beren rescued a Silmaril for the Elven King Elu Thingol.

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 Feanor 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. Realms such as the Falas were destroyed. The Havens of Sirion were constructed as a hidden refuge.

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.

Events that marked the end of the Age were the breaking of the Thangorodrim,[3] the loss of the Silmarils, and the choice of the Half-elven.[4]


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[5].

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 mentions that the Exile of the Noldor happened at the end of the First Age[2] meaning that the year we call as F.A. 1 was indeed near the end of that long Age. Furthermore, in The Peoples of Middle-earth, Tolkien mentioned that the First Age was the longest, signifying therefore that the term "First Age" could be expanded before the first rising of the Sun.[6]

See also


  1. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, entry "First Age"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniv. Ed.), Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of the Elves", p. 1128
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniv. Ed.), Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands), p. 1082
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniv. Ed.), Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Númenor", p. 1034
  5. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, Appendix A, p. 436
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VI. The Tale of Years of the Second Age", p. 172