From Tolkien Gateway
History of Arda
Before the Creation
Before the Ages
Days before days
Years of the Trees (up to Y.T. 1050)
Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar
First Age (begins in Y.T. 1050
and overlaps with the Years of the Trees
up to Y.T. 1500
- Years of the Sun begin in F.A. 1
Second Age
- Arda made round in S.A. 3319
Third Age
Fourth Age
Later Ages (up to present day)
End of Arda
Timeline of Arda
(See: Round World version of the Silmarillion
for a later conception of Tolkien's cosmology)

The Ages, also known as the Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar[1] or Ages of Awakening,[2] are large spans of Time in which the Wise and loremasters of the Eruhíni divided the history of Arda. The division was made according to significant historical upheavals such as the overthrowing of a Dark Lord.

The Ages[edit | edit source]

First Age[edit | edit source]

The First Age saw the arising of the Speaking Peoples: first the Elves, second the Dwarves, and third Men; and Morgoth's terrible wars against them. It ended with the War of Wrath and the drowning of Beleriand. Morgoth was captured by the Valar and expelled from Arda, thus ending centuries of his dominion in Middle-earth.[3][4]

Second Age[edit | edit source]

In the Second Age the Edain prospered in Númenor, but Sauron, a servant of Morgoth also came to dominate the Westlands. The Rings of Power were created as one of such attempts. Sauron's influence also caused the Downfall of Númenor and the Changing of the World. The Age ended with the War of the Last Alliance and the defeat of Sauron.[4][5]

Third Age[edit | edit source]

The Third Age saw the gradual fading of the Elves and also the rise of Sauron against the Númenórean kingdoms, until he was defeated during the War of the Ring. The Age ended some years later with the departure of the White Ship from the Grey Havens.[5][4]

Fourth Age[edit | edit source]

The Fourth Age was a time when the Elves faded while Men, Hobbits, and, for a time, Dwarves prospered and recovered after the defeat of Sauron, until the Dominion of Men.[4]

Further future[edit | edit source]

"For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time."

Tolkien said in a letter written in 1958 that he imagined that the events of The Lord of the Rings had happened approximately 6000 years earlier, so it was about the end of the Fifth Age if the length of the Ages had remained unchanged, but they had probably quickened and it was about the end of the Sixth Age or in the Seventh. However, he did not explain the criteria of why the Ages should be shortened.[7]

Two years after that letter, Tolkien changed this idea and wrote that, instead, we were already in the year 1960 of the Seventh Age, indicating that this Age follows the Christian reckoning.[8]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

In earlier texts, such as The Later Annals of Valinor, J.R.R. Tolkien referred to the 'First Age(s) of the World' rather than the 'First Age of the Children of Ilúvatar'. This variation had much earlier starting point, extending the First Age back to the creation of Arda, but consistently ended with Morgoth's defeat in Beleriand.[9]

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.

See also[edit | edit source]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Two. The Annals of Aman: First section of the Annals of Aman", p. 51
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", note 21, p. 371
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands)
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Riders of Rohan"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 211, (dated 14 October 1958): "I imagine the gap [between the Fall of Barad-dûr and our Days] to be about 6000 years: that is we are now at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were of about the same length as S.A. and T.A. But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh."
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part One. Time and Ageing: VI. The Awaking of the Quendi", p. 39
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, II. The Later Annals of Valinor", p. 118