- "The Elder Days are gone. The Middle Days are passing. The Younger Days are beginning."
- ― Saruman
Elder Days was a term that, during the Second and Third Age, properly referred to the times before the end of the First Age. In that context, the Middle Days were the Second and Third Ages, whereas the Younger Days were the foreseen Dominion of Men.
However, in the Fourth Age the term began to be applied to all previous Ages, as the time before the Dominion of Men and the dwindling of the Elves and other races. Aragorn for instance, referred to himself as the last King of the Elder Days, according to the latter sense.
Tolkien notes that the word "Elder" has deliberately an archaic flavour, since it is now only applied to persons (Elders = seniors). He also pointed to an association with the poetic word eld 'old age, antiquity'.
Early English had the expression Þe eldern dawes 'in the days of our forefathers, long ago, Days of the Seniors'.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 780