Later Ages

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This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.
"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
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History of Arda
Music of the Ainur
Timeline of Arda
Days before days
Years of the Trees
Years of the Sun
Ages of Middle-earth
First Age (Y.T. 1050 - Y.S. 590)
Second Age (S.A. 1 - 3441)
Third Age (T.A. 1 - 3021)
Fourth Age (Fo.A. 1 - ????)
Later Ages (up to present day)
Dagor Dagorath
Round World version
of The Silmarillion

This article concerns the later Ages, defined for the purposes of this article as the Ages that took place after the ending of the Fourth Age.

According to one of the drafts of the Appendices, it is said of the Fourth Age:

Of Eldarion son of Elessar it was foretold that he should rule a great realm, and that it should endure for a hundred generations of Men after him, that is until a new age brought in again new things; and from him should come the kings of many realms in long days after.

History

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

In the Letter 211 that Tolkien wrote on 14 October 1958 to Rhona Beare, he writes that the time gap between the fall of Barad-dûr (in T.A. 3019) and the present-day (as in 1958, at the time that Tolkien wrote the said letter) was c. 6,000 years.

Therefore, Tolkien concluded that in 1958, the world was nearer to the end of the Fifth Age, if the subsequent Ages were of the same length as the Second and the Third Ages.

However, he ultimately concluded that the Ages have "quickened", and that the world was now (in 1958, that is) at the end of its Sixth Age, or maybe even in the Seventh.[2]

The Nature of Middle-earth

Composite geophysical map of Middle-earth and modern Europe by Peter Bird.

In a 1960 text called The Awaking of the Quendi, Tolkien explicitly calls the year 1960 AD (the year in which he was writing the text) as the year 1960 of the Seventh Age.

In that text Tolkien connects the beginning of the Seventh Age (i.e. Se.A. 1) with the incarnation of Ilúvatar (that is, the birth of Jesus Christ in 1 AD according to the real-world Anno Domini reckoning of the Catholic Church).

Tolkien also goes on to say that the time-gap between the year 1960 of the Seventh Age (i.e. 1960 AD) and the Year of the Sun 310 of the First Age[note 1] was 16,000 years.[3]

This makes it possible to calculate when some of the in-universe Ages happened in relation to the real-world chronology:

While the average duration of the Fourth through Sixth Ages would be c. 2,430 years.[4]

Other versions of the legendarium

"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
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Later in his life, Tolkien wrote about the possibility that during the Changing of the World, the Valar and the Calaquendi left the world spiritually, while the landmass of Aman remained, and became the Americas.[5]

Inspiration

"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
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Portrayal in adaptations

2000: Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia: David Day displays some chronological evolution of Arda, from the "Age of the Lamps" to the Third Age, while in the later Ages the illustrations show how Middle-earth changed geologically to resemble modern Europe, while and a continent resembling the Americas forming west of Belegaer.

Notes

  1. F.A. 310 was the year in which the first Men, the Edain, entered Beleriand.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VIII. The Tale of Years of the Third Age", pp. 244-5
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 211, (dated 14 October 1958), footnote, p. 283
  3. 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
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part One. Time and Ageing: VI. The Awaking of the Quendi", Notes, Note 30, p. 43
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Three. The World, its Lands, and its Inhabitants: XV. The Númenórean Catastrophe & End of "Physical" Aman"