Tolkien’s First Age of Middle-earth:

A Selective Summary


A period of 600 years, from when dates were first kept. Arda is the name given to the  world as a whole as created by Eru. After this initial act, the Valar (angelic beings) are left to create the creatures to inhabit Arda. Middle-earth is a part of Arda, usually thought of as being east. To the west of Middle-earth is the Sundering Seas, and across that the land of the Valar on Arda. The island of Numenor sits in the sea between the two land masses. Middle-earth is the place of the creation of the elves, and the history of the age is the history of the elves. The elves are the crown of Middle-earth creation. They are immortal, but can be killed. Elrond is born during this age, as is Galadriel. 


The three most important aspects of the history of the First Age:


1) The first fall of the elves: the fashioning of the Silmarilli

Three jewels that were the mightiest work of craft by the elves, but they were an act of hubris of the highest order resulting in the fall of the elves. They were meant to capture the light of Valinor (the abode of the Valar on Arda) and bring it to Middle-earth. Fashioned by Feanor, of the Noldor. He and his seven sons took a very possessive attitude towards the jewels.


2) Morgoth

The name means “dark enemy”. Formerly called Melkor, he was the master and mentor of Sauron. He was the oldest of the created spirits that participated in the fashioning of all else, and was the only one to be envious of Eru himself. He steals the Silmarilli and poisons the two trees of Valinor (which were providers of light). He escapes to Middle-earth and in his fortress there breeds armies of orcs & trolls, along with dragons & balrogs. The first age ends with his destruction.


3) The War of the Jewels

The longest and most terrible war in Middle-earth. Feanor pursues Morgoth to Middle-earth. Because of the war Beleriand (the western coastal region of Middle-earth) sinks into the sea, and Gondolin falls. Morgoth is finally defeated, but the jewels are lost are lost forever (one is set in the sky, one is cast into the sea, one is cast into a deep chasm in the earth).


A First Age Bibliography


“Ainundale”, “Valaquenta”, “Quenta Silmarillion” in The Silmarillion (1977)


“The First Age” in Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth (1980)


The Book of Lost Tales: Part I (1984) Part II (1984)

            [The History of Middle-Earth ; 1-2]


The Lays of Beleriand (1985)

            [The History of Middle-Earth ; 3]


The Shaping of Middle-Earth. The Quenta, the Ambarkanta and the Annals, together with the earliest ‘Silmarillion’
and the first map (1986)

            [The History of Middle-Earth ; 4]


“Valinor and Middle-Earth before the Lord of the Rings” in The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
            [The History of Middle-Earth ; 5]


Morgoth’s Ring. The Later Silmarillion, Part One: The Legends of Aman (1993)

            [The History of Middle-Earth ; 10]

The War of the Jewels. The Later Silmarillion, Part Two: The Legends of Beleriand   

(1994) [The History of Middle-Earth ; 11]


                                                                                                                     PJS [rev. 7/06]


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