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Old 01-07-2021, 07:26 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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Fourth, Fifth, Sixth (and Seventh?) Ages

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Originally Posted by JRR Tolkien - Letter 211
*I imagine the gap 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.
It's clear that Tolkien wasn't deeply invested in the 6000 years/Sixth Age idea, since he only mentioned it the once. But... given that he did mention it, and given that he's Tolkien, it's hard to imagine he didn't put at least some thought into it. With only two or three Age-defining events to get us from Aragorn to the present, he surely had something in mind, right?

Today I stumbled across Boris Shapiro's calendar discussion, which baldly states the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shapiro
Here only the common sence can help us. We know that each Age began and ended with events of global scale which importance for the whole Middle-earth deserved starting reckoning a brand new Age. Such events were the First Sunrise, the Fall of Morgoth, and the Fall of Sauron etc. Alas, we do not know for certain what did Tolkien thought about the Seventh Age, but I will proceed from the assumption that such an even can only be the Birth of Christ.

Tolkien was a roman catholic, and the meaning of Christmas for him cannot be overestimated. I am sure too that there will be no event of greater importance "tenn' Ambar-metta" and it deserves to call the Ages before it "the Elder Days". I am sure that Tolkien would agree.
I'm inclined to quibble over whether Tolkien would pin an Age change to the birth or resurrection of Christ, but I think Shapiro's point is well made. The Incarnation of the One is the only event in historical-time that gets a mention in the mature Legendarium (in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, found in HoME X), so I agree that Tolkien would likely have used it.

The one thing I do object to is using it for the beginning of the Seventh age. That would mean Ages 4-6 span only 4000 years combined, with 7 at 2000 and counting; precisely the opposite of "they have, I think [read: state in authorial voice], quickened"! No - the "Old Hope" of the Edain must mark the end of the Fifth Age, and the beginning of the Sixth.

That leaves us a span of 4000 years for the Fourth and Fifth Ages, with the changeover somewhere around 2000 BC. I took a look at some of the historical (and "historical") events around that time, and there's something of an embarrassment of riches:

2181/2160 BC: Fall of the Old Kingdom of Egypt
2104 BC: Biblical Flood under the Hebrew calendar (Christian tradition places it ca. 2350 BC)
2091 BC: Traditional date for Abraham, the first Biblical Patriarch
2055/2040 BC: Restoration of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt
(1710 BC: Fall of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt)

With Tolkien being Catholic, I'm tentatively discounting the Flood date. Abraham I don't think would qualify by himself - compared to Biblical figures like Moses or Noah, he doesn't take part in epoch-changing events. But Egypt... I'm quite taken with Egypt.

Part of my liking for the idea comes from Letter 211 again. Not long before the '6000 years' footnote, Tolkien explicitly compares Numenoreans to Egyptians, and specifically the Crown of Gondor to the Crown of Egypt (with pictures!). If we assume that '6000 years' was invented as it was written - and there's no evidence that it existed beforehand - then the Egypt he was already thinking of could have worked its way in.

I've speculated before about Egypt as a successor-state to Gondor; now I'm suggesting that Tolkien thought the same way. Egypt is one of the most ancient states in the world, and I think Tolkien would have liked to imagine that Gondor continued, rather than just vanishing from history.

So, which collapse of Edainish civilisation would be the end of the Fourth Age? If we take 1AD as the start of the Sixth Age, the calendar when Tolkien wrote his letter would look like:

Old Kingdom collapse: 4th Age ca. 1882 yr; 5th ca. 2160 yr; 6th 1958 yr.
Middle Kingdom collapse: 4th Age ca. 2332 yr; 5th ca. 1710 yr; 6th 1958 yr.

Either scenario does not strictly follow "they have, I think, quickened". We could salvage the first by stretching the '6000 years' a bit, but we'd want to add at least 500 years. We could also salvage the second, by assuming the Seventh Age has already begun - but it would have to be at least 250 years before Tolkien wrote.

I think the Old Kingdom date is most plausible for Tolkien to have been thinking of; it ties in nicely with Abraham, so includes a 'religious change' like the banishment of Morgoth and the destruction of Sauron, and it doesn't require there to be an epoch-defining event around AD 1700, which are fairly sparse. There was also a climate-change event around the fall of the Old Kingdom, which also caused the Akkadian Empire to collapse. Interestingly, there was also a climate event around 6000 years ago, when the Sahara dried up - and one theory places the start of the Egyptian calendar in 4241 BC. Could it be as simple as Tolkien seeing this and going "sure, that can be the Fourth Age calendar"?

hS
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Old 01-07-2021, 08:17 AM   #2
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A little extra speculation:

The Seventh Age

Do Catholics believe in the literal End of the World, as seen in the Book of Revelations? Given the connection of the number seven to endings in both Christianity (seven days of creation) and Middle-earth (Durin the Seventh and Last), it seems feasible that Tolkien would view the Seventh Age as the last Age - the time of Armageddon and the Second Coming. He may have viewed the World Wars as harbingers of the End, hence his "or in the Seventh".

The Ages in History

That Egyptian calendar date lets us neatly pin down the canonical Ages of Middle-earth, and specifically to see what the world looked like back then:

6th Age: 1AD to present. We know this one.

5th Age: 2160 BC to 1BC. The Middle Bronze Age right through to the founding of the Roman Empire. An interesting historical coincidence is that the final end of the Egyptian kingdom occured in 30 BC, just before our epoch marker.

4th Age: 4241BC to 2160BC. Begins in the late Neolithic, with the Bronze Age and the origins of writing coming in the first 500-700 years of the Age. A lot of the world's oldest civilisations trace their beginnings to 4000-3000 BC. The Age started with a global drying event - aftereffects from the fall of Mordor? King Elessar Telcontar of Gondor lived until 4121 BC, with his heir Eldarion dying shortly before the 4000 BC mark. They predate recorded history by over 500 years.

3rd Age: 7262 BC to 4241 BC. The Neolithic Revolution reaches Europe at the beginning of the Age, spreading from the Near East. In Middle-earth terms, that's not really a spread: the Near East Neolithic was the Entwives at work, while the 'spread' was the Numenoreans arriving. The Shadow falls on Mirkwood around 6200 BC, roughly when Britain was split off from Europe to become an island. Towards the end of the age, Proto Indo-European becomes the primary language of Europe - pretty clearly, it's Westron, and will last until the late Fourth Age.

2nd Age: 10704 BC to 7262 BC. This Age marks the beginning of the shift from the Paleolithic to the Mesolithic in Middle-earth. The first agriculture appears, and the glaciers finally retreat from the North. Very little changes in most of Middle-earth during this period, though in the Near East technology begins to take off - probably Sauron at work. Jericho was founded at the beginning of the Age. Numenor, obviously, isn't in our geological record.

1st Age (of the Sun):11294 BC to 10704 BC. Morgoth's return sparks a brief glacial period, as one might expect (the Younger Dryas). The first evidence of warfare dates from this time, as does the second evidence of domestication of animals (sheep, goats, maybe pigs; dogs were MUCH earlier). At about this time, Hunter-Gatherers from the Caucasus region migrated into Europe - we know them as Caucasians, but the Legendarium calls them Edain.

Ages of the Stars and Trees: Unclear dating. For certain, the Years of the Trees include the warm period between the last Ice Age and the Younger Dryas (13000-11000 BC). Per the timeline, that's either the period after the Awakening of the Elves (using 'calculated Years of the Sun'), or the entire period of the Trees (if we take 'Valian Years' to equal Years of the Sun). Before that... well, before that you have tens of thousands of years of ice, punctuated by brief warm spells. For a planet that was at all times mostly controlled (openly or in secret) by Melkor, the Vala of the Cold Dark, that fits very well.

EDIT: Of course, this would mean there was no steel in Middle-earth prior to the end of the tales. If I were writing a story in this framework, I'd probably treat mithril as bronze, with bronzeworking being a well-kept secret of the dwarves and elves until the Fourth Age. Some named weapons would be of thunderbolt iron. Numenorean blades might be obsidian - their island is clearly volcanic, and obsidian can take a sharper edge than steel. Most other weapons would be stone - you can have hafted stone axes by the First Age no problem, and can even make a decent sword along the Aztec Maquahuitl model. And of course, stone arrowheads are known in English folklore as 'elfshot'...

hS

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Old 01-07-2021, 12:59 PM   #3
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I'm inclined to quibble over whether Tolkien would pin an Age change to the birth or resurrection of Christ
Well, Tolkien defined the boundaries between four Ages as the end of the physical presence of Satan, and the two reigns of a fallen angel. Surely the entry of Eru into Ea would be at least as significant?
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Old 01-07-2021, 02:39 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Well, Tolkien defined the boundaries between four Ages as the end of the physical presence of Satan, and the two reigns of a fallen angel. Surely the entry of Eru into Ea would be at least as significant?
Quibble was the wrong word - I should have said I'm uncertain between the two. Because yes, absolutely! But also, I feel like Ages end rather than beginning, so to speak, and the Nativity was a beginning. The crucifixion, the Harrowing of Hell, and the Resurrection, strike me as more of an ending scenario. My understanding is that, in the Christian view, is when Christ saved humanity from both their own sins and the Original Sin.

But I'm not sure that's how Tolkien would see it; I've never been Catholic! And with the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the mix, it's possible that the birth of Christ completely without the stain of Original Sin would mark an 'end' to Satan's dominion. And, equally, calling the Resurrection an 'end' when the whole point is that Christ didn't end might not sit well with Tolkien.

hS
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Old 01-07-2021, 06:16 PM   #5
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Is this thread inspired by your in-depth research into Tolkien calendars over on the Password thread?


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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
6th Age: 1AD to present. We know this one.
Oh, but that is the most interesting endpoint, because we can actually decide that one without significant historical bias! Aside from Ages ending, rather than beginning, as you rightly note, the endpoint also is determined by the living people of that time. They are not determined post-factum by historians digging through old scrolls in Rivendell's or Gondor's libraries. This is the opposite of the retrospective way we tend to define historical periods in our world. The retrospective method carries bias: we judge events not by their immediate significance, but by their historical impact as it was relayed to us; and with our judgement we bring our modern-world-influenced criteria, which, much as we try, would not match up perfectly with the criteria of a person living thousands of years ago.

Which brings me to two points. Firstly, we, the people alive now, are in power to determine the boundary between the 6th and 7th Ages. Yes, we might not be the perfect generations for it, but we are probably close enough to still feel the impact of the Age change and to at least judge it with Age-appropriate values. So, do we assume we are in the 7th Age, or has that switch not flipped yet? If we are still in the 6th Age, then the discussion is moot because the critical events have not yet happened. So for the purpose of empty but entertaining speculation, can we assume that we are in the 7th Age now? Then we can go hunting for the endpoint of the 6th. Looking somewhat retrospectively, you could argue for a pattern of increasingly large scale wars in Europe and elsewhere from the 1800s up until WWII, and relative change in the organization of the world afterwards. However, the argument against that is that I am myself speaking with historical bias, and if the end of a horrific massive world-destroying war with promised peace to come was to be marked as the end of an Age by the people living then, it would have already been done after the Great War; the reason I do not agree is because I know that WWII is to follow not even a lifespan later, but you couldn't know that in 1918. What other major recent (well, "recent") world-changing events are there that could mark the change of an Age? ...Surprisingly, it took me this many mentions of it in one post to think of the current pandemic (*facepalm*). But the beginning of a new lifestyle imposed by an illness does not sound like the end of an Age, because it is not an ending and because it is negative (as William notes, the legendarium Ages end something bad to leave something hopefully more good). You could argue that we have witnessed the end of normal socialization, but I would rather not start an Age on such a pessimistic note and as a participating living individual actively vote against this choice. Nobody starts an Age with the Black Breath.

But the second implication that comes of trying to dissociate from the hindsight perspective is that neither the birth nor the death of Christ can mark the change of an Age, because from the perspective of the 1AD and 33AD people, there was no world-changing event. The significance we give to these events would not be given by the people living even just in Jerusalem itself, forget about the rest of humanity. While the significance is undoubtable to us in the far future (heck, we even count our years from it, humanity at one point really did decide Nativity was an Age-turning point!), there was nothing world-shakingly remarkable about it from the perspective of Christ's contemporaries. The world did not believe an Age ended, or began.


Having gone through this exercise, I now realize that we traditionally mark our Ages more by beginnings rather than endings. The start of warm climate; the beginning of European migration; the start of agriculture; the invention of some tool or technique, be it iron forging or the printing press. We put more emphasis on what makes a lasting impact with ripples to our present, we don't naturally judge it by things that ended and thus did not reach us. We still have some endings mixed in there: a fall of an empire, an end of slavery. But to my non-expert eye, it seems that we are missing quite a lot of endings. If our history was like Middle-earth history, our Ages would be punctuated by things like Neanderthals dying out or something. We call the Renaissance that because of what happened over the entirety of the time period and what followed, not because it marked the end of the Middle Ages. But it would be the opposite way around if we were to call the Ages out "in real time", so to speak: an end is more immediately recognizable than a beginning, because beginnings need time to evolve into significant change.


Saying all of that, I would be very happy if someone came up with an argument to reconcile the prospective and retrospective divide, or give some good counter-examples for the retrospect bias. My head would hurt a lot less if I could go back to thinking of Jesus as the start of an Age. But would equally be interested in hearing if you know of any examples when we as a society did call an Age-change in real time and it wasn't just people screaming about nothing.
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Old 01-08-2021, 03:33 AM   #6
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Is this thread inspired by your in-depth research into Tolkien calendars over on the Password thread?
I knew when I started having to look up Middle Quenya trivia that it was going to be a strange experience...

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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Saying all of that, I would be very happy if someone came up with an argument to reconcile the prospective and retrospective divide, or give some good counter-examples for the retrospect bias. My head would hurt a lot less if I could go back to thinking of Jesus as the start of an Age. But would equally be interested in hearing if you know of any examples when we as a society did call an Age-change in real time and it wasn't just people screaming about nothing.
I can fix Jesus for you, provided you're happy to accept the Resurrection as the Age-turnover - and provided you're happy to stop thinking of the living for a bit. In the Catholic view - which, as Tolkien was writing, I think we have to allow as "true" for this discussion - the day between the crucifixion and resurrection was the Harrowing of Hell. I had to check, but the Catholic version is indeed that Christ released all the righteous souls who had died before him from their torment, and let them into heaven. As a "dark angel is overthrown" moment, they don't get much more significant.

As you say, this wasn't exactly widely commented-on at the time - but Catholicism claims a line of authority going back to the disciple Simon Peter, who presumably would have known. Okay, it took 300 years for Christianity to become prominent in the Roman Empire - but how long did it take for anyone inland to become aware of Beleriand's fall? It doesn't have to be everyone knowing.

From a "northwest of the Old World, east of the Sea" perspective, I'll also note that only ten years separate the crucifixion and the Roman invasion of Britain. Alas, poor Hobbits...

On to the Seventh Age... from a Biblical perspective, a plague - or rather, beating one - might be more likely than you'd think. Pestilence is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, right? Defeating a Horseman seems significant enough to end an Age - which would make the turnover either Jenner's invention of vaccination in 1796, or Fleming's discovery of penicillin in 1928 (per Pratchett & Gaiman).

I would be inclined to go for the former, as 1796 also marks the point the Industrial Revolution really took off. The first high-pressure steam engine was built in 1797! This is very much an "ending/beginning" moment - the (or a) year when humanity finally broke free of the chains of nature.

Of course this is a very parochial and British viewpoint, but we are discussing Tolkien... ^_~

Working from this hypothesis (which Tolkien probably would not have come up with, safe to say), what do the Age lengths look like?

1: uncounted+590
2: 3441
3: 3021
4: 2201*
5: 2073*
6: 1763
7: 225 and counting

*Shifting to the formation of the Middle as the date here, to get the lengths to line up better and take into account the fact that the Fall of Numenor wasn't the end of the Second Age - the defeat of Sauron was, which happened after Gondor and Arnor were established.

~

The problem is that any more literal approach requires finding someone we can all agree is either a fallen angel in disguise, or a servant thereof. And, like, Hitler... but Tolkien was pretty dismissive of Hitler, and more inclined to think of the Great War. Given that the weapons of both wars are certainly Orc-work, it's also hard to view anyone involved in the same light as Aragorn, Gil-Galad, or Earendil.

Napoleon might be a viable contender - he certainly changed the world map, laying the ground for the formation of unified Germany, Italy, and America (by selling Louisiana). He took control of France in 1799, right about the same time as the Jenner vaccine - which leads to the amusing notion that he might actually be the grand heroic figure in this scenario! I bet Tolkien would have loved that...!

(I'm digging rather deeper than necessary into this aspect of the thing, because I'm mildly peeved to discover that Tolkien uses the word "iron" a lot in the Silm, and it's throwing off my Mesolithic Beleriand efforts.)

EDIT: Neanderthals, interestingly, died out around 40,000 years ago. The Long Timeline would place that right around the raising of the Lamps and the beginning of the Spring of Arda, which regrettably probably makes them creations of Melkor, animated by his will and perishing when he was banished.

hS

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Old 01-08-2021, 05:31 AM   #7
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Interesting thread as usual Huinesoron

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The problem is that any more literal approach requires finding someone we can all agree is either a fallen angel in disguise, or a servant thereof.
And Professor Tolkien considered the end of the Third Age to be the end of "incarnate evil" (as opposed to the evil that Men do), as WCH has said. Thus it would presumably take on less personalised forms.
Quote:
Napoleon might be a viable contender
As an amateur student of Napoleonic history I feel like Bonaparte is far too mixed a figure to be either a servant of evil or a hero. However, Professor Tolkien did say that the successive leaders of Gondor would be like "Denethor or worse"; I feel like "Great Man history" doesn't mesh with a Tolkienian concept of ages, as he seemed to see the future as ever-blander mediocrity. I'm not sure we even get to slot Caesar, Alexander and the like in here, although the Gondor-Egypt concept does make the idea of a Ramesses or similarly significant pharaonic figure appealing.

I was going to suggest "abolition of slavery" or similar as an evil defeated, but it seems to me that the ends of Ages were the defeats of "similar, just lesser" evils, which did not really make the world a better place (in fact they tended to accelerate decline), just saved it from uncontested demonic tyranny for another few thousand years. So if successive Ages have ended in similar ways, it's difficult to say; it's so much harder to see. Professor Tolkien did dislike empires though, so their collapses might have merit: "I love England (not Great Britain and certainly not the British Commonwealth (grr!))" (Letter 53); "I should have hated the Roman Empire in its day (as I do), and remained a patriotic Roman citizen, while preferring a free Gaul and seeing good in Carthaginians" (Letter 77). Perhaps there's something there? I'm inclined towards Galadriel55's view of the Great War as an Age-turning moment.
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Old 01-08-2021, 05:57 AM   #8
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I was going to suggest "abolition of slavery" or similar as an evil defeated, but it seems to me that the ends of Ages were the defeats of "similar, just lesser" evils, which did not really make the world a better place (in fact they tended to accelerate decline), just saved it from uncontested demonic tyranny for another few thousand years. So if successive Ages have ended in similar ways, it's difficult to say; it's so much harder to see. Professor Tolkien did dislike empires though, so their collapses might have merit: "I love England (not Great Britain and certainly not the British Commonwealth (grr!))" (Letter 53); "I should have hated the Roman Empire in its day (as I do), and remained a patriotic Roman citizen, while preferring a free Gaul and seeing good in Carthaginians" (Letter 77). Perhaps there's something there?
In which case... the Great War. Multiple empires were broken up when it ended, notably the German and Ottoman; Ireland won its independence from English rule; and it was only a few years later that Britain's Dominions (Canada, Australia etc) were formally given the right to set their own foreign policy. You also have the establishment of the League of Nations (the proto-UN), which marks the beginning of a move towards international cooperation in non-military fields. (Well... sort of.)

It also feels right to make 1919 the end/start of an Age in a Tolkien context. Along with Christ, it's certainly the most plausible for him to have been thinking of (much more so than the smallpox vaccine!). And it's got the 'accelerated decline' element, too: the First World War marked the final end of the knightly/warrior form of battle, and enshrined the dominance of 'Orcish' mechanised war. A grim end to the Sixth Age, but the ends of the First and Second weren't particularly rosy either.

EDIT:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zigūr View Post
As an amateur student of Napoleonic history I feel like Bonaparte is far too mixed a figure to be either a servant of evil or a hero. However, Professor Tolkien did say that the successive leaders of Gondor would be like "Denethor or worse"; I feel like "Great Man history" doesn't mesh with a Tolkienian concept of ages, as he seemed to see the future as ever-blander mediocrity. I'm not sure we even get to slot Caesar, Alexander and the like in here, although the Gondor-Egypt concept does make the idea of a Ramesses or similarly significant pharaonic figure appealing.
And at this end of history, we are taking a more critical view of 'heroic' figures from our past. Was Alexander a glorious unifier, or a subjugator of ancient nations? He brought Egypt under Greek rule, establishing the Ptolemeic dynasty which would eventually yield it to Rome... there are no historical figures of the heroic nature of Aragorn, Gil-Galad, Earendil. For that, you have to turn to stories - Beowulf, Arthur at his best, the warriors of the Norse sagas...

Which, I suppose, was Tolkien's point all along. If Middle-earth was real, it was a time when the things we now tell in stories were actually true.

hS

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Old 01-08-2021, 08:27 AM   #9
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In which case... the Great War. Multiple empires were broken up when it ended, notably the German and Ottoman; Ireland won its independence from English rule; and it was only a few years later that Britain's Dominions (Canada, Australia etc) were formally given the right to set their own foreign policy. You also have the establishment of the League of Nations (the proto-UN), which marks the beginning of a move towards international cooperation in non-military fields. (Well... sort of.)
Indeed. I think I took too long editing my previous comment! (see the end of what I said before as I updated) I definitely think it has some resonance as a significant moment.

This might also tie in to the idea of more ambiguous individuals in the "modern" era; we also have more ambiguous conflicts. It's no longer the free peoples of the West versus the Shadow; it's "we are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring" (Letter 66) shades of grey.
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Old 01-08-2021, 09:20 AM   #10
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Indeed. I think I took too long editing my previous comment! (see the end of what I said before as I updated) I definitely think it has some resonance as a significant moment.
From a "Legendarium is real" perspective, it all feels a bit on-the-nose; but from a "mindreading Tolkien" angle, I agree that the Great War is probably the answer.

Jumping back into the pseudohistory side, I've just learned of the Varna Necropolis, on the shores of the Black Sea (or Sea of Nurn, if you prefer; the right-angle bend of the southern Carpathians makes that undeniable). It dates to 4600-4200 BC, right on the button for the end of the Third Age (my date was 4241 BC), and includes the oldest known gold treasure in the world.

It also includes this chap:



He's the highest-status burial in the necropolis, and may be the earliest known elite male burial in the world. He carries a war adze/mace, and is positively covered in gold.

I really want to go go full Schliemann and claim this is the body of King Elessar himself, but that's obviously ridiculous. Elessar fought with a sword, and would have been buried with his crown, not a huge gold necklace. Also, this body was buried in Mordor.

Obviously, it's the skeleton of Sauron Himself.

hS
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Old 01-08-2021, 11:25 AM   #11
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the day between the crucifixion and resurrection was the Harrowing of Hell. I had to check, but the Catholic version is indeed that Christ released all the righteous souls who had died before him from their torment, and let them into heaven. As a "dark angel is overthrown" moment, they don't get much more significant.
Although it's not something the Church says much about these days, it would have been known to any medievalist, and especially to a Middle English scholar like Tolkien since it features prominently (and dramatically) in Piers Ploughman.

Which then turns to the theory of Aragorn as Christ-figure, specifically as Christ-the-King*: What does Aragorn do but descend into the abode of the accursed Dead, bring them out with him, and by releasing them restore to them the Gift of Men?

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** In the first draft, Frodo's coma lasted for - wait for it - three days.
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Old 01-08-2021, 02:49 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
I really want to go go full Schliemann and claim this is the body of King Elessar himself, but that's obviously ridiculous. Elessar fought with a sword, and would have been buried with his crown, not a huge gold necklace. Also, this body was buried in Mordor.
Very, very minor side-quibble: Elessar most certainly would not have been buried in his crown because: a.) he wasn't buried and b.) Eldarion would worn the crown.

Regarding the first point, it is entirely possible he could have been buried at a later date to avoid tomb-robbers (the orkish work of <i>The New Shadow</i> perhaps?).

But, regarding the second, the crown had been made in the reign of Atanatar Alcarin, replacing one that had been used since Isildur's day. As epochal a king as Elessar was, it would not have been "buried" with him, but would have been used for his heir. The reason, I presume, that it was brought to him at the time of his own coronation from Rath Dķnen is because Eärnur left no heir, so the crown was left with the last king till the arrival of the new.
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Old 01-09-2021, 06:05 AM   #13
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Although it's not something the Church says much about these days, it would have been known to any medievalist, and especially to a Middle English scholar like Tolkien since it features prominently (and dramatically) in Piers Ploughman.
Thanks! It's always hard to know what was known, what was obscure, and what postdates the professor anyway.

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Which then turns to the theory of Aragorn as Christ-figure, specifically as Christ-the-King*: What does Aragorn do but descend into the abode of the accursed Dead, bring them out with him, and by releasing them restore to them the Gift of Men?

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* Frodo (who "dies" on Mt Doom and returns to life**) is Christ-the-sacrificial-lamb or Suffering Servant; Gandalf (who literally dies and returns) is Christ-the-Priest

** In the first draft, Frodo's coma lasted for - wait for it - three days.
According to the unassailable source We Three Kings, I think this means Aragorn gets gold, Gandalf gets frankincense, and Frodo is stuck with myrrh.

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Very, very minor side-quibble: Elessar most certainly would not have been buried in his crown because: a.) he wasn't buried and b.) Eldarion would worn the crown.
I... should have known that. -_- Thank you!

So this means it's definitely Sauron, right? ^_^ ^_^ ^_^

All this got me curious about what Europe was like 6000 years ago - whichever specific date we pick, the Third Age ending ca. 4000 BC is pure Tolkien. As is traditional, I scribbled together a map:



The prehistoric coastlines - back when Doggerland joined Britain to the mainland, ice filled the North Sea, and Corsica and Sardinia were one island - actually match up pretty well with Middle-earth, provided you ignore western France and Iberia (perhaps Aragorn had his dwarf buddies dig out the eastern Med and build them?). The similarity of the Italian-French coast with the Middle-earth map surprised me, as did the fact that the Irish coast and mountains fit Lindon perfectly. Of course, the Misty Mountains wound up on the course of the Rhine, but we can't have everything.

Anyway, some of the cultural locations of the era:

-Sauron's dominions match up nicely with the Chalcolithic - Copper Age - cultures. Makes sense, as he was the one pushing technological advancement.

-Rhun was inhabited by the Cucuteni-Trypillia culture, which is noted for periodically burning down all its settlements. Sounds like a Sauron thing!

-Khand is where the Varna Necropolis lies; it seems to have been built by horse-riding peoples migrating from the east. Sauron's Easterlings on the move.

-Everything west of the Sauronian era was busy building menhirs and megaliths. This really took off around 4000BC itself, so possibly it's a post-Third Age phenomenon. Or maybe the ones in Britain and Brittany were actually the lintels of Hobbit-holes?

-Sardinia, somewhere around Umbar, was under the Bonu Ighinu culture. They buried their dead in natural cavities, so this may be the Gondorian culture after the end of the Age.

-Rohan was under the Lengyel culture, which built defensive ditches around its settlements. Look, prehistory isn't all that detailed...

-Going back a couple of thousand years, the Neolithic appears to have hit Europe in two waves: one coming from the sea in the West, and one coming up the Danube in the East. Arnor and Gondor, anyone?

-Around a thousand years before the fall of Barad-Dur, the mosaic of cultures in Italy - ie, Gondor south of the White Mountains - are quite suddenly unified. Sounds to me like the Stewards needed to impose some unity on their new kingdom.

Obviously Tolkien didn't know any of this - much of it wasn't known at all in his day - but it's nice to see that things sort of line up.

hS
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Old 01-09-2021, 12:29 PM   #14
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It also makes it apparent that Napoleon was a Black Numenorean from Umbar, which explains a lot.
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Old 07-09-2021, 04:47 AM   #15
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Had to come back to this, because I happened to glance at The Lost Road, which lists Tolkien's notes on stories he could include while 'working backwards' to Numenor:

Quote:
Originally Posted by HoME 5: The Lost Road - The Unwritten Chapters
[after the 20th century story would come] Lombard story?; a Norse story of ship-burial (Vinland); an English story - of the man who got onto the Straight Road?; a Tuatha-de-Danaan story, or Tir-nan-Og; a story concerning painted caves; the Ice Age - great figures in ice; Before the Ice Age: the Galdor story; post-Beleriand and the Elendil and Gil-Galad story of the assault on Thu; the Numenor story
The key point is up in the middle there: at the only time we know Tolkien thought about linking the Elder Days to a specific time, they were before the Ice Age.

What exactly consitutes the latest Ice Age is a bit of a tricky one. To avoid adding 100,000 years to the timeline, we could just look at the Younger Dryas - a brief (1000 year) glacial period that followed a ca. 2000 year period of warming, which itself followed tens of thousands of years of ice.

I don't know the history of when the Ice Age was presumed to be, but I know geological timelines have tended to get longer, so I think it's plausible Tolkien had the Younger Dryas in his head as "six thousand years ago". The Lost Road predated LotR and the Third Age: the 'assault on Thu' marked the end of the Elder Days (Galdor is apparently a seer who lived in the latter days of Numenor, or possibly was a survivor of it). If we assume the length of the Second Age wasn't fixed, then the timeline matches up quite well! Ages of ice before the Sun was made, then a warm spell during which Men awoke and Beleriand and Numenor flourished, then a cold snap which regressed the Numenoreans to neolithic barbarism and left space for the rise of Egypt.

With the advent of the Third Age, this becomes somewhat unfeasible: you have to push back at least 40,000 years to find an interglacial period long enough to run from Feanor to Frodo. But that's okay! Because the advance in science gave us an extra 6000 years to get back to the Younger Dryas, and leads to the very nice 'Morgoth caused a mini ice age' concept from my second post in the thread. ^_^

hS
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Old 09-08-2021, 08:59 AM   #16
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As William Cloud Hicklin has noted, the new NoME (Nature of Middle-earth) features an explicit timeline connecting the Elder Days to ours. In 1.VI, "The Awakening of the Quendi":

Quote:
The Atani entered Beleriand in 310 Bel. That is in the 22nd Sun-year of VY 1498. Men had then existed for 448 VYs + 22 SYs: i.e., 64,534 Sun Years, which, though doubtless insufficient scientifically (since that is only - we being in 1960 of the 7th Age - 16,000 years ago: total about 80,000), is adequate for purposes of the Silmarillion, etc.
A related essay (NoME 1.X "Difficulties in Chronology") confirms that the "Beleriandic Reckoning" (= the traditional "First Age of the Sun") lasted 590 years under the Sun in Tolkien's conception at this point, which lets us construct the full timeline of the Elder Days:

- 14,350 BC: first year of the Beleriandic Reckoning, ie the usual F.A. 1.
- 13,760 BC: Fall of Morgoth / S.A. 1
- 10,441 BC: Downfall of Numenor and the Change of the World
- 10,319 BC: Fall of Sauron / T.A. 1
- 7298 BC: Fall of Sauron Redux / 4.A. 1
- ca. 4865 BC: 5.A. 1
- ca. 2432 BC: 6.A. 1
- 1 AD: 7.A. 1

I said at the top of the thread that Tolkien wasn't deeply invested in the 6000 years idea - well, here's the proof, because now it's over 9000 years since the War of the Ring! The NoME text postdates Letter 211 by a couple of years (1960 versus 1958), so it seems Tolkien had given it a bit more thought and tweaked his ideas a bit. He wanted the Seventh Age to explicitly be the Christian era; and it seems as though he actually calculated (off-page) the lengths of the 4th-6th. Evenly spacing the Age lengths from 3021 (3rd) to 1960 (4th) gets a total of 7471 years for the 4th-6th, within 200 years of the length implied by "only 16,000 years ago".

So! Where do our Ages fall in (pre-)history now?

The Wars of the Jewels - 14,300 - 13,700 BC. The end of the European Paleolothic. The archaeological record shows a spate of new (stone) technology around the end of this period, coinciding with the influx of refugees from drowned Beleriand.

The Numenorean Catastrophe - 10,450 BC. The Younger Dryas, a thousand year cold snap beginning around 10,950 BC, is clearly the result of the drowning of Numenor and the change of the world. Arnor especially was a cold place, quite likely leading to its breakup.

The War of the Ring - 7300 BC. Actually a relatively quiet time for major milestones. The first walled city (Jericho) was ~1000 years old by this point; barley and wheat had been cultivated about as long. The Sahara Desert became a fertile region about this time, and stayed that way until ca. 3500 BC; possibly the effect of the Gondorian renaissance under the house of Telcontar. Over the next thousand years, Britain would be cut off from the continent by rising sea levels, isolating the hobbits from the Big Folk.

The End of the Fourth Age - ca. 4800 BC. Riiiight about the dawn of known civilisation - Sumer emerged in 4500 BC, along with the earliest stirrings of the Bronze Age. The next few hundred years are also when the likes of chickens and horses were domesticated; it looks like the Fourth Age was a long decline, with the Fifth being a restoration of 'lost' technologies like metalwork and horse-riding.

The End of the Fifth Age - ca. 2200 BC. The dawn of History. Writing. And, exactly spot-on for the end of an Age, the 4.2 kiloyear event brings down the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the Akkadian Empire, the Indus Valley civilisation, and the Liangzhu culture in China. This is the event which seems to have led the Proto-Indo-European peoples to migrate west and consume Europe - a fitting end to the last of the ancient Ages.

(Also: 2200 BC is about when Stonehenge was built. I'm guessing that makes it an evil temple of Melkor. ^_^)

We know from the "Lost Road" quote in my last post, that Tolkien was thinking about Numenor in relation to the Ice Age, and placing it immediately before it; I think it's very, very likely that "16,000 years" was calculated to align the Numenorean Catastrophe directly with the onset of the Younger Dryas.

(As an incidental: the "80,000 years total" figure for the awakening of Men aligns very nicely with the Recent African Origin dates. But given how in flux the timeline of early human history is - not to mention how often Tolkien changes his own mind - that can't be more than coincidence.)

hS
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Old 01-24-2022, 12:14 PM   #17
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Like you, I've been working on a 'real life' chronology for Middle-earth and would like to share some thoughts and ideas on this fascinating subject. Most of what follows can be checked using the free Stellarium software (danger:addictive).

As for any theories that try to date events in the Third Age to a time before or in-between ice ages, they must be dismissed due to a lack of workability with the calendars described in the Appendix. Tolkien seemed to assume that the length of the year changed very little over time:

The year no doubt was of the same length now,1 for long ago as those times are now reckoned in years and lives of men, they were not very remote according to the memory of the Earth.

1 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds.

The Return of the King, Appendix D.

Unfortunately this is not correct. If you went as far back as the Eemian interglacial around 130,000 years ago the length of the year, in terms of mean solar days, was about 365 days, 6 hours, and 5 minutes. This would result in a more than a 10 week difference in the days on the calendar for when seasons began between the start of the Second Age until the end of the Third. For instance, if the winter solstice was on Second Yule in the first year of the S.A. it would occur around mid-March by the time Bilbo and Frodo.
However around 10,000 years ago the year was only about 365 days, 5 hours, and 50 minutes. Using a more traditional chronolgy allows for less than a week's difference. So, for example, we could say that the solstice was originally on December 25 but gradually moved up to the Yules.

Another thing to keep in mind is the precession of the equinoxes. This will alter the visibility of many stars and constellations as it goes through its cycles. This puts even stricter limits on how deep into the past we can be. In Fellowship of the Ring there is a description of what I would presume to be Betelgeuse in Orion:

Away high in the East swung Remmirath, the Netted Stars, and slowly above the mists red Borgil rose, glowing like a jewel of fire. Then by some shift of airs all the mist was drawn away like a veil, and there leaned up, as he climbed over the rim of the world, the Swordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor with his shining belt.

The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Ch. 3, p. 120.

If we wish for Betelgeuse to even be seen above the horizon from the latitude of London then 9000 BC is as far back as we can go. 7000 BC to see the belt and about 5200 BC for Rigel. This pretty much kills some of the alternative chronologies in presented in NoME.

I think Tolkien got it right the first time.

“I imagine the gap [since the fall of Barad-dūr, TA3019] 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 2nd Age and 3rd Age. But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the 6th Age, or in the 7th”

(The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, letter #211, 14th October 1958, Michaelmas term)

This is usually interpreted to mean that the end of the Third age occurred around 4,000 B.C. But another way to read it is that it happened as long ago from the present as the length of the Second and Third Ages combined (about 6000 years). More precisely, if we consider the end of the Third Age to be on the fall of Barad-dūr, 6,459¼ years. Subtracting that from 1958 would date that epoch making event at 4502 B.C. But only if you took it very literally instead of for the approximation that it obviously is. So 4241 BC ought to be close enough.

But, alas, astromony yet again intervenes. Not many specific years will work. First of all the moon phases need to be in alignment with the seasons. If there is a full moon on the night of January 8 then the winter solstice should be around a week earlier.

The Moon, now at the full, rose over the mountains, and cast a pale light in which the shadows of stones were black.

The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I

I, Ch. 3, p. 374.

Even Venus must be taken into account.

The evening star had risen and was shining with white fire above the western woods.

She lifted up her white arms, and spread out her hands towards the East in a gesture of rejection and denial. Eärendil, the Evening Star, most beloved of the Elves, shone clear above. So bright was it that the figure of the Elven-lady cast a dim shadow on the ground.

The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Ch. 7, p. 472.

This doesn't leave us with a lot of options for choosing dates for the events in the stories. On the bright side, however, we can be more sure that we may have gotten it right if we did. Only about one in a hundred years can fit the bill astronomically.

Let's check some dates. 4241 BC? Nope. The full moon comes too soon and Venus is a morning star. The closest we can get is 4307±8 BC. The ± means that 4299 or 4315 BC may also work because both the Moon and Venus have similar 8 year cycles.

How about the aforementioned 4502 BC? Why yes! The winter solstice falls on 2 Yule, a full moon on January 8, and Venus is very high and bright in the evening sky on February 15. This is just plain dumb luck. We can take Tolkien's words literally and still have everything just right.

This still leaves us with determining the start of the other ages. Nothing seems to me more climatic in modern times than World War II. If it can be taken as a given that the Sixth Age began in 1 AD and that it ended in 1945 then its duration was 1944 years. Interestingly this is exactly 13½ yén. Since the Elvish calendar goes through a 3 yén cycle we could say that it's exactly 4½ cycles. If we wish to smoothly increase the length of the Ages as we go back in time we'd need a Fifth Age of 5 cycles and a Fourth of about 5½. This would give us a start date for the Fifth of 2160 BC.
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Old 01-28-2022, 12:58 PM   #18
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As is traditional I've drawn a map.

"If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy." (L294)

The contours drawn in the ocean are for when the sea level was 100 meters lower, as it was thousands of years ago.

The Misty mountains start in the South with the Jura mountains. If you look at an atlas you can actually see the line going north right where they are on the map. And the Redhorn Pass is obvious.
The mountains in Italy line up pretty well, too.
Lake Garda, the largest lake in that country is Nen Hithoel. It, too, is surrounded by mountains except at its southern end which leads to a plain, just like on the map of Middle-earth.
Fangorn is right where the Black Forest is.


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Old 02-09-2022, 02:39 PM   #19
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Quote:
We know from the "Lost Road" quote in my last post, that Tolkien was thinking about Numenor in relation to the Ice Age, and placing it immediately before it; I think it's very, very likely that "16,000 years" was calculated to align the Numenorean Catastrophe directly with the onset of the Younger Dryas.
Since islands have a tendency to sink somewhat during warm periods when the sea level is higher I wonder if he meant that the Edain reached Nśmenor just before the beginning of the next (and last) Ice Age. Perhaps they were escaping the advancing glaciers. The Dwarves seemed to want to move south at that time as well.

It would seem difficult to explain all the activity that occurred during the 590 years before the Second Age if the North was covered in ice. However, not much at all happened there during the first 1200 years of the Second Age before the Nśmenoreans began to make permanent havens.

Delving further into the past is it possible the Noldor arrived at Helcaraxė during the Older Dryas? Was Melkor was freed from his sentence when the Ålesund interstadial ended 28,000 years ago?

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