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Old 12-24-2023, 07:25 AM   #1
Ar-Zigūr
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"First Age of the Sun" misconception

Why are so many people mistakenly identify the beginning of the First Age with the first sunrise? For example, there're this remark of Christopher Tolkien in his foreword to The War of the Jewels:

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The title of this second part, The War of the Jewels, is an expression that my father often used of the last six centuries of the First Age: the history of Beleriand after the return of Morgoth to Middle-earth and the coming of the Noldor, until its end.​
Even in the distant 1978, before the publication of the HoME's volumes, Rober Foster never suggested that the First Age began with the first sunrise. This is the entry "First Age" from his Complete Guide to Middle-earth:

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FIRST AGE The first of the recorded ages of Middle-earth. The First Age may have begun with the completion of Arda or with the awakening of the Elves. Its early history, save for the Battle of the Powers and the Great Journey, is obscure, for most of the Eldar were in the West, and other races kept few records. Moreover, until the rising of the Moon and Sun there seems to have been no count of years in Middle-earth.
This was the Age of the Eldar and of Morgoth. It ended with the Wars of Beleriand and the Great Battle, in which Morgoth was cast out of Eä.
Also called the Elder Days and the Eldest Days.
This is an appendix with a chronology of the First Age in full from the same book:

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In preparing this Chronology (for reasons explained in the Introduction) I have encountered a number of difficulties. First, Quenta Silmarillion provides no quantitative indication of the passage of time before the creation of the Sun and the return of the Noldorin Exiles; indeed, before the creation of the Two Trees the Valar apparently did not concern themselves with the measurement of Time. Therefore, the seventeen sections of the Chronology marked by Roman numerals are sequential but definitely not isochronous. The three ages of the Chaining of Melkor were obviously vastly longer than the three periods between the poisoning of the Two Trees and the first rising of the Sun, ‘but of bliss and glad life there is little to be said, before it ends’.
The second problem has to do with the beginning of the Years of the Sun. I have assumed that FA 1 (or, more accurately, YS 1) began with the first rising of the Sun in the West. But the reform by which Varda returned night to Arda soon changed the direction of movement, and by the end of FA/YS 1 the Sun was probably moving from East to West. Since this realignment took some time to accomplish, FA/YS 1 probably lasted more than 365 days. If, however, the Years of the Sun should be counted from the first rising of the Sun in the East, then all these dates may need to be adjusted.
Incidentally, I have assumed that the year begins in the spring, following the example of the Eldarin loa in providing dates for these Eldarin accounts of the First Age. Thus, the birth of Tuor, which probably occurred in January (Rķan conceived two months before Huor went to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad at Midsummer), would be dated 473 in the Calendar of Imladris, but 474 in the Kings’ Reckoning. Of course, if the birth of Nienor ‘in the first beginning of the year’ occurred in January instead of in March (both are possible), then her birth would remain dated 474, but Dagor Bragollach should be changed to 456 and the Fell Winter to 497.
The greatest difficulty, though, involves the establishment of firm dates for most events. The great majority of the references to time in Quenta Silmarillion date events in terms of time elapsed since other events. Unfortunately, these datings occur infrequently, and out of all of them no more than four refer to any single common event: Mereth Aderthad is held ‘when twenty years of the Sun had passed’; Dagor Bragollach begins in winter, ‘it being then four hundred years and five and fifty since the coming of Fingolfin’; Nargothrond falls in the same year that the messengers of Cķrdan deliver to Orodreth the warning of Ulmo, ‘when four hundred and ninety-five years had passed since the rising of the Moon, in the spring of the year’; Eärendil is born in the spring, ‘five hundred years and three since the coming of the Noldor to Middle-earth.’[5] It is clear that Fėanor came to Losgar some time before Fingolfin crossed the Helcaraxė. The Moon rose as Fingolfin first entered Middle-earth, and it had crossed the sky seven times (days? months?) when Fingolfin entered Mithrim at the first rising of the Sun. I have dated Mereth Aderthad as FA/YS 21, since one Year of the Sun had passed at the beginning of FA/YS 2. Similarly with the messengers of Cķrdan (496, i.e., the next spring) and the birth of Eärendil (504, nearly eight years after Tuor’s arrival in Gondolin). But I have dated Dagor Bragollach 455, assuming winter to occur at the end of the year and ‘the coming of Fingolfin’ to refer to his crossing of the Helcaraxė a number of months earlier than his arrival in Mithrim. (Incidentally, an indication of the considerable length of time involved in the return of the Noldor is that during this period Melkor returned to Middle-earth, quarreled with Ungoliant at Lammoth, rebuilt Angband, and overran Beleriand as far as Amon Ereb and the Falas.)
But even with this juggling of dates some problems remain. The events between Dagor Bragollach and the fall of Nargothrond can be dated fairly closely by examining the careers of Tśrin (born in the year when Beren first saw Lśthien, and eight years old in the Year of Lamentation, and twentythree—sixteen years of youth, three of slavery, and four of outlawry—when he journeyed to Gondolin during the Fell Winter that followed the autumn in which Nargothrond was sacked.) This kind of narrative dating is somewhat unreliable; Tuor’s three years of slavery could easily be thirtyone months—or thirty-nine. It is doubtless because of this imprecision that the dates given for Dagor Bragollach and the sack of Nargothrond seem two years too close. To reconcile this, I have removed two years from Barahir’s outlawry in Dorthonion (according to the text, he is killed ‘in that time’[1] in which Galdor dies, seven years after Dagor Bragollach, i.e., about 462) and one from Tuor’s enslavement in Hithlum.
In short, I must emphasize that the dates in this Chronology (and in the Guide as a whole) for the First Age depend totally on my interpretations of information that does not really warrant this kind of scrutiny. But while there may be errors in the absolute values of the dates, they can nonetheless be relied on as an accurate indication of the relative sequence of events and life-spans. If some of my conclusions seem those of some wayward pupil of Findegil the King’s Writer, rather than of a careful scholar and Elf-friend like Bilbo Baggins, my only excuse is the poverty of this Age; I have been unable to ask the Wise to emend my eagerness with their knowledge.
[There is full chronology of the First Age from the creation of Eä to YS 543 in the original text, but I omitted it.]
NOTE: From this point dates must be figured backward from the end of the Age. Since Elros died in SA 442 at the age of 500, he was born 58 years before the end of the First Age. If Tuor began to feel old at age 70 (as I have assumed here), then the First Age ended after about 600 Years of the Sun. This is not to say, of course, that the First Age lasted six hundred years; the Sleep of Yavanna alone may have endured for the equivalent of tens of thousands of Years of the Sun.
So, the proper definition of those last six centuries is 'the Years of the Sun of the First Age' instead of 'the First Age of the Sun'. The latter term never occurred in original Tolkien's writings, by the way.
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Old 12-24-2023, 01:12 PM   #2
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Welcome to the Barrow-Downs, Ar-Zigūr. You raise an interesting point.

When Tolkien began writing about what would become Middle-Earth, there were no "Ages." His mythology focused upon the Valar, the Elves, and the creation of the world through what eventually became the War of Wrath. He did not conceive of Numenor and the Second Age until later, and Hobbits, Gondor and Sauron (at least by that name) did not emerge until even later. So Tolkien did not have to account for the "Three Ages" until later in the development of his stories.

Early on, he conceived of the need to account for "Valinorean" time, as contrasted to Middle Earth time. He distinguished between the annals of Valinor and the annals of Beleriand. He realized that a vast amount of mythological time was needed to account for the creation of Arda, the struggles with Melkor, the arising and travels of the Elves and their dwelling in the West. Valinorean time grew with his mythos. But the early annals of Beleriand encompassed the time between the death of the Trees and rebellion of the Noldor, and the rising of the sun. The first span of time was not specifically described (and grew, in Tolkien's view, from a matter of years into tens or even hundreds of years). But after the rising of the sun, time in Middle Earth was calculated by "Sun Years." Some seem to equate the "Sun Years" portion of the annals of Beleriand (initially a bit over 250 years and later over 500 years) to the "First Age." But I am not sure that Tolkien himself ever did (and I'm not inclined to try to research this on a holiday weekend). There is no Tale of Years for the First Age. Nor, if I recall, did Tolkien ever clearly define what was encompassed by the "First Age."
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Old 12-24-2023, 01:33 PM   #3
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There is no Tale of Years for the First Age.
While that is technically true, there are definitely Annals (in multiple rescensions)
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Old 12-24-2023, 02:13 PM   #4
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Correct. But, unless I am forgetting something, the annals are not of the "First Age." They are the Annals of Valinor, the Annals of Beleriand, The Grey Annals (of the Sindar calculated first in Valinorian Years and later in Years of the Sun), etc.
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Old 12-24-2023, 06:28 PM   #5
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Aside from being influenced by people who did it earlier (I wrote fanfic, which drew from other fanfic writers), I think people just like consistency. Insofar as the Beleriand years are numbered at all - and the Slim doesn't do much of that, it prefers relative dating - they're numbered from the rising of the Sun. That count is reset to 1 at the start of the Second Age, and again to 1 for the Third and Fourth. Therefore, consistency demands that the initial 1-600ish are the First Age. It's wrong, but it's easy to keep in your head.

"Years of the Sun of the First Age" runs into problems when Tolkien decided the Sun was always around. He still kept using those old Sun-years, but they're not really counting from anything - the arrival of Fingolfin in Middle-earth ends up being the start of the count. (I guess the Shire Reckoning does the same thing, so why not?) I've no idea what you'd call that.

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Old 12-25-2023, 02:34 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Nor, if I recall, did Tolkien ever clearly define what was encompassed by the "First Age."
In the expanded edition of The Letters, there are these words in the Letter 131: "The History of the Eldar (Englished as ‘Elves’, but the pre-Shakespearian sense is intended), or Silmarillion proper. Nexus of legends, and stories in chronological order, into which some major tales are woven. Contains the ‘history’ of the First Age, from the coming of the Eldar to its end with overthrow of Morgoth-melkor, the first Dark Lord. Called The Silmarillion, because most of the history and tales are grouped about or refer to the Three Great Jewels of Fėanor (the Silmarils), their making, theft, the war for their recovery, and their final loss." I think Tolkien meant the Awakening of the Elves in VY 1050 by the phrase 'coming of the Eldar'.

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Old 12-25-2023, 08:14 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Ar-Zigūr View Post
In the expanded edition of The Letters, there are these words in the Letter 131: "The History of the Eldar (Englished as ‘Elves’, but the pre-Shakespearian sense is intended), or Silmarillion proper. Nexus of legends, and stories in chronological order, into which some major tales are woven. Contains the ‘history’ of the First Age, from the coming of the Eldar to its end with overthrow of Morgoth-melkor, the first Dark Lord. Called The Silmarillion, because most of the history and tales are grouped about or refer to the Three Great Jewels of Fėanor (the Silmarils), their making, theft, the war for their recovery, and their final loss." I think Tolkien meant the Awakening of the Elves in VY 1050 by the phrase 'coming of the Eldar'.
NoME 1.XIII agrees with this, baldly calling the year the Quendi awoke "First Age 1". Of course, NoME 1.VII refers to the same count as "Awakening Years" (AY), but by and large NoME calls the whole thing the First Age - and has it take place under the ancient Sun.

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Old 12-26-2023, 05:37 AM   #8
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There's a ton of references from various sources to the First Age beginning with the Awakening of the Elves, and (I believe) only one or two references to the First Age beginning with the forming of Arda (I think? or else some other cosmically important event - I'm not sure which).

However, there isn't a single reference anywhere to the First Age being defined as starting from the first rising of the Sun (in the classical cosmology - i.e. flat world and such).



P.S. Welcome Ar-Zigur! I'm IvarTheBoneless from TG, good to have you here.
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Old 12-27-2023, 09:20 AM   #9
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P.S. Welcome Ar-Zigur! I'm IvarTheBoneless from TG, good to have you here.
Hello!
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