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Old 02-25-2012, 02:05 PM   #1
elbenprincess
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Time relation in Aman

Until now I always thought that one year in Aman (time of the trees) equals ca. 9,5 sun years, but in Wikipedia I read that it was Tolkiens latest conception that one year in Valinor are 144 Sun years.

"In the 1930s and 40s Tolkien used a figure which fluctuated slightly around ten before settling on 9.582 solar years in each Valian year. However, in the 1950s Tolkien decided to use a much greater value of 144 solar years per Valian year, and included this figure in The Lord of the Rings appendices as the length of the elven year (the yen)."

He wrote that in a letter I think.

Was that really his last word on it? I find that unbelieveble, for example the flight of the Noldor would have lasted 700 insetad of ca 50 years and Galadriel would have been ca. 19000 years old when leaving Valinor, and Tolkien often said that she did it in her youth and so on, but with 19000 years she wouldnīt have been that young and the 7000 sun years in ME wouldnīt seem that long in contrast to the 19000 years she lived in Aman and I wouldnīt buy her longing for the west, cause 7000 years for her would just be a small holiday.

I just wanted to hear your thoughts about it.
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Old 02-25-2012, 03:32 PM   #2
Galin
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The larger amount of 144 does seem to hail from the later 1950s at least... and I think the Elven long year (144 years) had already been published in 1955 in any case...

... but the timeline of the Annals (Annals of Aman and Grey Annals) is written with the lower number in mind, and as far as I know Tolkien never revised Quenta Silmarillion, the Annals, or The Tale of Years, with this greater number in mind.

One of Tolkien's notes to the text 'Aman' seems to suggest that one is to imagine the existing Annals, as re-written in the early 1950s, with the new, much larger number in mind, but I would agree that simply doing this raises problematic questions with respect to the existing chronology.


I think the lower number is the better fit -- which itself still surprises some as far as how much time really passed in a 'year' before Sun Year reckoning.
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Old 02-25-2012, 03:40 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by elbenprincess View Post
Was that really his last word on it? I find that unbelieveble, for example the flight of the Noldor would have lasted 700 insetad of ca 50 years and Galadriel would have been ca. 19000 years old when leaving Valinor, and Tolkien often said that she did it in her youth and so on, but with 19000 years she wouldnīt have been that young and the 7000 sun years in ME wouldnīt seem that long in contrast to the 19000 years she lived in Aman and I wouldnīt buy her longing for the west, cause 7000 years for her would just be a small holiday.
Of course the point is also that in Aman, the time sort of "works" differently, or "feels" differently, probably. You might be for thousand years there, but you cannot compare it to the "mortal experience" of the same timeframe. So even if it was like that, it won't "count" the same way for the people as the years in Middle-Earth "count". That is also why I believe the number 144 was chosen - it is highly metaphorical number, used for example really often in relation to Biblical eschatology - in relation to the "last things" - because it has the sort of "special elements" in it (144=12x12 - 12 being the number of "fullness" - 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, etc etc - which Tolkien might have, or even very likely was thinking of when he wrote that; of course that all traces down to the speciality of the number in "daily matters" like 12 months per year and such...) - so (like e.g. in the biblical case) it probably should not be taken literally as number, but as representative of something, something that should bring you to note "there's something special about that year in Aman, in fact, something VERY special" (because it isn't just "any" big number, but "this" kind of number).
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Old 02-25-2012, 04:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
(...) so (like e.g. in the biblical case) it probably should not be taken literally as number, but as representative of something, something that should bring you to note "there's something special about that year in Aman, in fact, something VERY special" (because it isn't just "any" big number, but "this" kind of number).
I'm not sure I agree that any special meaning behind 144 means that it did not yet represent the equivalent of 144 Solar Years, or that it should not be taken literally as a number.

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'Time in Aman was actual time, not merely a mode of perception. As, say, 100 years went by in Middle-earth as part of Arda, so 100 years passed in Aman, which was also a part of Arda. It was, however, the fact that the Elvish speed of 'growth' accorded with the unit of Valian time that made it possible for the Valar to bring the Eldar to dwell in Aman.'

JRRT, Aman

This is from the same essay (later 1950s) that speaks of the Valian Year being equal to 144 years.
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Old 02-25-2012, 04:53 PM   #5
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I'm not sure I agree that any special meaning behind 144 means that it did not yet represent the equivalent of 144 Solar Years, or that it should not be taken literally as a number.
No, of course, I am not saying that. But the "impact" of such number of years would be different than if you spent 144 years in M-E. The quote seems to support that, as far as I can understand that. (I haven't read that part, I confess, since I don't have it.)
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Old 02-25-2012, 10:12 PM   #6
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The general idea (one of them anyway) in the text Aman is that 144 years of change and growth in Aman will be equal to 1 year of change and growth in Middle-earth -- in other words, if an Elf in Aman plants a given kind of tree, in 144 years worth of time there it would change or grow only as much as that kind of tree would grow in one year in Middle-earth -- thus the world around the Eldar in Aman will not seem as fleeting as it is to them in Middle-earth, even though time remains constant. I note Legolas' commentary after leaving Lorien (to paraphrase): time does not tarry but change and growth is not the same in all places.


In any case, as Elbenprincess notes, did Tolkien really want readers to substitute 144 instead of 10-ish, keeping the old dates?


If he did it arguably brings up some issues, like how long it took the Noldor to leave Aman and reach Middle-earth for example: using the dates in Annals of Aman (which we know were written with 9.582 in mind), if plugging in the much higher number suddenly the Noldor take a huge amount of time to reach Middle-earth. Tolkien certainly was musing about having the Valian Year be equal to the Elvish Long Year in The Lord of the Rings, and he does write...

'In recording the events in Aman, therefore, we may as did the Eldar themselves use the Valian Unit*, though we must not forget that within any such 'year' the Eldar enjoyed an immense series of delights and achievements which even the most gifted of Men could not accomplish in twelve times twelve mortal years.'

... and Christopher Tolkien notes (note 4): 'We may... use the Valian unit': in other words, presumably, the old structure of dates in the chronicle of Aman may be retained, although the meaning of those dates in terms of Middle-earth will be radically different. See note 5.' Christopher Tolkien, Myths Transformed, Aman, Morgoth's Ring


But 'presumably' still looms rather large here I think; and even if JRRT really meant this, one still wonders if he himself had really looked at the full impact of simply switching numbers.

Last edited by Galin; 02-26-2012 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 02-26-2012, 04:40 AM   #7
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I donīt know what to believe, I mean if Tolkien said it is that way then I wanna believe that, but I did my math and thatīs just so crazy, Galadriel would have been born when her father was 19.000!!! sun years old and didnīt he said that elves get their children early in their life? Celebrian was born when she was ca. 20.000, her and Elrond still being ca. 6.000 years old (the age gap, and Arwen marrying Aragon when she was not 3000, wouldnīt that be too young if elves are grown up in some 3000 years?) . If Cirdan was one of the unbegotten then he would be 64.800 years old. Galadriel with being 27.000 years is not half that old and I liked to think that she was the second oldest elf in ME but I canīt believe that there are not many elves which are older if that ratio is used.
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Old 02-27-2012, 10:29 AM   #8
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Well, when in doubt I employ the Tale of Years (or Annals) with the number I know they were written to reflect, or 9.582. There are other matters concerning which we have JRRT writing something later, very arguably without checking with what he had written (or published even) years before -- or at least there are scenarios where one wonders about this....

... for famed example: did Tolkien really and knowingly intend that Galadriel should not be part of Feanor's rebellion? despite that he had already published she had been a leader of the Exiles, and specifically banned for this role? There's no indication he remembered what he had already published here (possibly confusing what he had 'merely written' with what he had published), and no way to read his mind obviously.

Other examples could be raised as well. For all we know Tolkien intended to rewrite the Annals of Aman (or the Tale of Years that records the events in Aman) with 144 in mind, but all we can say is that if he intended to do so, he never did. And as to whether or not he intended anyone to simply substitute 144 for 9.582: I'm not sure if Christopher Tolkien is wholly clear on this matter, or if anyone can be; or can know for certain that Tolkien went over the existing Annals with any real scrutiny and still decided this suited him at all points.


Arguably 144 would have at least allowed for more time between the Awakening of Men and their coming to Beleriand, which concerned Tolkien in the later 1950s -- but to take another example, in the early 1950s the Annals note that it took 7 Valian Years, or somewhere under 70-ish years, for Tirion upon Tuna to be full wrought -- yet subsituting 144 we have 1,008-ish years to construct the same city. This is possible I guess, and I imagine the city as beautiful beyond description, but it's a notable difference in amount in any case.

Things like trees living far longer than their Middle-earth counterparts is one thing, but when it comes to what the Elves might make with their own hands, or how much actual time transpires between certain noted events, for myself I'm not sure Tolkien would not have at least tinkered with things if 144 had become his final and stable view of the Valian Unit (if he could find the time).

Last edited by Galin; 02-27-2012 at 02:00 PM.
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