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The Fourth Age and the ages that preceded it, are time periods from J. R. R. Tolkien's universe of Middle-earth, described in his fantasy writings. Because most of his fiction concerning Middle-earth deals with earlier ages, there is relatively little material on these later ages that followed the Third Age.

The Fourth Age followed the defeat of Sauron and the destruction of his One Ring, but did not officially begin until after the Bearers of the Three Rings left Middle-earth for the Uttermost West.[1]

Some events of the first centuries of the Fourth Age can be gleaned from the Appendices, and follow below.

Contents

Men

Realms of Men prospered, as the re-united Númenórean kingdoms in exile (as the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor) fully recovered under Elessar and later Eldarion. Lasting peace was made with former Mannish enemies: at least some Easterlings and Haradrim either became allies, or even became part of the Reunited Kingdom; in the appendices it states that Éomer fulfilled the oath of Eorl by riding with Elessar to war on the plains of Harad and beyond the sea of Rhûn, so fighting would continue with at least some of the Men who had allied with Sauron in the past. Many former slaves of Sauron were freed, and given land in Mordor around the sea of Núrnen for their own. Allied realms such as Rohan and Esgaroth also prospered, as did the protected enclaves of the Shire and the Woses of Ghân-buri-Ghân.

Elves

After repulsing three great assaults from Dol Guldur during the War of the Ring, the elves of Lórien subsequently managed to rid the forest of Mirkwood of all the forces of evil (which mostly resided in Dol Guldur). It is also said that Celeborn took many boats of elves, ready for war down the river Anduin and attacked Dol Guldur for Galadriel herself threw down its walls and lay bare to its pits; thus the forest was cleansed.

Later on, Celeborn and Thranduil met in the midst of the wood and named it Eryn Lasgalen. The Silvan realms in Eryn Lasgalen (Thranduil's realm and Celeborn's East Lórien) seem to have expanded somewhat, although much of its population gradually departed to the West. The Grey Havens and with it the rest of Lindon were abandoned, save for Círdan and a few others, who remained behind. For at least a while an Elven colony founded in Ithilien was led by Legolas.

Dwarves

The Dwarves of Durin's Folk prospered in Erebor, and there are indications Gimli led a group of dwarves to Aglarond. Mining expeditions were sent to Khazad-dûm where mithril was again mined, used to restore the gates of Minas Tirith, but Khazad-dûm was not immediately recolonized. There are, however, indications that a Durin the Last later did rebuild this Dwarven Kingdom, returning Durin's Folk to their ancestral homes. Apparently the Dwarven race began to dwindle by the end of the Fourth age, for their women made up less than a third of their population. Often, the women would want a husband that they couldn't have and so would not marry. Similarly, many Dwarven men were too engrossed in their crafts and did not have the time to take a wife and have children. Their ultimate fate is unclear.

Others

Orcs and Trolls fled to the far east, and never really recovered. Either during Eldarion's rule or near the end of Aragorn's, there was some talk of "Orc-cults" although these seem to have been founded and run by humans.[2]

The future of the Ents is unclear. Aragorn granted them Fangorn Forest as an enclave and gave them permission to expand the forest again west into the vast wastes of Eriador where once a vast primeval forest had spread, but Treebeard lamented that while the forests may spread again the Ents would not, as the entwives had not been found up to date. Over time they dwindled off and more of them became increasingly "tree-ish" and it does not appear that they ever enter into the affairs of other races again (it is unclear if a non-communicative tree-ish Ent can be considered "dead" or if in a sense they persist to the present day).

The Fellowship

Of the remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring, it is recorded that Samwise Gamgee became mayor of the Shire, and was an advisor of King Elessar. His daughter Elanor became one of Arwen's handmaidens. Near the end of his life he is believed to have left for Valinor on one of the last ships of Círdan, as he too was a Ringbearer, having borne the One Ring during Frodo's captivity by the orcs.

Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took became Master of Buckland and Thain of the Shire respectively in due time. They remained in close friendship with the royal houses of Rohan and Gondor. When of advanced age they departed for Gondor and Rohan together, and both died around Spring F.A. 63. They were buried in Rath Dínen with the greats of Gondor.

Legolas is said to have eventually built a ship, and to have sailed to the West. According to many, Gimli left with him—the only Dwarf to ever do so—evidently out of his desire to once more see Galadriel.

Later centuries

Tolkien's writing does not provide information on more than the first few centuries of this age, so it is not known when it ended. It is stated that the Fourth Age was when Men became dominant and powerful in Middle-earth, and the Fading of the Elves began. As such, the Fourth Age marks the bridge from the fantastic fictional pre-history of earth to the real history. (He notes elsewhere in The Silmarillion, however, that the Elves count their own dwindling from the time of the first rise of the Sun, and some epithets for the Sun by the Elves refer to it in that context)

Later ages

Tolkien said that he thought the time between the end of the Third Age and the 20th century AD was about 6,000 years, and that in AD 1958 it should have been around the end of the Fifth Age if the Fourth and Fifth Ages were about the same length as the Second and Third Ages. He said, however, in a letter written in 1958 that he believed the Ages had quickened and that it was about the end of the Sixth Age/beginning of the Seventh.[3]

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Speculation concerning later ages

While Tolkien originally described Middle-earth as a fictional early history of the real Earth he later adjusted this slightly to describe it as a mythical time within the history of Earth. This 'mythical' distinction served to remove the stories of Middle-earth from any specific time period where they might contradict known details of actual history.

Determining the epoch of a Fifth Age is important for those who apply the Tolkien calendar to present dates. For example, Issue 42 of Mallorn, the journal of The Tolkien Society (August 2004), carried a lengthy article analyzing Tolkien's works as well as his possible Theosophist beliefs, concluding that the Years of the Sun began on March 25, 10160 BC, the Second Age on December 26, 9564 BC, the Third Age on December 24, 6123 BC, and the Fourth Age on March 18, 3102 BC. On this scheme the Fifth Age is equivalent to the Anno Domini system of dating.[4]

Notes and references

  1. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendix B S.R. 1421–1422, ISBN 0-395-08256-0  
  2. ^ As recorded in The New Shadow, the abandoned sequel to The Lord of the Rings.
  3. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #211 pg 283 footnote, ISBN 0-395-31555-7  
  4. ^ The Chronology of Middle-earth (article from Mallorn 42)

External links

  1. The Encyclopedia of Arda
  2. The Chronology of Middle-earth (article from Mallorn 42)

See also: Timeline of the Fourth Age.


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