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James Strom
2011-May-28, 10:51 PM
I've posted this on Tolkien fan sites. Anyone want to have a go at it?

WHEN DID THE FOURTH AGE BEGIN?

Middle-earth, as envisioned by J.R.R. Tolkien, was not some faraway planet as in a science fiction story but rather the very world we live in. The events portrayed in his fantasy novels, "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" occured during an imaginary period in our past. But when?
While the chronology he presented in the Appendix of "Return of the King" is intricately detailed it contains no reference point so as to allow us to date it. It does make clear, however, that the usual laws of astronomy are valid, even going so far as to give the length of a tropical year down to the second.
So there remains the possibibility of determining what year some events occured by looking at the astronomical phenomenon that are predicted to have occured then and comparing them to what is described in the books. This has been used sucessfully to date many things in ancient times.
To start with we can use a quote from one of Tolkien's letters;

"I imagine the gap [between the Fall of Barad-dur and modern times] to be about 6000 years; that is we are now at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were about the same length as the Second Age and the Third Age. But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh."

Taken literally this gives us an upper and lower bound to the year 3019 of the Third Age and thus the key to the whole chronology. Since the letter was written in 1958 this would put it at 4043 BC, give or take 500 years. So we are left with choosing one from among a 1001 years, a seemingly impossible task.
But it is not as difficult as it looks. In "The Fellowship of the Ring" there is this line;

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

The chronology in the Appendix gives this date as January 8 of the Third Age in Shire Reckoning. But which day is that in a conventional calendar? In the Appendix he also states;

"It appears, however, that Mid-Year's Day was intended to correspond as nearly as possible to the summer solstices. In that case the Shire dates were actually in advance of ours by some ten days, and our New Year's Day corresponded more or less to the Shire January 9."

Sounds simple, right? But this must not be referring to January 1 in a modern calendar such as the Gregorian now in use merely backdated 6,000 years. This is because the solstices occured on quite different days from that of the present. Six millenia ago the winter solstice was on about December 17 as opposed to December 22 today. In fact, there was a difference of 187 days between solstices then against 182 now. It may be that the Shire and other calendars were developed at the start of the Second Age and changed little since. The seasons 13,000 years ago were much closer to the way they are today due to a difference of half a 26,000 year precession cycle between our time and then. As an example, Christmas used to coincide with the winter solstice but is still celebrated on December 25 instead of the 22nd.
Thus we must be open to a number of different days with which to match to any particular one in the Shire calendar. But we can reasonably narrow it down to those that will not move the solstices too far from their rightful places on Yule and Mid-Year's Day.
I considered the Gregorian dates of December 26 to 29 to be acceptable choices for January 8 of the Shire. Then I listed all the years between 3543 and 4543 BC in which there was a full moon in the evening on one of those days. This reduced 1001 years to a little over 130.
Fortunately "The Fellowship of the Ring" also gives us some valuable information on the position and brightness of the planet Venus on the evening of February 14(S.R.) in these lines;

"The Evening Star had risen and was shining with white fire above the western woods."

"Earendil, 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."

This clearly indicates that Venus was both somewhat high above the horizon and near maximum brightness. This can only occur between the times of greatest elongation and greatest brilliancy of the planet in the night sky. This narrows down the possible years considerably. Only six good ones are left; 4000, 4008, 4016, 4494, 4502, and 4510 BC.
So far, so good. But which of the six years? The second triplet just barely fits within the definition of "about 6,000" years ago whereas the first almost hit it on the nose. So I excluded the former.
This leaves the three years of 4000, 4008, and 4016 BC. The middle one gives dates for the solstices that are closer to the Yule and Mid-Year's Days as intended by the Shire calendar. So I chose 4008 BC as the most likely candidate for 3019 of the Third Age.
If this is, in fact, the correct year then January 8 in Shire Reckoning would be December 28 4009 BC in the Gregorian or January 29 4008 BC in the Julian calendar. The Fall of Barad-dur would thus have happened on March 15 or April 16 4008 BC.

SkepticJ
2011-May-29, 04:06 AM
Well, there are worse ways to spend ones time, I suppose.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-29, 05:44 AM
What SkepticJ said. I don't buy that the astronomy in the Middle Earth books is the same as ours. The sun and the moon are buds dropped by those big trees after Morgoth got that big spider to suck the life out of them. The Earth was more or less flat until Numenor got separated from the main part of it. Earendil, the Evening Star, was not the planet Venus but a star sailor with a silmaril.

Tolkien might well have had it in his mind that Middle Earth was our world in the past, but I don't think it adds enjoyment to the stories.

But welcome to the board anyway! You'll find quite a few people who like Tolkien here.

Strange
2011-May-29, 08:55 AM
I doubt Tolkien played as much attention to the astronomy or geography as he did to the languages, which I gather were his main motivation for writing the books:

my long book is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real
http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/tolkien-on-language-invention/

vonmazur
2011-May-30, 06:05 PM
JRRT was one of the few non Finns in his day, who was fluent in Suomi...I read somewhere that he used a lot of Finnish mythology in his works, but I could be mis-remembering the article.....

Somewhere else I think they said that C. S. Lewis convinced him to publish this work....??

Dale

profloater
2011-May-30, 06:20 PM
I thought everyone knew the elves chose to become extinct two and a half ice ages ago, well before the suggested dates and with them the dwarves of the mountains all lost in "the long ice age". The hobbits of course live on but I will refrain from exposing their homes since that would be political. The Ents also perished for lack of females as recorded, so all we have left is a fiction, I mean fraction of what really happened. Wizards removed the written and artifact evidence.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-30, 06:59 PM
Wizards removed the written and artifact evidence.

I believe the usual expression is, "A wizard did it!" ;)

Certassar
2011-May-30, 07:18 PM
JRRT was one of the few non Finns in his day, who was fluent in Suomi...I read somewhere that he used a lot of Finnish mythology in his works, but I could be mis-remembering the article.....
Suomi was indeed a major influence on quenya and sindarin (his elvish languages), at least in terms of sounds and pronouncation. I'm not sure if the grammar reflects the same complexity as suomi.

Middenrat
2011-May-31, 01:09 AM
That was an interesting exercise, James Strom. So much is grounded on Tolkien's six thousand year remark, but I wonder if that can be regarded as conceivable? The topography of his well-mapped Middle Earth is notably dissimilar to the present day, yet sea levels are closely comparable now with then. It's too short a time for mountain ranges to have weathered into present-day forms.
I'd always imagined the ice sheets advancing/retreating at least a couple of times to kick over the traces.
Of greater interest to myself is the relative start of the Second Age, with the first years of sunlight and the seeming quickening of the march of time. Can you square that with modern cosmology? (I have a dim concept of Tolkien's Ages occupying segments of a snail's shell, the present always at the centre and with equal radial distance marking out ever-lengthening epochs at greater distance from the centre, so permitting the First Age to be exponentially longer than the Second, etc.)

jokergirl
2011-May-31, 12:14 PM
Suomi was indeed a major influence on quenya and sindarin (his elvish languages), at least in terms of sounds and pronouncation. I'm not sure if the grammar reflects the same complexity as suomi.

It doesn't. Quenya and Sindarin are more similar in grammatic terms to Germanic or Romanic languages than to Finno-Ugric ones.
As for pronunciation, I always thought it was based a bit on Welsh, with many "th" and "dh" sounds. But the vowels are Latin.

(yes, I have too much time on my hands, why?)

;)

tnjrp
2011-May-31, 12:44 PM
On the Finnish connection of Tolkien's languages:
http://www.sci.fi/~alboin/finnquelinks.htm

Finnish mythology as filtered into Kalevala seems to have inspired Tolkien as did our language, but there is fairly little in his works that is strongly reminiscent of our particular myths apart from Túrin Turambar being fairly obviously based on Kullervo. Kaleva doesn't have dragons and dark lords tho ;)

captain swoop
2011-May-31, 02:47 PM
Tolkien saw his books as a Mythology for the English as we don't have much of a one of ou own being a 'Mongrel' nation.
Look on it as the equivalent of the Norse or Greek myths.
It wasn't supposed to fit into a real historical period.

vonmazur
2011-Jun-01, 12:14 AM
On the Finnish connection of Tolkien's languages:
http://www.sci.fi/~alboin/finnquelinks.htm

Finnish mythology as filtered into Kalevala seems to have inspired Tolkien as did our language, but there is fairly little in his works that is strongly reminiscent of our particular myths apart from Túrin Turambar being fairly obviously based on Kullervo. Kaleva doesn't have dragons and dark lords tho ;)

Sir/Madame: Thanks for straigtening me out, were it not for my fondness for Finnish Weapons, and a Finnish Girl Firend in High School, I would know almost nothing about your fine Country.....(I wonder if Colonel Lahti is related to Kristina Lahti??? I keep a Lahti in the nightstand!!)

Dale in Alabama

HenrikOlsen
2011-Jun-01, 12:47 AM
Sir/Madame: Thanks for straigtening me out, were it not for my fondness for Finnish Weapons, and a Finnish Girl Firend in High School, I would know almost nothing about your fine Country.....(I wonder if Colonel Lahti is related to Kristina Lahti??? I keep a Lahti in the nightstand!!)

Dale in Alabama
L-39? Which would justify the second exclamation mark.

tnjrp
2011-Jun-01, 05:56 AM
I'm thinking maybe more at L-35. L-39 would need a pretty big nightstand. Maybe not as big as the entire writings of Professor Tolkien tho :)

As to the name Lahti (lit. "Bay"), it's pretty common in Finland: there are at least 10 separate family lines with that name it's not immediately obvious if two Lahtis are related. Can't say about Kristine (Christine?) and Aimo.

On the subject itself, what Cap. Swoop said.

publiusr
2011-Jun-04, 06:07 PM
I had this idea once about combining differnt genre's once, with regard to fantasy and sci-fi. Imagine first a typical space opera, with different aliens who noticed a section of the universe that intersected with another. A star system was there, all backward and all. Aliens evolved along a more Lamarckian fashion. Ironically, the closer they got to a planet that happened to be close to this invisible intersection, the les well their drives worked. They became more jumpy. Farther way, to a point advanced drives did very well. farther away from this planet, however, the drives worked not at all. Farther still, life could not evolve. It is just that, the nearer to this planet they got, the more possibilities one could have, rather like the old D&D alternate cosmology. where, in some plces gunpowder doesn't work, but in others, even chairs sprang to life.(Back when the great wheel was used and the cosmos was by alignment, instead of by origin.


Lastly, something very odd happened. When they passed back in time, to show the earlier evolution of this peculiar planet, they would actually see creation legends if a passenger of a particular background were aboard. If a machine piloted the journey, you saw the usual impact and dinosaur history.

As it happened, this planet was ours--it was just that we were blind to it, except for hints...

James Strom
2011-Jul-16, 09:13 PM
That was an interesting exercise, James Strom. So much is grounded on Tolkien's six thousand year remark, but I wonder if that can be regarded as conceivable? The topography of his well-mapped Middle Earth is notably dissimilar to the present day, yet sea levels are closely comparable now with then. It's too short a time for mountain ranges to have weathered into present-day forms.
I'd always imagined the ice sheets advancing/retreating at least a couple of times to kick over the traces.
Of greater interest to myself is the relative start of the Second Age, with the first years of sunlight and the seeming quickening of the march of time. Can you square that with modern cosmology? (I have a dim concept of Tolkien's Ages occupying segments of a snail's shell, the present always at the centre and with equal radial distance marking out ever-lengthening epochs at greater distance from the centre, so permitting the First Age to be exponentially longer than the Second, etc.)

Sorry for taking so long to respond, folks. I had mistakenly thought that they never posted this (I'm new and didn't realize they don't send emails when someone replies to your post).

The maps used could have been copied from one to the other so many times that the images have become quite distorted. Try tracing a map and then tracing that map and so forth. It wouldn't take very long for it to barely resemble the original.
There are a number of maps out there that show Middle-earth over Europe. I'll try to post them.
I don't think the pace of time itself is changing. We're just in a unique time in history right before a big change. Everything begins to accelerate before then creating the illusion of a quickening.
Suppose that the quarter and middle marks of every Great Year has such a change. A Great Year is tied to the precession of the equinoxes and lasts about 26,000 years. Around the time Tolkien was writing his books a commonly accepted figure for it came from Herschel and was 25,848 years. Divide this by four and you get 6,462 years. The Second and Third Ages added up to the same exact number (3441+3021)! Coincidence?
In addition, it is usually supposed that the start of the Great Year began with the Age of Leo, as that sign is associated with gold. This was followed by the Age of Cancer (silver), Gemini (quicksilver), Taurus (copper or bronze), Aries (iron), and Pisces (tin). Thus we have the Golden, Silver, Bronze, Iron Ages, etc. The Age of Leo is to have occured around 10,500 BC. Therefore the Second Age would be the start of a whole new cycle if the Fourth Age began around 6,000 BC. And apparently it did.
I did some wild speculating and came up with this;

WHEN DID THE SEVERAL AGES BEGIN?

Now that it might be known when the Fourth Age began it should be a simple matter to determine when the earlier ages did. Fortunately, Appendix D contains most of the information needed to calculate the starting dates for the Second and Third Ages. If the beginning of the Fourth Age is March 25, 3021 of the Third Age this would be equivalent to March 16 or April 17, 4006 BC in the Gregorian or Julian calendars, respectively. If the assumption is made that yestare in King's and Stewards' Reckoning is always on the same day as 2 Yule in Shire Reckoning then it is possible to convert any date in these calendars to a modern one given a table of start dates for the various ages.
But which years do the other ages begin? The Year 597 of the First Age of the Sun is the last year of the earliest age. The Sun made its first appearence around the time of the spring equinox and as such the Elven year starts then. However, little is known about how they were adjusted to keep up with the seasons over long periods of time so in the table below I give the start of the First Age in King's Reckoning which begins 3 months earlier, around the time of the winter solstice.
Almost nothing is known about when the later ages took place but conjecture. From an article in Opentopia;

'As other ages began with the cataclysmic fall of tyrants, many Tolkien fans believe that Tolkien considered the Seventh Age to begin with the fall of Nazi Germany, and thus base
Seventh Age dates on 1945. Likewise it is believed that the birth of Jesus Christ may have been the start of the Sixth Age, as Tolkien was a devout Catholic and there are veiled
references to Christ's upcoming birth in philosophical essays such as Atrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth. A possible start date for the Fifth Age may then be based around Abraham or Moses.'

With this some guesses can be made. Using an Ussher-like chronology the Fifth Age can be placed at the time of the death of Noah and birth of Abram in 2000 BC. The Sixth Age would begin at the birth of Jesus while the Seventh Age would start with the end of World War II. An interesting thing is how similiar the calendar systems of Middle-earth are to the modern Gregorian. Both have leap years every fourth year with the exception of century years; the only difference being with the additional adjustments.
But what if the connection was deeper? Suppose that at the start of the Fifth Age a Gregorian system was adopted by descendants of the peoples of Gondor, etc. The years would then line up perfectly with our current one. The days could also be made to match up exactly if it is further supposed that for some reason the omission of leap years at the end of a century ceased in year 1000 of the Fourth Age until the beginning of the Fifth instead of the usual adjustments. Then the modern Gregorian would be in perfect alignment with King's Reckoning!
This is quite a stretch, I know, but stranger things have happened. Maybe Christopher Clavius, designer of the Gregorian, had acquired knowledge of very old calendars. Who knows?
Allowing for all this can give us an unbroken record of time from the First Age of the Sun to the the present day. From that the Elvish calendar can be used to find the start of the various ages before then.
Here is a table of the dates for Yestare or 2 Yule of Year 1 of the several ages in the Gregorian followed by the Julian calendar;

Years of the Valian; Monday, February 13, 731065 BC or February 19, 731050 BC.
Years of the Lamps; Sunday, July 15, 457465 BC or December 8, 457456 BC.
Years of the Trees; Wednesday, November 21, 227065 BC or July 23, 227060 BC.
Years of the Children; Wednesday, February 13, 75864 BC or September 7, 75863 BC.
Years of the Sun; Thursday, March 21 or June 14, 11064 BC.
First Age; Monday, December 24, 11065 BC or March 19, 11065 BC.
Second Age; Sunday, December 24, 10468 BC or March 14, 10467 BC.
Third Age; Wednesday, December 21, 7027 BC or February 14, 7026 BC.
Fourth Age; Wednesday, December 21, 4007 BC or January 22, 4006 BC.
Fifth Age; Monday, December 25, 2001 BC or January 11, 2000 BC.
Sixth Age; Sunday, December 25 or 27, 7 BC.
Seventh Age; Monday, December 25 or 12, 1944 AD.

Githyanki
2011-Jul-17, 03:52 AM
As homo-sapiens migrated north 28,000BCE and begun to displace the Elves, were used to dealing with neanderthals. By 27,000BCE, Elves had gone extinct.

James Strom
2011-Jul-18, 05:53 PM
As homo-sapiens migrated north 28,000BCE and begun to displace the Elves, were used to dealing with neanderthals. By 27,000BCE, Elves had gone extinct.

That can't be the case. Tolkien's calendars would have made no sense that far back. The tropical year gets longer the farther you go back into the past. Not to mention that the constellations depicted in his books wouldn't have existed yet.