First Age

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Overview

The First Age, also referred to as the Elder Days, was the oldest and shortest of the Ages described in Tolkien's works (though not the beginning of the history of Middle-earth). The known history of the First Age is dominated by the Elves of Beleriand and their conflicts with Morgoth and with each other, as detailed in The Silmarillion and others of Tolkien's extensive histories of Middle-earth.

The vast majority of the Lord of the Rings Online plot takes place at the end of the Third Age, six thousand years and more after the First. The First Age would be considered ancient history and legend to all but certain Elves and High Elves who lived it.

A note: this is an extremely abridged account and focuses on events most relevant to LotRO

Beleriand

The precise beginning of the First Age is not well defined, but most of the histories focus on the last six centuries. Morgoth, the fallen Vala, stole into Valinor with Ungoliant, where they destroyed the Two Trees (Laurelin and Telperion), slew Finwë, High King of the Noldor Elves, and stole the Silmarils, brilliant, hallowed gemstones and the prized work of Fëanor, one of if not the greatest Elven craftspeople and eldest son of Finwë. The Noldor left Valinor and went into exile, spending the next six hundred years in a hopeless battle against Morgoth. Their departure was not peaceful; the First Kinslaying and the passage of the Helcaraxë both came before the full arrival of the Noldor in Middle-earth.

Though the Noldor spearheaded many of the later battles and built their fortresses closest to Morgoth's stronghold of Angband, other Elf-kindreds including the Sindar already inhabited much of Beleriand. The political situation was complicated even before the Edain settled among the Elves and chose various lords from among them. The Noldor often disagreed among themselves and there was ill-feeling between Thingol, king of the Sindar and seated in Doriath and those of the Noldor who were part of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë (the Telerin Elves killed there being kin to the Sindar). Though the Elves of Beleriand allied against Morgoth and his forces with each other and with several groups of Men and Dwarves, it was often uneasy.

Much of the Wars of Beleriand is detailed in The Silmarillion. The Battle Under the Stars was the first the Noldor fought, but not the first conflict with Morgoth's creatures in the region. The Dagor Aglareb emboldened the Noldor and Angband was besieged. In the peace that followed, many of the greatest cities of Beleriand were built, including the hidden cities of Gondolin and Nargothrond. This peace came to an end with the Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame. Though the Noldor eventually drove back Morgoth's forces, their losses were heavy and the siege of Angband was broken. It was in the years that followed that Beren and Lúthien claimed one of the three Silmarils from the crown of Morgoth. Theirs is perhaps one of the most famous tales of the First Age.

The Fifth Battle, or the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, shattered the defences, armies, and alliances of Beleriand. The Noldor, led by Maedhros, eldest of the sons of Fëanor, mustered what allies would come and launched a desperate offensive against Angband and were defeated and scattered. Beleriand was overrun and most of its great cities were destroyed- Nargothrond was taken by Glaurung, the great wingless dragon (more detail in The Children of Húrin), Gondolin was revealed and attacked, Balrogs notable among its assailants. Doriath also was destroyed, though not by the forces of Morgoth. Thingol angered a party of Dwarven craftspeople he had hired to fit the Silmaril his daughter had recovered into a necklace. His city was sacked in the aftermath, briefly restored by his grandson Dior, and then destroyed utterly by the sons of Fëanor, driven to recover the Silmarils at all costs. Most of the survivors of Beleriand retreated to havens along the coast.

The War of Wrath

In desperation, Eärendil, father of Elrond and half-elven himself, set sail to the West, intending to beg the Valar for aid against Morgoth. After his departure, the Havens of Sirion were attacked, again by the surviving sons of Fëanor seeking the Silmaril there. Elwing, daughter of Dior and granddaughter of Lúthien, refused to give up the gem and leapt into the sea. She was turned into a bird and eventually joined her husband Eärendil at sea, and with the Silmaril they were able to gain entrance to Valinor despite the enchantments hiding it.

The Valar answered the plea for aid, and for more than forty years the forces of the Valar fought those of Morgoth. The host of the Valar included many powerful Maiar, companies of Elves from Valinor, and many of the Edain that survived the devastation of the Nírnaeth. Among the host of Morgoth were many creatures as terrible and powerful as their opponents- the Balrogs (Maiar in their own right), the first of the winged dragons, Gaunt Men, and more. The destruction caused by the fighting was widespread and devastating. The subcontinent of Beleriand was drowned, and though Morgoth was, in the end, defeated and banished from the world until the end of days, much was lost forever and the First Age was ended.

Though most information about the First Age focuses on Beleriand, the consequences of the War of Wrath were far reaching. The long northern mountain range that included the peaks of Thangorodrim and the fortress of Angband was shattered. Some of the remnants of these became the Mountains of Angmar and the geographic upheavals were felt as far away as Járnfast in the Iron Hills, far to the east of Beleriand. The keep was shattered and many Nameless creatures crawled out of the depths before the Howling Pit was sealed. The First Age also saw the rise and fall of the Greymaul Rebellion- civil war among the Longbeards of the Misty Mountains.

Remnants of the First Age

Even for Elves, the First Age was long ago, and few who remember it remain in Middle-earth. Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn, Círdan the Shipwright, Glorfindel, and Gildor Inglorion are among the eldest and most well-known who remain. Particular to LotRO, Magor is said to have trained with Celeborn in the Elder Days and Glathlírel has long contended with the Balrog Thaurlach.

High Elves, as player characters, would also be among this number, being among the few Calaquendi that returned to Middle-earth and chose to remain after the War of Wrath.

Many are the evil creatures that linger from the First Age into the Third:

Excerpt from Turbine's Lorebook's entry on the First Age

First, and shortest by far, of the Four Ages chronicled by Tolkien. Unlike the Second and Third Ages, there is no detailed chronicle of the events of the First Age, and so dates must be inferred from references in the text - hence many dates in this Age (including the year in which it ended) are necessarily approximate.
The First Age began with the return of the Noldor to Middle-earth, the first rising of the Moon and the Sun, and the awakening of the first Men. It ended with the destruction of Beleriand and the final defeat of Morgoth. The end of the First Age was marked by the return of many of the Noldor, accompanied also by many Sindarin Elves, into the West to dwell on Tol Eressëa.

The First Age is the setting for the books The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin and is considered Ancient History with respect to the time period for the Lord of the Rings Online game.

See Also