Greetings! We are underway in the Nature of Middle-earth Book Discussion, discussing Section I: Time and Ageing. It’s interesting how it’s said “time and ageing” (which my computer autocorrects to ‘aging’ unless I persist, as the latter seems to be the correct American term).
I wonder if it’s an intentional form on Tolkien’s part, to add the ‘e’ in ‘aging,’ or not. After all, as I was reading the letters, I noticed he’d preferred to spell the plural form of “dwarf,” a species in his legendarium, a different way than what is usually spelled (Dwarfs vs Dwarves). It shows up from time and time again, especially in chapter 11, the ‘Ageing’ of Elves.
And lastly, this will be the chapter by chapter guide. This discussion will take place in two forms: the chapter by chapter guide as evidenced in this post, and the conceptual guides which will be posted on YouTube. For the conceptual guides, we will be talking about:
- Gestation and Generation
…of mainly the Elves and Men.
How do the Elves and Men tell time?
How do the Elves and Men gestate and generate?
Table of Contents
- How do the Elves and Men tell time?
- How do the Elves and Men gestate and generate?
- Abbreviations and Conventions
- Introduction, Section I: Time and Ageing
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 1: The Valian Year
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 2: Valinorian Time Divisions
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 3: Of the Time in Arda
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 4: Time-scales
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 5: Natural Youth and Growth of the Quendi
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 6: The Awaking of the Quendi
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 7: The March of the Quendi
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 8: Eldarin Traditions Concerning the Awakening
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 9: Time-scales and Rates of Growth
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 10: Difficulties in Chronology
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 11: Ageing of Elves
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 12: Concerning the Quendi in their Mode of Life and Growth
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 13: Key Dates
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 14: Calculation of the Increase of the Quendi
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 15: A Generational Scheme
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 16: Note on the Youth of Growth of the Quendi
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 17: Generational Schemes
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 18: Elvish Ages & Númenórean
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 19: Elvish Life-cycles
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 20: Time and its Perception
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 21: Notes on Elvish Time-reference
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 22: A Fragment from The Annals of Aman
- Time and Ageing – Chapter 23: A Fragment from The Grey Annals
- Time and Ageing – Discussion Questions
In the foreword of the book, you’ll see it describes the main structural conceptions Tolkien had which were:
- The Myth of Light
- The Nature of Aman
- The immortality (and death) of the Elves
- The mode of their Reincarnation
- The Fall of Men and the length of their early history
- The origin of the Orcs
- The power and significance of Melkor and Morgoth, above all.
This was from the Foreword of Morgoth’s Ring, Book 10 of the History of Middle-earth series, written by his son Christopher – which breaks down the purpose of writing and publishing the book.
Later on, there are three categorical parts: These are for this book, The Nature of Middle-earth, written by (presumably) the editor, Carl F. Hostetter. They are:
- Time and Ageing
- Body, Mind and Spirit
- The World, Its Lands, and Its Inhabitants
Abbreviations and Conventions
After the Foreword, you’ll see a lot of abbreviations and conventions after the Editorial Practices. They’re basically the abbreviations you see from time to time, in reading the book – and can be helpful when he brings up abbreviations you’ve forgotten about while reading that would help you understand.
Introduction, Section I: Time and Ageing
While the 1951 version wasn’t explicitly stated – there was a 1951 version, but instead, the focus in the subsequent chapters would be on the newer 1957 version of the Valian units. This was when Tolkien decided to increase the number of sun-years per Valian (larger, tree, elves) year. It seemed he had made it larger.
- Old: 10 SY (sun-years) = 1 VY (Valian Year)
- New: 144 SY (sun-years) = 1 VY (Valian Year)
We will also find out more about:
- Growth in Elves and Men
- Basis on the gestation of the Elves
And lastly, we are left with some important Quenya words representing what I will call ‘units’ and/or ‘forms,’ which will be used throughout the book. They are:
- hröa ‘body’
- fėa ‘spirit’
- löa ‘year (of the Sun)’ – or SY (pl. löar)
- yên ‘long year = 144 löar’ – or VY (pl. yéni) – though it is unclear why the orientation of the accented e changes with the plural. It’s a possibility that it could be an irregular form.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 1: The Valian Year
There are two texts in this chapter. – the first chapter of Time and Ageing.
In the first text, we are reminded of what the year form, or unit, ‘yên,’ is based on. It was meant for the trees, and not Elves at this time in Aman (the Blessed Realm).
(However, you’ll see in later chapters that the same year form was used for the Elves. This could be because this was written before Tolkien came up with the basis for the Elves. The Introduction shows Elves using SY.)
We also see mainly a rundown of the proposed units – basically telling information that we are about to explore. So:
- 1000 days * 12 hr/day = 12,000 hr
- 1 solar year (our year) = 365.25 days = 8,766 hr
- 1 solar year = 87,660 Tree Hours – this means 12,000 hr – 10 Middle-earth years/tree hr. = 7.3 sun hr = 7 hr 18 seconds
How would we arrange this for Sun and Moon? Elves don’t know about how Arda was established, all their love is for Arda.
In the second text, you’ll find some measurements.
- 1 Valian Day = 12 Tree Hours = 1 Mortal Year
- 144 mortal years (löar) = 1 Valian Year (yên)
- 1 Tree Hour = 1 Mortal Month (around 30 days)
Then, you’ll see that the Elves awoke in 1050 VY (and more on this will be covered in Chapter 8 onward) and reached Aman 83 years later in 1133, but it was 11,952 MY. Men awoke in VY 1150 or 100 VY later, which is actually 14,400 MY. This is considering that there’s 144 löar (MY) for each yên (VY), as described. The new correspondence was incorporated by Tolkien in 1957.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 2: Valinorian Time Divisions
The basic time is the Sun-year even in Aman which we will see later, is a Mortal Year. This dates to 1959. We will see that 1 Valian Day is 1 Sun (Mortal) Year. The light of Valinor was independent of its earth’s rotation, so this also depended on the Trees’ light length.
It seems to mainly be worked out in multiples of 12 –
Imagine how long a day is as a tree! That would mean we would have experienced a year when they’ve experienced a day. But they have less of what they could days – which would mean that we would experience 144 years to their 1 year.
It seems to be for the mortals, that 1 year = 365.25 days. However, we are unsure about the difference between how the Elves tell time and how Men tell time at this point.
This means all we have to do is to put our year as we know it with the Valian year:
- 1 Valian Hour = 1 Month
- 1 Prime = 2.5 Days
- 1 Second = 5 Hours
- 1 Terce = 25 Minutes
- 1 Quart = 2 minutes
- 1 Quint = 10 seconds
- 1 Sext = 1 second
- 1 Minim = 1/14 second
This was from the last chart of Chapter 2. The values on the right are the mortal equivalents.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 3: Of the Time in Arda
In this chapter you’ll get to the time-scales. There were some rearranging, but after that, you’ll see that the Valar went into Arda, and Quendi (Elves) are immortal within Arda. Now we start to get to the nitty gritty about what makes Elves them and immortal, and we first get the idea that the Elves also aged with their hröar (bodies).
Unlike the Valar, who assumed their bodily forms, the Quendi had more of a ‘union’ between a hröa (body) and a fėa (spirit), which I take it to mean that they are “human-like,” though their bodies are the ones that mainly age. Their spirits age as well – but not so fast as their bodies.
Then, as soon as their fėar (spirits) age and wane, they go through a process of absorption. This is where instead of dying the way a mortal would, they would become absorb.
After that, Tolkien kind of scales the elves ages with that of men, when figuring out their gestational ages. However, later on you’ll find more on the basis of how the Elves and Men tell time.
There were several different aspects – a chief one was that their onnarië (time of the children) depended on the time of marriage. Elves and Men both get married within a time period between physical maturity and the end of physical vigor, between 20 and 60 years of age. But there were certain cases when they would marry after this time.
But there were two chief differences between the elves and men:
- Their spirits never actually increased maturity, in the sense that they stopped attaining knowledge and wisdom.
- They were more variable due to the variability of their spirits (fėar) discussed in 1.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 4: Time-scales
Here, the Valar had entered Arda – and they also, much like the Elves, suffer from slow aging.
But the Elves either could choose the number of children, or know how many they’ll likely have. Usually, they’d have around 2-4, but there was one case in which Fëanor had 7 sons. This is highly exceptional. When they’re born in the mother’s womb, they stay there for 3/4 of 12 löar (1 growth year) which is 9 löar. This growth year mainly concerns the time in the womb.
We also now see that the Valian Year from the beginning, the yên, was also used in Elves, which is that 144 löar = 1 yên. The Eldar don’t typically have children during hard times, like the March of the Quendi.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 5: Natural Youth and Growth of the Quendi
For the first 96 VY, the Elves were similar to Men in maturity and growth. While the bodies (hröar) grew quickly, their spirits (fėar) grew slowly. Then, comparisons are being shown for the rest of the chapter between the growth of Elves and the growth of Men.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 6: The Awaking of the Quendi
So here, Tolkien introduces the term “Tale of Years,” which is defined as VY 1050. A Valian Year, is now a bit more fluid: it could either be 100 löar or 144 löar. Then, you’ll see the two versions of notes on Angband and Utummo.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 7: The March of the Quendi
Here, there’s a timeline on how the events of the March of the Quendi occurred. Then, you’ll see charts on the population of growth, which seems to calculate the total population – accounting for every Elf who existed in Middle-earth. This is based on the idea that:
- First 3 Generations: 6 children/family
- 2nd 3 Generations: 5 children/family
- Third 3 Generations: 4 children/family
Time and Ageing – Chapter 8: Eldarin Traditions Concerning the Awakening
We now finally figure out what it means to be awakened. The first hröar (bodies) during this time period slept in the womb of Arda beneath the green sword, and woke when they were fully grown, placed next to their spouses. Their spouses were predetermined by Erú.
This idea was repeated in some subsequent chapters, that they wake up matured.
The first elves woke in the lake Cuiviénen, where as a result, Imin, Tata and Enel brought forth 14, 56, and 74 companions respectively out into Arda.
The writing style in this chapter seems (to me) similar to Genesis in the Bible.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 9: Time-scales and Rates of Growth
The time-scales start at 144:1, we know that. This is the ratio of Sun-years to Valian Years, so: SY:VY.
However, it became 100:1 after the Elves have departed from Avari.
Finally, calculations of some of your favorite Elves (?) such as Elrond, Galadriel, and Arwen (and her marriage with Aragorn, a man), were formed in this chapter.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 10: Difficulties in Chronology
Here, it’s noted that 144 SY in Aman (“the Blessed Realm”) is a year of Elf-life. This is similar in numerical value to the Valian Year, but it’s not the same terminology. Furthermore, 100 SY in Beleriand is a year of the Elves.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 11: Ageing of Elves
In the “Ageing of Elves,” there are a few things that are to be noted. First, there is sort of an adjustment to the timelines of Elves like Maeglin, Isfin, and Eöl. Then, it also mentioned when they’d possibly grow and to what extent. You’ll see a lot of times he’d talk about the two areas of growth.
But Galadriel, Arwen, Eärendil, et al – they all seemed to be around 20-22 at time of physical growth (growth of the hröa). This was related to the events that took place in their time.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 12: Concerning the Quendi in their Mode of Life and Growth
There’s this similar idea compared to the beginning: a fast-growing body and a slow-growing spirit. We are also being introduced with the ‘growth year,’ in which 12 löar = 1 human löa. The olmen – however is an Elvish growth-year. However, here we learn that the Elves never rejected Eru or worshipped Sauron.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 13: Key Dates
We finally get the first growth-year of the Elves: it is the year, VY 850. Furthermore, Imin claims to be the “Father of All Quendi,” – and along with Tata and Enel, they make the Three Fathers. The two texts describe the differences between the roles of the Three Fathers right before the “Tale of Years.”
Time and Ageing – Chapter 14: Calculation of the Increase of the Quendi
The charts that are being shown involve the population from awakening to the Finding by Oromë. The is assuming that the Finding occurred in 1392 VY, and the Awaking happened 6 years prior, at 1386 VY (or VY 1386).
Time and Ageing – Chapter 15: A Generational Scheme
The charts are being continued with the same scheme based on the previous formulas mentioned.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 16: Note on the Youth of Growth of the Quendi
After finding them unworkable, Tolkien scratches the earlier calculations, especially the time in the womb. In this chapter and the next, he shortens the time in the womb from 9 löar to 1 löar.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 17: Generational Schemes
He also speeds up the reduction of generations – from the 6 – 5 – 4 formula with every 3 generations, to 6 the first two, then down to 4 for the third, then down to 2 1/4 for the fourth, and then 1 5/6 for the fifth generation.
The Great March was in 1070 – which reduces the generations as Elves weren’t having (or being expected to have) children during tough or hard times.
There were 7 schemes in the graph, but Tolkien later settled on a huge drop during the March od the Quendi, without going back up after that. (Remaining at 2)
Time and Ageing – Chapter 18: Elvish Ages & Númenórean
At “full age” the number was just determined, at 60-72 years of age. It used to be that it could be about 60, but probably wasn’t fully determined yet. Then, the concept of a “growth year” (GY) was first determined, but it was mainly used for the gestation of the Elves.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 19: Elvish Life-cycles
In this chapter there were two texts, with the first one being life-cycles and the second one being an application of Text 1.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 20: Time and its Perception
it is conformed that the Valar reckoned in twelves. While this was clear earlier, it can be viewed as more of a suspicion than definite fact. By the end of Time and Ageing, in Nature of Middle-earth, Tolkien confirms all the units and forms he had hypothesized earlier – that 12 tree hours is a mortal day, 144 VD is 1 VY (Valian Year) and 144 VY = 1 Valian Age (VA).
Time and Ageing – Chapter 21: Notes on Elvish Time-reference
While most of what was in the earlier drafts were reiterated – we also get a glimpse of how they perceive time. The older the Elves are, the faster they perceive time. Thus, the younger they were, the longer time seemed to be in general.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 22: A Fragment from The Annals of Aman
This is mainly a draft concerning the chronology from the Annals of Aman.
Time and Ageing – Chapter 23: A Fragment from The Grey Annals
This is mainly a draft from The Lay of Leithan, which features a poem when Oromë asks Morgoth to fight.
Time and Ageing – Discussion Questions
These are just some questions to think about…
- What do you make of the term ‘Tree Year?’ Since later, you’ll see it goes to the Elves, but it was indicated that Valian Year is strictly in terms of trees, not Elves. However, you see in the later versions, Tolkien does use VY concerning the Elves.
- In Ch. 2, you see that all of the years go back in terms of our solar year (1 year = 365.25 days) – but in Lord of the Rings, Appendix D, there are differences between our year as we know it and the Shire (or Middle-earth) calendar. Do you think the calendar as we know it in LOTR, could be mainly the Hobbits’ calendar? Or could it be more about Middle-earth as a whole? Is it a direct applicability on Tolkien’s part?
- What do you think of the idea that the Elves become ‘absorbed’ in Ch. 3? Was it similar to death in men and mortals or not?
- In the “Tale of Years,” do you think they would count from 0 or a specific number?
- Describe the roles of Imin, Tata, and Enel – what do you think they came from? At first glance, they look like they were the first to be awakened. However, later on they were said to be members of the 6th generation. The Silmarillion makes no mention of them.
- The Elves seem to have two areas of growth: that of the hröa (body) and that of the fėa (spirit). Does this sound pleasing to you? Do you see that applying to our everyday lives – like when one grows as a person?
- In Chapter 13, what do you think of the two texts describe the difference between the Three Fathers in Text A and Text B?
- The older the Elves are, the older they perceive time. Can you relate to that?