Tolkien: A History of the Third Age in Bullet Points

hobbit-map

I’m writing a series on The Lord of the Rings for Part Time Monster. If you’d like to catch up on it, here’s my index page. I’m doing a close-reading analysis with an added thought experiment. I’m reading LOTR as a set of historical documents as well as a work of fiction. Since dates and big events are important when you’re looking at things historically, here are eight significant events of the Third Age in bullet points.

It’s important to get a handle on these events and the historical intervals between them for two reasons:

  1. To appreciate just how long the Third Age of Middle Earth is. I find it helpful to think of the world we live in now, and compare it to the world people lived in c. 1000 BCE. That’s roughly the length of the Third Age from the loss of the Ring to its destruction in the fire of Mount Doom; and
  2. The history of Arnor is important because the hobbits were originally subjects of the kings of Arnor, a kingdom established in the late Second Age after the Downfall of Numenor. The reason the North of Middle Earth is so wild and deserted in the late Third Age, and the reason Hobbits have self-governing communities, is that their feudal lords were annihlated by Angmar, which was in turn destroyed by Gondor.

Timeline

  • The Ring is lost in the Disaster of the Gladden Fields,TA 2, roughly three years after Isildur takes the Ring.
  • The Wizards appear in Middle Earth around Third Age 1000, sent by the Valar to counteract Sauron, and given very strict rules of engagement. Gandalf is the only one who truly follows orders. By this time, Arnor is already divided by wars of succession.
  • Gondor reaches the height of its power in 1050; the Shadow falls on the Greenwood and it it renamed Mirkwood about this time; hobbits first appear in the records of men.
  • The realm of Angmar is established in 1300 by the Lord of the Nazgul. It destroys the successor kingdoms of Arnor over the next 700 years. Its power is finally broken by Gondor at the Battle of Fornost in 1975, but the Witch-king escapes to Mordor.
  • The Dwarven kingdom of Moria falls in 1980 due to the awakening of the Balrog.
  • Minas Ithil, the tower of Isildur, is taken by the Nazgul in 2002 and becomes Minas Morgul.
  • Sauron openly declares his return to Mordor in 2951.
  • The last meeting of the Council of the Wise – at which Saruman convinces his colleagues that the Ring must have been washed into the sea to buy himself time to search for it – occurs in 2953.
  • Saruman uses the palantir and is ensnared by Sauron c. 3000.
  • Bilbo’s 111th birthday party is in 3001.
  • The “Great Years” begin when Gandalf reaches Hobbiton on April 12, 3018 and end when The Ring is destroyed in the fire of Mount Doom on March, 25 3019.

(This is a revised and expanded version of a timeline from “Gollum Makes the Story Work,” an overview of Gollum’s life. Published today because I need to have the info handy to refer to in later installments of the series without linking to the full text of that article.)

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