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I keep running across the following quote from Tolkien's Letter #211 concerning the time between the destruction of the ring at the end of the third age and the present day:

I imagine the gap to be about 6000 years: that is we are now at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were of about the same length as 2nd Age and 3rd Age. But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the 6th Age, or in the 7th.

Ages One through Three are accounted for. Tolkien presumably imagined the Sixth Age ending with World War II or a final showdown with Communist Russia. Since he was a devout Christian, I suppose the death and resurrection of Jesus would have been the end of the Fifth Age. This leaves the end of the Fourth Age unaccounted for.

Are there any writings or quotations pertaining to the events that brought about the end of the Fourth Age?

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    Altough Tolkien Myth applies to our world I do not think the reverse is intended by the author, in that you can relate events like WWII to Tolkien Mythology. See this answer, and this additional one. Although, I like to add, that some contradictions exist between initial draft, letters, etc, especially in this subject. – Nuno Freitas Sep 6 '12 at 9:27
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    @Nuno, I would add that C.S.Lewis' portion of the story of Numinor, which was done in collaboration with Tolkien, took place in modern times. The third book, That Hideous Strength, was set sometime after WWII, and makes a number of mentions of Numinor, as I brought up in this answer. I talk about Tolkien's part of the collaboration here. – S. Albano Sep 6 '12 at 23:48
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The short answer is no, there isn't any published information as to what he may have considered the ending of each Age. Tolkien was even relatively inconsistent on the time elapsed since the events of the Lord of the Rings, as in History of Middle Earth he noted:

The moons and suns are worked out according to what they were in this part of the world [i.e. England or thereabouts] in 1942 actually.... I mean I'm not a good enough mathematician or astronomer to work out whare they might have been 7,000 or 8,000 years ago, but as long as they correspond to some real configuration I thought that was good enough.

A different period again! Given the combination of the two comments, however, it is probably reasonable to assume Tolkien may have considered WWII to be the end of the Sixth Age. After all the end of previous Ages were marked by the defeat of evil:

  • the First Age ending with the War of Wrath and defeat of Morgoth.
  • the Second Age ending with the Last Alliance and the (first) defeat of Sauron.
  • the Third Age ending with the defeat of Sauron.

So what could the Fourth and Fifth Ages be, if that speculation was correct? In a Biblical sense, the Exodus from Egypt and death of Christ could be candidates. In a historical sense, the founding of Rome, the founding of the Catholic Church, the East-West Schism, the First Crusade or the Reformation may all be candidates.

If Tolkien's statement of 6,000 years but that the Ages have quickened, I don't think it's unreasonable to assign the death of Christ and the founding of the Catholic Church to the end of the Fourth. That may make the Napoleonic Wars the end of the Fifth, given the threat of conquest from those, giving lengths of 4,000, 1,700 and 250 years to the Ages. Definitely quickening, but you could pick any two appropriate times to assign to the ends of the Ages and have it make equivalent sense.

There is an article published in the Tolkien Society's newsletter that attempts to calculate out the beginnings and ends of Ages without factoring in the potential quickening. It places the end of the Fourth to have just passed, in 2004.

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    Or perhaps the Reformation for the end of the Fifth, given his Catholicism? – Daniel Roseman Sep 5 '12 at 7:20
  • Neat answer! I would lean towards the Fifth Age ending at Jesus' death rather than the Fourth, just because the ~4000 year gap seems long. That would tend to break things into ~2000 year chunks, though it would loose the acceleration. – S. Albano Sep 5 '12 at 23:45
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Shouldn't the end of the Fourth Age be connected to the vast catastrophes which reshaped the world and created the modern geography? Then the Fifth Age could be all the time up to the 1950s when Tolkien wrote.

But if each age was about 3,000 years long the Fourth Age would have ended about 1000 BC which is too recent for world changing catastrophes. Then maybe the catastrophe which changed the shape of lands and seas could have been during the Fourth Age but long before the end, just as the Second Age lasted over a century after the Fall of Numenor.

Or maybe the ages are shorter now. Maybe the Fourth Age ended with the world changing catastrophe, the Fifth Age saw the beginning of recorded history up to the Birth or Crucifixion of Christ, and the end of the Sixth Age and beginning of the Seventh Age is in the recent past or near future.

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This is my first post here. I think that the collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations, which resulted in 400 years or so of "dark ages" could be a good candidate for the end of the Fourth Age. I have just read Eric H. Cline's 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed ,so that is the main source of my opinion. The Egyptian New Kingdom, Hittite Empire and Mycenaean Greeks were the three major players who all but disappeared at this time. The traditional reason (with which Tolkien would have been quite familiar in his lifetime) is the raids of the mysterious Sea Peoples. The ensuing Dark Ages were a time when literacy and many other achievements nearly disappeared.

For a fascinating introduction to the complex reasons for the calamity, check out Dr. Eric H. Cline on YouTube, https://youtu.be/hyry8mgXiTk.

And here is a link to Dr. Cline's world class credentials on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eric-H.-Cline/e/B001HCVOR8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1457122287&sr=1-3.

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    Welcome to the site! For most answers, it's best to clearly indicate what's canon and what's speculation; you might consider clarifying and linking to the sources you mention. – Milo P Mar 4 '16 at 19:38
  • Thank you Milo. I have now tried to do that. Will improve, I promise. – Deirdre1230 Mar 4 '16 at 20:18
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I think that it was the flood of the Persian gulf. Because it caused the men therein to flee to the comparatively desolate north of Mesopotamia which was the catalysts for Babylon for Assyria and Egypt. Sargon imposed time upon us then and the work day. The Persian gulf was back then named differently, it was Edin or Eden for which the four rivers United to form the great headwater of paradise. Unlike other ages the fourth ended by a natural rather than a Melkorite catastrophe. However now ages only end by our hand Christ's betrayal and the Bomb. We humans are now the Dark lord and there is nothing to stop us. We must see the light and halt our expansion.

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    Within the context of Tolkien's stories, I'm not sure that the Garden of Eden is a literal place. It seems more like a confusion of several different stories (with the key theological points still preserved). I mean, an account of the Fall is given in the Athrabeth, and being an older story and more prosaic it's probably (in-story) the more accurate one. And we get a paradise within the stories, which noticeably contains two trees (just like Eden) and from which some people are banished into the East. – pi4t Mar 26 at 3:30
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The place I start with this question is by thinking about what kind of event the end of the Fourth Age would have to be. The geography of Middle Earth at the time of Lord of the Rings is clearly very different to the world now. The timeframe doesn't allow anywhere near enough time for this to have been a gradual change (either by continental drift, or something more "fantasy"ish) so at some point between the start of the Fourth Age and the present day there must have been some kind of sudden and dramatic event, in which entire continents got reshaped. That sounds distinctly like the sort of thing that happens at the ends of ages. In fact, even if nothing else happened other than the whole world being reshaped, I'd say that alone would be enough to qualify for the start of a new age. Obviously this event must have occurred before recorded history. Since Tolkien thought we're now at the end of the Sixth Age, and doubtless considered Christ's death and resurrection to be the start of a new age, logically this world-shaping disaster must be the beginning of the Fifth Age (with Christ's coming the beginning of the Sixth).

I therefore believe that whenever the Fourth Age ended, it must have been in some terrible cataclysm which reshaped the whole world, and which happened before, or at the beginning of, recorded history.

This could, of course, simply be too long ago to find any records, but let's suppose it isn't, and it's an event that happened in our own stories. Are there any suitable events? The one which seems to fit the best in my opinion is the Flood. It sounds like a Middle-Earthish sort of event; similar to the downfall of Numenor but on a much vaster scale. The idea that Eru/God might change the world's geography while it was flooded to make it less blatantly supernatural seems fairly plausible, from the perspectives of both Tolkien's myths (it's more or less happened before at the end of the Second Age) and the Biblical account (where God is talking about remaking the world from scratch). It's also a story which appears (in various forms) in a lot of different cultures, which is what we'd expect if the whole world (or at least, what would become the Eurasian/African supercontinent) was flooded and there were only a few survivors. (I see no reason to assume that no one but Noah was preserved: if we're accepting Tolkien's myths then it's clear the earliest bits of Genesis can't all be literal historical descriptions. And Noah believing his family might be the only survivors seems quite sufficient to explain the Biblical account if you're willing to drop that assumption.)

I like this theory, partly because it has an interesting consequence. The most important family line to survive, the ones who are most "good" and given a special task by God, are apparently notably long-lived. And some of them have Numenorian sounding names - "Arphaxad" is the most obvious example. The language they would go on to develop has some apparent connections with the Elvish languages - "adam" being equivalent to "atan"/"edain", and "el" being used in connection with heaven and divinity. Could Noah be a distant heir of Aragorn and Arwen, in the same way that Aragorn himself was the heir of Elros, and hence of Beren and Luthien, and Tuor and Idril?

Of course, that would also make Abraham, the Jews, and Christ himself, a (very) distant part of that whole family tree. It would also (but I'm very much into speculation here) link back to that prophecy about the Dagor Dagorath, and how Turin would be the one to strike the killing blow to Morgoth. There's at least one Biblical prophecy which refers to David, but is clearly actually talking about the Messiah, the descendent and heir of David. Turin had no children, so Tuor's family line would presumably be his heirs. One could perhaps argue (and if the prophecy were real, people certainly would) that the Dagorath prophecy is talking about an heir of Turin, who like Turin would suffer unjustly due to Morgoth's particular attention being focussed on him.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. The question was if there was anything Tolkien had said about the events at the end of the Fourth Age, the question wasn't intended to invite speculation. – DavidW Mar 26 at 3:58
  • Technically, the OP just asked if there were "any writings or quotations", and didn't say that they had to come from Tolkien. And they were clearly willing to take Christianity's doctrines into account in their answer, since they gave their own (very plausible) speculation about the start of the Sixth Age being the Resurrection. Point taken though. – pi4t Mar 26 at 14:22

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