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The quote is from the Nature of Middle Earth p39.

since that is only - we being in 1960 of the 7th Age - 16000 years ago: total about 80,000

It appears the editor dates the text from 1960 A.D. according to this statement, which means, either there's some unknown text that equates 0 A.D. to the beginning of the 7th Age, or the year 1960 A. D. only happened to be in the 7th Age and was not necessarily connected with the 1960th year of the 7th Age.

I personally prefer the latter, and I'm eager to know what other readers think about this.


In a letter from 1958, Tolkien noted:

I imagine we are actually at the End of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh.

So if Tolkien meant by 1960 A.D. he was in the 7th Age, the statements agree with each other.

But if Tolkien meant he was in the 1960th year of the 7th Age, he was certainly not at the end of the 6th Age in 1958, and the editor would be wrong to date the text 1960 A.D. - unless of course, this isn't the "explicit statement"(p33) that's mentioned by the editor.

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  • 3
    FYI, there's no "0 AD"; the year before AD 1 is 1 BC.
    – jwodder
    Aug 17 at 15:38
  • Thanks! Didn't think it through. @jwodder
    – Eugene
    Aug 17 at 15:46
  • 1
    I wouldn't necessarily equate the two statements as being consistent. They were said at different times, and it's very likely that Tolkien changed his mind, especially seeing how much of the timeline he revised in 1959.
    – ibid
    Aug 17 at 15:56
  • do you have a preview copy? This hasn't been released yet afaik
    – NKCampbell
    Aug 17 at 15:58
  • 1
    @NKCampbell - You can read much of the book through online previews.
    – ibid
    Aug 17 at 15:59
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According to the editor, Tolkien meant the 1960th year of the 7th age

The full sentence is as follows:

Men had then existed for 448VYs + 22 SYs: i.e., 64,534 Sun Years, which, though doubtless insufficient scientifically (since that is only - we being in 1960 of the 7th Age - 16,000 years ago: total about 80,000), is adequate for purposes of the Silmarillion, etc.
The Nature of Middle-earth page 39

There are a couple of places where Hostetter makes clear in the commentary that he had interpreted this statement as meaning that Tolkien was equating Gregorian Calendar year 1960 with 7th age year 1960.

  • In the introduction to this text, Hostetter mentions an explicit 1960 date in the text, and "we being in 1960 of the 7th Age" is the only such statement in the manuscript that fits this description.

    The first version, which bears the title "The Awaking of the Quendi & position of Ingwë/Finwë/Elwë etc.", dates (according to an explicit statement in it) from 1960, and occupies the four sides of two sheets which Tolkien has lettered α-δ.
    The Nature of Middle-earth page 33

  • In a footnote on this paragraph, Hostetter makes a calculation assuming that Tolkien is writing 1,960 years into the 7th age.

    Therefore, if Men entered Beleriand in Bel. 310, and the First Age ended c. Bel. 600 (cf. XI:346), then that entrance occurred 290 + SA 3441 + TA 3021 = 6,752 years before the end of the Third Age. Assuming three additional ages, plus 1,960 years of the 7th Age as here, as having occurred about 16,000 years prior, would yield an average duration of the 4th through 6th Ages of: 16,000 - 1,960 - 6,752 = 7,288 ÷ 3 = c.2,430 years.
    The Nature of Middle-earth page 42

  • In an Appendix to the book, Hostetter offers a reason why 1960 years ago would have been a significant place to start the seventh age.

    p. 39: "we being in 1960 of the 7th Age .... "

    While many are familiar with the concept of named Ages of the World as found in classical mythology, e.g. the Golden Age, the Silver Age, etc., it is far less well known that the Catholic Church has long espoused a system of numbered Ages of the World, extending through at least a Sixth Age. Throughout Tolkien's life the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ, just before the start of the Christmas Vigil Mass, flatly stated that Christ was born "in the sixth age of the world". The text of the proclamation comes from the Martyrologium Romanum (Roman Martyrology), the Roman Rite Catholic Church's official list of martyrs and saints, with associated calendrical information.
    The Nature of Middle-earth page 402

As for Tolkien's letter for 1958, I would say that it isn't really that relevant for understanding this text, as Tolkien's opinion on his chronology was constantly changing at this point, especially in 1959. A non-definitive statement that he wrote to a fan in 1958 could have since been very easily rejected (and indeed other parts of the letter such as the 6,000 years number were rejected in the present text). Also, note the last couple of words Tolkien used in that letter do fit with his later statement.

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 S.A. and T.A. But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh.
October 1958 letter to Rhona Beare - The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #211

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  • I so missed the editor's footnotes, but concerning the Christian Ages argument, according to Wikipedia, Jesus' advent marked the end of the Fifth Age and the beginning of the Sixth.
    – Eugene
    Aug 18 at 0:06
  • I've always thought the note from the 1958 letter means he imagined he was in between the end of the Sixth Age and the Seventh, only he wasn't sure if the new Age had already started. Your interpretation is of course possible. But if Tolkien had initially intended his Sixth Age to match the Church's, wouldn't it be too significant for him to reject it later?
    – Eugene
    Aug 18 at 1:44
  • @Eugene - I also noticed the Wikipedia page, but it's not a subject I'm familiar with so I don't know if it's the same thing the commentary was referring to. And I think it's very probable that this text is a rejection/further refinement of the ideas in the letter, so it's fine if the two aren't consistent. (Hostetter does quote the letter, but two texts with different chronologies isn't exactly a rare occurrence in that book.)
    – ibid
    Aug 18 at 8:25

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