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Middle-earth is a fictional fantasy world invented by J. R. R. Tolkien. Several of his books take place there, such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is supposed to be a long gone mythological time of our earth.
Although Middle-earth is only one continent in Tolkien's world, it is often used for the whole fictional world and all stories Tolkien invented for it. Tolkien created and worked on Middle-earth through most of his life, and it is this creation for which he is most famous.
Middle-earth has its own geography, several different species and peoples (elves, dwarves, humans, hobbits), their languages, and a history that spans thousands of years. The stories of Middle-earth are also a kind of 'artificial myth'.
The oldest people of Middle-earth are the immortal Elves. Second were the Dwarves. After them came mortal Men. In the Third Age, there appeared another people, the Hobbits. There are also the tree-like Ents.
The history of the Middle-earth world is thousands of years long. Sometimes, when big historical events happen, a new Age is begun, which starts counting again with the year 1.
- First Age: The First Age can be divided into the "First Age of the Trees" and the "First Age of the Sun". Saying a year and "First Age" often means a year in the "First Age of the Sun".
- First Age of the Trees: Begins at the creation of the Two Trees. During it are the Awakening of the Elves and the Dwarves. It ends with the destruction of the Two Trees.
- First Age of the Sun (590 years): Begins with the creation of the Sun and Moon, and ends with the War of Wrath, the final imprisonment of Morgoth and the destruction of Beleriand.
- Second Age (S.A., 3441 years): Begins after the end of the War of Wrath. During it is the destruction of Númenor (T.A. 3319). Ends with the defeat of Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance.
- Third Age (T.A., 3021 years): Begins after the Last Alliance defeated Sauron. During it are the events of The Hobbit (T.A. 2941) and the War of the Ring (T.A. 3018-3019). Ends with the destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron.
- Fourth Age: Follows the defeat of Sauron and the One Ring, but starts officially when the Bearers of the Rings left for the West. During this Age the Elves become less and leave, while the humans become the dominant people of Middle-earth.
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B