A map of the Northwestern part of Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).
A map of the Northwestern part of Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).

Middle-earth is the name used for J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional ancient Earth where the post-1937 stories in his legendarium take place. "Middle-earth" is a literal translation of the Old English term Middangeard, referring to this world, the habitable lands of men. The term is not synonymous with the Elvish name of a continent called Endor or Ennor (in the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin, respectively). Mythologically, the Endor continent became the Eurasian land-mass after the primitive Earth was transformed into the round world of today.

Although Middle-earth's setting is often thought to be another world, it is actually a fictional period in our Earth's own past 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Tolkien insisted that Middle-earth is our Earth in several of his letters. The action of the books is largely confined to the north-west of the Endor continent, corresponding to modern-day Europe, and little is known about the other regions of ancient Middle-earth.

The history of Middle-earth is divided into several Ages: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings deal exclusively with events towards the end of the Third Age and conclude at the dawn of the Fourth Age, while The Silmarillion deals mainly with the First Age. The world (Arda) was originally flat but was made round near the end of the Second Age by Eru Ilúvatar, the Creator.

Much of our knowledge of Middle-earth is based on writings that Tolkien did not finish for publication during his lifetime. In these cases, this article is based on the version of the Middle-earth legendarium that is considered canonical by most Tolkien fans, as discussed under Middle-earth canon.


The name

The term "Middle-earth" was not invented by Tolkien, rather it existed in Old English as middanġeard, in Middle English as midden-erd or middel-erd; in Old Norse it was called Midgard. It is English for what the Greeks called the οικουμένη (oikoumenē) or "the abiding place of men", the physical world as opposed to the unseen worlds (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 151). The word Mediterranean comes from two Latin stems, medi, middle, and terra, earth.

Middangeard occurs half-a-dozen times in Beowulf, which Tolkien translated and on which he was arguably the world's foremost authority. (See also J. R. R. Tolkien for discussion of his inspirations and sources). See Midgard and Norse mythology for the older use.

Tolkien was also inspired by this fragment:

Eala earendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended.
Hail Earendel, brightest of angels / above the middle-earth sent unto men.

in the Crist poem of Cynewulf. The name earendel (which may mean the 'morning-star' but in some contexts was a name for Christ) was the inspiration for Tolkien's mariner Eärendil.

The name was consciously used by Tolkien to place The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and related post-1937 writings.

Tolkien began to use the term "Middle-earth" after he abandoned his earlier mythological inventions in favor of creating a generic mythology for northern Europe which encompassed a whole world concept. "Middle-earth", when used by Tolkien, refers to the whole world and not to any specific part of it. Many people incorrectly apply the name to the lands described in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In ancient Germanic and Old Norse mythology, the universe was believed to consist of nine physical worlds joined together. The world of Men, the Middle-earth, lay in the center of this universe. The lands of Elves, Gods, and Giants lay across an encircling sea. The land of the Dead lay beneath the Middle-earth. A rainbow bridge, Bifrost, extended from Middle-earth to Asgaard across the sea. An outer sea encircled the seven other worlds (Vanaheim, Asgaard, Alfheim, SvartAlfheim, Muspellheim, Nidavellir, and Jotunheim). In this conception, a "world" was more equivalent to a racial homeland than a physically separate world.

In his original mythology, The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien skirted the issue of Germanic worlds by confining his stories to the lands that later became England and a mythological "other world" (Faerie). After abandoning The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien devised a new mythology set in an imaginary northern land with no real connection to any modern continent. This imaginary land was part of a mythological "flat Earth" that resembled the Germano-Norse universe. But the flat Earth was envisioned more as a ship sailing through space, rather than an all-ecompassing physical universe. The flat Earth was divided into mortal lands (the lands of Men) and immortal lands (the lands of the Valar, whom men believed to be gods).

In the late 1930s, while composing a poorly imagined sequel to The Hobbit, Tolkien merged the imaginary flat world of his Silmarillion mythology with the vague lands of The Hobbit and the mysterical island of Numenor (which Tolkien had devised for his Atlantis mythology). He enlarged the landscape of the primary region in the stories to produce what people now think of as "Middle-earth" (although Tolkien said this region was only approximately equivalent to modern Europe and nearby lands). From this point forward, Middle-earth became a separate, distinct mythological "ancient Earth" with no connection to the previous mythologies.

The name "Middle-earth" is often misspelled "Middle Earth" or "Middle-Earth" by the popular media. Many people identify Middle-earth with Arda, although because of the additions of separate physical bodies like the Sun and Moon, Tolkien himself came to identify Arda with the Solar System. The Silmarillion uses "Arda" as an Elvish name for the entire pre-Downfall of Numenor world, which included the Endor continent, Aman, and other (now lost or changed) lands.

The world

Main article: Arda

A speculative map of Ambar before the end of the First Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).
A speculative map of Ambar before the end of the First Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).

Some people speculate that if the map of Middle-earth is projected on our real Earth (a rough approximation at best), and some of the most obvious climatological, botanical, and zoological similarities are aligned, the Hobbits' Shire might lie in the temperate of England, Gondor might lie in the Mediterranean Italy and Greece, Mordor in the arid Turkey and Middle East, South Gondor and Near Harad in the deserts of Northern Africa, Rhovanion in the forests of Germany and the steppes of Western and Southern Russia, and the Ice Bay of Forochel in the fjords of Norway. According to Tolkien, there are no exact physical correlations between the countries of Middle-earth and modern-day regions.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are presented as Tolkien's retelling of events depicted in the Red Book of Westmarch, which was written by Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, and other Hobbits, and corrected and annotated by one or more Gondorian scholars. Like Shakespeare's King Lear or Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, the tales occupy a historical period that could not have actually existed. Dates for the length of the year and the phases of the moon, along with descriptions of constellations, firmly fix the world as Earth, no longer than several thousand years ago. Years after publication, Tolkien 'postulated' in a letter that the action of the books takes place roughly 6,000 years ago, though he was not certain.

Tolkien wrote extensively about the linguistics, mythology and history of the world, which provide back-story for these stories.

Many writings which preceded the Middle-earth mythology, but which served as sources and inspirations for the mythology, with the exception of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, were edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher.

Notable among them is The Silmarillion, which provides a Bible-like creation story and description of the cosmology of includes Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the primary source of information about Valinor, Númenor, and other lands. Also notable are Unfinished Tales and the multiple volumes of The History of Middle-earth, which includes incomplete stories and essays as well as detailing the development of Tolkien's various mythologies from early drafts through the last writings of his life.


Main article: Ainulindalë

The supreme deity of Tolkien's universe is called Eru Ilúvatar. In the beginning, Ilúvatar created spirits named the Ainur and he taught them to make music. After the Ainur had become proficient in their skills, Ilúvatar commanded them to make a great music based on a theme of his own design. The most powerful Ainu, Melkor, Tolkien's equivalent of Satan, disrupted the theme, and in response Ilúvatar introduced new themes that enhanced the music beyond the comprehension of the Ainur. The movements of their song laid the seeds of much of the history of the as yet unmade universe and the people who were to dwell therein.

Then Ilúvatar stopped the music and he revealed its meaning to the Ainur through a Vision. Moved by the Vision, many of the Ainur felt a compelling urge to experience its events directly. Ilúvatar therefore created , the universe itself, and the some of the Ainur went down into the universe to share in its experience. But upon arriving in Eä, the Ainur found it was shapeless because they had entered at the beginning of Time. The Ainur undertook great labors in these unnamed "ages of the stars", in which they shaped the universe and filled it with many things far beyond the reach of Men. In time, however, the Ainur formed Arda, the abiding place of the Children of Ilúvatar, Elves and Men. The fifteen most powerful Ainur are called the Valar, of whom Melkor was the most powerful, but Manwë was the leader. The Valar settled in Arda to watch over it and help prepare it for the awakening of the Children.

Arda began as a single flat world, which the Valar gave light to through two immense lamps. Melkor destroyed the lamps and brought darkness to the world. The Valar retreated to the extreme western regions of Arda, where they created the Two Trees to give light to their new homeland. After many ages, the Valar imprisoned Melkor to punish and rehabilitate him -- and to protect the awakening Children. But when Melkor was released on parole he poisoned the Two Trees. The Valar took the last two living leaves of the Two Trees and used them to create the Moon and Sun, which remained a part of Arda but were separate from Ambar (the world).

Before the end of the Second Age, when the Men of Numenor rebelled against the Valar, Ilúvatar destroyed Numenor, separated Valinor from the rest of Arda, and formed new lands, making the world round. Only Endor remained of the original world, and Endor had now become Eurasia.


J.R.R. Tolkien never defined the geography for the entire world associated with 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings'. In 'The Shaping of Middle-earth', volume IV of 'The History of Middle-earth', Christopher Tolkien published several remarkable maps of a "flat Earth" which his father had devised for the first Silmarillion mythology. These maps were cannibalized by Karen Wynn Fonstad to project possible compatible but enirely non-canonical "whole world maps" reflecting a world consistent with the historical ages depicted in 'The Silmarillion', 'The Hobbit', and 'The Lord of the Rings'.

The only maps ever prepared by Christopher Tolkien and/or J.R.R. Tolkien for the world encompassing 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' were published as foldouts or illustrations in 'The Hobbit', 'The Lord of the Rings', and 'The Silmarillion'. Early conceptions of the maps provided in 'The Silmarillion' and 'The Lord of the Rings' were included in several volumes, including "The First Silmarillion Map" in 'The Shaping of Middle-earth', "The First Map of the Lord of the Rings" in 'The Treason of Isengard', "The Second Map (West)" and "The Second Map (East)" in 'The War of the Ring', and "The Second Map of Middle-earth west of the Blue Mountains" (also known as "The Second Silmarillion Map") in 'The War of the Jewels'.

None of these maps are consistent with the several "flat Earth" maps, and the extraordinary "flat Earth" concept only survived into the Middle-earth mythology (established in print by the 1950 and later editions of 'The Hobbit' and all editions of 'The Lord of the Rings', 'The Adventures of Tom Bombadil', 'The Road Goes Ever On', and 'The Silmarillion') as a narrative structure which was not illustrated in any capacity by either J.R.R. Tolkien.

Any discussion of the geography of Arda (prior to the changes which resulted in the enlargement of Arda to become what Tolkien identified as the Solar System) can only be speculative and fraught with conflicts and contradictions.

The Endor continent, which in the "flat Earth" phase of Middle-earth's mythological history was only one of several which were later either reshaped or taken away from the world (identified by Tolkien as "Ambar" in several texts, but also identified as "Imbar", the Habitation, in later post-LoTR texts), was originally conceived of (by Tolkien, in the earlier Silmarillion mythologies) as conforming to a largely symmetrical scheme which was marred by Melkor. The symmetry was defined by two large sub-continents, one in the north and one in the south, which each boasted two long chains of mountains in the eastward and westward regions. The mountain chains were given names based on colors (White Mountains, Blue Mountains, Grey Mountains, and Red Mountains).

The various conflicts with Melkor resulted in the shapes of the lands being distorted. Originally, there was a single inland body of water, in the midst of which was set the island of Almaren where the Valar lived. When Melkor destroyed the lamps of the Valar which gave light to the world, two vast seas were created, but Almaren and its lake were destroyed. The northern sea became the Sea of Helcar (Helkar). The lands west of the Blue Mountains became Beleriand (meaning, "the land of the Valar"). Melkor raised the Misty Mountains to impede the progress of the Vala Orome as he hunted Melkor's beasts during the period of darkness prior to the awakening of the Elves.

At some time, possibly during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, the inland sea of Helcar was destroyed. Only a remnant of it, the inland sea of Rhun (which appears on the maps for 'The Lord of the Rings'). The violent struggles between the Host of the Valar and the armies of Morgoth at the end of the First Age brought about the destruction of Beleriand, and it seems reasonable to infer that Helcar was destroyed at this time as well.

From the time of the destruction of the two lamps until the time of the Downfall of Numenor, Ambar was supposed to be a "flat world", in that its habitable land-masses were all arranged on one side of the world, the shape of which Tolkien did not specify. It is generally assumed that he envisioned a disk-like face for the world which looked up to the stars. A western continent, Aman, was the home of the Valar (and the Eldar). The middle lands, Endor, are generally identified with "Middle-earth". The eastern continent was not inhabited.

When Melkor poisoned the Two Trees of the Valar and fled from Aman back to Endor, the Valar created the Sun and the Moon, which were separate bodies (from Ambar) but still parts of Arda (the Realm of the Children of Iluvatar). The Middle-earth mythology presupposes that Arda became a system of separate bodies traversing the universe at that time. A few years after publishing 'The Lord of the Rings', in a note associated with the unique narrative story "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth" (which is said to occur in Beleriand during the War of the Jewels), Tolkien equated Arda with the Solar System -- because Arda by this point consisted of more than one heavenly body.

According to the accounts in both 'The Silmarillion' and 'The Lord of the Rings', when Ar-Pharazon invaded Aman to seize immortality from the Valar, they laid down their guardianship of the world and Iluvatar intervened, destroying Numenor, removing Aman "from the circles of the world", and reshaping Ambar into the round world of today. "Akallabeth" says that the Numenoreans who survived the Downfall sailed as far west as they could in search of their ancient home, but their travels only brought them around the world back to their starting points. Hence, before the end of the Second Age, the transition from "flat Earth" to "round Earth" had been completed.

The Endor continent became approximately equivalent to the Eurasia'n land-mass, but Tolkien had proceeded too far with his fictional geography to provide any realistic correlations between the narrative of 'The Lord of the Rings' and Europe or near-by lands. It is therefore assumed that the reader understands the world underwent a subsequent undocumented transformation (which some people speculate Tolkien would have equated with the Biblical deluge) sometime after the end of the Third Age.


Main article: List of Middle-earth peoples

Middle-earth is home to several distinct intelligent species. First are the Ainur, angelic beings created by Ilúvatar. The Ainur sing for Ilúvatar, who creates Eä to give existence to their music in the cosmological myth called the "Ainulindalë", or "Music of the Ainur". Some of the Ainur then enter Eä, and the greatest of these are called the Valar. Melkor (later called "Morgoth"), the chief personification of evil in Eä, is initially one of the Valar.

The other Ainur who enter Eä are called the Maiar. In the First Age the most active Maia is Melian, wife of the Elven King Thingol; in the Third Age the Maiar are represented by the Istari (called Wizards by Men), including Gandalf and Saruman. There were also evil Maiar, called Umaiar, including the Balrogs and the second Dark Lord Sauron.

Later come the Children of Ilúvatar: Elves and Men, intelligent beings created by Ilúvatar alone. The Silmarillion tells how Elves and Men awaken and spread through the world. The Dwarves are said to have been made by the Vala Aulë, who offered to destroy them when Ilúvatar confronted him. Ilúvatar forgives Aulë's transgression and adopts the Dwarves. Three tribes of Men who ally themselves with the Elves of Beleriand in the First Age are called the Edain.

As a reward for their loyalty and suffering in the Wars of Beleriand, the descendants of the Edain are given the island of Numenor to be their home. But after more than two thousand years of peace and prosperity, many of the Numenoreans become resentful of their mortality. Led by their kings, they rebell and seek to force the Valar to grant them immortality. A few Numenoreans who remained faithful survive the destruction of Numenor. Settling in the northern lands of Endor, they found the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. They are then known as the Dunedain, whereas other Numenorean survivors, still devoted to evil but living far to the south, become known as the Black Numenoreans.

Tolkien identified Hobbits as an offshoot of the race of Men. Although their origins and ancient history are not known, Tolkien implied that they settled in the Vales of Anduin early in the Third Age, but after a thousand years the Hobbits began migrating west over the Misty Mountains into Eriador. Eventually, many Hobbits settled in the Shire.

After they are granted true life by Ilúvatar, Aulë lays the Dwarves to sleep in hidden mountain locations. Ilúvatar awakens the Dwarves only after the Elves have awakened. The Dwarves spread throughout northern Endor and eventually found seven kingdoms. Two of these kingdoms, Nogrod and Belegost, befriend the Elves of Beleriand against Morgoth in the First Age. But the greatest Dwarf kingdom is Khazad-dum, later known as Moria.

The Ents, shepherds of the trees, are created by Ilúvatar at the Vala Yavanna's request to protect trees from the deprivations of Elves, Dwarves, and Men.

Orcs and Trolls are evil creatures bred by Morgoth; they are not original creations but rather "mockeries" of Elves and Ents. Within the depest pits of Utamno, in the First Age of Stars, it is said Melkor committed his greatest blasphemy. For in that time he captured many of the newly risen race of Elves and took them to his dungeons, and with hideous acts of torture he made ruined and terrible forms of life. From these he bred a Goblin race of slaves who were as loathsome as Elves were fair. These were the Orcs, a multitude brought forth in shapes twisted by pain and hate.

Seemingly sapient animals also appear, such as the Eagles, Huan the Great Hound from Valinor, and the Wargs. The Eagles are created by Ilúvatar along with the Ents, but in general these animals' origins and nature are unclear. Some of them might be Maiar in animal form, or perhaps even the offspring of Maiar and normal animals.


Main article: Languages of Middle-earth

Tolkien devised two main Elven languages which would later become known to us as Quenya, spoken by the Noldor and some Teleri, and Sindarin, spoken by the Elves who stayed in Beleriand (see below). These languages were related, and a Common Eldarin form ancestral to them both is postulated.

Other languages of the world include

History of Middle-earth

Main article: History of Arda

The history of Middle-earth is divided into three time periods, known as the Years of the Lamps, Years of the Trees and Years of the Sun. The Years of the Sun are further subdivided into Ages. Most Middle-earth stories take place in the first three Ages of the Sun.

The Years of the Lamps began shortly after the Valar finished their labors in shaping Arda. The Valar created two lamps to illuminate the world, and the Vala Aulë forged great towers, one in the furthest north, and another in the deepest south. The Valar lived in the middle, at the island of Almaren. Melkor's destruction of the two Lamps marked the end of the Years of the Lamps.

A speculative map of Aman during the Second Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).
A speculative map of Aman during the Second Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).

Then Yavanna made the Two Trees named Telperion and Laurelin in the land of Aman. The Trees illuminated Aman, leaving the rest of Arda in darkness, illuminated only by the stars. The Elves awoke beside Lake Cuiviénen in the east of Endor, and were soon approached by the Valar. Many of the Elves were persuaded to undertake the Great Journey westwards towards Aman, but not all of them completed the journey (see Sundering of the Elves). The Valar had imprisoned Melkor but he appeared to repent and was released on parole. He sowed great discord among the Elves and stirred up rivalry between the Elven princes Fëanor and Fingolfin. He then slew their father, king Finwë and stole the Silmarils, three gems crafted by Fëanor that contained light of the Two Trees, from his vault, and destroyed the Trees themselves.

Fëanor persuaded most of his people, the Noldor, to leave Aman in pursuit of Melkor to Beleriand, cursing him with the name 'Morgoth' (Black Enemy). Fëanor led the first of two groups of Noldor. The larger group was led by Fingolfin. The Noldor stopped at the Teleri's port-city, Alqualondë, but the Teleri refused to give them ships to get to Middle-earth. The first Kinslaying thus ensued, Fëanor and many of his followers attacked the Teleri and stole their ships. Fëanor's host sailed on the stolen ships, leaving Fingolfin's behind to cross over to Middle-earth through the deadly Helcaraxë (or Grinding Ice) in the far north. Subsequently Fëanor was slain, but most of his sons survived and founded realms, as did Fingolfin and his heirs.

A map of Beleriand during the First Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).
A map of Beleriand during the First Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).

The First Age of the Years of the Sun began when the Valar made the Sun and it rose over the world, Imbar. After several great battles, a Long Peace ensued for four hundred years, during which time the first Men entered Beleriand by crossing over the Blue Mountains. When Morgoth broke the siege of Angband, one by one the Elven kingdoms fell, even the hidden city of Gondolin. The only measurable success achieved by Elves and Men came when Beren of the Edain and Luthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, retrieved a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. Afterward, Beren and Luthien died, and were restored to life by the Valar with the understanding that Luthien was to become mortal and Beren should never be seen by Men again.

Thingol quarreled with the Dwarves of Nogrod and they slew him, stealing the Silmaril. With the help of Ents, Beren waylaid the Dwarves and recovered the Silmaril, which he gave to Luthien. Soon afterward, both Beren and Luthien died again. The Silmaril was given to their son Dior Half-Elven, who had restored the Kingdom of Doriath. The sons of Fëanor demanded that Dior surrender the Silmaril to them, and he refused. The Fëanorians destroyed Doriath and killed Dior in the second Kinslaying, but Dior's young daughter Elwing escaped with the jewel. The three sons of Fëanor; Celegorm, Curufin and Caranthir died trying to retake the jewel.

By the end of the age, all that remained of the free Elves and Men in Beleriand was a settlement at the mouth of the River Sirion. Among them was Eärendil, who married Elwing. But the Fëanorians again demanded the Silmaril be returned to them, and after their demand was rejected they resolved to take the jewel by force, leading to the third Kinslaying. Eärendil and Elwing took the Silmaril across the Great Sea, to beg the Valar for pardon and aid. The Valar responded. Melkor was captured and executed and most of his works destroyed.

The Silmarils were recovered at a terrible cost, as Beleriand itself was broken and began to sink under the sea. Feanor's remaining sons Maedhros and Maglor were ordered to return to Valinor. They proceded to steal the Simarils from the victorious Valar. But the power of the Simarils was too great for them to hold. Each of the brothers met their fate, one falling into the chasm of fire and the other into the sea.

Thus began the Second Age of the Sun. The Edain were given the island of Númenor toward the west of the Great Sea as their home, while many Elves were welcomed into the West. The Númenoreans became great seafarers, but also became increasingly jealous of the Elves for their immortality. But after a few centuries, Sauron, Morgoth's chief servant, began to organize evil creatures in the eastern lands. He persuaded Elven smiths in Eregion to create Rings of Power, and secretly forged the One Ring to control the other rings. But the Elves became aware of Sauron's plan as soon as he put the One Ring on his hand, and they removed their own Rings before he could master their wills.

A map of Númenor during the Second Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).
A map of Númenor during the Second Age, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/).

The last Númenorean king Ar-Pharazôn, by the strength of his army, humbled even Sauron and brought him to Númenor as a hostage. But with the help of the One Ring, Sauron deceived Ar-Pharazôn and convinced the king to invade Aman, promising immortality for all those who set foot on the Undying Lands. Amandil, chief of those still faithful to the Valar, tried to sail west to seek their aid. His son Elendil and grandsons Isildur and Anárion prepared to flee east to Middle-earth. When the King's forces landed on Aman, the Valar called for Ilúvatar to intervene. The world was changed, and Aman was removed from Imbar. From that time onward, Men could no longer find Aman, but Elves seeking passage in specially hallowed ships received the grace of using the Straight Road, which led from Middle-earth's seas to the seas of Aman. Númenor was utterly destroyed, and with it the fair body of Sauron, but his spirit endured and fled back to Middle-Earth. Elendil and his sons escaped to Endor and founded the realms of Gondor and Arnor. Sauron soon rose again, but the Elves allied with the Men to form the Last Alliance and defeated him. His One Ring was taken from him by Isildur, but not destroyed.

The Third Age saw the rise in power of the realms of Arnor and Gondor, and their decline. By the time of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron had recovered much of his former strength, and was seeking the One Ring. He discovered that it was in the possession of a Hobbit and sent out the nine Ringwraiths to retrieve it. The Ring-bearer, Frodo Baggins, traveled to Rivendell, where it was decided that the Ring had to be destroyed in the only way possible: casting it into the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo set out on the quest with eight companions—the Fellowship of the Ring. At the last moment he failed, but with the intervention of the creature Gollum—who was saved by the pity of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins—the Ring was nevertheless destroyed. Frodo with his companion Sam Gamgee were hailed as heroes. Sauron was destroyed forever and his spirit dissipated.

The end of the Third Age marked the end of the dominion of the Elves and the beginning of the dominion of Men. As the Fourth Age began, many of the Elves who had lingered in Middle-earth left for Valinor, never to return; those who remained behind would "fade" and diminish. The Dwarves eventually dwindled away as well. The Dwarves eventually returned in large numbers and resettled Moria. Peace was restored between Gondor and the lands to the south and east. Eventually, the tales of the earlier Ages became legends, the truth behind them forgotten.


Works by Tolkien

Tolkien died in 1973. All further works were edited by Christopher Tolkien. Only The Silmarillion portrays itself as a finished work — the others are collections of notes and draft versions.

The History of Middle-earth series:

Works by others

A small selection of the dozens of books about Tolkien and his worlds:



In letter #202 to Christopher Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien set out his policy regarding film adaptions of his works: "Art or Cash". He sold the film rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1969 after being faced with a sudden tax bill. They are currently in the hands of Tolkien Enterprises, which has no relation to the Tolkien Estate, which retains film rights to The Silmarillion and other works.

The first adaption to be shown was The Hobbit in 1977, made by Rankin-Bass studios. This was initially shown on United States television.

The following year (1978), a movie entitled The Lord of the Rings was released, produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi; it was an adaption of the first half of the story, using rotoscope animation. Although relatively faithful to the story, it was neither a commercial nor a critical success.

In 1980, Rankin-Bass produced a TV special covering roughly the last half of The Lord of the Rings, called The Return of the King. However, this did not follow on directly from the end of the Bakshi film.

Plans for a live-action version would wait until the late 1990s to be realised. These were directed by Peter Jackson and funded by New Line Cinema with backing from the New Zealand government and banking system.

The films were a huge box office and critical success and together won seventeen Oscars (at least one in each applicable category for a fictional, English language, live-action feature film, except in the acting categories). However, in adapting the works to film, changes in the storyline and characters offended some fans of the books.


The works of Tolkien have been a major influence on role-playing games along with others such as Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock. Although the most famous game to be inspired partially by the setting was Dungeons & Dragons, there have been two specifically Middle-earth based and licensed games. These are the Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game from Decipher Inc. and the Middle Earth Role Play game (MERP) from Iron Crown Enterprises.

Simulations Publications created three war games based on Tolkien's work. War of the Ring covered most of the events in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Gondor focused on the battle of Pelennor Fields, and Sauron covered the Second Age battle before the gates of Mordor. A war game based on the Lord of the Rings movies is currently being produced by Games Workshop.

The computer game Angband is a free roguelike D&D-style game that features many characters from Tolkien's works. The most complete list of Tolkien-inspired computer games can be found at http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/

EA Games has released games for the gaming consoles and the PC platform. These include The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Battle for Middle Earth, and The Third Age. Vivendi released The Fellowship of the Ring while Sierra created The War of the Ring, both games that proved highly unsuccessful.

Apart from this game, many commercial computer games have been released. Some of these derived their rights from the Estate, such as The Hobbit — others from the movie and merchandising rights.

External links


  • Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm) - a large online source for the names from Tolkien's works. Many of the entries are incomplete, as it is constantly being updated, and some are incorrect. It has been used as a source.
  • Lord of the Rings Library (http://www.lotrlibrary.com/) - another online source for Middle Earth facts.
  • Ardalambion (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf) - This is a great site for anyone who wants to delve into the languages of Middle-earth. Recommended for anyone who wants to learn Quenya.
  • The Tolkien Wiki (http://www.thetolkienwiki.org) - The first wikiweb dedicated to the literary works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Contains a compendium, book-descriptions, essays, FAQ, etc..
  • The One Ring.net (http://fan.theonering.net) - A site with multiple examples of Tolkien Fanart, Fanwriting, and a little bit of facts.
  • The Lord of the Rings official movie site (http://www.lordoftherings.net) - the official movie site. It contains information on the movie and the books.
  • Ted Nasmith - Tolkien Illustrations (http://www.tednasmith.com/tolkien.html) - The website of Tolkien illustrator Ted Nasmith, which includes galleries of illustrations for several books.
  • Tolkien Gateway (http://tolkiengateway.net) - Tolkien site with tons of information on the books, movies, music, games, langauges, etc.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium

Works published during his lifetime
The Hobbit | The Lord of the Rings | The Adventures of Tom Bombadil | The Road Goes Ever On

Posthumous publications
The Silmarillion | Unfinished Tales | The History of Middle-earth (12 volumes) | Bilbo's Last Song

Lists of Wikipedia articles about Middle-earth
by category | by name | writings | characters | peoples | rivers | realms | ages


de:Tolkiensches Universum es:Tierra Media fr:Terre du Milieu it:Terra di Mezzo ko:가운데땅 hu:Középfölde nl:Midden-aarde no:Midgard (Tolkien) ja:中つ国 (トールキン) pl:Śródziemie fi:Keski-Maa sl:Srednji svet sv:Tolkiens Midgĺrd


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