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A Quick Synopsis of the History of the First and Second ages of Middle Earth

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I started this just to give some history of the Sun and the Moon in Tolkien's universe, but it turned into a synopsis of the First and Second ages of Middle-Earth. Skip it if it seems too long, but it is *much* shorter than reading the Silmarillion ;) 

In the mythology of Middle Earth, the world (Ea) is created by Eru (the One) through the mediation of the Ainur (angels); one of them falls from grace into evil (Melkor) and tries to rule the world; he calls many greater and lesser spirits to his aid, the chief of whom is Sauron, who becomes his most powerful servant. Others are the Balrogs (one of whom battles with Gandalf in the mines of Moria in LOTR)

During this time, the Ainur who came into the world to protect and nurture it (the Valar and Maiar; greater and lesser - FYI Gandalf and Saruman are Maiar, not a man or an Elf) create the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin, which give light to the world: Telperion is blue/white and Laurelin is golden. Telperion is the eldest, coming to light first. From its seed, lesser trees come (eventually Nimloth, the white tree of the King of Numenor, of which the seed came for the white tree of the King of Gondor in LOTR) The Valar are aware that elves and men will awaken soon, and make war on Melkor. He is defeated and imprisoned.

After this the elves awaken and are met by the Valar and travel across the sea to the west (Valinor) where they live with the Valar and Maiar for thousands of years. During this time, Feanor, the greatest of the Noldorin elves, creates the Silmarils, jewels that have trapped within them some of the light from Telperion and Laurelin.

(As a side note, Feanor also created the Seven Seeing Stones, the Palantir, which were later given to the men of Numenor and went with Elendil to Gondor at the end of the second age)

After thousands of years imprisoned, Melkor sues for pardon (falsely) and is released. He is envious of the elves, and lusts after the Silmarils. He makes a pact with Ungoliant (the mother of the giant, devouring spirits which appear as giant spiders - she is the foremother of Shelob from LOTR) and together they attack Valinor; they kill the two trees and steal the Silmarils. The world is plunged once again into darkness, as Melkor flees into Middle-earth. Feanor is stirred to wrath at the murder of his father and the stealing of the Silmarils, and leads the Noldorin elves back to Middle-earth in defiance of the Valar to lay siege to Melkor and return the Silmarils. Feanor renames Melkor as Morgoth, the "Black Enemy of the World". Amongst the elves that return is the greatest of elven women, Galadriel.

After the elves leave Valinor, the Valar take thought for the world in darkness. They try to heal the two trees, but only succeed in causing each tree to bear one fruit each. They are put in hallowed vessels and set to traverse the sky, steered by two Maiar. The fruit of Telperion is Isil, the Moon, and the fruit of Laurelin is Anar, the Sun. The first sunrise occurs when the elves first land back at Middle-earth from crossing the sea (Valinor and Middle-earth are sundered by a vast sea.)

Due to the defiance of the elves, they are left to their own in their battle with Morgoth. During this time, men awake and coming west meet the elves. The first union of men and elves comes from Beren (man) and Luthien (elf), who succeed in retrieving one of the Silmarils from Morgoth. In order for Luthien to be with Beren, she must give up her elvish immortality. Elwing, their grand-daughter weds Earendil, the son of the second union of men and elves: Tuor (man) and Idril (elf, daughter of Turgon, whose sword was Glamdring, which was found by Gandalf in "The Hobbit"). They have two sons, Elrond and Elros.

The Silmaril has passed to Earendil and Elwing, who together cross the sea and sue for pardon and aid on behalf of elves and men. The Valar answer their prayer, but Earendil and Elwing cannot return to Middle-earth; they and their sons must chose to be judged as men or elves. For themselves, they choose to be judged as elves and must remain in Valinor. Earendil and the Silmaril are given a vessel and sail the sky as a new morning star to show the impending doom of Morgoth. (Hence Galadriel's statement, "I give you the light of Earendil, our most beloved star...")

The Valar return to Middle-earth and make war with Morgoth; Morgoth is utterly defeated and thrust into the void, never to return. Sauron sues for pardon, but is commanded to return to Valinor to be tried. He flees into Middle-earth and hides. Most of the Balrogs and dragons are destroyed, save some few that flee and hide "in the dark places of the world" (e.g. the Balrog of Moria and the dragon Smaug from "The Hobbit"). Elrond chooses to be judged among the elves; Elros chooses to be judged as a man. Elrond retains elvish immortality, while Elros and his offspring are given a span of life many times that of normal men.

The Valar make a place near Valinor for the men who fought against Morgoth: the Isle of Numenor. Elros is the first king, and it is ruled by his descendents, of whom will come Elendil (not the king of Numenor, but a high lord).

About two thousand years pass; during this time, Sauron has approached the elves disguised as Annatar ("Lord of Gifts") and begins the forging of the rings of power. He creates the one ring, and begins to make war with the elves. Sauron begins to claim the title "Lord of the earth". Also, many of the Numenoreans (including many of the kings) have become somewhat corrupt, some of them desiring the unending life of the elves and hating the choice of Elros.

In his pride, the king of Numenor will not stand for Sauron claiming this title. He makes war with Sauron. Sauron allows himself to be taken prisoner and taken to Numenor, where he corrupts the king and most of his people. Elendil and his sons remain faithful. At Sauron's demand, the white tree of Numenor is to be destroyed; Isildur steals a fruit from it before it is destroyed.

Sauron fully corrupts the king and convinces him that eternal life will be his if he takes and rules Valinor. The king goes to make war with Valinor, but instead, all of Numenor falls into the sea as the world is made round and Valinor is removed from the places of the earth, so that no sea can bear one from Middle-Earth to Valinor. Elendil and his sons, along with the remaining faithful return to Middle-Earth, riding the wave of destruction. Once they arrive in Middle-Earth, they found the realms of Arnor and Gondor. Sauron returns from the destruction of Numenor and makes war on the elves and the men of Numenor. The second age ends in the death of Elendil and the cutting of the ring from Sauron's hand.

By the way, the Isle of Numenor is named "The Downfallen", or Atalantë in Quenya (high elven). It would be what is later remembered as "Atlantis" :) 

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