Part of the Second Age of Middle-earth Exploratory Series
As we explored in our introduction, ages of Middle-earth are ‘set’ according to major events. The ending of the Third Age (TA) and start of the Fourth Age (4A) was marked by the passing of the Three Elven Rings of Power (and the Ring Bearers) into the West in September of TA3021. But what brought about the Second Age? For that, we must naturally take step back to the ending of the First Age (FA). But don’t worry, I promise we’ll get there and it won’t take long.
Before Sauron was the Dark Lord of Middle-earth, he was a servant of an even greater Dark Lord: Morgoth (née Melkor). It would probably be unfair to call Sauron a mere lackey. But when compared to Morgoth, they are nonequivalent. Before the beginning of time, and prior to the creation of anything, there was Eru Ilúvatar, “The One” (i.e., God). Eru created a host of angelic beings known as the Ainur and these Ainur can be subdivided into the Valar and the Maiar.
The Valar are those who entered into Arda (the World) at its inception and worked to shape and form it to their design (and according to Eru’s plan). There were seven ‘Lords’ and seven ‘Queens’ among the Valar. Morgoth was counted among these Lords before his fall into evil. Indeed, he was counted as the ‘mightiest’ by Eru himself. Each Vala (singular form) was gifted with particular purpose. Ulmo was the Lord of Waters; Manwë was the Lord of the Airs; Aulë was the Lord of the material of the Earth (rock & stone, earth, etc.). Morgoth is said to have had a share in all these.
The Maiar were of the same order as the Valar but of less degree [The Silmarillion, pp.21]. They were servants of the Valar. Sauron was one such Maia (singular form), and was originally a servant of Aulë. It is interesting to note this, since Sauron went on to famously work with the “stuff of the earth” (gold) when making the One Ring. But Morgoth eventually corrupted many Maiar and swayed them to his cause. Sauron became chief among these servants.
What does all of this have to do with the Second Age? Keep your breeches on, fellow halfling. We’re nearly there. Throughout FA, Morgoth was ‘the big bad’ of Arda. His greatest desire was to hold all of Arda as his own. Indeed, he ‘named it unto himself’ very early on and, as you might imagine, the rest of the Valar who had a vested interest in the world they had helped to shape and form took umbrage with his claim. War ensued.
Furthermore, Morgoth stole some pretty fancy jewellery from the most powerful elf to have ever existed and, yes, he named them unto himself. [Aside: This always makes me think of Randy at the end of A Christmas Story. With every present he pulls out from under the tree, he gleefully shouts (with no obvious indication that he’s checked any labels whatsoever), “Oh boy! That’s mine!”] In any event, the elves, too, took umbrage with Morgoth’s claim. War ensued. (There’s a pattern.)
This leads us nicely to the War of Wrath. See, by around 500 years into the FA, folks had gotten so fed up with Morgoth that they sought aid from the Valar to end his tyranny. Long story short, the Valar listened. They, along with a host of Elves and Men, fought Morgoth at his fortress of Thangorodrim in the North of Middle-earth. Morgoth was defeated, Thangorodrim was destroyed, the First Age ended, and the Second Age began. (See? I told you we’d get there.)
Find the entirety of our Second Age Exploratory Series here.
- The Silmarillion