The Lord of The Rings is a conclusion of a story that started a long time ago, before there even were any rings. The events of the Peter Jackson movie adaptations take place during the Third Age of Middle-earth, but what made that possible began eons ago during the time of the First Age.
The First Age was the genesis of the realm of Arda, of which Middle-earth is one part. This was a time when there were only stars and moonlight, and the world was lit by the Two Trees and then by the Moon and Sun. During the First Age, the years were counted using YT, for Years of the Trees, and then using YS, which means Years of the Sun.
9 The Elves Awaken – YT 1050
Also known as the Firstborn, the Elves were one of two races first created by the most powerful of the supreme beings, Eru Ilúvatar. They awoke in a place called Cuiviénen, near a lake in the far eastern part of Middle-earth, and the Valar didn’t discover them for some time.
Unfortunately, Melkor found them first, and used malevolent spirits and other illusions to turn them against his fellow Valar, in particular Oromë. He was the Valar that roamed the expanse of Middle-earth, and when he discovered the Elves some of them fled. Those that stayed and came to know him, he named the Eldar, but the others were said to have been taken by Melkor to become the first Orcs.
8 Melkor Is Defeated And Bound – YT 1100
The story of Melkor’s rise to power in Middle-earth is its own story, and with the combined effort of the Valar, he was defeated for the first time. His strongest servant, a Maia known as Sauron, escaped rebuilding the forces of evil in secret. The Elves knew little of the battle and only saw it from afar.
As a Valar, Melkor could not be killed, but instead was brought before Mandos, the Valar that stands for judgment. Melkor was bound with a special chain, Angainor, and condemned to the Halls of Mandos for three eons.
7 The First Sundering Of The Elves – YT 1105
There were three sunderings of the Elven races during the First Age, and the first was after the Melkor was defeated. At that time, Middle-earth had been badly damaged, and Oromë summoned the Elves and offered them a place to stay in Aman, the location of Valinor, where the Valar also lived.
Not everyone was keen to leave Middle-earth, however, and many of the Elves refused to leave. The ones that followed Oromë continued to be known as the Eldar, but those that refused to take the Great Journey were named the Avari.
6 Durin And Daeron’s Runes – YT 1300
It wasn’t all about Elves, Men, and Melkor during this time. About a hundred years after the Elves had risen in the east, the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves also emerged from their sleep. The Dwarves had been created by the Valar Aulë but had to wait until the Firstborn had emerged before they could awaken. The only one of these that history remembers is Durin I, also known as Durin the Deathless.
It was not only the Dwarves that came to Middle-earth during this time but the writing system that would become their main alphabet was also developed by King Thingol and his most gifted loremaster, Daeron.
5 Fëanor Makes The Silmarils – YT 1450
The creation of the Silmarils might be the most important event in the history and lore of Middle-earth. Virtually everything that happened before them was but one step in their creation, and everything that came after was about who possessed them.
Fëanor, one of the most important characters who have yet to appear in an on-screen adaptation, created three jewels with the light of the Two Trees using a secret method that died with him. He was also the maker of the Palantiri and invented a script called Tengwar, which was used as the vernacular in his kingdom until the Third Age.
4 Ungoliant Destroys The Two Trees – YT 1495
After Melkor had the Elves under his sway, especially Fëanor, he turned on them. However, he was not powerful enough to act alone. He recruited the monstrous Ongoliant, a primordial creature that resembled a spider and devoured light and life as if it was food. She was a distant ancestor of Shelob, the beast aligned with Gollum in The Return Of The King.
Melkor promised Ungoliant that she could feed on the Two Trees if only she would help him defeat the Elves, in particular the stubborn Fëanor. By the time the Valar discovered the extent of the giant spider’s destruction, Fëanor received word that Melkor had attacked his home in his absence. His father was dead and the Silmarils were gone.
3 The Sun And Moon Are Created – YT 1500
Although the trees had been destroyed, part of their essence remained. Laurelin was the Gold Tree and left behind a single flower which became the Sun. A blossom from Telperion, the Silver Tree, became the moon.
The Valar assigned two of the Maiar to guide their new creations, Arien and Tilion. Arien was the embodiment of fire, and one of the few Maiar that could not be coerced or corrupted. Tilion was known to take elven form in Middle-earth, but as the bearer of the moon, he was a being of pure light.
2 The Recovery Of A Silmaril – YS 466
It wasn’t just the endearing love story that made them famous, but the impossible task they managed to achieve alone that no army or wizard could accomplish. Luthien’s father declared that she could only wed a hero brave enough to recover a Silmaril, and Beren took him seriously.
The gem they managed to recover was the same one returned to the Valar by Eärendil the Mariner. He called for aid not only against the forces of Melkor, now called Morgoth but also for protection from the Sons of Fëanor who were killing anyone they thought might possess a Silmaril.
1 Melkor Condemed To The Void – FA 590
Ironically, it wasn’t called the First Age until it was almost over. This was the year the Valar banished Morgoth from Middle-earth for good, sending him through the Door of Night into the Void and allowing Men, Elves, and the other various denizens of Middle-earth to live in peace.
For the second time, the Valar invited the Elves to join them but once again, some refused. Círdan the Shipwright chose to stay and guide his people from the Gray Havens. Galadriel and Celeborn stayed in their home of Lorien. Celebrimbor, the last of Feanor’s line, stayed to eventually forge the Rings of Power. Gil-galad became the High King of many Elven nations and Elrond would stay to help guide his brother Elros, and their descendants, as they became rulers of Men.
More: Lord Of The Rings Maiar Lore