With the release of the children’s novel The Hobbit in 1937, J. R. R. Tolkien launched an entirely new world that would captivate readers for generations to come. His magnum opus The Lord of the Rings told the story of four little hobbits and the part they played in saving the world of Men by defeating the ultimate evil: Sauron and his One Ring of Power.
Peter Jackson re-introduced Tolkien’s Middle-earth to entirely new generations in his much-acclaimed movie trilogy Lord of the Rings, followed by the less well-received The Hobbit trilogy. Now, Amazon is working on a new television series set in Arda (Tolkien’s name for the Earth) during the Second Age.
The history of Tolkien’s universe is complicated, to say the least. We’ve put together this comprehensive timeline to take you through the entire history of Arda and Middle-earth. But please keep in mind that sometimes the on-screen versions conflict with the books, so this is much more of a general guide than a document set in stone. If you’d like to see an interactive map highlighting some of these events, check out The LOTR Project’s timeline.
If you’d like to skip back and forth through this guide, this list of shortcuts will hopefully make things a little easier:
- The Time Before the Creation of the World and the Beginning of Time
- The Years of Music
- The Beginning of Time
- Years of the Lamps
- Years of the Trees
- The First Age
- The Second Age
- The Third Age
- The Fourth Age
If you aren’t sure what this guide covers, here’s a list of relevant books and on-screen media in order within Middle-earth chronology. While many choose to read Tolkien’s books in order of publication history, chronological order is an interesting way to learn more about the ins and outs of Middle-earth.
Books by J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien
- The Silmarillion (Book, 1977)
- The Children of Hurin (Book, 2007)
- Beren and Luthién (Book, 2017)
- The Fall of Gondolin (Book, 2018)
- Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth (Book, 1980)
- The Hobbit (Book, 1937)
- The Lord of the Rings (Book, 1954–1955)
TV & Movies
- Untitled Amazon television series (Television series, estimated 2020)
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Movie, 2012)
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Movie, 2013)
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Movie, 2014)
- The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Movie, 2001)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Movie, 2002)
- The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Movie, 2003)
A note on time periods: Between the beginning of time and the First Age, years are given in Valian years. Valian years last between 9 and 10 regular years, according to Christopher Tolkien. Not all events have precise dates.