Getting Old Middle-Earth Style


The Elves called him  Iarwain Ben-adar, which means both 'old' and 'without father', he was probably a Maia spirit  ( or maybe a Vala ) who came to Middle-earth in the beginning of time. He was ( and still is )  an ancient enigma to us. Tom has mysterious origins but a very joyous nature, and he loves to speak in rhymes.  Arguably the oldest being of power in Middle-earth who was in no way affected by the One Ring. He was the Master of the Old Forest that lies en route to Bree.  I would not go as far as saying Tom Bombadil is Iluvatar , the Great Creator himself, but many believe he was. Age and the passing of time in Arda are not like in the real world. 

"Treebeard is Fangorn, the guardian of the forest; he is the oldest of the Ents, the oldest living thing that still walks beneath the Sun upon this Middle-Earth."
In this quote from The Return of the King, Tolkien  tell us clearly that Treebeard is the 'oldest-living thing', not a Maia spirit or Vala ( like Tom and Gandalf ) but a true living creature created at the beginning of time. But is he older than Tom Bombadil ? The answer is, no. Tom Bombadil said that he was in Middle- earth before even the first acorn, and so we can assume he was around even before the creation of the trees.  


Having established Tom is older than Treebeard, lets have a look at Gandalf - Gandalf is a  Maia spirit, created before the Years of the Lamps roughly 9,000 years before arriving to Middle-earth. In the Undying Lands of Valinor he was known as Olórin. He was sent to Middle-earth in human form around the year 1000 in the Third Age. That's more than 2000 years before the setting of The Lord of the Rings, to help the free peoples fight the evil of Sauron. Gandalf walked Middle-earth for approximately 2,019 years, without ageing and appearing as a grey bearded human of about 60 years old or so. He, Saruman and Sauron are approximately the same age. It's difficult to pin down his true age because time had little relevance before the Lamps were set in place. 11,000 years old is a minimum figure. He's likely much older.


Elves are naturally immortal. In addition to their immortality, Elves are immune to all diseases, and they can recover from wounds, however Elves can be slain by injuries and their own grief. The Elves are not free from change and ageing, either, but they aged in a different way than other races - The Elves become more weary and live more in the past. In Middle-earth, their bodies would slowly be consumed by their spirits until they were little more than ghosts, this is the reason why Elves would sailed back to Valinor  where they could escape their fate.


The concept of ageing in Arda is very complex, because it differs in nature between the races. Men, Hobbits and Dwarves life span varies - generally speaking, Men  and Hobbits in Middle-earth had a similar life expectancy as we do in the modern world today with some notable exceptions - Aragorn is a Dúnadan  and his royal Numenorian heritage makes him different from other Men. His life was considerably longer ( he is 87/88 when the quest of the Ring take place ) . Aragorn will die at the age of 210.


Dwarves average from 150-250 years of age. But of course there are exceptions to every rule. Dwalin for instance lived to the extraordinary age of 340. What happens after their death, though, is a mystery. The Elves have said that the Dwarves return to the stone from which they were made, but the Dwarves have a different belief. According to Dwarvish tradition, they are gathered by Mahal ( also known as  Aulë ) in the Halls of Mandos , waiting for The Last Battle and the end of the world. After that the Dwarves 's fate is one day to rebuild Arda.


And then there are Hobbits, peace-loving, rural folk, that love to eat, and live undisturbed in their beautiful Shire.  The second-oldest hobbit known, Gerontius "The Old” Took, lived for 130 years, which was considered exceptional and is very rare. He was only beaten by a certain Bilbo Baggins, whom we know had … extra help with that from a magic ring. Anything less than 80 in the Shire was probably considered an early death, probably caused by too few breakfasts over the cant have a hobbit starve. 

And so just like us, simple folk of Middle-earth ( with few rare exceptions ) are born, live, and will eventually die. There are not very different from us despite their lives in a high-fantasy story. We and them are all passengers on the same ship, taking the same journey and heading towards the same destination. From the moment we're born we all start getting older, however, how we travel to our ultimate destination and what we do along the way while we're getting there is entirely up to us, and is what ultimately will make the difference.

Take the time to look around and look for the beauty that is around you. Go and sit by the sea of Mithlond, or to the Lonely Mountain , or maybe take a small walk to the Shire, Are we getting old ? Yes we are, so the best thing to do is to have a good laugh, be nice, spend time with friends, learn to play the ukulele, and remember that one day we will be old enough to read fairy tales.

*Hobbit Hug*

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