The recent releases of the volume The Fall of Númenor and the series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power raise the question: What is the significance of the Second Age of Tolkien’s legendarium? This article suggests that Tolkien conceived of the Second Age as parallel to the Middle Ages in our world, which were the focus of his academic career in his studies of Old and Middle English language and literature. As various frameworks and overviews for the legendarium demonstrate, Tolkien thought of the Second Age, like the Middle Ages, as uniquely looking backwards and forwards in time. At the same time, the incomplete and fragmentary nature of the stories from the Second Age—in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and various volumes of The History of Middle-Earth—shows that Tolkien was unsuccessful in creating a center and meaning to his legendarium. Instead of creating hope for improvement, they ultimately always exposed the corruption, decay, decline, and failure at the center of the human experience.
"Second Age, Middle Age,"
Journal of Tolkien Research: Vol. 15:
2, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholar.valpo.edu/journaloftolkienresearch/vol15/iss2/6