"Those were the Fading Years, and in them the last flowering of the Elves
east of the Sea
came to its winter."
Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
in The Silmarillion
A name given to the time before the Dominion of Men, in which Elves, Dwarves and other stranger beings still dwelt in Middle-earth. The Fading Years were reckoned to have ended with the passing of the Keepers of the Three Rings at the end of the Third Age, though it would still be some time before Men established an absolute Dominion in Middle-earth.
After this time those Elves who remained in Middle-earth 'faded', though why this occurred is open to question; some sources suggest that it was the natural working out of the Doom of Mandos for the Elves to lose their power in Middle-earth. Whatever the reason, the 'fading' of the Elves was not merely a reference to their waning influence in the World, but also to a literal effect: those few Elves that remained east of the Sea actually faded and became fainter, until they were little more than essences or spirits.
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