The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Possibly began with the first rising of the Sun in I 11
Commonly translated 'years', though the term strictly referred to periods of 144 solar years
Yéni is a plural term; the singular is yén


About this entry:

  • Updated 23 December 2011
  • Updates planned: 1


The long 'years' of the Elves

The main units of time used by the Elves; one yén was equivalent to 144 years.



It's not clear exactly when this Elvish method of accounting time came into use. In Appendix D to The Lord of the Rings, the choice of a period of 144 years to a yén is due to the fact that the Eldar 'preferred to reckon in sixes and twelves as far as possible'. That implies that the yén was derived from a period of 12 x 12 solar years, so that the Sun must have been in existence before the count of yéni began (and thus the first yén came to an end in the year I 144 at the earliest).

Volume 10 of The History of Middle-earth offers a different explanation: that the yén was the Elves' equivalent of the Valian Year, the period used to measure time by the Valar before the rising of the Sun. On that basis, the use of yéni would have dated back much further, and may even have been reckoned back to the beginning of Arda itself. This calculation belongs to a developing later conception that would have a far-reaching effect on dating of ancient events (Valian Years are elsewhere said to have only a little under ten solar years in length) and doesn't appear to have been fully integrated into Tolkien's legendarium.

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