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Arda consisted of land masses, chiefly the continents of Middle-earth and Aman, oceans and seas, and

an atmosphere. It was a part of Eä, the created World (i.e., of the whole Tolkienian star system). Arda
was created, together with the rest of Eä, through the Music of the Ainur, and was set apart as a
dwelling place for the Children of Ilúvatar (that is, Elves and Men). When Eä was created, many of the
Ainur chose to dwell within it as long as it should last, and they built Arda and chose to reside there. The
most powerful of these Ainur were called the Valar, the Powers of the World.

Originally, Arda was flat, rather than spherical (though it still had mountains and valleys), and the Valar
built it to a symmetric plan. They lit up Arda with great lamps, and the explosion of biological life that
ensued became known as the First Spring. This period ended when Melkor launched a surprise attack,
destroying not only the lamps but the layout of the world.

After this time, Arda was surrounded by a mighty ocean, Ekkaia or the Encircling Sea, and the continents
were separated from each other by Belegaer, called the Great Sea. During the Years of the Trees,
Valinor, the realm of the Valar occupying most of the continent of Aman, was lit up by the Two Trees.
Middle-earth was dark. At first it was largely controlled by Melkor and his servants, but when the Elves
awoke the Valar went to war against Melkor, defeating him and imprisoning him in the Halls of Mandos
for "three ages". During this war, many of the westernmost areas of Middle-earth were drowned
beneath the waves.

During the captivity of Melkor, the Valar invited the Elves to dwell with them in Aman. Many Elves
accepted this invitation, and set out for the West; these became known as the Eldar. Along the way,
some groups of Eldar, notably the Nandor and the Sindar, chose to remain in Middle-earth. The Sindar
settled in the region of Beleriand, a north-western coastal area of Middle-earth.

When the Years of the Sun began, Arda experienced the so-called Second Spring, a new period of
growth and vitality as a result of the light of the sun in Middle-earth. At that time, Men also awoke in
the east of Middle-earth.