Tolkien describes primarily the events that occurred in Beleriand. These were centered around a series of wars waged by the Sindar, the Noldor and the Three Houses of the Edain, against the armies of Angband and the evil Men. The wars had actually begun before the First Age, during the Years of the Trees, but began again with renewed fury after the arrival of the Noldor in Beleriand. There had been Elves in Beleriand for uncounted millennia, but they sought merely to exist, and Morgoth had little to do with them. The Noldor, on the other hand, particularly the Sons of Fëanor, had come with the express purpose of defeating Morgoth.
The chief battles of the First Age are:
- The Dagor-nuin-Giliath (Battle under the Stars, so named because it was fought before the rising of the Sun) was fought soon after the arrival of the Ñoldor. Morgoth sent a raiding party from Angband to attack the Noldor encampment in Hithlum, but the Elves drove it back. Fëanor was killed. It is considered the second battle in the Wars of Beleriand, after one that took place during the Years of the Trees.
- The Dagor Aglareb (Glorious Battle) was fought about seventy-five years after the return of the Ñoldor. Morgoth again attacked the Noldor, and again with no success. The Ñoldor became so bold as to besiege Angband. However, the Siege was of limited effectiveness, because the northern side of Angband was on the north side of the Ered Engrin, and was unapproachable.
- The Dagor Bragollach (Battle of Sudden Flame) began when Morgoth poured rivers of fire out of Angband, ruining the besieging Noldorin armies. The Ñoldor eventually mustered a defense, but their losses were severe. For instance, the green plain of Ard-galen had been permanently laid waste by the rivers of fire, and was now called Anfauglith, the Choking Dust; and the highlands of Dorthonion, which had been inhabited by Edain, were made inhospitable.
- The Nirnaeth Arnoediad (Unnumbered Tears) was the first battle to be initiated by the Noldor. They massed an army composed of Elves, Edain, and the houses of Bór and Ulfang allied to the Sons of Fëanor. The Elves and their allies advanced very close to Angband, but Morgoth's trickery had upset their battle plan, and Ulfang proved treacherous. The name "Unnumbered Tears" comes from the fact that the Elves' last hope of victory was destroyed. The land of Hithlum was lost, the Sons of Fëanor were largely scattered, and the peoples of Beleriand had been decimated. Morgoth's Orcs made a heap of the Elven and Mannish dead in the center of Anfauglith.
- The War of Wrath took place after Eärendil sailed to Valinor and persuaded the Valar to help those whom they had forsaken. The Valar gathered an army comprised of Maiar, Vanyar, and those Ñoldor who had stayed in Valinor. The Teleri refused their aid, due to an old offense dealt them by the Ñoldor of Beleriand, but consented to ferry the armies of the Valar in their famous ships. This battle marked the first appearance of the winged dragons, most notably Ancalagon the Black, but the Valar had the day. Morgoth was captured, and cast out of Arda, but his lands, as well as most of Beleriand, had been destroyed and sunk under the sea in the heat of battle.