Mittwoch, 22. November 2017

Monday, 22 November 2941 T. A.: Farewell to Erebor, never to come back

"Farewell Thorin Oakenshield! And Fili and
Kili! May your memory never fade!"
(E. Whymper: The Ascent of the Matterhorn, 1880)
I have just seen the setting crescent of the moon, so the second month of this dwarvish year has begun, as far as I am concerned.

About this time, though we cannot pinpoint it any more precisely, Bilbo Baggins finally left Erebor behind and began the long journey home. Some time after Thórins death, there had been a great funeral for the King under the Mountain, and the diplomatic arrangements between Thranduil, Dain and Bard certainly took their time, though Gandalf's presence may have, hopefully, speeded them up to reasonable progress. At any rate, Gandalf went with Bilbo, as did Beorn, and the Wood-elves provided them company to the edge of Mirkwood.

Despite the misgivings of John Rateliff expressed in "The History of the Hobbit", there was plenty of time left to go the long way around Mirkwood in the north and arrive back at Beorn's Hall on time. Karen Fonstad, in "The Atlas of Middle-earth" assumed the date of departure as 27 November 2941 T. A., which is as good a guess as anyone's. Alas, there was no phase of the moon recorded that would have allowed for a more precise identification of the calendar date.

Samstag, 18. November 2017

Thursday, 18 November 2941 T. A.: The king is dead, long live the king

Thórin son of Thrain on his deathbed
(Excerpt from "Macbeth murdering Duncan" by Robert Dudley)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., which was also the 27th day of the first month of the dwarvish new year, died Thórin II son of Thrain son of Thrór, Oakenshield, King under the Mountain, from the wounds received the previous day in the Battle of Five Armies.

Bilbo Baggins came to himself long after sunrise beneath a clear sky and had just enough time to bid farewell to Thórin in his tent in ruined Dale. And he wept long and sorrowful.

There was a new moon the night after, as the Dwarves probably honoured their fallen lord. We do not know anything about their rites, alas.      

Freitag, 17. November 2017

Wednesday, 17 November 2941 T. A.: The Battle of Who Knows How Many Armies

Dain son of Nain (though for a long
time I had mistaken this for an orc)
Illustration by Horus Engels for the 1957 Hobbit
On this day, in 2941 T. A., which was also the 26th day of the first lunar month of the dwarvish year, began with the early arrival of Dain's host that had marched through the night. The confrontation with the armies of Wood-elves and Lakemen was prevented, however, by the approaching hosts from the Misty Mountains.

According to the official record, the Five Armies for which the ensuing battle was named were Orcs and Wolves (Wargs), Dwarves, Elves and Men. But arguably, the vast number of bats and the eagles constituted airborne armies, too, so the number should maybe have been higher. There was a representative of Hobbits, too, though Bilbo took care to stay non-combattant on Ravenhill, and one of the Istari, raising the total number of species present to nine.

17 November is the sad day of the death of Kili and Fili who both fell while defending their severely wounded king, Thórin Oakenshield whose gravely injured body was ultimately taken into safety by Beorn.

The Eagles entered the battle when they arrived near sunset, and Beorn even after them. Victory against the orcs was allegedly assured before nightfall, but Bilbo did not witness it. He was knocked out by a flung stone and spent the whole night and morning in a coma that should have signified a severe traumatic brain injury. Evidently, hobbits are resistant not only against Great Rings but also against Heavy Stones.

Donnerstag, 16. November 2017

Tuesday, 16 November 2941 T. A.: No one tosses a hobbit

It was invented in Erebor, you know.
(Image by knightjj)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., which was also the 25th day of the first lunar month of the dwarvish year, the morning began with a commotion in the camp of the beleaguerers, and "about midday", Bard, Thranduil and Gandalf showed the Arkenstone in their possession to Thórin Oakenshield. Upon finding the culprit who had sneaked away the stone, Thórin felt inspired to invent the sportive game of hobbit-tossing (the idea caught on, but for the lack of hobbits, dwarves would be preferred in the Fourth Age and subsequently). Gandalf prevented the establishment of the first world-record and took Bilbo with him into the camp of the Very Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Bard granted 24 hours to Thórin to make up his mind, which Thórin would use to inform Dain of the latest developments by raven messenger and hurry him up.   

Mittwoch, 15. November 2017

Monday, 15 November 2941 T. A.: The Ring and the Arkenstone

Two days more to march? Oh, dear!
(Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1905)
Presumably on this day, in 2941 T. A., Thórin Oakenshield learned that Dain and the Dwarves from the Iron Hills were only two days' marches away from Dale at this point, with "winter and snow hastening behind them"; Roäc was apparently speaking of the weather here, not of calendar seasons of which he, being a raven, would anyway know nothing.  

There is no specific evidence of this date, hence, it is derived from Karen Fonstad's estimate of Dain's travel speed in "The Atlas of Middle-earth", despite her setting Durin's Day and all subsequent events one week later, ignoring the evidence of the lunar phases. The assumption is superficially supported by Bilbo's observation, though, that there was no moon after sunset: it was the 24th day of the first month of the dwarvish year, the moon was in its last quarter and would rise only long after midnight. In the eyes of John Rateliff, meanwhile, the Dwarves must have traveled in a convoy of lorries, for his general misconception of placing Durin's Day in December throughout "The History of the Hobbit" rendered it impossible for him to reconcile travel times in Middle-earth with the seemingly too short time left till Yule 2941 T. A.

The timetable of the crucial events that evening is more distinct. The sun was setting at about 18.00 hours, according to a note by Tolkien given in "The History of The Hobbit" - this well matches the season and latitude of Erebor -, but Bilbo left Bombur at the outpost at 19.00 hours, with "about five hours before him" till their watch would be shifted. Despite having put on the Ring, he was discovered by the Wood-elves at the pool about 90 minutes later and at 21.00 hours, Bard and Thranduil were ready to listen to him. He may have left from there at 21.30 hours, recognising Gandalf in the army camp in the passing, was back to the outpost "well before midnight", say, at 23.30 hours, and woke Bombur on time for changing the shift.

There is a curious reference to "Thorin's letter that had been put under the clock on his mantelpiece in May" in this chapter of "The Hobbit". Of course, this had been put in April. The reference to May derives from the early manuscript drafts and has escaped correction in all published editions.  

Donnerstag, 9. November 2017

Tuesday, 9 November 2941 T.A.: Two kings before the mountain, one king beneath the mountain

A heavy load of dragon-gold
makes Oakenshield look worn and old
(still from Fritz Lang's "Song of the Nibelungs")
On this day, in 2941 T. A., which was the seventeenth of the first lunar month of the dwarvish new year, Bard, king-elect of future new Esgaroth, approached the main gate of the Lonely Mountain (after having crossed the River Running, thus approaching on the west bank) and tried in vain to achieve an agreement with Thórin, self-proclaimed king of future new Erebor. Thórin rejected any negotiations.

A few hours later, after a less courteous proclamation of Bard's claim, the siege of Erebor was officially declared. Thórin saw only one option left: wait for Dain's relief force. Bilbo had a different solution in mind but did not dare use it.

Mittwoch, 8. November 2017

Monday, 8 November 2941 T. A.: Singing at the riverbank

The new camp was within eyesight of the Lonely Mountain
(BL Royal 20 C I Les fait des Romains)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the scouts of Wood-elves and Lake-men rose early and investigated the situation near the source of the River Running soon after sunrise. Till noon, the camp on the right bank was advanced to the very spurs of Erebor, within eyesight, hear and smell of the main gate, putting Thórin's little kingdom beneath the mountain effectively under siege. Thórin set up a couple of calculations to find out when Dain's reinforcements might be expected. Nothing more was reported for this day, save for a lot of sometimes too warlike music.    

Dienstag, 7. November 2017

Sunday, 7 November 2941 T. A.: Living lights in dead Dale

They saw lights as of Fires and torches away south in Dale
("Gunner" F.J. Mears, British Soldiers Marching Towards Ruins at Night, ca. 1917)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the sun was already setting when the joint forces of Wood-elves and Lakemen finally came within sight of the main gate of Erebor. Somehow, whether by boat or by a ford, a part of their host had crossed the River Running, and they advanced in parallel along both banks until they reached the ruins of deserted Dale.

In the early evening, before the moon rose, the watchposts of the Dwarves observed the living lights of fires and torches in dead Dale and knew that their foes had arrived. There was reportedly very little sleep available that night.

Sonntag, 5. November 2017

Friday, 5 November 2941 T. A.: Back to the Lonely Mountain

A wide pool now stretched from the mountain-wall to the fall
(The Matterhorn, by John nash Peake, 1899)

On this day, in 2941 T. A. - the thirteenth day of the first lunar month of the dwarvish year -, Fili and Kili returned at last to Erebor, having spent four days altogether with rounding up the ponies and bringing provisions that might sustain a siege for weeks. Since they could not keep the ponies in the mountain, they were only unloaded and then sent on their way south, towards the host of Elves and Men that meanwhile advanced into the desolate lands and camped again, probably up the River Running. Assuming that they went slower than the dwarves on their horses and ponies, they would have to march at least two more days till they reached the Lonely Mountain.

Samstag, 4. November 2017

Thursday, 4 November 2941 T. A.: Marching under the full moon

Ravens! Calling everything a pony that walks on four legs.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., which Bilbo Baggins recorded as the eleventh after the death of Smaug (and it was the twelfth of the new year of the Dwarves), the joined Wood-elves and Lake-men were marching north from the refugee camp that Thranduil had helped raise for the survivors of Esgaroth, and the head of their hosts reached the mouth of the River Running into the Long Lake. Bilbo's memories are a bit convoluted at this point but may be interpreted in such a way that Kili and Fili, who had by then rounded up the three surviving ponies, observed the advance from afar and decided to hurry back to Erebor, with their raven guide probably flying ahead of them.

The moon was shining full on the camp that the two hosts made in the Desolation of Smaug.

Mittwoch, 1. November 2017

Monday, 1 November 2941 T.A.: Past the threshold of winter

11th-century calendar from Christ Church, Canterbury (BL Arundel 155, f.7) 
with the beginning of winter marked on 7 November
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the threshold of winter was finally passed in the north of Middle-earth. The calendars of the Shire and of Bree still remembered this fact in their name of the month that now commenced: Winterfilth and Wintring, respectively, 'which was a Bree alteration of the older name, which had originally referred to the completion of the year before Winter, and descended from times ... when their new year began after harvest.'

In other words, Winterfilth/October had been the final month of the old year in the traditional reckoning of northern Rhovanion includine Dale and the Vale of Anduin, before the Steward's Reckoning had been adopted. The Dwarves of Erebor had obviously adapted their calendar to this fact, keeping Durin's Day no more than half a lunar phase away from the new year of Dale.

Bede and Byrhtferth give 7 November as the first day of winter and 6 February as its last, centring on the winter solstice - but mark out All Saints Day, 1 November, as the threshold of winter. (Likewise, BTW, 1 August is the threshold of autumn according to a medieval book, the "Menologium", August itself commencing on the 7th and leading is to, you may have guessed, midsummer's day after exactly half the period.)
Thórin Oakenshield had no sense for such intricacies. He was informed by the helpful ravens that three of their ponies that had been scattered and believed to be devoured by Smaug had been localised downstream of the Running River, near their first camp. Fili and Kili were sent out to retrieve them and their load, guided by one raven.

Sonntag, 29. Oktober 2017

Friday, 28 October 2941 T. A.: Aid for the Lake-men

The quickly raised huts were certainly not comfortable.
But it was a beginning. (Erwin Vollmer, 1904)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bard's messengers finally arrived with Thranduil's host at the shore of the Long Lake where the surviving Lake-men were still desperately hoping for help. Much appreciated goods had already arrived by boat but the Woold-elves did not have sufficient watercraft to follow and had to march the distance on bad paths. Thranduil would not give humanitarian aid for free, though, and a bargain had to be achieved (which the Master was all ready to conclude). Then a new place further north was begun to be cleared, to provide space for closed huts at least. Many of the refugees from Esgaroth were in rather bad condition.

This delay gave Thórin ample time to fortify the main gate of Erebor - the only one that Smaug had left accessible - against things to come.

Freitag, 27. Oktober 2017

Wednesday, 26 October 2941 T.A.: Hail, Roäc, son of Carc

Roäc claimed to have lived 153 years
(by Kyosai Kawanabe, 1887)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo and the Dwarves were finally informed about Smaug's demise. By a raven, honourable Roäc, son of Carc, who boasted to have hatched in 2788 T. A. and thus, was a contemporary of late Thrór who had died in 2790. Thorin immediately sent Roäc off to the Iron Hills to request the support of Dain and his fellow Dwarves. 

At the Forest River meanwhile, Thranduil's host chanced upon Bard's messengers. Hearing of the desperate situation of the Lake-men, he dediced for a detour and provide the much needed humanitarian aid. Erebor could wait.

Donnerstag, 26. Oktober 2017

Tuesday, 25 October 2941, T. A.: Forth marched the king

Forth marched the king
(Excerpt from "Oberon & Titania"
by Arthur Rackham)
On this day, in 2941 T. A. - the third of the new dwarvish year -, Bilbo and the Dwarves finally found the courage to investigate Smaug's lair and found it deserted. Bilbo located the Arkenstone in Smaug's hoard and pocketed it before any of the Dwarves noticed. The Company left Erebor via the main entrance, trodded down the River Running past Dale and, near sunset, made their new camp in the guardroom on the south spur. The following night was reportedly cold, and many birds were on the move in the south.

At the Long Lake, the survivors of Lake Town were desperately hoping for humanitarian aid by the Wood-elves. There was no report yet from the messengers Bard had sent out the day before, and none was to be expected under the given circumstances. While Thranduil, being well informed, had already mustered a host of spearmen and bowmen and was leading them down the Forest River to claim his share of Smaug's hoard.    

Mittwoch, 25. Oktober 2017

Monday, 24 October 2941 T. A.: The darkest of days

On this day, in 2941 T. A. - the second day of the new year of the Dwarves - looked bleak for everyone involved. Since Smaug had destroyed the Doorstep and blocked the Secret Door, Bilbo and the Dwarves spent all the day sitting in that corridor in absolute darkness, losing their sense of time and waiting for something terrible to happen that would never come.

News of Smaug's demise was rapidly carried westward by talkative birds, eventually reaching Thranduil's ears who at once began plotting his own benefit from the new situation.
The fiery end of Esgaroth
(Burning city, unknown 17th century Dutch artist)
Meanwhile, the survivors of the cataclysm of Esgaroth had spent a miserable night without protection in the cold, and though Bard, just appointed king, did his best to get some provisional shelters and care organized, many had taken ill till the next sunset. 

Dienstag, 24. Oktober 2017

Sunday, 23 October 2941 T. A.: R.I.P. Smaug

Lucky for him, Bilbo was separated from Smaug ...

On this day, the second day of the new dwarvish year, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo emulated Nienor, the tragic heroine of the First Age, and actually talked to the remote descendant of Glaurung. Fortunately, he was backed by two more ages of dragon-lore and managed to avoid falling under the dragon-spell. Much to Smaug's regret. 

... by the turn of a page
Bard is evidently left-handed.
Look where he carries his sword.
(Illustrations by Horus Engels, 1957)
Smaug was angered so much that he felt inspired to attack Lake-town. Bard the Bowman found the most vulnerable spot and shot the dragon down from the sky, giving a lesson in ballistic dynamics: Don't aim an arrow vertically up because your target may come as vertically down. Which, alas, sealed the fate of Lake-town.   
There are many recordings of the lunar phase of that night. Soon after nightfall, ‘The men of the lake-town Esgaroth were mostly indoors, for the breeze was from the black East and chill, but a few were walking on the quays, and watching, as they were fond of doing, the stars shine out from the smooth patches of the lake as they opened in the sky.’ Strangely, Manwe's EagThrush informed Bard that ‘The moon is rising.’ Later, as he was taking aim, ‘the moon rose above the eastern shore and silvered his great wings.’ Then ‘The dragon swooped once more lower than ever, and as he turned and dived down his belly glittered white with sparkling fires of gems in the moon.’ As Smaug fell, ‘the waxing moon rose higher and higher’ (chap. XIV). It is even confirmed one more time that Smaug was slain ‘at the rising of the moon’ (chap. XV).

Well, the actual phase of the moon is shown in the following simulation run on Stellarium.

The actual moon at the day of Smaug's death

"Here we witness the tragic result of a story-teller being ignorant of the motions of the skies at its worst. There cannot have been any moon shedding light on Smaug’s demise because it should have set before the dragon even left its abode. Since the Company had seen a narrow crescent on 22 October, celestial mechanics require that the situation was not that much different one day later; you do not need an astronomy simulator to tell that. Second, a waxing moon, in whatever phase, cannot be climbing above the horizon after nightfall, only full and waning moons do that. Alas, the numerous references to the lunar phase of this day are too tightly woven into the narrative to be appropriately amended without severely revising the storyline."
(Excerpt from "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'", slighlty amended for brevity)

It is really peculiar that Tolkien described the view of the evening sky so accurately in one chapter and so absurdly in the next. Even in the latest revisions of 1966, this most serious of all defects in the plot chronology has not been addressed.

Discussing this scene in "The History of the Hobbit", John Rateliff soberly commented that Tolkien's friend C.S.Lewis had commited the very same mistake in one of his stories. As if rising crescents in the evening were somehow an Inklings' thing.

Montag, 23. Oktober 2017

Saturday, 22 October 2941 T. A.: HAPPY NEW (dwarf) YEAR!

"He issued from the Gate, the waters
rose in fierce whistling steam ..."
(Dragon awakens, by Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914))
On this day, the first day of the last week of autumn in 2941 T. A., the last young moon of autumn and the sun were visible in the sky together, announcing Durin's Day, the Secret Door opened, Bilbo made his investigations and aroused Smaug from his slumber. This was also, unbeknownst to him, the last full day of Smaug's life.

Soon [Bilbo] saw the orange ball of the sun sinking towards the level of his eyes. He went to the opening and there pale and faint was a thin new moon above the rim of Earth. ... The sun sank lower and lower, and their hopes fell. It sank into a belt of reddened cloud and disappeared. ... The little moon was dipping to the horizon. Evening was coming on. Then suddenly when their hope was lowest a red ray of the sun escaped like a finger through a rent in the cloud.’ ("The Hobbit, chap. 11)

The constraints of celestial mechanics, communication speeds and atmospheric conditions suggest that Durin’s Day did not mean the same thing for any dwarf in the world. Consider that next time you decide to set up your residence at a place that is called the Misty Mountains for a reason.

(Maybe that was why Khazad-dûm installed the outpost on Zirak-zigil, called – wonder why - ‘Durin’s Tower’. Even dwarves may have been aware that the best place for watching the heavens is high up in the mountains.)

"In theory and under ideal conditions, Durin’s Day could have been observed as short as 12 hours after conjunction. But the sun’s brightness and the moon’s proximity to its disk would forbid this daring adventure most of the time. Experienced observers have reported that they managed to descry a crescent 1.5 to 2 days after conjunction under exceptionally good conditions, i. e. high transparency of the atmosphere and favourite positioning of the celestial luminaries. But only a crescent that is at least 3 days old would have been easily visible to a layhobbit like Bilbo in autumn. 

Gandalf’s remark after Thorin had confessed his lack of astronomical education, ‘That remains to be seen’, was certainly made with some restraint not to insult the honourable dwarf. Wizard and half-elf may have thought of the ephemeris that Elrond no doubt kept in his house and that would have predicted the last new moon of autumn rather accurately. However, Elrond may have preferred to keep his head low that shortly after revealing that despite having lived since the Elder Days he had never heard of Durin’s Day before, inadvertently providing Thorin with the chance to retort his ‘as all should know’."
(Excerpt from "The Moon in 'The Hobbit', slightly amended for clarity)

A simulation of the view from the Doorstep on Durin's Day.
The yellow line marks the ecliptic. Notice the position of
the young moon to the left of the image.

The ‘thin new moon’ of Durin’s Day would not have been more than three days after new moon, set by Tolkien to have occurred on 19 October though more coherent with the other recorded observations is an early 20 October. The visibility of such a young moon is supported by the fact that in autumn, the crescent of a two days old moon is thicker than in, say, early summer.

With these data in hand, it is possible to set time and place precisely. Accepting that Hobbiton is at the latitude of Oxford, Erebor is located at about 54°N. This permits running a simulation of the configuration of the heavens at Durin's Day with a modern planetarium software. "Stellarium" was used to generate this image.

The simulation reveals a surprising fact that Tolkien could not have been aware of: At the northern latitude of Erebor, the crescent moon and the setting sun are almost at the same height of the horizon!

"This may seem hard to understand at first. The reason is the orientation of the ecliptic, which is the projection of the earth’s orbit on the sky or the virtual path that the sun seems to travel on. In October, the ecliptic assumes a very low angle respective to the horizon .... Even worse, the moon’s orbit is tilted against the ecliptic by 5°, and in autumn, it is located in the lower section of its course. Fortunately for Bilbo and the dwarves, the sun takes as well a very long time to vanish beneath the horizon.
This example should demonstrate that an almanac of lunar phases is not fully sufficient for a story-writer who wants to use the moon as a plot element. Any modern astronomy simulation software will do, though, but such tools had not been available in Tolkien’s time. And if he had known about them, he would probably have abhorred them."
(Excerpt from "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'")

It is not clear from the description whether or not Tolkien was aware of this particular constellation of the celestial luminaries. His wording does not conflict with that view. 

Sonntag, 22. Oktober 2017

Friday, 21 October 2941 T. A.: The last day of the Dwarvish year

The first sighting of the young moon
brings joy to the Elves as well
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Thórin Oakenshild had the courtesy to look into a calendar and to inform us that the day after would be the first day of the last week of autumn. Once Tolkien's decision is accepted that all data given in "The Hobbit" follow the Shire Reckoning, this helps to identify the date on which this happened, and contrary to what John Rateliff thought, the dating is consistent.

We know that in the Shire, Saturday is the first day of the week, so Thórin checked his pocket calendar on a Friday. His statement leaves two possible interpretations: since winter begins on 1 November according to all statements given in "The Hobbit", either the first day of the last week of autumn refers to the last full week, which begins on 22 October and ends on 28, or it refers to the last week begun, commencing on 29 October. Only 22 October is consistent with the first sighting of the young moon that Bilbo observes on that day - the rosh chodesh as the ancient Jews put it, or first day of the lunar month according to the testimony of its observers, and remember that the Dwarves are in some ways the Jews of Middle-earth. Hence, 21 October was definitely the last day of this Dwarvish year.

(Can someone help identify the artist of today's image choice? Google image search only relates to its re-use as a CD cover.)

Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017

Thursday, 20 October 2941 T.A.: The last new moon of autumn

Two men observing the first light of the new moon
Caspar David Friedrich, 1819/20)
Which is not Durin's Day!

Not yet. On this day, in 2941 T. A., the moon was for the last time in autumn closest to the sun, but it was of no help for Bilbo and the Dwarves. For the occurrence of Durin's Day - and, hence, the possibility of opening the Secret Door - was dependent not on the astronomical event but of the first actual sighting of the moon and the sun in the sky together. English does not seem to have its own term for that event: in German it is called Neulicht "new light" and distinct from Neumond "new moon".

Since the weather is a factor here, too, this might of course mean that Moria would at times celebrate a different Durin's Day than Erebor or the Iron Hills. Strange enough that this tradition had been forgotten by Thorin's people. Maybe, like in the ancient Jewish culture, the pronunciation of the new Dwarvish year had been left to a few selected specialists (priests) - all of which Smaug had burnt up?   

Donnerstag, 19. Oktober 2017

Tuesday, 18 October 2941 T. A.: Snails on the Doorstep

The thrush that was going to be Eru's agent in driving the plot
(Illustration by Horus Engels for the first German edition, 1957)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., The whole company but two took the effort to climb up to the Doorstep and establish their by now third base camp there. For the time being this was a dead end, though, for the Secret Door was magic enough to defy any conventional tool - clearly, Dwarves were able to construct devices that no other Dwarves could hack.

Bilbo meanwhile set back and counted. Snails on a stone, a favourite diet of thrushes around Erebor. For now he was as much at a loss to pinpoint Durin's Day as was his maker, J. R.R. Tolkien, as we shall see in our next entry.  

Mittwoch, 18. Oktober 2017

Monday, 17 October 2941 T. A.: What was the word for "Friend" in Dale?

Were the Dwarves of Erebor as trusting as those of Moria?
About this time, in 2941 T. A., Fili, Kili and Bilbo finally managed to locate the Secret Door. It was midday when they began their ascent, and it may have taken them about two hours or more until they reached the cliff that would become known to them as the Doorstep. The afternoon was wasted with vain attempts to open the door, even including uttering "fragments of broken spells". (Say "Friend" and enter would not work here?)  They left for their base-camp in the evening, returning there probably in the early dark and bringing a lot of excitement there.

Freitag, 13. Oktober 2017

Thursday, 13 October 2941 T.A.: In the shadow of Erebor

A rather Tolkienish impression of Menelvagor over Erebor
(Janet Johnson: Orion above the Matterhorn, undated)
It was probably on this day, in 2941 T. A., that Bilbo already suggested to relocate the base camp from the slope of Ravenhill to the western side of the Lonely Mountain. The published "Hobbit" does not imply specific dates but Tolkien's jotted notes as published by Rateliff suggest that the events between establishing the camp at Ravenhill and opening the Hidden Door were more compressed than the text suggests: nine days altogether, which complies with the timeline derived from the lunar phases.
The last moon of autumn was approaching its last quarter.  

Donnerstag, 12. Oktober 2017

Wednesday, 12 October 2941 T.A.: The base camp at Ravenhill

"Out of it too there came a steam and a dark smoke"
(Albert Bierstadt: Storm at the Matterhorn, 1886)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo and the Dwarves finally reached the spurs of Erebor. Apparently they reached the outlying height called Ravenhill at about noon, for there was still enough daytime left to investigate the cliffs of Ravenhill, pass by the ruins of Dale and have a look at the main gate of the Lonely Mountain from which not only the River Running but also steam and smoke emanated.

Bilbo contemplated that "autumn was now crawling towards winter", another clear indication that the seasons in "The Hobbit" are not those that we are used to.

Mittwoch, 11. Oktober 2017

Tuesday, 11 October 2941 T. A.: The end of the boat trip

The Devastation of Smaug may have been inspired
by the No-Man's Land of Flanders

On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Lake-men finally set the Dwarves and the hobbit ashore at the right bank (the text says, on the left and western bank, but since the current was coming from the north, it was actually the right bank) of the river Celduin where the pack-horses and riding ponies sent ahead were already waiting for them. Since the Lake-men refused to camp such close to Erebor, they left even in the late evening, drifiting and riding rapidly downstream, and may have reached the Long Lake before midnight again. 

They left a tent for fourteen, though, which provided for a dry (if noisy) but "cold and lonely" night at the edge of the Devastation of Smaug.  

Dienstag, 10. Oktober 2017

Monday, 10 October 2941 T.A.: Up the river Celduin

Bilbo did not like that view of Erebor
(The Matterhorn, painter and year unidentified)
The second day of the voyage upstream from Lake-town, on this day in 2941 T.A., ended unequivocally in a camp at the banks of the River Running. Bilbo much disliked the view of Erebor looming over their site. It was pointed out that the current of Celduin was rather swift and progress slow. That explains why it took four days by boat to travel a distance that Smaug covered in the air within an hour or two.

Montag, 9. Oktober 2017

Sunday, 9 October 2941 T.A.: Towards the River Running

Near the mouth of the River Running, looking north
(Thomas Cole: Schroon Lake, 1830s)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the three boats were approaching the place where the River Running widened into the Long Lake.

On this occasion, a minor ambivalence in the text might be noted. Tolkien recorded that "in two days going they rowed right up the Long Lake and passed out into the River Running". Karen Fonstad - who also assumed 8 October as the day of departure from Esgaroth - marked the camp of 9 October right at the place where the River Running widens to create the Long Lake. But Tolkien's statement may also be interpreted to mean that it took two days to actually reach the rive.In that case the first camp should be assumed at the western shore of the Long Lake.   

Sonntag, 8. Oktober 2017

Saturday, 8 October 2941 T. A.: Leaving Lake-town

Boat of the Lakemen
(dated 1909, author unknown)
Latest on this day, but maybe also a day or two before, in 2941 T. A., a well-provided expedition left Lake-town north along the Western shore of the Long Lake. The Dwarves and Bilbo were aboard three boats rowed by Lake-men. Clearly, the current from the north was weak enough that the boats did not need to be pulled at ropes; it is interesting to note, though, that sailing was either unknown or not an option despite Bilbo reporting cold winds and falling leaves that day.

"Autumn was now getting far on." Just a few more weeks to go until winter would begin according to the old Anglo-Irish reckoning that Tolkien adhered to.

Donnerstag, 5. Oktober 2017

Wednesday, 5 October 2941 T. A.: Shall we go to Erebor?

Full moon over the Long Lake
(Georg Emil Libert, 1820 - 1908)

On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Company had spent "about a fortnight" in Lake-town. Thórin Oakenshield went to the Master and asked for help to continue the voyage upstream, towards the Lonely Mountain. The Master was willing to assist - also to return to the usual business at last -, and while the requested horses and ponies may have been sent up the shore of the Long Lake on the very same or the next day, probably another two or three days were spent with collecting provisions and preparing the boats that would set the Dwarves and the hobbit on the final stage.

There was a full moon that night: the last full moon of autumn, 2941. Unbeknownst to Thórin, this year of the Dwarvish reckoning was rapidly drawing to its end.

Dienstag, 26. September 2017

Tuesday, 25 September 2941 T. A.: Thag you very buch

The Master of Lake-town,
by Horus Engels, 1957
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo Baggins had only slightly improved from the severe cold he had caught at the huts of the raft-Elves, and was still confined to a rest indoors, delaying the plans of the Dwarves to head for the Lonely Mountain while they were invited to many a banquet by Lake-men who hoped in one way or another to benefit from the unexpected arrival of the King under the Mountain (aka. Thorin Oakenshild). For several more days, Bilbo's speech would be limited to "Thag you very buch".  

Samstag, 23. September 2017

Saturday, 22 September 2941 T.A.: Birthday on the floating raft

The barrel-rider illustrated by Horus Engels, 1957
The Greater Bear over the Long Lake on 22 September,
simulated in the "Stellarium" freeware
Sorry, guys, you are celebrating at the wrong day. Since the months of the Shire calendar do not have the same length as those of our Gregorian calendar, Bilbo's (and Frodo's) birthday was not yesterday, but it is today, on 22 Halimath = 23 September, see the table below.

Anyway, on this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo just managed to get, invisible, on the raft that the Elves had made out of their barrels. Despite his worsening health condition, he spent the day on-board until, after sunset, the raft arrived at Lake-Town. Once all Dwarves had been released from their barrels, they entered Esgaroth officially and requested shelter, which was willingly granted by the men of Esgaroth.   

Since the weather was fair, a very young moon, about two days old, will have been visible in the west at sunset. This was exactly one lunation (one full cycle of the lunar phases) before Durin's Day of 2941 T. A. When Bilbo released the Dwarves, he noticed the Greater Bear in the sky at late night but no moon any more. The text of "The Hobbit" is fully consistent with the lunar phases here.

P. S.: Happy Hobbitday to you all!

Days in the Gregorian calendar (white) and in the Shire calendar (yellow)

Freitag, 22. September 2017

Friday, 21 September 2941 T.A.: Roll, roll, roll your barrel gently down the stream ...

Climbing the barrels, illustration by Horus Engels, 1957

On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo Baggins had finally found a way how to escape from the Elvenking's halls. Dorwinion wine was a great help in obtaining the key that unlocked the cells of the Dwarves while Thranduil was once again celebrating upstairs - quite likely the autumnal equinox.

It was in the evening of that day that the barrels were rolled out into the river. Probably less rthan an hour later, all the barrels, full or empty, had floated to the spot where other Elves gathered them and tied them into a raft. Wet as he was from riding his own barrel, Bilbo spend a good deal of the late evening stealing food and drink and catching the beginning of a cold. Sleeping outside in late September did not help improve his health, either.   
Sketch of the forest river; in: Hammond & Skull, image 122
This is the place to remark on an oversight in Hammond & Skull's "J. R. R. Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator". Image 122 in their book shows Tolkien's illustration of the barrel-riding scene under a splendid full moon. While Hammond & Skull correctly note that Tolkien put the moon in the wrong direction - in the north -, they only comment that "the effect of moonlight on water is nicely done ... though the text does not mention a full moon." Of course it doesn't - the moon has been new on 20 September. Image 122 shows it not only in the wrong direction, it should not be there at all!

Mittwoch, 20. September 2017

Thursday, 20 September 2941 T.A.: The second new moon of autumn

The rules in Thranduil's wine cellar were strict and efficient.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the second new moon of autumn occurred over Middle-earth. Finally, the long imprisonment of the Dwarves was drawing near its end. Bilbo Baggins, still lurking around in the caverns of the Wood-Elves, had finally discovered a possible way out: Thranduil's wine cellar. With that recent delivery of barrels, the perfect opportunity was there. The only question to be answered, was: How to get the Dwarves out of their cells?

Mittwoch, 6. September 2017

Wednesday, 05 September 2941 T.A.: The first full moon of autumn

On this day, in 2941 T. A., the first full moon of autumn rose over Mirkwood.
The first full moon of autumn was shining on the River Running

The situation in the Thranduil's caverns had changed little in the past two weeks. The Dwarves were still imprisoned while Bilbo perpetually hovered at the edge of discovery, trying to find a way how to get the Company out of the subterranean town. It may seem possible that by this time he had already discovered the vault where the barrels of wine were received and released, but certainly he had no idea yet what to do about it.

Montag, 21. August 2017

Sunday, 20 August 2941 T. A.: No eclipse over Mirkwood, alas

What happened over Mirkwood tonight?
No, there is no evidence that a solar eclipse passed over Mirkwood on this day, in 2941 T. A. But there was definitely a new moon.

Around this day, give or take three days - Bilbo Baggins was not able to pinpoint it any more precise - he discovered that Thorin Oakenshield was imprisoned by the Wood-Elves as well. So, all Dwarves were at last accounted for. He had yet no idea how to bring the Dwarves out of there, though.

Freitag, 11. August 2017

Thursday, 10 August 2941 T.A.: In search of a lost path

When Horus Engels sketched Thranduil in 1957
it was not known yet that Elves are the Fair Folk.
On this day, in 2941 T.A., Bilbo and the Company (minus Thorin) made a desperate effort to find the lost path again, having stayed entirely without provisions and failed to replenish them from the Silvan Elves. 

They did not find it until nightfall, when they ran into an ambush by the Woodelves that only Bilbo avoided by using the One Ring. The Dwarves were led before Thranduil himself who was now wearing a "crown of berries and red leaves, for the autumn was come again". This was the first day of the Elvish season of Iavas

Since none of them would yield essential information, Thranduil imprisoned them all, and there they were going to stay for the next 40 days. In front of Bilbo lay, meanwhile, a long time of hiding away, leaving the halls and returning, often at the brink of discovery. 

Donnerstag, 10. August 2017

Wednesday, 9 August 2941 T.A.: Feasting Elves and feasting spiders

A Mirkwood spider and its prey
illustration by Horus Weber, 1957
In the Calendar of Imladris, 9 August 2941 T. A. marks the last day of summer (laer). This can be inferred by calibrating the Elvish New Year to the Shire Reckoning, which had been the point at which this timetable started. 

This is also the latest possible date at which the Necromancer may have been driven out of Dol Guldur, said to have happened "in late summer". The relevant time span is even shorter, however, if the seasons are reckoned according to the early editions of "The Hobbit", with autumn beginning on 1 August, as was the English/Irish tradition of old that Tolkien adhered to in writing "The Hobbit" (a fact that John Rateliff, the American, overlooked, causing him to spend many a page on discussions of Tolkien's seeming confusion in the timetables, though, once this fact is observed, the entire timetable of the second half of 2941 falls into place).

In Mirkwood, that day started in dreary rain. With the final provisions gone, the situation of the Company aggravated seriously. On the positive side, Bombur awoke at last from exactly seven days of enchanted sleep and was able to walk on his own again. 

In the late afternoon or early evening, they saw the Elven lights for the first time, causing them to stray from the path in search of food. The feast was very probably intended to celebrate the eve of autumn (iavas), suggested by Thranduil (or was it Legolas? Could Bilbo really distinguish a king from a prince?) wearing a crown of leaves on the occasion. This plausible assumption helped to date all the events back to the crossing of the Enchanted Stream.

That night also saw, after the third failed attempt to get food from the celebrating Quendi, the fierce encounter with the Mirkwood spiders while Thorin was dragged off into Thranduil's underground dwelling that constituted a crude imitation of Menegroth in First-Age Doriath.

Mittwoch, 9. August 2017

Tuesday, 8 August 2941 T.A: Butterfly-spotting in the treetops.

Even some British Purple Emperors are
almost as featureless as those of Mirkwood
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Company descended into a valley of the Woodelves' realm, and when they had arrived on the ground of the depression, Thorin got a very Dwarvish idea: Have Bilbo climb up for a look-around! Anyone else would of course have preferred a hilltop, and the result of this effort was inevitable: Bilbo was not able to look far around and got the subjective impression that Mirkwood had absolutely no limits. Needless to say, his report did nothing to boost the morale of the Dwarves.

He made a keen observation on Mirkwood entomology, however: the discovery of the Black Emperors. This was a native species of butterflies apparently related to the Purple Emperor, apatura iris, of Southern Britain and Central Europe (said to be the second-largest British butterfly species) but without any of the familiar coloured markings. Douglas Anderson remarked on these in "The Annotated Hobbit" but failed to note their less pleasant characteristics: Emperors of any colour avoid "flowers, preferring rotting animal corpses, faeces, mud puddles - and even human sweat.... In Victorian times, the heyday of butterfly collecting, gamekeepers would attract Purple Emperors down to their gibbets by hanging out rotting carcasses of crows and rabbits." ( Such a species certainly comes not entirely unexpected in Mirkwood under Sauron's shadow!

Montag, 7. August 2017

Sunday, 6 August 2941 T. A.: At the boundary of the Woodelves' land

A late descendant of Thuringwethil?
A Mirkwood bat, illustration by Horus Weber, 1957
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo and the Dwarves noticed for the first time a change in the vegetation of Mirkwood. Unbeknownst to them, they had passed the outer limits of Thranduil's domain, which didn't mean they could now travel safer. But at least there was more light at daytime.

For four consecutive days, they had been carrying Bombur to here who was still fast asleep from his bath in the Enchanted River. It is not recorded how they fed him, if at all. Not that Bombur wouldn't have had some excessive fat to spare, but what about his loss of water?

This night, there was a full moon rising over Mirkwood, according to the proper computations. But the Company had no way to observe the sky beyond the still visually impenetrable canopy of Mirkwood's trees. Note as well that, despite it being early August, "A few leaves came rustling down to remind them that outside autumn was coming on." This is a significant observation in the light of the fact that the autumnal equinox is still far away, and it confused John Rateliff a lot.

Further south, around this day, the White Council finally launched its attack on Dol Guldur with the objective of driving out the Necromancer, after Saruman had given up his objections for his own private reasons.

Donnerstag, 3. August 2017

Wednesday, 2 August 2941 T.A.: Bombur drops

Out of the gloom came suddenly
the shape of a flying deer.
Eugen Krüger (1832-1876), “Stag”.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., after a toilsome and seemingly endless wandering, Bilbo and the Company reached the Enchanted River. They crossed it almost successfully, were it not for the Wood-elves and their dogs hunting a hart that caused Bombur to fall into the water, casting him into a magic sleep.

(Strangely, illustrations of this scene often show a white stag, though its colour is not stated in the book, save for that it is dark. The white deer, a hind with fawns, is seen soon after in the forest.)

According to Karen Fonstad's "Atlas of Middle-earth", there are 143 miles to cross between the entry of Mirkwood and the Enchanted River. The Company has managed to traverse this distance within 14 days, averaging a little more than 10 miles a day - a better value than Fonstad's 6.5 miles. The difference is due to the fact that Fonstad dated the crossing on 16 August. There are reasons to believe it happened two weeks sooner. For the curious, they are indicated in "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'", but we will examine them closer in eight days from now.

Sonntag, 23. Juli 2017

Saturday, 21 July 2941 T.A.: Is Gandalf going back to Rivendell?

Even Gandalf may not be willing to risk a Beorn-hug here
On this day, in 2941 T.A., the new moon keeps Mirkwood in even deeper nightshade than otherwise. Bilbo and the Dwarves are struggling on on the hidden path. It seems slow going, not only because of the brambles but also because of the up and down slopes that apparently make the way much longer than the mere line as the crow flies would suggest.

Also on this day, Gandalf on Beorn's horse will most likely have reached the Carrock again and fords the Anduin defying the risk of encountering orcs. There is no account of his voyage nor how long it took him nor where he was heading to, and Karen Fonstad does not even speculate about it in "The Atlas of Middle-earth". But as said before: the obvious choice is Lothlórien because it is that stronghold of the White Council which is closest to Dol Guldur, even though otherwise they used to meet in Rivendell - but how would Gandalf get back through the pass even he had just barely crossed a week ago?

The meeting of the White Council and the subsequent attack on Dol Guldur is dated in "late summer" in Appendix A part III. "Late summer" according to whose opinion? For we learn in Appendix D that the seasons had no exact definitions. However, since all dates in LotR (and, retroactively, "The Hobbit") are filtered through the Shire customs, this would most likely mean late summer in the Shire. When that was, of that we have evidence from "The Hobbit" that has to be read properly to have the timetable of the latter half of 2941 T.A. fall into place. For late summer in the Shire is not near the autumnal equinox, as we use to think.


Donnerstag, 20. Juli 2017

Wednesday, 18 July 2941 T.A.: Passing the edge of Mirkwood

Mirkwood (Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald,
by Greenpeace . Markus Mauthe)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Company made its final leg before reaching the edge if Mirkwood. Evidently, they had been slower than Beorn had reckoned, for he had suggested they would reach the border early that day, but in fact it took them till afternoon.

This was the point when Gandalf left them to meet the White Council. He was heading west, towards Anduin, but probably turned south there to reach Lothlórien and persuade the Council to launch an attack on the Necromancer.

Entries into this timetable will now become sparse as news from Mirkwood trickle only. Some events can be computed backwards from the day the Wood-Elves had their celebration which can be dated with some plausibility.

Mittwoch, 19. Juli 2017

Tuesday, 17 July 2941 T.A.: The moon that wasn't there

Something was out of touch with reality near Mirkwood
(Joseph Wrght: Dovedale by Moonlight)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Company was out on the third day after leaving Beorn, still heading north while drawing nearer to the edge of Mirkwood. And for the first time, Bilbo noticed that they were followed, not by goblins but by a huge bear. Something strange happened then: "That third evening they were so eager to press on ...that they rode still forward after dusk and into the night beneath the moon."

Since the moon of 2941 T.A. is in sync with that of 2017 A.D., I suggest you go out tonight, if your local weather permits, and look for the moon. Tell me what you saw.

Yes, you are right: there was no moon. Tolkien confessed later that he had not purposefully tried to get the lunar phases in "The Hobbit" straight in the earlier revisions, yet by chance he got them almost right. This is one of the few cases when he did not. For we will have a new moon soon, inevtiably so, with that broad silver crescent seen at Midsummer's Eve, and Bilbo would have seen nothing tonight unless he woke early enough to perceive the thin crescent rising before the sun in the east.

Those three words "beneath the moon" should have been deleted in the 1966 revision.

Dienstag, 18. Juli 2017

Monday, 16 July 2941 T. A.: Forebodings of a dreadful autumn

An autumn-like mist white upon the ground
(Morning Mist Glen Atholl, by Gordon Scott)
On this day, in 2941 T.A., Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves woke before sunrise to "an autumn-like mist white upon the ground and the air was chill". At the peak of summer, this premature reference to autumn - not his first- seems to tell more about Bilbo's inner state of mind than about the actual climate of Rhovanion.

On the other hand, autumn is approaching on more rapid feet than we think. And while Tolkien decided to accept dates, originally stated according to the Gregorian calendar, as actual references to the Shire Calendar during his 1960 revisions, he did nothing to modify the seasons, which would have meant a much greater effort. They are still those of the first-edition "Hobbit" - and not quite
those that we might expect,  much to John Rateliff's dismay.
Still, after sunrise, the mists quickly dissipated and "morning dawned bright and fair again". And daytime became yet summerly hot, as Bilbo indirectly tell us when he mentions "
small herds of red deer browsing or sitting at noon in the shade". The company rode on all day and camped for the second time, seeing "nothing save grass and flowers and birds and scattered trees".