Freitag, 19. Mai 2017

Friday, 19 May: Encounter with the Trolls

All previously published versions of "The Hobbit" had scheduled the encounter with the trolls on the last day of May, whether Gregorian or Shire Reckoning. (Bilbo was heard musing, 'Tomorrow will be June'.) But in the 1960 timetable, Tolkien dated the event forward to reduce the absurd travel times of the published book and achieve consistency with the LotR map.

This entry in the 1960 timetable is very detailed: Early rise in wind and rain. They find the Last Bridge broken (see yesterday's entry), and Gandalf (in the 1960 revision of chap. 2) considers that an evil sign which he will have to discuss with the Rangers. They ford the Mitheithel at 10.30, have foodless halts at 12.00 and 16.00, then continue till darkness.. The sun sets at about 20.00. 'Ponies become more and more reluctant to proceed, so that in spite of the improved road they are slow' and cover only 17 miles from the Last Bridge till dusk. The hiding place of the trolls is about 25 miles from the Mitheithel and 55 from the Fort of Bruinen.

In all published versions so far, and also in the 1960 revision, the moon is described both as waning and as rising above the hills. Remember that a full moon had been on 11 May, hence, we have now reached last quarter. While the phase is consistent with Tolkien's invariable key date, the crescent of Midsummer's Day, its early rise is an impossibility. Checking any astronomy app will show you that today, 19 May 2017, we will have the last quarter moon rising on about 2.40, long after midnight! The Company (minus Gandalf) would in fact have had to spend much of this night out in the open before they even saw the light of the fire between the trees.

After much of arguing back and forth that Rateliff has published in 'History' (which I further annotated in 'The Moon in 'The Hobbit"'), Tolkien merely camouflaged the problem by amending 'waning' into 'wandering' in the final 1966 revisions, and thus it has stayed ever since. This was a cheat that did not provide any physically plausible solution, however. We will further discuss that on 30 May.

(Bill, Bert, and Tom: Illustration by Horus Weber for the German "Hobbit", 1957)