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".

Montag, 17. Juli 2017

Sunday, 15 July 2941 T. A.: Forward along the river Anduin

Beorn's home was clearly inspired by contemporary
reconstructions of old norse halls
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Company set out from Beorn's hall and headed north along the left bank of the Anduin, towards the lands where once the Éothéod had dwelt. Beorn had advised them to find the entry to a minor forest path early on 18 July. The mood was light during daytime, but haunting dreams attacked Bilbo and the Dwarves that night.

Note: On preparing yesterday's calendar entry I realised that I have mistakenly dated the departure from Beorn on 14 July in chapter IV of "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'". This has to be corrected in the next upload of the preprint file.

Sonntag, 16. Juli 2017

Saturday, 14 July 2941, T. A.: The strangest beasts of Middle-earth

But where those guys got pipeweed from
will stay the secret of Horus Weber,
artist of this 1957 "Hobbit" illustration.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo is awakened late while the others have breakfast. The Dwarves stay carefully in Beorn's hall all day long while Gandalf is out to examine the tracks of the night before. He returns late and tells his story of a congregation of bears while Beorn is not seen all day. He seems not to expect his guests to leave before his return, nor do his animals who are waiting on with all their unnatural skills.

Beorn's beasts have been the subject of much discussion because they are hard to reconcile with the post-LotR world of Middle-earth. Sure, we have seen Huan, the talking dog of the Silmarillion, and Thuringwethil the bat messenger, but a whole gang of beasts behaving humanly in all respects but their physical form? Even the popular default assumption - They are Maiar! - fails, for why would they serve a mere man? And Tolkien was unequivocal about Beorn being no more than that. Allow me to propose my own suggestion that I have not yet heard before:

The animals in Beorn's household are in fact his wife and daughters. Like him, they are skinchangers, but the social standards of their ethnic group do not permit them to show their human shape to strangers (let's call it a sexual taboo, if you like). Hence, they keep their animalic shapes throughout, though with a distinctly human touch to it. 

Friday, 13 July 2941. T. A.: Through the air to the bear

Beorn, by Horus Weber for the German
"Hobbit" edition of 1957

On the morning of this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo awoke with the early sun in his eyes, which at this season and latitude (and altitude) may have been at some time between 06.00 and 07.00 a.m. The Eagles took everyone down to the Anduin, where they had a bath around noon when the sun was "strong and warm". It was afternoon when they arrived at Beorn's.

In the night, as he heard odd noises outside, Bilbo observed a "high moon, which was peering down through the smokehole in the roof." This must have been Beorn picking up the scent and leaving briefly before sunrise for the moon was in its last quarter now and would not have been above anyone's smokehole before 4.00 a.m.

Freitag, 14. Juli 2017

Thursday, 12 July 2941 T. A.: Aquila ex machina

Fleeing from the wargs.
Horus Weber, 1957.
On this day, in 2941 T.A., Bilbo finally escapes from the hollow depths of Middle-earth and rejoins his companions at daytime. Alas, their escape comes to a preliminary end in a tree as the goblins catch up with them. (It is not surprising that they did but that it took them two days to catch up with their prey!) They are in a most remarkable manner saved by an airborne rescue team: the Great Eagles, who, alas, fail to drop the Hobbit with the Ruling Ring into eternal oblivion somewhere. Perhaps, as Horus Weber's 1957 illustration shows, the poor Eagle had no other choice.

The lunar phases observed are very interesting: It was first predicted that ‘there will be a bit of  moon’, and later that night, ‘the moon was up and was shining into the clearing’. This moon was waning and had risen just after midnight. The eagles thus had sufficient time to save the Company and Bilbo could sleep ‘all night’. This observation of the lunar phase is why Karen Fonstad's timetable who dated the Eagle rescue one week later, on 19 July, has to be rejected. On that date, the moon was two days before new and would have been seen as a very faint crescent rising near dawn and lost in sunlight. This phase was irreconcilable with Tolkien's description.
"My legs! My legs!"
Horus Weber, 1957

Donnerstag, 13. Juli 2017

Wednesday, 11 July 2941 T.A.: We got a new Ring-bearer!

From this day, in 2941 T.A., Mr. Bilbo Baggins Esq., of Bag-end in the Shire, was Bearer of the Ruling Ring forged by the Dark Lord in the Sammath Naur.

It is not evident when he actually found the Ring. From his memoirs it seems as if only a short time had passed between his drop from Dori's back, the discovery of the Ring and his descent to Gollum's lake. But in fact, he has spent the entire Tuesday and Wednesday underground, and with his sense of time passed naturally lost, he could have stumbled on the Ring any moment during his long descent.

He arrived at Gollum's lake presumably during the evening hours of Wednesday.
With the "Lord of the Rings" not yet translated into German
in 1957, illustrator Horus Weber had no idea
that Gollum was in fact a hobbit

Mittwoch, 12. Juli 2017

Tuesday, 10 July 2941 T.A.: Bilbo is lost!

Dori carrying Bilbo is felled by a goblin.
Illustration by Horus Weber, 1957.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the goblins of the Misty Mountains presented their captives to their chief, the Great Goblin. Gandalf caused momentary confusion and killed the Great Goblin using his sword Glamdring, which helped the company escape - losing Bilbo during their flight. Bilbo was knocked unconscious and recovered alone and in darkness.

Fortunately, being a hobbit, he was used to orient himself underground, though how he managed not to die from thirst during the time that followed will remain a mystery. Food was less important for the time being, for his body was well able to consume some of its own resources. Losing his sense of time, like everyone would in his situation, he spent the entire day groping his way through the caverns and caves of the eastern Misty Mountains while the rest of his company managed their escape at an unspecified time.

Dienstag, 11. Juli 2017

Monday, 9 July 2941 T.A.: The giants are out!

The Great Goblin. Illustration by Horus Weber
for the first German edition, 1957
On this day, in 2941 T.A., the weather in the Misty Mountains severely deteriorated and a storm broke loose that forced Bilbo, Gandalf and the Company to seek shelter underground. Bilbo's claim that he had actually seen giants outside flinging stones at each other has been contested by many because it would be hard to understand why Sauron would not have pressed such powerful fighters into his service. Anyway, the conditions were terrible enough to be allegorically exaggerrated in mind.  

According to his letters, Tolkien was inspired by his own experience of a mountain storm above the Lauterbrunnen valley, on Mount Jungfrau.

Sometime this night - it could never been clarified whether it was still Monday night or already Tuesday morning, the ground opened in the Company's shelter and released the Misty Mountain orcs, or goblins, that took evereone captive including Gandalf and took them to their leader, the Great Goblin.

Samstag, 8. Juli 2017

Friday, 06 July 2941 T.A.: A full moon rising over the Misty Mountains

On this day, in 2941 T. A., the moon was full again and rising over the Misty Mountains at dusk, as the computations published in "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'" show. It was about the time when Bilbo looked back "over the lands they had left, laid out behind them far below" (Hobbit, chap. 4), feeling exposed to the unpleasant colds of high altitude.

It is a widespread assumption that the ascent of Gandalf, Bilbo and Thorin's Company was inspired by young Tolkien's voyage to the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland. Indeed, there is a distinct similarity of its setting to his description and at least one of his illustrations of Rivendell. Particular attention might this painting deserve that Swiss artist Jacob Küchlin produced in 1875. It shows a part of the Lauterbrunnen Valley with the Staubach Fall to the right, beneath the full moon (or is it a mist-enshrouded sun?) that we record for today. Compare this scene with Tolkien's description:

Lauterbrunnen Valley, signed Jaques Küchlin, 1875
"On they all went, leading their ponies, till they were brought to a good path and so at last to the very brink of the river. It was flowing fast and noisily, as mountain-streams do of a summer evening, when sun has been all day on the snow far up above. There was only a narrow bridge of stone without a parapet, as narrow as a pony could well walk on; and over that they had to go, slow and careful, one by one, each leading his pony by the bridle."


Samstag, 1. Juli 2017

Midsummer's day: Leaving Rivendell

Ascent into the Misty Mountains
(Scrambles Amongst the Alps
in the years 1860-69
by Edward Whymper)
It is a clear day on this day, in 2941 T.A., as the Company with Gandalf and Bilbo finally leave Rivendell (in whatever timeline) and head into the Misty Mountains.

Karen Fonstad calculates an average distance of 4 miles per day for this leg of the journey, but does not take the attested lunar phases into account. We will see later this month that they suggest a faster progress.