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.