Freitag, 26. Mai 2017

Friday, 26 May: A starry, moonless night

A new moon over Middle-earth

On this day, in 2941 T. A., a new moon passes over Middle-earth.

This may not seem like news worth recording. But it is, as we will see in a few days. For Tolkien's failure to recognise this bit of trivia sent him into what I called "an arithmetic trap" from which he found no escape - to the detriment of the finally published, 1966 "Hobbit".

Mittwoch, 24. Mai 2017

Wednesday, 24 May: Straining Elrond's hospitality

Arrival in Rivendell. Illustration by Horus Weber for
the first German edition of "The Hobbit", 1957.
After a journey of 27 days, the Company arrives in Rivendell on this day in 2941 T.A., according to Tolkien's 1960 timetable. He notes that the progress across the final 12 miles was slow and difficult and it was already near nightfall when at last they reached the path that leads to Rivendell. The night was moonless and starry, as might be expected, since we are close to new moon.

I think you will agree that the 1960 timetable is a solid concept, both with regard to internal consistency and, though unintentionally, with the phases of the moon as derived from data in the published "Hobbit" (set down in detail in my "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'"). If criticism ought to be applied, it is this that Tolkien was straining Elrond's hospitality beyond all measure because the familiar fortnight that the Dwarves would spend in Rivendell has here expanded into two and a half fortnights: Tolkien was adamant that the departure from Rivendell on Midsummer's Day should be retained. Also, for some reason, the obvious solution to postpone the Unexpected Party by a month was never an option in spite of Bilbo's aberrant reference to "that May morning long ago" in "The Hobbit", chap. VIII.

We may wonder what the 1960 Rivendell chapter would have looked like if Tolkien had continued it: Was the stay so long because Gandalf went away on a different mission and no one wanted to leave before his return? Would other Elves have been introduced: Elladan and Elrohir, Glorfindel or Erestor? Would Bilbo in this version have first met young Estel/Aragorn? Alas, at this point, both the timetable and the entire project of retconning the "Hobbit" into the "Lord of the Rings" came to an abrupt halt. The reason, according to John Rateliff, was that an unidentified beta-reader had seen the revisions and turned them down, which caused Tolkien to immediately abandon them. Rateliff does not speculate who this reader might have been, but I suspect without evidence that he was at least a close acquaintance of Rayner Unwin who may have been horrified by the prospect of taking up these revisions - that was long before preprints could be digitally uploaded with little effort, remember. This happened just a few years before the infamous copyright issue with Ace came up, which required a revision of the "Hobbit", anyway. But by that time, the 1960 material had apparently been misplaced and, pity, nothing of it entered the final version of 1966 that we all know.

That's why, from today on, we will have to switch to a different timetable to follow the 1966 "Hobbit" in which Bilbo, Gandalf and the Company are still traveling somewhere in western Rhudaur today, for whatever reason their progress might have been so slow. The encounter with the trolls is going to take place at the end of May - and two weeks before they will arrive in Rivendell, otherwise a mere five day trips away from the Trollshaws. 

Dienstag, 23. Mai 2017

Tuesday, 23 May: The last fences of the Westland

The mountains had drawn close: no more than a day's trip away
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Company finally reaches the river Bruinen. The day is hot and clear and there is no mist. They halt on the west bank for a long midday break (which we learn only from the 1960 timetable and not from any narrative text), and then continue across the ford. Their progress in the heathlands beyond the ford is slow, but Bilbo notices how close the mountains have drawn now. They stop at sunset about 10 miles east of the ford. Rivendell is still 12 miles ahead: another daytrip, if they are lucky.

"You have now come to the last fences of the Westland," those are Gandalf's words as they have all safely reached the yonder side of the Bruinen.


Montag, 22. Mai 2017

Monday, 22 May: Leaving the Trollshaws

The river Bruinen in the distant sunset
(painting by Albert Bierstadt, 1830-1902)
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the 1960 timeline reports better weather but increasing shortage of feed for the exhausted ponies. "The Company starts late and has a long midday halt", hence, they cover only 15 miles till sunset. At last, they see the Bruinen glimmering in the setting sun, still about 10 miles to go. Slightly deviating from the timetable, the fragmented chapter III of the 1960 Hobbit revision suggests that they got the first glimps of the Bruinen on the morning after.

"They go no further that day, for they have passed out of the shadow of the Trollshaws, and feel safer."

In Hobbiton, the sun rises at 04:02 and sets at20:01. The thinly waning moon rises at 2:42 in the night and sets at 15:28.
(How do I know? Hobbiton is at the latitude and - most likely - longitude of Oxford ...)


Sonntag, 21. Mai 2017

Sunday, 21 May: Moving towards Bruinen

Onwards on the Great East Road
This day, in 2941 T.A., is of generally depressing mood. The proximity of the Trollshaws strains everybody's nerves, and the weather is invariably bleak. According to the 1960 timetable, The Company covers 18 miles before they camp with still 25 miles left till the river Bruinen.

Samstag, 20. Mai 2017

Saturday, 20 May: Burying the troll-hoard

On this day, in 2941 T.A., the 1960 timetable records a very late rise for the Company, at about 15.30. The morning had of course been spent with investigating and securing the troll-hoard. It is interesting to note that Tolkien's 1960 revisions, intended to align "The Hobbit" with LotR in style and content, retains magic spells that the Dwarves use to secure their left-behind booty - though Tolkien is unspecific about whether they really had an effect are were just a superstitious ritual. It may allow us to ask what happened to the shares of Thorin, Kili and Fili in 2942 T.A., when they were unable to recover it. 

The Company traveled till 20.00, including one break. This advanced them by 12 miles only; they still had 43 to go till the Fords of Bruinen.

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)

Donnerstag, 18. Mai 2017

Thursday, 18 May: Camp near Mitheithel

On this day, in 2941 T.A., the 1960 timetable records that Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves have crossed 106 miles from Weathertop and camp 3 miles west of the banks of Mitheithel (Greyflood). Since the river runs in a deep narrow valley, they cannot yet see the Last Bridge ahead of them, and they are not aware that it is broken; but they see the Trollshaws beyond. In the night, the weather becomes very unpleasant.
The Last Bridge is broken (19th century illustration, unknown artist)

The episode was fleshed out in the abandoned 1960 revisions of "The Hobbit" but did not make it into the final, 1966 revision and is thus found only in Rateliff's "History". The 1960 timetable is by now ten days ahead of Fonstad's computations: Based on the 1966 Hobbit, she assumed the camp west of the Last Bridge to have occurred on 28 May.

Coincidentally, shifting the scene forward to 18 May had brought the lunar phases given in the first three chapters of "The Hobbit" in accordance with each other. The moon is now actually waning, as all published editions before 1966 described it, which is consisted with the lunar phase of 1 Lithe, when Elrond reads the moon-runes. In 1966, the reference was quite needlessly changed to "wandering" and has stayed that way. At this point, Tolkien went at length to argue with himself about an incoherence that he had already solved, without noticing, and he would catch himself in an arithmetic trap, ignoring all available solutions (see Rateliff, "History", and my own "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'"). More about that on 30 May. 

Donnerstag, 11. Mai 2017

Thursday, 11 May: Bilbo, Gandalf and the Company enter Rhudaur

On this day, in 2941 T. A., the Company awakened in its camp on the east side of Weathertop, 80 miles east of the Last Inn, to slowly progress into Rhudaur. This is the next entry in the 1960 timeline quoted in full by John Rateliff in "The History of the Hobbit".

Karen Fonstad, in "The Atlas of Middle-earth", scheduled the camp on the east side of Weathertop on 15 May, rather: a compromise between the LotR map and the incongruent revisions of the 1966 Hobbit that are, alas, not based on the consistent 1960 timeline.

My own calculations published in "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'" add that a full moon was shining on Weathertop that night, agreeing with (most of) the observations of the lunar phases reported in the published Hobbit and with the real syzygy of about 29.5 days, which young Mr. Tolkien for some reason believed to be 28 days long only, according to Rateliff. I find it wondrous that a man who romantisised Nature so much would be so ignorant of the way it works. 

Bilbo no doubt asked about the significance of the facilities seen on Weathertop's summit, which may have inspired Gandalf to give a brief lecture on Arnorian history. It can be summarised in the way my illustration shows.

Donnerstag, 4. Mai 2017

Thursday, 4 May: Thorin & Co near the Midgewater Marshes

The Midgewater, Icelandic Mývatn,was named for good reason
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo, Gandalf and Thorin's Company left the Last Inn to immerse deep into the wilderness near the Midgewater Marshes.

According to the 1960 timetable, "their progress is now very slow, owing to the badness and dangerousness of the road, esp. in the marshy region. They barely manage 12 miles a day" - which would still have been a better value than the 8 miles a day which Karen Fonstad calculated based on the 1966 Hobbit. At any rate, they will spend the next few days in the marshy lands - but then, they don't have a Ranger with them, do they? And then, there is this Hobbit who has used his chance to replenish himself in Bree with lots of Second and Third Breakfasts ...

Mittwoch, 3. Mai 2017

Wednesday, 3 May: The Last Inn

The Last Inn
(Actually: "The Cat and Fiddle", near Buxton,
illustration by Charles G. Harper, 1906)
On this day, in 2941 T.A., the Company leaves Bree very early, according to the 1960 timetable. It travels for 20 miles, reaches the Last Inn in the early evening and, to the disappointment of everyone, finds it deserted (hence, we know it from LotR as the Forsaken Inn). According to my own computations published in "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'", there was a first quarter moon setting over the Last Inn that evening.

From this point on, entries in the 1960 timetable become rarer, and it increasingly deviates from both Fonstad's "Atlas" and the published "Hobbit". Tolkien's purpose had been to reshape Bilbo's travels to match the LotR map, and he had succeeded in that, even achieving consistency with the attested lunar phases. The price paid was that the stay in Rivendell had to be extended from about fourteen to thirty-six days since it was already reached on 24 May instead of 16 June. The obvious solution to postpone the Unexpected Party by a month had never occurred to Tolkien, despite Bilbo's casual reference to "that May morning long ago" in chap. VIII.

John Rateliff, in "The History of the Hobbit", believes that the abandoned 1960 revisions were not available to Tolkien when he revised the "Hobbit" again to secure US copyright in 1966. Thus, alas, even the final version has been left with inconsistencies to the internal chronology that had already been satisfactorily solved, and the 1960 timetable is inconsistent with references to dates in the published story up to 1 Lithe.

Dienstag, 2. Mai 2017

Tuesday, 2 May: Thorin & Co. in Bree

The Prancing Pony, by Andreas Möhn 1996
On this day, in 2941 T.A., Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves arrive in Bree and, for the last time, buy provisions ("including pipe-weed") before they are going to set out into the wild. According to the 1960 timetable, they had camped on 1 May somewhere north of the Old Forest, having had only three meals during the day (no second breakfast!).

At this point, Karen Fonstad's reconstruction begins to deviate from the 1960 timeline that, so far, is still consistent with the final, 1966, "Hobbit". Based on the average travel times, she had reckoned the arrival in Bree on 4 May, assuming that the Company had traveled 10 miles per day. In fact, it was twice that distance each day because this part of the Great East Road was still well maintained.

The illustration shows my sketch of The Prancing Pony, an excerpt from a hand-painted cover of "The Fellowship of the Ring".

Sonntag, 30. April 2017

Sunday, 30 April 2941 T.A.: Thorin & Company cross the Brandywine Bridge

On this day, in 2941 T.A., Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves set out very early, according to the 1960 timetable, cross the Brandywine Bridge in the late afternoon and camp about 10 miles further east.
Karen Fonstad, in her "Atlas of Middle-earth", agrees with the date of crossing the Brandywine.

Since I could not find any other illustration of the Brandywine Bridge, I submit my own here that I made for my late father two years before his death. The view is from the southwest.

The Brandywine Bridge, by Andreas Möhn 1998

Samstag, 29. April 2017

Saturday, 29 April 2941 T.A.: Lodging in Whitfurrows

Cover illustration of the first German edition of "The Hobbit", by Horus Weber, 1957.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Thorin & Company lodged in the town of Whitfurrows in the Eastfarthing, according to Tolkien's 1960 timetable reproduced in "The History of the Hobbit" by John Rateliff. Karen Fonstad achieved about the same result in her "Atlas of Middle-earth", based on averaged travel distances.


Freitag, 28. April 2017

Friday, 28 April: The All-welcome inn

Emil Doepler, 1876: Dwarf-smith
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Thorin's Company with Gandalf and Bilbo lodged in the All-welcome Inn at the junction of the Great East Road and the Greenway.

This event is not mentioned in "The Hobbit" but found in a timetable that Tolkien compiled in 1960 for a revision that was soon abandoned. The timetable, published by John D. Rateliff in "The History of the Hobbit, p. 816 et seq., is incompatible with the published "Hobbit" in its latter part but agrees with Karen Fonstad's reconstruction of the travel route in its earlier parts and therefore is included here.

Donnerstag, 27. April 2017

Thursday, 27 April: Bilbo Baggins departs from Bag-end

Balin on his pony. Illustration by Evelyne Drouhin, France, 1969
On this day, in 2941 T.A., Bilbo Baggins was scolded by an Istar named Gandalf for having overslept, rushed out of the door forgetting any handkerchief and just made it to the meeting-point with Thorin Oakenshield's Dwarves in Bywater at 11.00 o'clock.

The Dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo set out at a very leisurely pace, spending a good month on a road that was usually ridden in half that time. Maybe they spent more days in the "Prancing Pony" than Bilbo was ready to admit in his memoirs.

Mittwoch, 26. April 2017

Gandalf. Tea. Wednesday.

An Unexpected Party. Illustration by Horus Engels, Wolfsburg (Germany), 1957
On this day, Wednesday, 26 April 2941 T. A., Bag-end was invaded by thirteen Dwarves and one Istar who requested Mr. Bilbo Baggins, Esq., to apply for a vacant position as master-thief.

According to the computations presented in the companon volume "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'", there was a new moon that night.

Dienstag, 25. April 2017

Tuesday, 25 April: Gandalf meets Bilbo

Gandalf at the door of Bag-end. Illustration by Horus Engels, Wolfsburg, 1957
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Mr. Bilbo Baggins esq., of Bag-end, received an unexpected (and unwelcome) visit by a wizard named Gandalf who kindly invited himself and some others for tea.


Freitag, 21. April 2017

Thursday, 21 April 2841 T. A..: Thrain departs for Erebor

On this day in 2841 T. A., Thrain departed for Erebor and was never seen again.

The date has been amended in the second edition of "The Hobbit". In the Shire Reckoning, however, 21 April is Friday (or Highday). The origin of this discrepancy is discussed in our companion volume "The Moon on the Hobbit".

Freitag, 7. April 2017

26 March 2941: Gandalf meets Thorin in Bree

On this day in 2941, T.A., Gandalf meets Thórin Oakenshield in Bree. They discuss options how to regain the Lonely Mountain.

(Source: https://www.amazon.de/Moon-Hobbit-Phases-seas…/…/ref=sr_1_1… , p. 53)

Donnerstag, 6. April 2017

6 April: Today is the New Year of the Elves.

It is Thursday according to the Shire Reckoning. On this day in 2941 TA, Gandalf the Grey meets Holman Greenhand and learns that Bilbo Baggins has left Bag-end on the previous day. Bilbo will stay away for a couple of more days.

(Source: https://www.amazon.de/Moon-Hobbit-Phases-seas…/…/ref=sr_1_1… , p. 53, referring to "The Quest of Erebor" in "Unfinished Tales".)

Dienstag, 7. Februar 2017

A hobbit of grain


Do we, like John Rateliff did in "The History of the Hobbit", really have to resort to an obscure and, in its time, little known list of legendary creatures to discover what inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to use the word "Hobbit"? Or is there, maybe, a more straighforward possibility?
"The hobbit (also hobbett, hobbet, or hobed, from Welsh: hobaid) is a unit of volume or weight formerly used in Wales for trade in grain and other staples. It was equal to four pecks or two and a half bushels, but was also often used as a unit of weight, which varied depending on the material being measured. The hobbit remained in customary use in markets in northern Wales after Parliament standardized the Winchester bushel as the unit of measure for grain, after which courts gave inconsistent rulings as to its legal status.

The hobbit was defined as a measure of volume, two and a half imperial bushels, but in practice it was often used as a unit of weight for specific goods. According to George Richard Everitt, Inspector of Corn Returns for Denbigh in northern Wales, when examined by the House of Commons in 1888, grains were sold by the hobbit, measured by weight. A hobbit of oats weighed 105 pounds, a hobbit of barley 147 pounds, and a hobbit of wheat 168 pounds. The figures in hobbits were then converted to standard imperial bushels for official reporting. In addition to grains, there was also a hobbit of beans at 180 pounds, and in Flintshire, a 200-pound hobbit of old potatoes, or 210 pounds of new potatoes. Around 1600, Welsh farmland was sometimes denominated by its productive capacity or measure of seedness instead of its physical area, so that in at least one case a plot was registered as "a hobbett of land", that is, large enough to grow one hobbit of grain per year."
Hobbit (unit)

The hobbit as a unit was known to authors like Prof. Rhys or Charles Dickens, ("An anonymous contributor to Charles Dickens's journal All the Year Round, arguing in favour of the decimal metric system, noted that
If [I buy wheat] at Wrexham, [I must order] by the hobbet of one hundred and sixty eight [pounds]. But, even if I do happen to know what a hobbet of wheat means at Wrexham, that knowledge good for Flint is not good for Caernarvonshire. A hobbet of wheat at Pwlheli contains eighty-four pounds more than a hobbet at Wrexham; and a hobbet of oats is something altogether different; and a hobbet of barley is something altogether different again."
Hobbit (unit)
This source defines hobbits for the purposes of a commercial trial in 1854: Hughes vs. Humphrey. Another source claims that the name of the Welsh unit is of unknown origin: A Dictionary of Weights

With Tolkien's affection for the Welsh language given, has it ever been examined whether this may be his actual (maybe subconscious) inspiration of the hobbit name?

Donnerstag, 5. Januar 2017

My cover illustrations of Middle-earth

These five covers I have painted for my late father who was very disappointed with the contemporary illustrations of the German editions by Klett Publishing. I have used gouache colours throughout and, in places, drawn lines with a black felt-tip pen. I call this my "historising" style because the sceneries were mostly inspired by real-world objects rather than fantasy worlds.





See all illustrations and comments

Essays collected in printed or electronic books:


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Middle-earth seen by the barbarians: A compilation of Tolkien's references to the Middle Men of Eriador and Gondor: the pre-Númenóreans and the Dunlendings; the concealed history of Dorwinion, the fate of king Bladorthin and the origin of the Lossoth, the culture and history of the peoples in the east and far south of Middle-earth, with special consideration of the Wainriders, the Black Númenóreans and the Corsairs of Umbar. The appendix discusses the name Bladorthin and gives a new interpretation of this enigmatic king, shows how to apply a grid of latitudes and longitudes to the map of Middle-earth and in a previously unpublished essay discusses various comments by Tolkien on Pauline Baynes' recently recovered LotR map. This volume includes updated versions of “The Indigenous Peoples of Eriador and Gondor”, “The Lossoth and the Forodwaith”, “The Men of Darkness”, “The Third Realm in Exile”, “The mysterious King Bladorthin” and “A meridional grid on the map of Middle-earth” from these Science Pages.

The Moon in ‘The Hobbit’: A discussion and digital simulation of the lunar phases stated in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The History of The Hobbit’ and their astronomical background, with special regard to the identification of Durin's Day and the threshold of winter; including an analysis of the various calendar systems in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Many hints are given on how to use the moon and the seasons as plot elements in your own stories. This book has updated versions of the essays “The Moon and Durin’s Day, 2941 TA”, “Midsummer’s eve and the Moon-letters“, “The Reckoning of Time”, “An ephemeris for Bilbo Baggins” and “(Flawed) Astronomy in the History of the Hobbit” from these Science Pages.

Words of Westernesse: A light-hearted introduction into the grammar of Adûnaic, based on Arthur Lowdham's spiritual research in HoMe IX, and (tentative) etymologies of Adûnaic and Westron as far as the corpus of vocabulary has been established. This volumes includes updated versions of the essays “Lalaith’s Guide to Adûnaic grammar” and “Etymologies of the Atani Languages” from these Science Pages.

Dynasties of Middle-earth: Genealogical tables and comments on the lines of the kings of Númenor, Arnor, Gondor, Rohan, Dale and the Princes of Dol Amroth. A shorter version of this volume had been previously presented here as “Genealogies of the noble Mannish houses”.