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".

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.

Freitag, 30. Juni 2017

1 Lithe: The moon-letters and the moon's broad crescent

"A broad silver crescent" on 1 Lithe
On this day, in 2789 T. A., Thrór, dethroned King of the Mountain, wrote the moon-letters on his map. It was within the last year of Thrór's life before he was slain by Azog.

On this day, in 2865 T. A., the moon-letters became visible for the first time. Thrór's map was in the hands of Gandalf the wizard, but it did not occur to him to hold the map against the moonlight. It may have been a cloudy evening, anyway.

On this day, in 2941 T.A., the moon-letters became visible for the second time. Elrond detected them and read them aloud.

On all three days, the moon was "a broad silver crescent", a description that survived all revisions of "The Hobbit" unscathed. The best fit with the other lunar phases stated in the book is a moon that is 6 days and 9 hours old at 7.00 p.m. of midsummer's eve, with an illumination that is about 45 %, looking like the image given here that I just shot with my daughter's camera on 10.45 p.m. CEST. The deviation of the lunar phase that Elrond saw from that which Thrór saw at the same time of the day in 2789 T.A. is 11.8 hours, clearly a tolerable error margin.

(I cannot give the details of the calculations here; if you are interested, they are all included in my companion volume "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'", ISBN: 149756056X.)

The dates of 2789 and 2865 T.A. emerge from calculating the Callippic Cycle backwards, a period of 76 years after which the lunar phase repeats on the same day, with a deviation of a few hours. In ancient Greece, the Callippic Cycles were applied to base calendars on, with the first year of the first Callippic cycle beginning at the summer solstice of 330 BC. It may be plausible to assume that the Dwarves of Erebor used a similar calendar to devise the moon-letters. 


Sonntag, 25. Juni 2017

Saturday, 25 June 2941 T.A.: Final new moon before Midsummer

On this day, in 2941 T. A., there was the last new moon in Rivendell before that crucial midsummer's eve. The calculations presented in "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'" show that this is the latest possible date of the June new moon that allows for both a broad silver crescent on midsummer's eve and for the very young moon seen on Durin's Day.

In the notes published by John Rateliff, Tolkien implicitly assumes 26 June as the date of this new moon but based on an assumed lunar period of 29 days, rather than 29.5.

Freitag, 16. Juni 2017

Thursday, 16 June 2941 T.A.: Alternate timelines of the Hobbit finally converge

Waning moon late night over Rivendell. Composite by Codex Regius.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., the various tentative timelines of the unpublished 1960 revisions and the final 1966 "Hobbit" finally converge. From now on, we may assume Bilbo, Gandalf & the Dwarves safely in Rivendell, whatever happened to them before. Tolkien has established this day clearly in the notes published by John Rateliff.

The moon, by the way, is currently waning and rising late in the night, according to my calculations in "The Moon in 'The Hobbit.'"  This is consistent with Bilbo's observation in the evening of his arrival in Rivendell that 'the light became very dim, for the moon had not risen.'

Samstag, 10. Juni 2017

Friday, 10 June: The last full moon before Lithe

On this day, in 2941 T.A., the last full moon before midsummer's eve shone over Middle-earth.
Note that May has 30 days in the Shire Reckoning, therefore, we are now one weekday off from the days of 2017.
Full moon over Rhudaur. Photo by the author.
In the 1966 Hobbit, Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves are still crawling slow-motion towards Rivendell, though quite little text emendations would have made the final timetable more plausible. As a desperate compromise between text and map, Karen Fonstad made them arrive on 04 June already, arguing that time passes differently at Elvish places and Bilbo might have been out of reckoning. J.R.R. Tolkien, however, discusses the point in notes published by John Rateliff that had not been available yet when Fonstad published her "Atlas". He settled explicitly with 15 June as the presumable date of arrival before he decided to blur the issue.

This way or that, it is a pity that he did not stuck with the 1960 timetable and discarded an internal consistency that he had already achieved.

Dienstag, 30. Mai 2017

Tuesday, 30 May: An arithmetic trap

The first two editions of "The Hobbit" scheduled the encounter with the trolls on the last day of May, which was originally meant to be 31 May according to the Gregorian calendar but shifted to 30 May when Tolkien decided that the Shire Reckoning had to be retconned into the book (where May, like all months, has 30 days). Next, he went at stakes to align the lunar phases, i. e. a "waning" moon described on 30 May and "a broad silver crescent" on midsummer's eve. 

Bilbo put his little hand into William's huge pocket:
Illustration by Évelyne Drouhin, 1969
John Rateliff, in "The History of the Hobbit", has published several sets of notes in which we witness Tolkien repeatedly pondering how to reconcile these two observations. He has not interpreted them thoroughly from an astronomical point of view, that's why I have done it in "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'". The entire discussion takes up a whole chapter in the book but briefly, the result is as follows

In the whole discussion, Tolkien consistently committed two errors, one minor, the other significant: (1) He assumed the "broad silver crescent" to be 3 or 4 days old. Check it out tonight, the moon is currently 4 days old. You will see that there is still some way to go until the crescent is really broad, say, to the 6th day. (2) Inexplicably, he assigned to the period of a lunation (full moon to full moon) the rather biblical value of 28 days instead of correct 29.5 days. This value, as unfounded as it is, seems to be a zombie of English folklore - even the BBC perpetuates it till today:

Unfortunately, both his errors added up to a calamity from which Tolkien found no escape: his "arithmetic trap", as I have called it in my analysis. Whenever he tried to calculate backwards from Midsummer Eve to the encounter with the trolls, he got a new moon for this very night - irreconcilable with the waning moon he had described!

We have seen as we went through the 1960 timetable that his problem would have been solved if only he had applied the astronomically correct values. Even when he decided in 1966 to retain 30 May as the day of the troll encounter, it would have been enough to exchange one character: substitute "waning" with "waxing". But since it never occurred to him to check his aberrant premises, his ultimate emergency escape - as published in the 1966 Hobbit and ever since - was to simply camouflage the problem and hope it would remain unnoticed: The "waning" became a "wandering" moon, "tomorrow will be June" mutated into "soon it will be June", and from then on, the troll encounter had no specific date any more. 

Of course, this was of no help when it came to that other discrepancy: from 30 May or whatever other day in late May on, the Company would still have two sloppy weeks ahead to crawl to the Ford of Bruinen that is otherwise a mere three day-trips away.

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:…/…/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:…/…/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