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.