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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room: Dates for the Battle of Five Armies: Edit Log


Jan 10 2011, 12:30am

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Dates for the Battle of Five Armies

As if I weren't already guilty of heresy for suggesting that Smaug died on the night of October 26, 2941 TA, I would like to suggest that we might be able to determine the date of the Battle of Five Armies as well. I hope I've already shown that there is -- if not outright proof -- at least compelling evidence that we can know the day that Durin's Day fell on in 2941 TA, and therefore can work out the date that Smaug died -- the following day.

Tolkien gives us quite a number of specific time periods leading up to the Battle of Five Armies, but not all of them, unfortunately. (We aren't told, for example, precisely how many days passed between the time that the armies of Elves and Men left the lake, and the day that the battle began.) Nevertheless, dealing with the numbers that I could find, I had the feeling that it was roughly a month, more or less, from Smaug's death until the battle. There may in fact be evidence that it was almost exactly one month. Here are the quotes I found. See what you think.

First of all, we know that one lunar month lasts approximately 30 days -- 29.53 days to be exact. First there is a "dark moon" or "no moon" when the moon is completely occulted by Earth's shadow. Then the first sliver of a New Moon appears and becomes a "waxing crescent" until it reaches the First Quarter. The next phase is "waxing gibbous" until it becomes a Full Moon. The third phase is "waning gibbous" until the Last Quarter. Finally, there is a "waning crescent" when the moon becomes a thinner and thinner sliver of light, then disappears into total darkness -- only to reappear as a New Moon in the next "waxing crescent" stage.

Wiki definition: "The original meaning of the phrase new moon was the first visible crescent of the Moon ... The astronomical new moon, sometimes known as the dark moon to avoid confusion, occurs by definition at the moment of conjunction in ecliptic longitude with the Sun, when the Moon is invisible from the Earth."

In 2941 TA, the New Moon that marked Durin's Day fell on October 25. Chapter 11 of The Hobbit tells us that "there pale and faint was a thin new moon above the rim of Earth." Back at the very end of chapter 3, when Elrond asked, "Then what is Durin's Day?" Thorin answered, "The first day of the dwarves' New Year is as all should know the first day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter. We still call it Durin's Day when the last moon of Autumn and the sun are in the sky together."

Chapter 10 tells us that Dain and his army of 500 dwarves were "within about two days' march of Dale," and we later learn that the Battle of Five Armies began the same day that Dain arrived. But two days earlier, after hearing the news of Dain's imminent arrival, Bilbo slipped out of the dwarves' cavern and went down to the besieging armies of Elves and Men and told them, "Dain, I may tell you, is now less than two days' march off..." Tolkien also tells us that just before Bilbo set out, "That night Bilbo made up his mind. The sky was black and moonless."

The sky is technically "moonless" on only one day of the month -- the day after the last waning crescent of the former month disappears into blackness, and the day before the first sliver of the New Moon appears. This moonless night that Bilbo sneaked out was then, apparently, one day before next New Moon, which would have occurred on November 24. Thus, Bilbo's nighttime foray happened on November 23. The battle began two days later on November 25, was fought all the remainder of that day, all the following night, and was finally won the next day, November 26.

If I'm correctly interpreting Tolkien's to quotes about the moon, that is. I may be off by a day or two, one way or the other, but I do believe it's in the right ballpark. In other words, the period of "no moon" may have included the day before or the day after the complete darkening of the moon, when -- although there was a very faint crescent of light -- it was not bright enough to be seen. But going by the word that Tolkien used, "moonless," that seems to indicate November 23 -- and thus gives us the beginning date of the Battle of Five Armies, two days later. Thus:

Oct. 25 -- Durin's Day: last New Moon before winter
Nov. 23 -- "No moon;" Bilbo sneaks out to the enemy; Dain still 2 days away
Nov. 24 -- The following New Moon
Nov. 25 -- Dain and 500 dwarves arrive; the Battle of Five Armies begins
Nov. 26 -- The Battle of Five Armies ends

What do you think?

(This post was edited by Inferno on Jan 10 2011, 6:50pm)

Edit Log:
Post edited by Inferno (Superuser) on Jan 10 2011, 6:24pm: Fixed formatting by request
Post edited by Inferno (Superuser) on Jan 10 2011, 6:50pm

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