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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Was Smaug slain October 26, 2941 TA?

Auraran
Lorien

Jan 10 2011, 12:27am

Post #1 of 19 (7922 views)
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Was Smaug slain October 26, 2941 TA? Can't Post

It’s an audacious title, I know, but I’m actually half serious…

Has anyone ever attempted to do a credible timeline for the events in The Hobbit? I want to say, before anything else, that I’m aware that (unlike The Lord of the Rings), Tolkien never gave us a detailed timeline. I also know that no full itinerary of times for specific events are supplied in The Hobbit . Nevertheless, we do know the order of events and we do know – in many cases – how many days some of these events took to transpire. And Tolkien actually does give us a surprising number of specific times, and even more general times.

We know, for example, that Bilbo left the Shire sometime in May, 2941 TA, and that he traveled to Rivendell, which he then left on Midsummer’s Day, which is traditionally toward the end of June. Dates vary. We also know that Bilbo and Gandalf spent Yule (late December, early January) at Beorn’s house on their way back. This means that from the time the story of The Hobbit began until Gandalf and Bilbo were with Beorn once again in Wilderland, was roughly 7 ½ months. (Other dates we know are May 1 of the next year, 2942 TA, when they arrived back in Rivendell, and, after a stay with the Elves, on June 22, 2942 Bilbo arrived back at his home in the Shire.)

Regarding the crucial events of the story, once Thorin and company reached Lonely Mountain, it was late evening (just after sunset) of Durin’s Day when Bilbo first went down to Smaug’s lair. It was late in the afternoon of the next day when he went back a second time, and "the afternoon was turning into evening when he came out again." When it became dark, Smaug attacked the secret entrance. That same night, "he rose in fire and went away south" toward Laketown, and after setting the town aflame, he died that same night. So, from the time Bilbo first stirred up Smaug by stealing a golden cup until the Dragon was dead was almost exactly one 24-hour day.

Toward the end of chapter 14, we read that 5 days after the death of Smaug, the Elves arrived at Long Lake to help the lake men. At the very end of chapter 14 , some 11 days after the death of Smaug and "the ruin of the town," the combined armies of Men and Elves set out from the lake and began to march toward the Lonely Mountain. Back with the dwarves: In the beginning of chapter 15, they learned of the death of Smaug 3 days after it happened. And Tolkien tells us, "As you have heard some of the events already, you will see that the dwarves still had some days before them." He was deliberately giving us a synchronized chronology. (After this time, Fili and Kili spent four days looking for and finding their scattered pack horses – for whatever that’s worth.)

Some more dates: earlier on, Tolkien tells us that after Bilbo and the dwarves escaped the dungeon of the Wood-elves, it took them two days to drift down river to Laketown. (They escaped from the Elves at night, Bilbo spent the next night at the raft-men’s camp, and the next night they arrived at Laketown just after sunset.) During the second day of this journey down river, at the beginning of chapter 10, Tolkien tells us that, "It might have been some comfort to Mr. Baggins ... if he had known that news of this* had reached Gandalf far away, and giving him great anxiety, and that he was in fact finishing his other business … and getting ready to come in search of Thorin’s company." (*Of the disrepair of the east end of the forest path, and the assumed peril of the dwarves he had sent along it.) Doing the math, we find therefore that Gandalf and White Council drove Sauron out of Dol Guldur about one full month before Bilbo and the dwarves even arrived at Lonely Mountain and encountered Smaug.

From the night that they arrived in Laketown, Thorin and company stayed two weeks. ("At the end of a fortnight" – which is two weeks – Thorin told the Master of the town that they would be leaving.) It took them two days to row up the lake to the mouth of the river and at the end of the third day they beached the boats. Tolkien doesn’t tell us how long it took them to make the final leg of the journey with their pack ponies, but we know that they arrived at Lonely Mountain "at the waning of the year," when "autumn was now crawling towards winter."

Here’s where we can possibly come up with some more specific dates.

In Britain where Tolkien lived, naturally, November 1 (All Hallows or Samhain) is considered to be the first calendar day of winter, so if this British reckoning is what Tolkien was going by, then the following quote pinpoints Durin’s Day for us: "‘Tomorrow begins the last week of Autumn,’ said Thorin one day." We then learn that this same day, at sunset, they discovered the secret door which Bilbo entered forthwith. Durin’s Day, therefore, was on October 25 and the next day, the last seven days of Autumn began. Smaug would not live to see winter that year, however. According to this chronology, he died the night of the next day, October 26, 2941 TA.

Certain details can be worked out quite accurately, although we can only guess at when some of the in-between events transpired, and guesstimate how long they took.

Maybe this is just a fun exercise with no particular purpose other than to interest us, but timelines often reveal surprising conclusions – or at least, possibilities. This is true even when you have limited information to work with. And in this case, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many times/dates Tolkien actually supplied. I don’t have the time to develop a full timeline, but here are some of the key events:

Oct. 24—Thorin comments that the last week of Autumn begins the next day
Oct. 25—Durin’s Day (last new moon before winter): this night Bilbo first enters Smaug’s lair
Oct. 26—Smaug attacks Laketown this night, burns it, but is killed by Bard
Oct. 29—The dwarves learn of Smaug’s death 3 days after his demise
Oct. 31—The Elves arrive at the remains of Laketown 5 days after it burns
Nov. 1—The first day of Winter
Nov. 5—The armies of Elves and Men set out 11 days after Smaug’s death

These dates depend on what calendar Tolkien was going by, and whether November 1 was what he understood to be the first day of winter. (It’s unlikely that he would’ve gone with the North Americans holding winter to begin on December 21, the winter solstice. To the British, that date is considered mid-winter.) Just the same, I’m not set on November 1, and if someone wants to come up with what would have been, for Tolkien, a more probable calendar date for the beginning of winter, I’m open to it. My main point is that we can at least have a rough time frame for the events in The Hobbit.

Is anyone interested, and has the time, to develop an overall timeline?


(This post was edited by Auraran on Jan 10 2011, 12:33am)


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 10 2011, 12:30am

Post #2 of 19 (4701 views)
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Dates for the Battle of Five Armies [In reply to] Can't Post

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)


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 11 2011, 2:52am

Post #3 of 19 (4840 views)
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Midsummer’s Eve in Rivendell on June 28, 2941 TA [In reply to] Can't Post

I just found out the date for another event in The Hobbit! Gandalf, together with Bilbo and the dwarves, spent Midsummer’s Eve in Rivendell, and the date was June 28.This was precisely 4 lunar months before Durin’s Day, which took place on October 25. Here’s how I figured it out:

In The Hobbit, chapter 5, Elrond was looking at the dwarf map when he suddenly exclaimed, "There are moon-letters here…" When Bilbo asked what moon-letters were, Elrond explained "moon-letters are rune-letters … They can only be seen when the moon shines behind them, and what is more, with the more cunning sort it must be a moon of the same shape and season as the day when they were written. These must have been written on Midsummer’s Eve in a crescent moon, a long while ago." [Bold emphasis mine.]

In other words, "a crescent moon" or New Moon when the crescent was first beginning to show would be "a moon of the same shape." Since lunar months last approximately 30 days, and we already know the date of Durin’s Day (October 25) we can work backwards to find out if there was indeed the beginning crescent of a New Moon on Midsummer’s Eve. And indeed there was!

Midsummer’s Eve falls on various dates throughout Europe, but it only fell on two different dates in Great Britain, where Tolkien lived. As the Wikipedia says, "Great Britain from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, June 23) and St. Peter's Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking."

October 25 was New Moon (Durin’s Day) at the Lonely Mountain. Subtract 30 days and you get September 25 as the previous New Moon; subtract another 30 days and arrive at August 26 as the New Moon before that; subtract another 30 days and you get July 28 as the previous New Moon; subtract the final 30 days and you get June 27. That’s one day off June 28, but this is to be expected. Lunar months are not a full 30 days. Rather, they are 29.53 days. So add 1 to 1.5 days back to the total and you arrive at June 28 – with the New Moon on Midsummer’s Eve in Rivendell.

Tolkien obviously had St. Peter’s Eve, June 28, in mind for Midsummer’s Eve. Therefore, the New Moon that shone through the moon-letters on the dwarf map in Rivendell did so on June 28, 2941 TA.

This correlation between New Moons in The Hobbit is so exact that I don’t believe it could have been accidental. Tolkien must literally have planned it. At least that’s what the evidence seems to say to me.


(This post was edited by Auraran on Jan 11 2011, 2:54am)


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 11 2011, 7:02am

Post #4 of 19 (4639 views)
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Unofficial Timeline for The Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

I couldn’t resist it. I had to draw up a tentative timeline myself. The mostly certain dates are in bold, and the tentative, in-between dates are un-bolded. Tolkien actually supplies quite a bit of information regarding the duration of many events, stating that something lasted for 2 days, 3 days, 5 days, 2 weeks, etc. So the dates for the various adventures, though they are rough, are not that rough.

And of course, they all have to fit together and make sense within the overall framework of the timeline. If you take two days out of one long period of time, you have to add it somewhere else. So for example, if you think I have Bilbo and the dwarves searching around too long at Lonely Mountain, and you want to suggest cutting out two days from there, then you have to add those two days to another long period of variable length, such as their ascent of the Misty Mountains, their walk through Mirkwood, or their lengthy imprisonment with the Wood-elves. But I think I have those events already lasting as long as the evidence warrants.

One thing I found interesting was that the phases of the moon, whether it was a dark New Moon, or a bright Full Moon, depending on the time of month, fit very well with the action where they were placed in the story – and did not contradict it in any places.

Again, this timeline is tentative, but I do not believe this is too far off the mark.

Apr. 29 – Dwarves visit Bilbo (ch. 1 - "it was April")
May 29 – At Trollshaws (a New Moon) (ch. 2 - "moon appeared ... soon be June")
June 3 – Arrive in Rivendell c. 4 days later (ch. 2 - "get there in a few days"
June 28
– Midsummer’s Eve (a New Moon) after resting c. 3 weeks in Rivendell
July 10 – Captured by Goblins "Monday night" (ch. 4 - "Long days ... going up")
July 12 – Thorin & Co. flee to wolves’ clearing (ch. 6 - "Today is Thursday")
July 12 – Rescued by Eagles - Full Moon (ch. 6 - "wolves howling at the moon")
July 13 – Carried to Carrock the next day
July 15 – Leave Beorn’s after 2 days
July 19 – Arrive at Mirkwood (ch. 7 - "reach the forest ... on the fourth day")
July 28 – New Moon
Aug. 11 – Captured by spiders in east Mirkwood after walking c. 3 weeks
Aug. 12 – Captured by Wood-elves (ch. 9 - "The day after ... the spiders")
Sept. 5 – Bilbo discovers the dwarves’ prisons (ch. 9 - "after a week or two")
Sept. 15 – Bilbo & dwarves escape (ch. 9 - "One day")
Sept. 17 – Bilbo & dwarves arrive in Laketown after 2 days
Oct. 1 – Thorin states they’ll leave (ch. 10 - after a "fortnight" = 2 weeks)
Oct. 3 – They leave Laketown
Oct. 5 – They reach the River Running (ch. 11 - "in two days")
Oct. 6 – They beach the boats (ch. 11 - "end of the third day")
Oct.10 – Thorin & Co. reach Lonely Mountain
Oct. 20 – Bilbo discovers the steps & secret door (ch. 11 - "one day")
Oct. 24
– Thorin comments that the last week of Autumn begins the next day
Oct. 25
– Durin’s Day (last new moon before winter): Bilbo first enters Smaug’s lair
Oct. 26 –
Smaug attacks Laketown this night, burns it, but is killed by Bard
Oct. 29
– The dwarves learn of Smaug’s death 3 days after his demise
Oct. 31 –
The Elves arrive at the remains of Laketown 5 days after it burns
Nov. 1 –
The first day of Winter
Nov. 5 –
The armies of Elves and Men set out 11 days after Smaug’s death
Nov. 10 – Armies arrive at Lonely Mountain after 5 days
Nov. 23
– Bilbo sneaks to the enemy (ch. 16 - "No moon"); Dain 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
Dec. 25 – Bilbo & Gandalf with Beorn at Yule-tide
May 1 – Bilbo & Gandalf arrive in Rivendell
June 22 – Bilbo & Gandalf arrive back at his home in the Shire

Corrections are welcome!


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jan 12 2011, 2:55am

Post #5 of 19 (4629 views)
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Nope, it's not too far off - according to Fonstad. [In reply to] Can't Post

I've got Karen Wynn Fonstad's "Atlas of Middle-earth" here. Along with maps galore, she has chronologies, which she admits are "speculative", but they are based on happenings in the books as much as possible.

One date to remember is that Bilbo and the Dwarves arrived at Lake-town on Bilbo's birthday, September 22nd; so Fonstad puts Smaug's death at November 1st.

You've done quite well in trying to coordinate the durations and the moon phases! It does get addictive, doesn't it? But now you have a taste of what Tolkien was going through, when he was trying to coordinate all his timelines for LotR! Smile


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915




Auraran
Lorien

Jan 12 2011, 4:40am

Post #6 of 19 (4594 views)
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Fonstad's dates [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, you're right… It was very addictive. And very enjoyable, especially as things began to line up and dates began to work out. It really seems like Tolkien planned these things in some detail, and that chronologically The Hobbit is not the rambling tale that it appears at first glance.

Thanks for reminding me that September 22 is Bilbo's birthday. I'd forgotten it, or I would've added it to the chart. But I'm curious: what does Fonstad give as his source that Bilbo and the dwarves arrived at Laketown on Bilbo's birthday? I can't find mention of that event in The Hobbit, so did Tolkien mention it in some other writing?

Or was that just Fontad's guess for the day that they arrived there?


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 12 2011, 6:45am

Post #7 of 19 (4619 views)
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Of course! At Bilbo’s farewell party [In reply to] Can't Post

In chapter 1 of Fellowship of the Ring, at his farewell party, which was also his birthday, Bilbo says, "It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history, the anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long Lake; though the fact that it was my birthday slipped my memory on that occasion. I was only fifty-one then…"

So yes, you’re right, Bilbo and the dwarves arrived at Laketown on September 22, five days after I had him arriving on my timetable. That’s not a problem. I had Bilbo and the dwarves searching for the secret door for 10 days. Since that particular time period is not specified, however, I’ll simply reduce the search to five days, and move the extra days to earlier in the timetable, such as time spent in the Wood-elves’ dungeon. And in the forest . It’s funny, because I had the feeling that the length of their search w for the secret door as too long, and even mentioned it in one of my posts above.

If I adjust their arrival in Laketown, everything else in my timetable such as Durin’s Day, the death of Smaug, and the Battle of Five Armies, etc. remains intact. I have no idea why Fonstad put Smaug’s death at November 1 – since it contradicts the date for the beginning of winter and, connected to it, Durin’s Day – both of which can be calculated. And since Smaug’s death immediately followed Durin’s Day, that too can be calculated as October 26.

Thanks for pointing out the correction!


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 12 2011, 7:57pm

Post #8 of 19 (4642 views)
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The revised Hobbit timeline [In reply to] Can't Post

After adding the date September 22, Bilbo’s birthday, as the time that he and the dwarves arrived in Laketown, I slightly adjusted the dates that followed it (adding five days to each date) up until the time Bilbo found the secret door. I now have Bilbo searching five days instead of 10 days. I then went back in the timeline and added five days to the dwarves’ imprisonment in the Elves’ palace. This brings everything into line, I trust.
.
Apr. 29 – Dwarves visit Bilbo (ch. 1 - "it was April")
May 29 – At Trollshaws (a New Moon) (ch. 2 - "moon appeared ... soon be June")
June 3 – Arrive in Rivendell c. 4 days later (ch. 2 - "get there in a few days"
June 28
– Midsummer’s Eve (a New Moon) after resting c. 3 weeks in Rivendell
July 10 – Captured by Goblins "Monday night" (ch. 4 - "Long days ... going up")
July 12 – Thorin & Co. flee to wolves’ clearing (ch. 6 - "Today is Thursday")
July 12 – Rescued by Eagles - Full Moon (ch. 6 - "wolves howling at the moon")
July 13 – Carried to Carrock the next day
July 15 – Leave Beorn’s after 2 days
July 19 – Arrive at Mirkwood (ch. 7 - "reach the forest ... on the fourth day")
July 19 – Gandalf rides south on "pressing business" with White Council ("already late")
July 28 – New Moon
Aug. 11 – Captured by spiders in east Mirkwood after walking c. 3 weeks
Aug. 12 – Captured by Wood-elves (ch. 9 - "The day after ... the spiders")
Sept. 5 – Bilbo discovers the dwarves’ prisons (ch. 9 - "after a week or two")
Sept. 20 – Bilbo & dwarves escape (ch. 9 - "One day" some 15 days later)
Sept. 22
– Bilbo & dwarves arrive in Laketown (on Bilbo’s birthday) after 2 days
Sept. 22 – Gandalf finishing his business … getting ready to go in search of Thorin & Co.
Oct. 6 – Thorin states they’ll leave (ch. 10 - after a "fortnight" = 2 weeks)
Oct. 9 – They leave Laketown
Oct. 10 – They reach the River Running (ch. 11 - "in two days")
Oct. 11 – They beach the boats (ch. 11 - "end of the third day")
Oct.15 – Thorin & Co. reach Lonely Mountain
Oct. 20 – Bilbo discovers the steps & secret door (ch. 11 - "one day")
Oct. 24
– Thorin comments that the last week of Autumn begins the next day
Oct. 25
– Durin’s Day (last new moon before winter): Bilbo first enters Smaug’s lair
Oct. 26 –
Smaug attacks Laketown this night, burns it, but is killed by Bard
Oct. 29
– The dwarves learn of Smaug’s death 3 days after his demise
Oct. 31 –
The Elves arrive at the remains of Laketown 5 days after it burns
Nov. 1 –
The first day of Winter
Nov. 3
– Fili and Kili return after 4 days looking for & finding their pack horses
Nov. 5 –
The armies of Elves and Men set out 11 days after Smaug’s death
Nov. 10 – Armies arrive at Lonely Mountain after 5 days
Nov. 23
– Bilbo sneaks to the enemy (ch. 16 - "No moon"); Dain 2 days away
Nov. 23
– Bilbo meets Gandalf in the camp
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
Dec. 25 – Bilbo & Gandalf with Beorn at Yule-tide
May 1 – Bilbo & Gandalf arrive in Rivendell
June 22
– Bilbo & Gandalf arrive back at his home in the Shire


Curious
Half-elven


Jan 12 2011, 9:51pm

Post #9 of 19 (4584 views)
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Have you Googled this? [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's one Timeline/Chronology for The Hobbit.


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 12 2011, 10:09pm

Post #10 of 19 (4616 views)
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I'll definitely check this out [In reply to] Can't Post

No, I hadn't been aware of that site – didn't even know that it existed. I'll have to check it out one of these evenings when I find time, as it looks quite in-depth.

Thanks for the terrific lead!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jan 13 2011, 5:47am

Post #11 of 19 (4574 views)
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Astronomical nitpicking. [In reply to] Can't Post

It doesn't affect your timeline, but:


Quote
First there is a "dark moon" or "no moon" when the moon is completely occulted by Earth's shadow.



The Earth's shadow plays no part in the phases of the moon. Rather it is the relative angle of the Earth and Moon to the Sun that matters -- and it matters exactly opposite to the implication of your statement. When the Moon is dark (as you note, "new" in astronomers' terms), it is actually between the Earth and Sun, i.e., on the opposite side of the Earth from the Earth's shadow. (It is at such times that the Sun can be eclipsed.) When the Moon is full, the Earth is between it and the Sun. It is at this time, with the Moon on the same side of the Earth as the Earth's shadow, the the Moon can be eclipsed, which only happens with a full Moon.

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Auraran
Lorien

Jan 13 2011, 5:48pm

Post #12 of 19 (4557 views)
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A "broad" New Moon on Midsummer's eve [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks again for pointing me to D. W. Harder’s website. I was particularly interested in his precise lunar charts, even though (in my view) that didn’t really help him in the end, because he started out with the wrong date – November 6 instead of November 1 – for the first day of winter. Therefore, every other date he worked back from there was influenced by this initial miscalculation. But he’s certainly entitled to his opinion.

He didn’t seem to be able to work out a good conclusion either, but ended up reasoning that Tolkien made mistakes in writing The Hobbit, and that he was attempting to correct Tolkien’s mistakes by demonstrating with his lunar charts how things actually would have been. (He states, "Tolkien made mistakes in the Hobbit. This is an attempt to graft corrections onto those mistakes.")

Whereas I think that Tolkien got the lunar phases right.

Nevertheless, Harder it is to be commended for his very detailed attempt at reconciling Tolkien’s book with exact lunar phases. And one very good thing Harder did was to point out that the crescent moon at Midsummer’s eve in Rivendell was not a New Moon crescent. Rather, as Tolkien tells us, "The moon was shining in a broad silver crescent." A New Moon is the moon at its very thinnest crescent . It could not be described as a "broad" crescent. Therefore, I have to modify the date that Midsummer’s Eve fell on that day in Rivendell. And there is a very easy solution. Earlier I had stated:

"Midsummer’s Eve falls on various dates throughout Europe, but it only fell on two different dates in Great Britain, where Tolkien lived. As the Wikipedia says, ‘Great Britain from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, June 23) and St. Peter's Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking’."

I suggested that Tolkien must’ve had St. Peter's Eve (June 28) in mind for the night that Gandalf, Thorin, Bilbo, and Elrond met. While it is true that June 28-29 is indeed a New Moon, when the first crescent moon of the month shows, "the moon was shining in a broad silver crescent" that evening. Therefore, Tolkien had to have been referring to St. John's Eve (June 23) seven days earlier, as Midsummer’s eve instead. And indeed, the moon would have been "a broad silver crescent" on that evening. It would have been a ‘waning crescent,’ but very broad.

I just have to adjust the front end of my timetable now.


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 13 2011, 5:50pm

Post #13 of 19 (4604 views)
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Right you are [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for pointing that out!

You're also right that it doesn't affect my timetable … Just my reputation as an astronomer.Wink


titanium_hobbit
Rohan

Jan 14 2011, 7:22am

Post #14 of 19 (4558 views)
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What about Gandalf? [In reply to] Can't Post

You're making me want to dig out my book and read it again- no bad thing!

When does Gandalf visit Bilbo?

The other thing is that I like how you have the April and May dates (Bilbo later refers to setting off in May, yet at first it was April) by having a late April date.

The last thing I'd love to see is a calculation of the mileage matching this time table.

TH


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 14 2011, 4:37pm

Post #15 of 19 (4617 views)
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If you do read the Hobbit again… [In reply to] Can't Post

… pay special attention to the phases of the moon that Tolkien happens to mention. For example, the night the dwarves visit Bilbo is a Dark Moon according to the calendar (the day before a New Moon crescent), and although Bilbo looks out his window, he sees no moon. Granted, this is not strong evidence, but there are other instances. For example, the night that the wargs/wolves tree Thorin and company – and the eagles rescue them – happens to fall on a Full Moon, and sure enough, Tolkien mentions the light of the moon again and again. He even has the wolves howling at the moon.

Also, if you will make note of every time Tolkien mentions how many days something took, you will be quite surprised at how frequently he gives the exact passage of time.

I did actually calculate the mileage for the various distances, to guesstimate how many days it would've taken Bilbo and the dwarves to walk from one point to the other, but I'm not a graphic designer so don't know how to represent all that in a chart. It would simply clutter up my one-line descriptions of the main events.

As for when Gandalf visited Bilbo, it was the day before the dwarves arrived. But you made me realize something new! I'm going to research it right now, and will let you know as soon as I find out if it lines up.


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 14 2011, 5:06pm

Post #16 of 19 (4672 views)
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The day Gandalf visited Bilbo [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf visited Bilbo the day before the dwarves showed up, and had invited the Wizard back for tea the next day. Tolkien tells us that if Bilbo had not been so flustered he would’ve written in his Engagement Tablet, "Gandalf Tea Wednesday." So, unless Tolkien was making a totally-off-the-cuff remark, it seems as though the date Gandalf and all the dwarves showed up at Bilbo’s door, was a Wednesday. That would mean that Gandalf had made a preliminary visit to Bilbo the day before, a Tuesday.

I wondered if this tied in to the other place in the book where Tolkien mentioned the days of the week – specifically, that July 12, when Gandalf and the dwarves and Bilbo were fleeing from the wolves, was a Thursday.

But it doesn’t line up with my present timetable. The last Tuesday in April of that year falls on the 24th, and the next day – when all the dwarves visited Bilbo – was the 25th. If I use that date, then the following morning when Bilbo actually set out on the quest was Thursday, April 26 at 11:00 AM in the morning – "to be precise," as Bilbo would say.

This is true, that is, if I use the Full Moon on July 12 as my "anchor" date.


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 14 2011, 8:16pm

Post #17 of 19 (4558 views)
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Traveling speed and mileage in Middle Earth [In reply to] Can't Post

Titanium Hobbit, you wrote: The last thing I'd love to see is a calculation of the mileage matching this time table.

While attempting to draw up a timeline for the events in The Hobbit, I took into consideration the distances that Thorin and company had to walk or ride between two points, and the number of days that it would’ve taken them to cover that distance. For the most part, their traveling speed would have been roughly the same throughout their journey – except, of course, when traveling particularly rough terrain, such as the treacherous and steep ascent of the Misty Mountains after leaving Rivendell.

I also took into consideration the dates that Tolkien gives in the index of ROTK, where he states the specific number of days that it took Frodo and company to travel roughly the same distance. Mind you, Frodo and his fellow hobbits were fleeing for their lives for much of the route, pushing to keep one step ahead of the Black Riders – whereas Bilbo and the dwarves were riding heavily-laden pack horses at a more leisurely pace. They were in no particular hurry it seems and Tolkien tells us that they spent "at least 14 days" in Rivendell, resting.

When you divide the miles traveled by the number of days it took to walk them, it appears that Frodo and company traveled 17.30 miles/day, whereas Bilbo and company traveled 11.25 miles/day. While this may seem painfully slow to us Big People, remember that hobbits and dwarves are roughly half our size. They were also traveling through lands where the roads were in a state of disrepair and little-used. In places they had to pick their way hour after hour through rough country and wilderness.

According to the maps, it is approximately 50 miles from the Hobbiton in the Shire to the Brandywine River. Tolkien indicates that Frodo and fellow hobbits covered this distance in two days, from September 23 until September 25. It is 100 miles from the Brandywine River to Bree, and Frodo covered this distance in four days, from September 23 until September 29. It’s roughly 300 miles from Bree to Rivendell, and Frodo traveled this distance in 20 days, from September 30 until October 20. Thus, he traveled 450 miles in 28 days or 17.30 miles/day.

According to my calculations in my timeline, Bilbo and the dwarves covered the same 450 miles in 40 days. So Frodo, on the run from the Black Riders, was moving one and a half times as fast as Bilbo and the dwarves – which is hardly surprising.

(As for how I arrived at 40 days for Bilbo’s journey from his home to Rivendell, remember that it was in April when the dwarves visited him, and he set out the next day. "It was almost June" when they crossed the Last Bridge – so their journey had taken about one month so far. And they still had 100 miles ahead before they would reach Rivendell. So 30-plus days to travel 350 miles, plus about 8-10 days to travel the remaining 100 miles, equals 40 days, more or less.)
.


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 15 2011, 3:03am

Post #18 of 19 (4541 views)
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Quest sets out on May 1 [In reply to] Can't Post

Whatever the day of week it was… We can now know the date that Gandalf visited Bilbo, the date the dwarves came by to conspire, and the date Bilbo left with them on the Quest of Erebor.

I finally found the quote that settles the question of when exactly Thorin and company, together with Gandalf and Bilbo, set out from Hobbiton. This data can be obtained by comparing two references. First of all, Tolkien states in chapter 1 that the dwarves came to visit Bilbo in April. Just before the dwarves began to sing, Tolkien states, "it was April."

In addition, we know that their journey began at 11 o’clock the next morning. Now, in chapter 8, when Bombur finally wakes up from his long sleep/dream, Tolkien tells us that "he had forgotten everything that had happened since they started their journey that May morning long ago."

It was April the night that the dwarves met with Bilbo, yet the next morning it was May. Therefore the day before was April 31, and the following day was May 1.


Auraran
Lorien

Jan 15 2011, 6:02pm

Post #19 of 19 (4552 views)
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Newly Revised Timetable [In reply to] Can't Post

I had thought that with those two conclusive quotes above that the starting date for the Quest of Erebor would’ve been settled. (That is, the quote that specified that the dwarves’ meeting with Bilbo happened in April, together with the quote that says that they set out on their Quest in May.) However, just last night I discovered even stronger proof for a different starting date. It’s from the "Annotated Hobbit," Appendix A, where Tolkien has Gandalf saying:

"It was on the morning of Tuesday, April 25 2941, that I called to see Bilbo…"
"Next day, Wednesday, April 26 I brought Thorin and his companions to Bag End…"

You could hardly get more exact than that. Not only does Tolkien supply the day of the month, but also the day of the week – which, as you will see, is important. And I think it is beyond doubt that this text in the "Annotated Hobbit" appendix is canonical, so while some people may wish to stick with May 1 for the beginning of the quest, I think it is clear that we must have April 27 as the starting date. I have therefore adjusted my dates on the timeline according.

The fact that Bilbo was expecting Gandalf to come to tea on a Wednesday is confirmed by this quote from The Hobbit, chapter 1: "The next day he had almost forgotten about Gandalf. He did not remember things very well, unless he put them down on his Engagement Tablet like this: Gandalf Tea Wednesday."

There is additional evidence that this is the correct starting date for the Quest: (A) it matches perfectly with the lunar calendar that places a New Moon (the day after Dark Moon) on October 25, which is required for Durin’s Day – one week before the first day of winter. (B) It matches perfectly with the weekly calendar which places April 25 on a Tuesday, April 26 on Wednesday, and July 13 – the day the Eagles rescued Thorin and company – as a day of a full moon, which is also specified as a Thursday. It synchronizes perfectly.

If you google "Lunar Calendar 1995," you will see how the weekly and lunar calendars mesh perfectly. These alignments repeat themselves periodically, I am sure, and this is clearly the lunar & weekly alignment that Tolkien had in mind for year 2941 of the Third Age.

Re: the fact that there was a ‘full’ moon on July 13 is clear from the many references to seeing clearly by moonlight Tolkien has in the text at this point, including the fact that the wolves were howling at the moon – which is almost invariably pictured with a full moon. Now, the actual Full Moon happened the day before, on July 12, and I suspect that the goblins had planned to meet the Wargs – to make the raids – on that night, but the goblins were a day late. "The Wargs had come to meet the goblins and the goblins were late. The reason, no doubt, was the death of the Great Goblin…" Nevertheless, the moon was still "full" and would allow plenty light for them to conduct their raids.

Here then, is the revised timeline:

Apr. 25
– Gandalf visits Bilbo ("Tuesday, April 25, 2941 ... I called to see Bilbo")
Apr. 26
– Dwarves visit Bilbo ("Wednesday, April 26, I brought Thorin.")
Apr. 27
– Thorin & Co. leave Hobbiton at 11:00 a.m.
May 25 – At Trollshaws (ch. 2 - "it soon will be June")
June 5 – Arrive in Rivendell c. 11 days later (ch. 2 - "get there in a few days")
June 23
– Midsummer’s Eve (a "broad crescent") (after "14 days at least" in Rivendell)
July 10 – Captured by Goblins "Monday night" (ch. 4 - [17] "long days ... going up")
July 13 – Thorin & Co. flee to wolves’ clearing (ch. 6 - "Today is Thursday")
July 13
– Rescued by eagles - (day after Full Moon) (ch. 6 - "wolves howling at the moon")
July 14 – Carried to Carrock the next day
July 16 – Leave Beorn’s after 2 days
July 20 – Arrive at Mirkwood (ch. 7 - "reach the forest ... on the fourth day")
July 20 – Gandalf rides south on "pressing business" with White Council ("already late")
Aug. 2 – Captured by spiders in east Mirkwood after walking 2 weeks [14 days]**
Aug. 3 – Captured by Wood-elves (ch. 9 - "The day after ... the spiders")
Aug. 12 – Bilbo lives "all alone," going in and out, "a very long time" [10 days]
Aug. 27 – Bilbo discovers the dwarves’ prisons (ch. 9 - "after a week or two" = 14 days)
Sept. 6 – "After many difficulties" Bilbo discovers Thorin’s cell (c 10 days later)
Sept. 20 – Bilbo & dwarves escape (ch. 9 - "One day" c. 14 days later)
Sept. 22
– Bilbo & dwarves arrive in Laketown (on Bilbo’s birthday) after 2 days
Sept. 22 – Gandalf finishing his business … getting ready to go in search of Thorin & Co.
Oct. 6 – Thorin states they’ll leave (ch. 10 - after a "fortnight" = 2 weeks)
Oct. 9 – They leave Laketown
Oct. 10 – They reach the River Running (ch. 11 - "in two days")
Oct. 11 – They beach the boats (ch. 11 - "end of the third day")
Oct.15 – Thorin & Co. reach Lonely Mountain
Oct. 20 – Bilbo discovers the steps & secret door (ch. 11 - "one day")
Oct. 24
– Thorin comments that the last week of Autumn begins the next day
Oct. 25
– Durin’s Day (last New Moon before winter): Bilbo first enters Smaug’s lair
Oct. 26 –
Smaug attacks Laketown this night, burns it, but is killed by Bard
Oct. 29
– The dwarves learn of Smaug’s death 3 days after his demise
Oct. 31 –
The Elves arrive at the remains of Laketown 5 days after it burns
Nov. 1 –
The first day of Winter
Nov. 3
– Fili and Kili return after 4 days looking for & finding their pack horses
Nov. 5 –
The armies of Elves and Men set out 11 days after Smaug’s death
Nov. 10 – Armies arrive at Lonely Mountain after c 5 days
Nov. 23
– Bilbo sneaks to the enemy (ch. 16 - "no moon" - New Moon); Dain 2 days away
Nov. 23
– Bilbo meets Gandalf in the camp
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
Dec. 21 – Bilbo and Gandalf reach Beorn’s "by mid-winter" (winter solstice)
Dec. 25 – Bilbo & Gandalf with Beorn "at Yule-tide"
Mar. 21 – Bilbo & Gandalf leave Beorn’s "in the spring" after 3 months
May 1 – Bilbo & Gandalf arrive in Rivendell
June 22 – Bilbo & Gandalf arrive back at his home in the Shire


** Mirkwood is roughly 150 miles wide where the Elf-path crosses it west to east. The place where they crossed the Enchanted Stream is almost exactly in the middle of the woods. Tolkien tells us that it took Thorin and company seven days (four days + two days + one day) to walk from the stream until they were captured by the Wood-Elves. They were very near the edge of the forest at that time, one day away most, so it took them eight days to reach the middle of the woods. Thus, 8 days + 7 days = 15 days means that they spent crossing the woods, at roughly 10 miles/day.

 
 

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