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LOTR Lunar Readalong
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Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 12 2017, 3:37pm

Post #1 of 57 (3303 views)
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LOTR Lunar Readalong Can't Post

Greetings TORn. This is my first post in these forums, and I wanted to let Tolkien fans here know about the "LOTR Lunar Readalong" I've been posting over on the /r/tolkienfans subreddit. I considered posting the Readalong here as well, but I prefer the table-formatting Reddit markup allows in their posts. I'm also not sure these forums allow me to edit my posts (it looks like I can!), and since I'm figuring out the Readalong as I go, I'll make a Reddit post ahead of time for the next part of the Readalong, but then I'll go back and edit my post with what I think is the correct the stopping-point for that day after I read that part.

Anyone should feel free to reply to this post with discussion for any of the "LOTR Lunar Readalong" posts I've made on Reddit so far (or in the future). I've been making 1 Reddit post for each week of the Readalong, and each post has a link to the last and next post in the series.

In this week's post, the story finally gets going again in FOTR Chapter 3, where Frodo will depart Bag End after a farewell birthday dinner!

This might seem similar to the TIME posts I've seen in these forums, but this Readalong matches up the passages of LOTR to real-world moon phases, rather than matching to dates in our calendar.

I'll repost here my summary of what the "LOTR Lunar Readalong" is all about:

Caveat: This is not recommended for first-time readers, and even veteran readers might not want to read to such a sparse schedule with the story rearranged from its original order, but it seems like an interesting way to re-read the story to me Smile
Also, these posts may contain book spoilers.

What's the "LOTR Lunar Readalong" all about? I'm re-reading LOTR in "real-time" in 2017-18, according to the moon phases and approximately at the same time-of-year as described in the story.

For those that don't already know (more details are given in my original Reddit post): The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion detailed how Tolkien used the actual moon phases of 1941-1942 as a reference when describing the moon (or lack of moon) during certain events in The Lord of the Rings. Since these moon phases will mostly repeat in 2017-18, I'll attempt to re-read LOTR in this "real-time" lunar schedule with the help of LOTR Appendix B, the Reader's Companion, and my knowledge of the Shire Reckoning calendar.

I don't know the exact reading schedule ahead of time, and all the posts I could find online for a chronological reading order only give the story order for TTT and ROTK, but I haven't found a post that's broken down all the chapters and pages to a Shire date, which will be required for trying to match the reading to the correct day in 2017-18. I'm just going to figure it out the best I can as I read, but I figured I'd also share my progress in case anyone else wants to join along Smile Then if all goes well, I'll have a completed list compiled by the end of 2018, ready for 2020-21 when the moon phases and time-of-year will match even better!

Note: Although the moon phases and time-of-year will match the story better in 2020-21, unfortunately Venus (a.k.a the Evening Star; a.k.a. the star of Eärendil) will not be visible after sunset on 2021 Feb. 4 for the Mirror of Galadriel scene. However, it will be visible for this year's Readalong on 2018 Feb. 7! (According to this Planets app I'm using, which seems pretty reliable; although I don't know if Venus will be particularly high or bright as described in the story.)

If this sounds interesting to fans on this forum, then sorry I haven't posted sooner. So far, the only passages where the moon is mentioned have been the attack on Osgiliath on 'June' (Forelithe) 20, which was June 12 this year; and Gandalf's escape from Orthanc before dawn on 'September' Halimath 18, which was September 11 this year. But you'll be able to see approximately those same moons at the correct time-of-year on June 9 and September 8 in 2020 Smile


(This post was edited by Murlo on Sep 12 2017, 3:39pm)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 12 2017, 7:18pm

Post #2 of 57 (3180 views)
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What day did Gandalf depart from Bag End at the end of 'June' 3018 (S.R. 1418)? [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe I'll kick off discussion on this Readalong with a question of my own about this post:

I haven't found a specific date for Gandalf's departure from Bag End in the Third Age 3018 (S.R. 1418) anywhere except for Henneth Annun's 'June' 28. There's no date given in Appendix B or in Book I Chapter 3, which just says he left "at the end of June" (repeated in II.2).

I decided to take Gandalf's "end of June" literally for this Readalong, so I put the departure at dawn of 'June' (Forelithe) 30. That still gives him a full day to head down to Sarn Ford (the appendices seem to indicate it only takes 1 day to travel from Bag End to Sarn Ford), then almost 2 full days to head "east and north" from there to meet Radagast on the Greenway on Midyear's Day, before heading to Bree for the night. There's also no mention of the moon on the dawn of his departure, which may have helped narrow down the date some more.

Does anyone else know of any references for this date?


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 12 2017, 8:12pm

Post #3 of 57 (3177 views)
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Welcome to the Reading Room and [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the info about the readalong on Reddit. I'll look it up.

And a note on editing on TORN: you can only edit a post here for 5 or 10 minutes (I forget which) after you've posted it, and after that, only a moderator can makes changes, just FYI.


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 12 2017, 8:25pm

Post #4 of 57 (3173 views)
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Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

I see, thanks for letting me know!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 12 2017, 10:05pm

Post #5 of 57 (3160 views)
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Gandalf from Bag End to Sarn Ford [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I decided to take Gandalf's "end of June" literally for this Readalong, so I put the departure at dawn of 'June' (Forelithe) 30. That still gives him a full day to head down to Sarn Ford (the appendices seem to indicate it only takes 1 day to travel from Bag End to Sarn Ford), then almost 2 full days to head "east and north" from there to meet Radagast on the Greenway on Midyear's Day, before heading to Bree for the night. There's also no mention of the moon on the dawn of his departure, which may have helped narrow down the date some more.

Does anyone else know of any references for this date?


Sorry, nothing definite that I'm aware of. However, we can estimate the distance Gandalf needed to travel from Bag End to Sarn Ford at approximately 170 miles (he had to travel west for about 30 miles to take the road south-east for say 140 miles to the ford. Betcha didn't realize it was so far!). Assuming a good, well-maintained road then it should have taken the wizard about 5 days to reach the ford on foot--say 3 days by horse if he's not pushing it.

I believe that Tolkien developed a more detailed Tale of Years that appears somewhere in HOME. Perhaps the more specific date for Gandalf's departure is derived from that?

FYI: the editing window on the site expires at or after 15 minutes.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 12 2017, 10:14pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 12 2017, 10:24pm

Post #6 of 57 (3143 views)
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Speaking of editing windows... [In reply to] Can't Post

...this one expired before I could make an addition.

Maps vary; Karen Fonstad's maps of the Shire and the surrounding region from her Atlas of Middle-earth shortens the distance by road from Bag End to Sarn Ford by about 25 miles from the one I used for my estimates. Using her maps, Gandalf might have reached Sarn Ford in approximately four days by foot or two days if he was mounted. But he's only going to get there overnight in a Peter Jackson adaptation. Wink

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 12 2017, 10:27pm)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 13 2017, 2:37am

Post #7 of 57 (3120 views)
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Thanks for the Sarn Ford - Hobbiton distance info [In reply to] Can't Post

I also noticed from Fonstad's Atlas that the Sarn Ford appeared just over 100 miles by road from Hobbiton, and I wasn't sure how reasonable it was to travel that far in 1 day.

But Appendix B seems to give that travel time twice:
First, the Black Riders reach the Sarn Ford on the evening of 3018 'September' 22nd, but they don't enter the Shire until before dawn on the 23rd, then one of them reaches Hobbiton that evening.
Second, Gandalf reaches the Sarn Ford on the 28th, then speaks to the Gaffer on the 29th (in Hobbiton?).

So I thought it was safe to assume that Gandalf could make it to the Sarn Ford in 1 day from Hobbiton at the end of June (also assuming he had a horse), but maybe he'd really have to push it to make it there by nightfall if he left at dawn.

Of course, Gandalf had Shadowfax by the 28th and he was in haste Wink


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 13 2017, 3:18am

Post #8 of 57 (3115 views)
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Travel in the Shire [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, we might assume that the mounts of the Black Riders have unnatural vitality that allows them to travel far without rest. And if Gandalf rode from Sarn Ford in the morning then he might have reached Hobbiton by the evening of the next day--especially if the distance is the shortest reasonable estimate.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 13 2017, 3:20am)


squire
Half-elven


Sep 13 2017, 3:42am

Post #9 of 57 (3109 views)
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Wait - what "unnatural vitality"? [In reply to] Can't Post

That sounds like a kind of generic gaming/fantasy logic: "this is fantasy, so the Black Riders' horses must be special".

But nothing in the book gives us any reason to think that. All we know about the Riders' horses is that they were rustled from Rohan, and although Rohan's horses are fine animals, there's nothing "unnatural" about them.

Why should we "assume" anything about them that the author hasn't asked us to assume?



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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 13 2017, 2:12pm

Post #10 of 57 (3066 views)
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I did indicate that this is just speculation. [In reply to] Can't Post

The horses of the Nazgűl are fast and strong, as indicated by the race to the Ford of Bruinen. We could also posit that the Ringwraiths just don't put very much thought into their animals' well-being and just push them to their limits as circumstances dictate. However, we at least know that their mounts were specially bred to tolerate them as riders.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 13 2017, 2:15pm)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 14 2017, 2:03pm

Post #11 of 57 (3013 views)
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Seems I should amend my Readalong for this date [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, regardless of what kind of horses the Nazgűl may have had, it seems like 1 day (16 hours?) is the quickest travel time from Sarn Ford to Hobbiton.


In Reply To
We could also posit that the Ringwraiths just don't put very much thought into their animals' well-being and just push them to their limits as circumstances dictate.


That sounds likely as well.

I also just read in Unfinished Tales that the Black Riders got a hold of various maps and notes of the Shire on their way to Sarn Ford, so maybe the one that reached Hobbiton by nightfall took a shortcut, whereas Gandalf and Shadowfax took the main roads (hoping to come across Frodo or anyone with info about him).

So it seems I should amend my Readalong and put Gandalf's departure from Bag End on 3018 'June' (Forelithe) 28 after all.


(This post was edited by Murlo on Sep 14 2017, 2:06pm)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 14 2017, 2:13pm

Post #12 of 57 (3010 views)
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1418 Astron 12 (2017 April 5 / 2020 April 2): Gandalf reaches Hobbiton [In reply to] Can't Post

There was no moon described in Chapter 2 (except in general with regards to Gollum), but it was still nice knowing what it should have looked like as Sam walked home from The Green Dragon, and when Gandalf knocked on Frodo's study window :)

It would have been a waxing moon, just past its 1st quarter, and it would have been practically at its peak in the southern sky as Sam walked home at twilight.


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 14 2017, 2:21pm

Post #13 of 57 (3003 views)
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1418 Forelithe 20 (2017 June 12 / 2020 June 9): Sauron attacks Osgiliath [In reply to] Can't Post

I had to stay up fairly late on June 12th to catch the moon rising above the buildings in my neighborhood (nearly midnight), but I'm glad I did :)

So the attack on Forelithe 20 must have gone far into the night, and I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't start until after dark.

The moon looked fairly similar to the example photo of a waning gibbous moon on wikipedia.

Now when I read about Boromir's account of this attack on Osgiliath in II.2, I can imagine the Witch-king as "a dark shadow" under that almost-wicked-looking, cat-eye-shaped moon.


Quote
Wherever he came a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled.



(This post was edited by Murlo on Sep 14 2017, 2:22pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 14 2017, 2:31pm

Post #14 of 57 (3001 views)
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Two days or less (by horse) [In reply to] Can't Post

When I stated a two-day ride, that assumed a fairly gentle pace. If Gandalf (or the Wraiths, for that matter) was riding with all due speed then we would expect him to reach Hobbiton sooner--maybe even within a day on a hardy mount. Shadowfax could have accomplished the feat with ease, but it might kill a lesser horse. Looking at the maps of the Shire, though, traveling cross-country wouldn't have aided the Riders much, if at all, unless they did so just short of the White Downs. That might have shaved off as much as 20 miles.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 14 2017, 2:33pm)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 14 2017, 2:34pm

Post #15 of 57 (2994 views)
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1418 Halimath 18 (2017 September 11 / 2020 September 8): Gandalf rescued from Orthanc by Gwaihir [In reply to] Can't Post

The moon above Orthanc before dawn on 'September' (Halimath) 18 was a waning gibbous, just a couple of days before its last quarter, and I observed it near its peak in the southern sky about an hour before dawn on the 11th this year, when the stars were still out.

It's interesting that in one version of the "Hunt for the Ring" in Unfinished Tales, Saruman sees the eagle flying away from Orthanc against the moon in the southern sky.


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 14 2017, 2:42pm

Post #16 of 57 (2990 views)
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1418 Halimath 20 (2017 September 13 / 2020 September 10): Frodo has packed and sends his belongings to Buckland [In reply to] Can't Post

The 2 covered carts that took Frodo's belongings to Buckland on the 20th would have had the morning sun rising before them on the Great East Road, with a moon just barely past its 3rd quarter sinking behind them in the west.


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 16 2017, 7:10pm

Post #17 of 57 (2931 views)
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1418 Halimath 22 (2017 September 15 / 2020 September 12): Frodo's 50th (farewell) Birthday dinner [In reply to] Can't Post

At the end of Frodo's 50th birthday party, he and his friends would have no moon to obstruct their "glimpse of the stars" that evening, since the moon was just a few days from new, so it wouldn't have risen until just a couple of hours before dawn.

So maybe the moon had already risen when the Black Riders entered the Shire.


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 17 2017, 7:26pm

Post #18 of 57 (2904 views)
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Lunar Readalong for the week of 1418 Halimath 24 (2017 September 17 / 2020 September 14) [In reply to] Can't Post

I just posted a new Lunar Readalong for this week!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 17 2017, 8:23pm

Post #19 of 57 (2900 views)
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Lunar Phases in 'The Hobbit' [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
For those that don't already know (more details are given in my original Reddit post): The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion detailed how Tolkien used the actual moon phases of 1941-1942 as a reference when describing the moon (or lack of moon) during certain events in The Lord of the Rings.


Okay: 3018 - 2941 = 77 years. So, the lunar phases for the Quest of Erebor should correspond to those of our calendar year 1864. That puts the moon at full right around Midsummer's Eve (rather than the described crescent moon) and would place Durin's Day of TA 2941 on October 15 (just past new) after the company having departed from Lake-town around October 9, or on November 13 or 14--which seems to me to be a bit too late. I can see why Tolkien had trouble reconciling some elements of The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings.

On the other hand, if the calendar of 2017-18 is a near-match for the lunar phases for the War of the Ring, we could look to the year 1940 for the events of The Hobbit: a waning crescent moon occurs at the end of June to the beginning of July; and a new moon falls at the end of October (beginning of November for the Shire calendar). That works a bit better.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 17 2017, 8:38pm)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 17 2017, 11:51pm

Post #20 of 57 (2872 views)
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Good catch! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Okay: 3018 - 2941 = 77 years. So, the lunar phases for the Quest of Erebor should correspond to those of our calendar year 1864.


Yep, they "should" :) I haven't read John Rateliff's The History of the Hobbit yet myself, but I think he talks about Tolkien's attempts to adjust the moon cycles to account for this in his abandoned revision of The Hobbit.

In Part 7 of the blog post Tolkien’s Legendarium versus Astronomical Reality, Aaron Chong suggests a way to retcon The Hobbit to make the story fit the moon phases of 1864, and he also references a post by James Strom who noticed that the year before, 1863, actually fits the story pretty well as it's written.


In Reply To
and would place Durin's Day of TA 2941 on October 15 (just past new)


The site I'm using says there was a new moon on 1864 September 30, and then on 1864 October 30. Since Tolkien started reckoning the Shire Calendar in TA 3018 from 1941 December 25 (just for the moon phases), then by my conversion, that makes 1864 September 30 convert to Shire 'October' 6 in TA 2941, and 1864 October 30 would convert to Shire 'November' 6 in TA 2941 (which is why Aaron Chong picked Shire 'November' 8 for Durin's Day).

Also, since moon phases repeat every 19 years, then the moon phases for 1940 closely match the moons of 1864, so there was another full moon around Midsummer's eve in 1940.


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 18 2017, 12:01am

Post #21 of 57 (2863 views)
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1418 Halimath 24 (2017 September 17 / 2020 September 14) [In reply to] Can't Post

From shire-reckoning.com/moon.html (on archive.org, since the site seems to be down right now) for the evening of Halimath 24:


Quote
When hiding beside the road from the Black Rider at dusk, Frodo sees that, "Above [the road] the stars were thick in the dim sky, but there was no moon."


Since the moon is only a couple of days from new, almost the entire night would be moonless (except for maybe a crescent rising in the hour before dawn), just like tonight!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 18 2017, 12:14am

Post #22 of 57 (2869 views)
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Continuing the Quest of Erebor. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The site I'm using says there was a new moon on 1864 September 30, and then on 1864 October 30. Since Tolkien started reckoning the Shire Calendar in TA 3018 from 1941 December 25 (just for the moon phases), then by my conversion, that makes 1864 September 30 convert to Shire 'October' 6 in TA 2941, and 1864 October 30 would convert to Shire 'November' 6 in TA 2941 (which is why Aaron Chong picked Shire 'November' 8 for Durin's Day).


Yeah, I see that on a different calendar. There must be an error in the chart I was using: http://astropixels.com/...cat/phases-1899.html.


In Reply To
Also, since moon phases repeat every 19 years, then the moon phases for 1940 closely match the moons of 1864, so there was another full moon around Midsummer's eve in 1940.


Yep. It's too bad that a full moon on Midsummer's Eve does not work for The Hobbit! I actually do favor the Shire-date of 22 Winterfilth for the Durin's Day of the Quest of Erebor as it at least aligns with a waxing crescent moon on the Midsummer's Eve when Elrond examined Thorin's map. It also falls on the correct day of the week.

I got a chuckle at seeing myself referenced in Aaron Chong's blog post.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 18 2017, 12:16am)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 18 2017, 2:25pm

Post #23 of 57 (2816 views)
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Moon of Durin's Day [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
There must be an error in the chart I was using: http://astropixels.com/...cat/phases-1899.html.


Ah, it looks like that chart is referring to dates between 1900 BC and 1801 BC.


In Reply To
Yep. It's too bad that a full moon on Midsummer's Eve does not work for The Hobbit! I actually do favor the Shire-date of 22 Winterfilth for the Durin's Day of the Quest of Erebor as it at least aligns with a waxing crescent moon on the Midsummer's Eve when Elrond examined Thorin's map. It also falls on the correct day of the week.


I think Winterfilth 22 for Durin's Day is also a pretty close match with Tolkien's abandoned revision, since I think he was estimating a new moon on Winterfilth 19 at one point, and a sunset anytime between 48 and 72 hours after a new moon should work for Durin's Day.

Which day of the week are you referring to? I'm not recalling the day of the week mentioned in The Hobbit for Midsummer's Eve or Durin's Day.


In Reply To
I got a chuckle at seeing myself referenced in Aaron Chong's blog post.


Actually, I found these forums through Aaron Chong's blog post :) I thought it was a very informative post, and I found a couple other interesting posts through it, since he pulls in info from so many different online sources (although his criticisms can be a bit harsh at times).


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 18 2017, 3:37pm

Post #24 of 57 (2807 views)
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Oops! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Ah, it looks like that chart is referring to dates between 1900 BC and 1801 BC.


Ah, that would explain it! I was not paying enough attention to the chart's label. Blush


In Reply To

In Reply To
I actually do favor the Shire-date of 22 Winterfilth for the Durin's Day of the Quest of Erebor as it at least aligns with a waxing crescent moon on the Midsummer's Eve when Elrond examined Thorin's map. It also falls on the correct day of the week.


I think Winterfilth 22 for Durin's Day is also a pretty close match with Tolkien's abandoned revision, since I think he was estimating a new moon on Winterfilth 19 at one point, and a sunset anytime between 48 and 72 hours after a new moon should work for Durin's Day.

Which day of the week are you referring to? I'm not recalling the day of the week mentioned in The Hobbit for Midsummer's Eve or Durin's Day.


Thorin to Balin on the doorstep: "Tomorrow begins the last week of autumn." And, of course, that 'tomorrow' turned out to be Durin's Day. In the Shire Reckoning Sterday (Saturday) was the first day of the week. Of course, it is entirely possible that the week of Durin's Folk was reckoned differently and that Thorin was referring to a different day, so I don't want to place too much importance on this passage.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 18 2017, 3:43pm)


Murlo
Rivendell


Sep 21 2017, 3:04am

Post #25 of 57 (2760 views)
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1418 Halimath 27 (2017 September 20 / 2020 September 17): In the House of Tom Bombadil [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder if Goldberry intentionally waited for the new moon for her "washing day" and "autumn-cleaning"...

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