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***The hobbit-read-through: Ch3 – A Short Rest
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noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 3, 8:29am

Post #1 of 51 (2662 views)
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***The hobbit-read-through: Ch3 – A Short Rest Can't Post

Welcome to the 2018 read-through of The Hobbit. We’re discussing each chapter in order, taking a week over each chapter, and have reached Chapter 3. Each week starts off with an introductory ‘starter post’ like this one, intended just to get a discussion going. No starter post will cover everything that is interesting about a chapter, so please do post replies that include new questions, comments or thoughts – there’s no need just to react to what you see here.

It’s not easy to get into Rivendell! Is this just the geography, or is there some illusion or other elvish magic involved, such that you only get in if the elves wish it, and what you see on the way might vary between one journey (or traveller) and another?

I notice that The Hobbit elves are known as great folks from whom to get news, and I thought I picked up an implication that Bilbo has met elves before. If these were LOTR-style elves, that would suggest a previously unmentioned side of his hobbit character (wasn’t talking to elves one of LOTR Bilbo’s wilder eccentricities?). Besides, the Hobbit elves seem far more tra-la-la-lally. Do these differences from LOTR matter, and if they do, what ingenious explanations do we have to restore consistency?

Moon runes – aren’t they great! Jolly handy that the party found someone who could read June moon runes. Is it a bit too much of a coincidence? Being able to see the message depends on both the lunar and solar cycles, besides having someone think of it and have the necessary skills to read the runes! How common would a crescent moon at midsummer be, anyway? Elrond implies that other moons might reveal other runes – but I don’t think the map is mentioned again, so maybe nothing else was found. Using Moon runes would introduce an element of time into how quickly a secret message could be read, which might be a good security feature or a total pain: what do you think?

Durin’s Day – yikes!, now the expedition needs to get there against the clock (or calendar, anyway). And there’s the twist that Thorin (at least) doesn’t know how to forecast Durin’s day. (That made me wonder how difficult it would be, & I tried to work out when the next Durin’s Day will be in Oxford – I’ll say more about that in a reply to this post to avoid making this one too long.. )

Of course there are very many other things we could talk about –please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 3, 8:39am

Post #2 of 51 (2551 views)
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Why is is difficult to work out when Durin's Day is? [In reply to] Can't Post

I mentioned above that I wondered why Thorin says “for it passes our skill in these days to guess when such a time [Durin’s Day] will come again.”

I decided to try and work out when the next Durin’s Day would be IRL. For what it’s worth, the answer I come to is ‘In Oxford (England), this year’s Durin’s Day will be 7 November 2018’. But I was more interested in the process than the result – I don’t actually plan to spend 7 November burgling a dragon! I decided that, if the calculations are done using only astronomical data then it’s not too hard. My best “in-story” guess for why Thorin might not know how to do it is that the official Dwarven Procedure was a different one to the one I used. For example, if official measurements had to be made in some ritual way or in some official place, then it's much easier to see Thorin's problem.

(Really, of course, I suspect Tolkien of just making some stuff up here, and I think he might reasonably say that his story doesn’t have to bear the weight of stringent enquiry about a minor detail!)

My ‘workings’ follow, in case anyone is interested….

Here’s what Thorin says about Durin’s Day:

Quote
“Then what is Durin’s Day?” asked Elrond.

“The first day of the dwarves’ New Year,” said Thorin, “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. But this will not help us much, I fear, for it passes our skill in these days to guess when such a time will come again.”

The Hobbit, Chapter 3


The first thing I notice is that I’ll need to decide where in the world I’m talking about. For one thing, Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere is a different time of year to the Southern. For another, whether the sun and moon are visible in the sky together might depend on how far north-south one is (because that changes the length of the day, and might mean that the moon and sun are up at the same time in one place, but not another). It’s also possible that moonrise and moonset times vary according to where you’re observing from (I don’t know).
I’ll choose to calculate Durin’s Day for Oxford, England then – it’s a place with a few Tolkien associations!

The next thing to do is to decide on my definition of autumn and ‘the threshold of Winter’. I’ll go with ‘Autumn according to the meteorological calendar begins in September and ends in November.’[1]. Of course, for all I know, the proper dwarven definition would have been different – if, for example, they used observations of the weather or animal/plant behaviour at a particular place (Moria, say) then I’m scuppered (and so might the dwarves have been when Moria fell into enemy hands). Similarly, the definition of Autumn and Winter ultimately relies upon noting the time of the equinox or solstice, and so it depends on what the dwarven procedure was for doing that.
Anyway, my interpretation of ‘the first day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter’ means I’m looking for the first new moon in November. In Oxford that will be on 7 November 2018 [2]. Encouragingly, the Moon is up from 6:28 AM to 16:53 PM and the Sun is up from 7:09 AM to 16:27 PM in Oxford on that day [3]. So Sun and Moon ought be visible at the same time, at least in theory.

Based on that, I think a simplistic answer is ‘In Oxford, this year’s Durin’s Day will be 7 November 2018’.
But there are some complications (aside from whether my procedure would be regarded as correct by dwarves).

The first complication is whether it’s enough to calculate that the right moon and the sun ought to be visible together in the sky, or whether it is necessary actually to observe them. If I actually have to see the Sun and Moon together then ‘Although one can calculate the actual time of New Moon with precision, the earliest possible sighting of a waxing crescent moon is more difficult to predict, as it depends on a number of factors including the location of the moon relative to the sun (itself dependent on a number of factors including time of the year and distance of the moon from the earth) and the observer's experience, visual acuity, and location [4]. I also think that Durin’s Day would also be postponed if it was cloudy (because that might make it impossible to see the Moon and make the required observation). I imagine a dwarven community would calculate when to set a watch for seeing the Moon and Sun together (7 November), and the observation would actually be achieved a day or a few days later, allowing the festival to start.
Another complication is whether Durin’s Day starts when you see the Sun and Moon together wherever you happen to be, or whether there is some central place in the Dwarven world (Moria, maybe?) where the observation ought to be made. If it’s the latter, then I think that it would be more difficult– I think you’d need to know how far away from Moria you currently were, so that you could correct for the difference and work out when someone in Moria might hypothetically declare it to be Durin’s Day (I’m not sure how big an error this would introduce for a pair of places such as Moria and Erebor). Or, if an actual observation at Moria was essential, then perhaps messengers would have been sent out from Moria with the news, and Durin’s Day in other places would start when the messenger arrived. Again, that system would have broken down by Thorin’s day, with Moria in enemy hands.

A third complication is that I used the Internet to find a lot of expertly compiled astronomical data; and advantage Thorin doesn’t have. So we should think about how hard it would be to make the observations and do the calculations with the technology available to him. As far as I can see (not very far, perhaps) it doesn’t seem to add much difficulty to do the basic calculation– I think the dwarves would need to know when the solstice or equinox was, and then start counting lunar months in order to know when the last lunar month before winter was about to start. I know that many real-life peoples were very well aware when these events were, so perhaps it is not unreasonable to expect the dwarves to be able to do it (or to have dealings with agricultural folks such as hobbits who would need to know how the astronomical year was progressing).
What then to make of Thorin’s comment that ‘it passes our skill in these days to guess when such a time will come again’? (Here we are playing the game that there must be an in-story explanation, rather than remembering that Tolkien was at this point making up some stuff that would give him the plot point he wanted, and could reasonably complain that his story shouldn’t be expected to stand a high level of scrutiny about a minor detail.) As I’ve found, some complications (actual observation of the moon is required; calculation is required to adjust an observer’s observations to what the situation would be in some other place) would introduce an error of days, but would not make it impossible to estimate. If only observations made in a particular place or a particular way will do, then the problems could be harder. Motivation is also a factor here, I suppose – if Durin’s Day isn’t all that important in Thorin’s day, then the way to calculate it might have been forgotten. Besides, perhaps Thorin assumes that if he doesn’t know how to do something, then nobody does? Maybe dwarven astronomers elsewhere would be rolling their eyes at his ignorance (and worse, the poor picture of dwarven science he is portraying to an elf.)



[1] UK Met Office definition of Autumn https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/seasons/autumn
Out of interest, for 2018 at east it doesn’t make any difference if I don’t use ‘September’ and ‘November’ and instead count new moons forward starting with the first one after the autumn equinox. I also end up with the same result (this year) if I pick the new moon one lunar cycle before the solstice. I think I might get different results year on year from those different procedures, but I haven’t actually tried.

[2] Moon rise and moonset times for Oxford in November 2018 https://www.timeanddate.com/...d?month=11&year=2018

[4]Untitled page about the Practical problems of observing Durin’s Day http://web.ccsu.edu/astronomy/durinsday.htm

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 3, 8:43am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 3, 9:28am

Post #3 of 51 (2528 views)
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(The missing reference) [In reply to] Can't Post

My account above managed to miss out reference 3, which is:

[3] Sunrise and sunset times for Oxford November https://www.timeanddate.com/...d?month=11&year=2018

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Roverandom
The Shire


Jun 3, 12:37pm

Post #4 of 51 (2518 views)
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Astronomy [In reply to] Can't Post

Just a quick thought or two regarding the question of Durin's Day:

Your point about trying to adapt the calculations from an agreed-upon central place of observation (Moria) to any other spot in the world is well-taken; but in this case I would think that since these instructions appear on a map of the Lonely Mountain, Thror is referring to an occurrence of Durin's Day there. The calculations are still pretty daunting, but at least that is one less hurdle to clear.

Secondly, and this is purely the fancy of an historical astronomy dilettante, I can see the dwarves having some kind of calendar-like device (a la Stonehenge?) to determine the course of the year, phases of the moon, etc. Fun to think about. If such a thing did exist, where would it be located, and who would have the responsibility of tending to it? Back to Moria again, no doubt. Far more likely, of course, is your suggestion that the whole thing just makes for a good plot point that keeps the story rolling along --- like so much of The Hobbit.

All that being said, do I recall being rather surprised on first read that a people who live such long lives and put such an emphasis on their traditions, Thorin in particular, could not determine the date of something that seems to have been of a great importance to them, so much so that (like the movie Broken Arrow) they have a name for it.

For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the sill of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.

(This post was edited by Roverandom on Jun 3, 12:46pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 3, 1:31pm

Post #5 of 51 (2514 views)
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The New Year's Day of the Dwarves [In reply to] Can't Post

What strikes me is that even if Durin's Folk have lost the skill to determine whether Durin's Day is going to occur in a given year, it should still be relatively easy to determine what the hypothetical date would be as it falls on the the New Year's Day of the Dwarves. Let's read Thorin's description again:


Quote
"The first day of the dwarves' New Year," said Thorin, "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. But this will not help us much, I fear, for it passes our skill in these days to guess when such a time will come again."


Okay, so the only knowledge needed to determine the first day of the new year is: 1) the day of the beginning of Winter; and 2) knowledge of the dates of the lunar phases. That shouldn't be too difficult.

My first assumption is that the Dwarves of Erebor, like the Hobbits, adopted their reckoning of the seasons from the Northmen who inhabited Rhovanion and the Vales of Anduin. If that is the case then they probably reckoned the start of Winter at the beginning of the month of November (or Blotsmath in the Shire calendar). That means we should be looking for the last new moon of October (or Winterfilth) as the end of the year in the calendar of the Longbeards, though there might be a margin of error if the Dwarven months don't coincide exactly with the months as observed by the Hobbits.

Tolkien at one point estimated that the Durin's Day of T.A. 2941 fell on the date of October 19, though calculations that I've made puts it closer to October 22 in the Shire Reckoning. Even without detailed astronomical knowledge, the Dwarves should have been able to figure the date to within at least a couple of days.

Due to the differences between the Shire Reckoning and our own Gregorian calendar (Shire dates being approximately ten days in advance of our own), I would place the modern date of the New Year's Day of the Dwarves for this year on: November 8, 2018, when the first sliver of the waxing moon is visible.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 3, 2:11pm

Post #6 of 51 (2504 views)
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Perhaps it gets still easier... [In reply to] Can't Post

If it’s easy to work out New Year, then the problem becomes “is this New Years Day a Durin’s Day?”

But According to this “Ask An Astronomer” page, http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/...-change-intermediate the timing of moonrise and moonset depend upon what phase the Moon is in. The New Moon is (theoretically) visible by day, the full moon by night.

In that case, wouldn’t every New Year be a Durin’s Day (subject perhaps to an actual observation being made, if those are the rules)?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 3, 2:21pm

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One would think so, yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, there may be a reason why Tolkien was a scholar of languages and not astronomy. Or maybe he thought that the rules might have been different at the time of Bilbo's little adventure.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 3, 3:24pm

Post #8 of 51 (2497 views)
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Easier than it looks, then [In reply to] Can't Post

So it looks like every Dwarven New Year's Day ought to be A Durin's Day (or will shortly be followed by A Durin's Day when the Sun and Moon are observed etc.) Knowingly or not Tolkien ends up with setting a problem that looks harder than it is. Perhaps the in-story explanation is that whoever wrote the runes would have expected their reader to work out that the extra complications of 'Durin's Day' come to nothing and that (ironically) is the skill that has been lost.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Roverandom
The Shire


Jun 3, 5:25pm

Post #9 of 51 (2490 views)
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...or, NOT as easy as all that! [In reply to] Can't Post

Looking at Thorin's quote, every New Year's Day is not a Durin's Day. He is specific in saying that only when the sun and moon are in the sky together "on that day" is it called Durin's Day. So, back to being more of a challenge?

For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the sill of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


sador
Half-elven


Jun 3, 5:30pm

Post #10 of 51 (2492 views)
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"I wandered out in the world for years [In reply to] Can't Post

While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon"


It’s not easy to get into Rivendell! Is this just the geography, or is there some illusion or other elvish magic involved?
That is a good question. I've actually thought of it for the first time on this present reading - Is this just a hidden valley in a difficult terrain, or something like the Girdle of Melian?
I really like the latter idea; but the white stones pointing the way indicate otherwise.
Also worth considfering the entry in The Tale of Years, according to which Elrond founded the refuge at Imladris only after Sauron overran Eregion. At the time he did not possess Vilya, and I strongly doubt he would have dared to use it while Sauron was at large - and I do not think Elrond has enough power to create his own Girdle by himself.

(wasn’t talking to elves one of LOTR Bilbo’s wilder eccentricities?).
Yes, but it was also mentioned at the end of The Hobbit, So I would say not yet.
However, the later-written The Quest of Erebor seems to indicater that Bilbo was not such a stranger to Elves as one might suppose,


Besides, the Hobbit elves seem far more tra-la-la-lally.
What of Lindir and the rest of the Hall of Fire crew?

Is it a bit too much of a coincidence? (meeting Elrond on midsummer night)
If you do not believe in Providence - then yes, it is.

How common would a crescent moon at midsummer be, anyway?
Once every twenty-nine or thirty days.
But it sets very early.

Elrond implies that other moons might reveal other runes – but I don’t think the map is mentioned again, so maybe nothing else was found.
Elrond wasn't around to read it.


Of course there are very many other things we could talk about –please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!
Like Bilbo, I used to wonder how the Elves got to know about him, and his companions' names - but then I figured out that it was no big wonder~ Gandalf could simply have told the two Rivendell people he met before.
But this explanation is quite a letdown.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 3, 6:05pm

Post #11 of 51 (2485 views)
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My thinking was... [In reply to] Can't Post

It’s always new moon at new year, because that is part of the definition of new year.
And the new moon (or actually the slimmest crescent if it must really be observed) is visible in the day.
Therefore it always ought to be possible to see the sun and moon together on New Year’s Day
And therefore, every New Year’s Day is a Durin’s Day.

Have I made a mistake here (or was the mistake not explaining it all that well)?Unsure

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 3, 6:29pm

Post #12 of 51 (2483 views)
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Maps with hidden layers [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf has said that Thror drew this map. One would assume he did so between 2770 and 2790 -- for it came after Smaug's appearance. Then the map was in the possession of Thrain who winds up in Dol Guldur. Thorin acts as if he's never seen it.

Furthermore it has secret writing that can only be read under particular conditions that occur only rarely (this is surely a device used by a race that is long lived)

This appears a bad case of information meant to be known only by the King or Head of the Family and then they die before they pass the info on "one day in the proper time" (When do dwarves reach adulthood - Thorin was only 24 when the dragon attacked)

Was the secret writing put on by Thrain or Thror and when? Thrain somehow managed to keep that map hidden during his imprisonment-- did he also add the moon writing then? or previously? Again-- Thorin is obviously unfamiliar with such a strategy.-- which speaks of the breaking of the passing of information due to Smaug's destruction of Erebor.

I never got the impression that only Elrond could read them just that he was the one to notice them at just the right moment -- Providence as Sador said -- Elrond was meant to pick up the map as just that moment as Bilbo was later meant to pick up the Ring.

-- As for determining Durin's Day which is mentioned in the moon letters -- I think Roverandom's idea of a Stonehenge like device to determine Durin's Day is on the right path. Something that allows for tracking of the celestial bodies without extensive understanding. Also the moon letters clearly mention a grey stone.

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 3, 7:20pm

Post #13 of 51 (2472 views)
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Short Rest, Many Questions [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It’s not easy to get into Rivendell! Is this just the geography, or is there some illusion or other elvish magic involved?
That is a good question. I've actually thought of it for the first time on this present reading - Is this just a hidden valley in a difficult terrain, or something like the Girdle of Melian?
I really like the latter idea; but the white stones pointing the way indicate otherwise.
Also worth considering the entry in The Tale of Years, according to which Elrond founded the refuge at Imladris only after Sauron overran Eregion. At the time he did not possess Vilya, and I strongly doubt he would have dared to use it while Sauron was at large - and I do not think Elrond has enough power to create his own Girdle by himself.


And Gandalf must know the way(s) to Rivendell fairly well as he is a member of the White Council, though we don't learn of that connection in The Hobbit.


In Reply To
Besides, the Hobbit elves seem far more tra-la-la-lally.
What of Lindir and the rest of the Hall of Fire crew?


The Elves in other times. The situation at the time of the War of the Ring is much more dire and serious. The High Elves are much more worried about spies and other agents of the Enemy than they were at the time of the Quest of Erebor.


In Reply To
Is it a bit too much of a coincidence? (meeting Elrond on midsummer night)
If you do not believe in Providence - then yes, it is.


A celebratory dinner with guests on Midsummer's Eve doesn't seem like an unusual event. And maybe not much of a coincidence if Gandalf knows more than he lets on.


In Reply To
How common would a crescent moon at midsummer be, anyway?
Once every twenty-nine or thirty days.
But it sets very early.


In my own experience, Midsummer only comes once a year, not once a lunar month. Tolkien doesn't state, though, whether the moon was waxing or waning, complicating the question.


In Reply To
Elrond implies that other moons might reveal other runes – but I don’t think the map is mentioned again, so maybe nothing else was found.
Elrond wasn't around to read it.


No, but Gandalf or any of the others would have been able to see such hidden runes if they thought to look for them.


In Reply To
Of course there are very many other things we could talk about –please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!
Like Bilbo, I used to wonder how the Elves got to know about him, and his companions' names - but then I figured out that it was no big wonder~ Gandalf could simply have told the two Rivendell people he met before.
But this explanation is quite a letdown.


I generally assume that many Elves knew the speech of birds and other creatures; the list already includes Dwarves, Beorn, Radagast, Saruman (seemingly), and the lords of Dale. But, yes, Gandalf could have simply informed his chance-met friends from Rivendell.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jun 3, 7:20pm)


Roverandom
The Shire


Jun 3, 7:33pm

Post #14 of 51 (2457 views)
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More Astronomy! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thorin seems to think that it's a rarer occasion and refers to Durin's Day as an extra special New Year's Day, implying that it doesn't happen every year. Can you really see the moon and the sun together every day? I always assumed that such was not the case and view it as a special event, too. Maybe I'm just not that observant?

Not completely off-topic, I call a moon visible in daylight a "Ghost Moon", as it almost seems transparent in a really dark, blue sky. My daughter seems to enjoy the romance of that!

For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the sill of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 3, 7:38pm

Post #15 of 51 (2454 views)
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Um...not quite. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Can you really see the moon and the sun together every day?


No, certainly not every day (if you meant that the way it reads). But it is a much more common experience than you might think. Keep in mind that the New Moon is hardly visible at all as it is completely in shadow (or nearly so).

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


sador
Half-elven


Jun 4, 2:38am

Post #16 of 51 (2421 views)
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Oops! [In reply to] Can't Post

Of course, I meant "once in every twenty-nine or thirty years". My bad.

As far as I know, if the moon is waning, the cresscent will pop out very late - towards dawn.

Also, we do not know how much of a ceescent it is. If it is the new moon (as I always read this chapter), it should actually have set very early in the evening, before nightfall - Rivendell seems to be pretty far to the North!


By the way, this is also the issue with Durin's Day. I read this as having the New Moon emerge just as the sun sets - which is quite a rarity.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 4, 2:52pm

Post #17 of 51 (2342 views)
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Bilbo and the Moon on Durin's Day [In reply to] Can't Post

This is what Bilbo saw late in the afternoon on the first day of the last week of autumn in the year of the Quest of Erebor:


Quote
If he lifted his head he could see a glimpse of the distant forest. As the sun turned west there was a gleam of yellow upon its far roof, as if the light caught the last pale leaves. Soon he saw the orange ball of the sun sinking towards the level of his eyes. He went to the opening and there pale and faint was a thin new moon above the rim of Earth. At that very moment he heard a sharp crack behind him. There on the grey stone in the grass was an enormous thrush, nearly coal black, its pale yellow breast freckled dark spots. Crack! It had caught a snail and was knocking it on the stone. Crack! Crack!

Suddenly Bilbo understood. Forgetting all danger he stood on the ledge and hailed the dwarves, shouting and paying. Those that were nearest came tumbling over the rocks and as fast as they could along the ledge to him, wondering what on earth was the matter; the others shouted to be hauled up the ropes (except Bombur, of course: he was asleep).

Quickly Bilbo explained. They all fell silent: the hobbit standing by the grey stone, and the dwarves with wagging beards watching impatiently. The sun sank lower and lower, and their hopes fell. It sank into a belt of reddened cloud and disappeared. The dwarves groaned, but still Bilbo stood almost without moving. The little moon was dipping to the horizon. Evening was coming on. Then suddenly when their hope was lowest a red ray of the sun escaped like a finger through a rent in the cloud. A gleam of light came straight through the opening into the bay and fell on the smooth rock-face. The old thrush, who had been watching from a high perch with beady eyes and head cocked on one side, gave a sudden trill. There was a loud attack. A flake of rock split from the wall and fell. A hole appeared suddenly about three feet from the ground. Quickly, trembling lest the chance should fade, the dwarves rushed to the rock and pushed-in vain.


"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 4, 4:12pm

Post #18 of 51 (2311 views)
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The rune-writer knows the thrush will be there! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote

"Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks ,” read Elrond, “and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole.”

Hobbit, Ch 3


So maybe whoever wrote the moon runes had set up an arrangement with the thrushes, so that they'd hang around the door on Durin's Days to help the right dwarves find the door? If I recall, the thrushes - when we get to them - seem unusually intelligent, so this maybe is a workable explanation for a fantasy story?

Or do folks prefer some other explanation for how the writing predicts the thrush being there (or the thrush knows when to behave as the writing says it will)?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 4, 11:11pm

Post #19 of 51 (2227 views)
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Occam's Razor [In reply to] Can't Post

Or the writer of the message observed that thrushes habitually cracked snails' shells against the grey stone late in the day. But that explanation is prosaic and boring. Wink

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


No One in Particular
Rivendell


Jun 5, 1:10am

Post #20 of 51 (2217 views)
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Honestly... [In reply to] Can't Post

Between the Thrush and the knocking and Elrond being in the right place at the right time to read the Moon-Runes, it almost hints of prophesy.

To my knowledge foresight in Middle-earth has been limited to Elves and Men (mostly men descended from Elves at that) but I guess there's no absolute reason a dwarven prophet couldn't happen; they'd probably just be very, very rare.

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 5, 3:37am

Post #21 of 51 (2198 views)
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Prophesy? Or good planning? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Between the Thrush and the knocking and Elrond being in the right place at the right time to read the Moon-Runes, it almost hints of prophesy.

To my knowledge foresight in Middle-earth has been limited to Elves and Men (mostly men descended from Elves at that) but I guess there's no absolute reason a dwarven prophet couldn't happen; they'd probably just be very, very rare.


I suspect that Gandalf might have known about the moon letters already, but: 1) recognized that they would only be readable under very specific conditions; and, 2) wanted the letters read by Elrond so Thorin wouldn't suspect Gandalf of trying to push a hidden agenda.

If Tolkien had written more about the Dwarves, perhaps we would have concrete examples of dwarven foresight. But here's another conspiracy theory: Maybe the Fathers of of the Line of Durin were fully aware that the new moon always rose in the morning and a waxing crescent moon at the new year would always mark a Durin's Day. The question becomes, why would they conceal that fact?

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


No One in Particular
Rivendell


Jun 5, 3:51am

Post #22 of 51 (2191 views)
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Gandalf [In reply to] Can't Post

was sorta grumpy about Elrond finding the moon letters first, wasn't he? Unless he was being disingenuous...

To make themselves look more clever than Dwarves who were unaware of that particular astronomical phenomenon?

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 5, 5:03am

Post #23 of 51 (2184 views)
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Gandalf being disingenuous? Inconceivable! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
"What do they say?" asked Gandalf and Thorin together, a bit vexed perhaps that even Elrond should have found this out first, though really there had not been a chance before, and there would not be another until goodness knows when.


Seriously, though, Elrond does explain that moon-letters can only be seen when the Moon shines behind them, and "with the more cunning short it must be a moon of the same shape and season as the day when they were written." Having said that, there could have been some clue that Gandalf previously kept to himself, such as decorative markings done in the same manner to hint at the presence of moon-letters. This is all very speculative of course, as there is no evidence that this was the case. And as I've indicated elsewhere, I'm certain that Gandalf planned to stop at Rivendell all along.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jun 5, 5:10am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 5, 8:56am

Post #24 of 51 (2148 views)
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I like all these explanations! [In reply to] Can't Post

From the mundane (the rune-writer is exploiting their knowledge of everyday thrush behaviour) to the prophetic.

The prophetic explanation seems to sit with Tolkien’s later, Quest Of Erebor thinking, in which this whole escapade is being influenced (I presume) by Higher Powers and for longer-term purposes that won’t be apparent until after the fall of Sauron.

Fun to see William of Ockham at Rivendell. As a medieval divine as well as logician, maybe he’d find either explanation plausible?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 5, 12:11pm

Post #25 of 51 (2136 views)
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Moon Runes and Durin's Doors [In reply to] Can't Post

The moon runes remind me a little of the Doors of Moria. In both cases, the hidden writing is revealed by the moon, and by someone who knows what they are doing. In each case, the revealed message is perhaps less helpful than it's writer intended. And in each case the reader's mistake is to assume some unintended complications (Gandalf thinks he's being asked to state the door's control word, rather than being told what it is; Thorin thinks that it is harder to calculate Durin's Day than we think it is).

This could be just a series of pleasing co-incidences - or is there more to get from it?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

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