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The Long Winter began in November 2758 of the Third Age, and snow soon covered all of Eriador and Rhovanion all the way south to the Ered Nimrais. Sauron used the winter to his advantage, staging an attack on Gondor by the Corsairs of Umbar and fleets of the Haradrim, while at the same time Easterlings and Dunlendings backed by Corsairs attacked Rohan. King Helm Hammerhand was trapped in the Hornburg, where he was forced to make desperate raids on the Dunlendings led by Wulf in order to get food. Gondor was unable to send help as its coasts and east flank were under attack. In the north the people of Arnor also suffered greatly, dying of hunger.
The winter ended in March T.A. 2759, when great floods of smeltwater allowed Helm's nephew Fréaláf Hildeson to oust the Dunlendings from Rohan, and Gondor now could come for help so that Rohan was soon cleared.
It is told in the Tale of Years that the Long Winter resulted in a great loss of life in The Shire, with many thousands of lives lost. Although Gandalf came to the aid of the Hobbits, a great famine followed the Long Winter in The Shire, known as the Days of Dearth, which lasted into T.A. 2960.
The Long Winter had a more indirect effect on the history of Middle-earth, however: it was during the Long Winter that Gandalf became fond of Hobbits and their affairs, which indirectly led to Gandalf's selection of Bilbo Baggins to go on the Quest of Erebor:
- "'And then there was the Shire-folk. I began to have a warm place in my heart for them in the Long Winter, which none of you can remember. They were very hard put to it then: one of the worst pinches they have been in, dying of cold, and starving in the dreadful dearth that followed. But that was the time to see their courage, and their pity one for another. It was by their pity as much as their tough uncomplaining courage that they survived. I wanted them to survive. [...] And anyway you must begin at some point, with some on person. I dare say he was "chosen" and I was only chosen to choose him; but I picked out Bilbo.'"
- ― Gandalf speaking to Pippin
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The House of Eorl"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Concerning Hobbits"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas A. Anderson, The Annotated Hobbit, "Appendix A. The Quest of Erebor", p. 370