Tolkien Gateway


On this page I have placed a table of dates for The Hobbit that I have devised. It is still a work in progress but I was motivated by the problem that no chronologist has ever been able to match the phases of the moon in The Hobbit to those in The Lord of the Rings. Karen Wynn Fonstad in The Atlas of Middle-earth created a chronology based solely on estimated travel times, stating "if the precise calculation of Durin's Day was beyond the skill of the Dwarves, it certainly was beyond mine",[1] which means that she simply ignored the moon in her calculations. In Lalaith's Middle-earth Science Pages (, under The Moon and Durin's Day, 2941 TA, a chronology is presented based on moon data. However, the lunar cycles presented by Lalaith do not match those of The Lord of the Rings. Lalaith explained the discrepancy by claiming that the moon's cycle was 20 minutes shorter in the late Third Age. This solution though creates more problems than it solves. A lunar cycle 20 minutes shorter than today's places the Third Age nearly 6.5 million years ago, which violates statements by J.R.R. Tolkien that his stories were set a few thousands of years ago. Worse, if the moon's orbital period was 20 minutes shorter then the length of earth's day was also shorter. Since the length of a year has not changed significantly since the earth was formed, shorter earth days means more days in a calendar year. Lalaith's solution means that every date we have and all of the information in Appendix D regarding the calendars are wrong.

When I tackled this problem I used Christopher Tolkien's report that his father used the phases of the moon from the years 1941-1942 for The Lord of the Rings.[2] Backtracking from T.A. 3019 to T.A. 2941 means that the moon's phases in the first year of The Hobbit corresponds to our year 1864. On 1 Lithe 2941 (the day before Midyear's Day), corresponding to 24 June, 1864, the moon was a waning gibbous moon, 73% lit up, which was not a "broad silver crescent" as described in The Hobbit.[3] However, three nights later the moon was a waning crescent, 40% lit up. In Appendix D Tolkien stated that the steward Mardil added two days to 2059 and the steward Hador added one day to 2360 to the Revised Calendar to account for the millennial deficit. These changes though were made after Arnor had dissolved and north-south communications had largely ceased. The Hobbits had no reason to adjust their calendar to far off Gondor and thus they never acknowledged the changes, meaning that their calendar lagged behind the seasons by three days. If the summer solstice was on the Hobbits' Afterlithe (July) 2 instead of three days earlier on their Midyear's Day then the moon was indeed a "broad silver crescent" on the night (Afterlithe 1) that Elrond read the Moon-letters. Pinpointing this date with a particular phase of the moon determines other dates based on lunar observations.

I freely admit that this assertion, that the Hobbits' calendar was off by three days from the Stewards' calendar, is still a problem. Tolkien stated later in Appendix D that the dates of the Shire Calendar matched the Stewards' Reckoning and my solution says otherwise. But I found it intriguing that the lunar observation in The Hobbit does match the moon's cycle in The Lord of the Rings if the Appendix D information regarding calendar adjustments is used. Thus my solution is the only one that ties the lunar cycles of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings together using evidence provided by J.R.R. Tolkien himself. I believe it is better than Lalaith's, which contradicts all of Tolkien's dating and calendar systems, and better than Fonstad's, which ignores the lunar cycle evidence altogether.

I am still in the process of refining my chronology. I used Lalaith's Meridional map of Middle-earth and an online astronomy website to obtain the phases of the moon for Midsummer's Eve and I am continuing to use these resources to create an even more detailed chronology (my full essay is 22 pages and growing, plus spreadsheets detailing dates, days of the week, events, and times of rises and settings of the sun and moon - I may reveal it all in a blog). For now though I will present my best estimated dates for The Hobbit. For those events with a range of dates shown it means that the event happened within that time period.

--Gamling 23:37, 4 November 2012 (UTC)

[edit] Chronology for T.A. 2941 - 2942

Month Date Event
Rethe (Mar.) 15 Gandalf meets Thorin and talks with him at the Prancing Pony in Bree.
Astron (Apr.) 25 Gandalf first sees Bilbo after years of absence from the Shire.
26 The Unexpected Party
27 Thorin and company depart from Bywater.
Thrimidge (May) 23-25 The company encounters the trolls.
Forelithe (June) 1-5 The company arrives in Rivendell.
Afterlithe (July) 1 Elrond examines Gandalf and Thorin’s swords and reads the moon-letters.
2 The company leaves Rivendell, heading up into the Misty Mountains.
9 The company shelters in the mountain cave.
10 The company is captured by the goblins, escapes, and Bilbo is knocked out.
11 Bilbo awakes and walks downward.
12 Bilbo finds the One Ring and escapes from Gollum and Goblin-town. That night the company is surrounded by the wolves and rescued by the eagles.
13 They fly to the Carrock and later meet Beorn.
15 They leave Beorn's in the afternoon.
19 Gandalf leaves and the remaining company enters Mirkwood.
Wedmath (Aug.) Late The company is first captured by spiders and later by the Wood-elves.
Halimath (Sept.) 21 Bilbo arranges for the escape from the Elvenking's palace.
22 The company arrives in Esgaroth.
29 The dwarves recover from their trip inside the barrels.
Winterfilth (Oct.) 6 Thorin begins thinking of leaving Esgaroth.
Blodmath (Nov.) 7 Durin's Day and the opening of the secret door.
8 Smaug is slain.
10 Thorin and Company exit the Lonely Mountain.
11 The elf-army turns towards Esgaroth to aid the men.
13 The Elves reach Esgaroth with aid.
15 Fíli and Kíli bring back the three surviving ponies.
22 The host reaches Dale.
27 Bilbo gives the Arkenstone to Bard and the Elvenking.
28 Thorin expels Bilbo from the Mountain.
29 The Battle of Five Armies
30 Bilbo awakens and sees Thorin before he dies.
Yule Gandalf and Bilbo celebrate at Beorn's house.
Thrimidge (May) 1 Gandalf and Bilbo return to Rivendell.
7 Bilbo and Gandalf leave Rivendell.
c. 13 They dig up the Troll's gold.
Forelithe (Jun.) 22 Bilbo arrives at Bag End and finds the auction underway.

[edit] References

  1. Karen Wynn Fonstad, The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Hobbit, The Third Age, Year 2941-42
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "The Great River", note 23
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Short Rest"