When WAS Durin's Day?

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Graham Lockwood

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Apr 13, 2005, 8:36:55 PM4/13/05
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When exactly *is* Durin's Day and what was the nature of the Dwarvish
calendar? The easy answer, of course, is that "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." So said Thorin. But is that
enough to come up with a date? Only if you know what definition of "Autumn"
he's using. It may seem like a simple question at first but it's not. To help
answer it, we need to look at the only example of a Durin's Day that we have,
that in _The Hobbit_.

The closest sure date that we have to that Durin's Day is September 22,
Bilbo's birthday and the day he and the dwarves arrived at Lake-town. We know
this because he tells us that that's the day he arrived in his birthday
speech in LotR. We also know that Bilbo and Gandalf arrive back at Beorn's
prior to mid-winter and Yule-tide which, in the Hobbit Calendar, was the end
of the year. We also know that Durin's Day of that year happened to occur on
the 7th to the last day of autumn because the day prior, Thorin says
"Tomorrow begins the last week of autumn".

Today (in the USA anyway), the end of autumn and the beginning of winter is
defined as the winter solstice. This is completely out of the question with
regards to the dwarvish calendar since Bilbo and Gandalf were already back at
Beorn's by the solstice.

The Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/d/durinsday.html) has
the bizarre statement that Durin's day would be "the new moon that occurs
within two weeks of 6 October, on a modern calendar". This would be the FIRST
new moon of autumn according to our modern calendar, not the LAST new moon of
autumn. I have no idea what they were thinking when they wrote that.

I decided to go over _The Hobbit_ again and try to count days from Bilbo and
the Dwarves' arrival in Lake-town on Sept. 22 until Durin's Day but
encountered quite a bit of difficulty. Adding up all of the days that I
*know* elapsed, I get 20. They spent a fortnight (14 days) in Lake-town
before "Thorin began to think of departure". They spent 3 days rowing across
the Long Lake. And there were 3 identifiable mentions of one day ending and
another beginning. These were interrupted by 3 periods of unknown duration.
Assuming each of these lasted at least 2 days, the earliest Durin's Day could
possibly have been was October 18th. Assuming the Hobbit's Midyear's Day was
actually the summer solstice (according to LotR, they were "intended to
correspond as nearly as possible to" each other), then the autumnal equinox
would have been around October 1st.

Karen Fonstad's revised 1991 edition of _The Atlas of Middle-earth_ contains
a chronology of _The Hobbit_. There, she places Durin's day on October 30th.
"Calculating backwards, with time allowed for the armies' march, the siege,
the battle, and Bilbo's return to Beorn's before the Yule, Durin's Day would
not have been later than October 20." However, since she bases this mainly on
estimated travel times, this is highly conjectural. Immediately afterwards,
she says that "if precise calculation of Durin's Day was beyond the skill of
the Dwarves, it certainly was beyond mine."

This page
(http://people.wiesbaden.netsurf.de/~lalaith/Tolkien/Durin's_Day.html)
attempts to correlate the lunar cycle to the few dates we have in _The
Hobbit_ and comes up with a date of October 22 for Durin's Day. Mainly, the
theory centers around the discovery of the moon runes at Rivendell which were
on midsummer's eve during a "broad silver moon". Unfortunately, Tolkien
doesn't seem to have paid near as much attention to getting the moon phases
right in TH as he did in LotR. The most obvious example of this is Durin's
Day itself. Durin's Day is the very first day of the the new lunar cycle and
the moon sets almost immediately after the sun does. However, the very next
day, Bard shoots Smaug just as the moon is rising. This is clearly
impossible.

Another idea for discovering the end of autumn is this: If the summer
solstice is regularly referred to as "mid-summer" and the winter solstice is
regularly referred to as "mid-winter" then why can't the autumnal equinox be
"mid-autumn" and the spring equinox "mid-spring"? Such a system would place
the end of autumn and the beginning of winter at around November 16th. A week
prior to that would have been about November 10th, only 10 days off of
Fonstad's estimation based on travel time. It also requires each of the three
"mystery multiple day" periods to be about 9-10 days on average, not
unreasonable in my opinion since the dwarves were clearly worried about
staying so long that winter would come upon them. Also, when Smaug attacks
Lake-town, the humans say that "It is long since (the dwarves) went North,"
implying that they have been gone for quite a while, not just a couple weeks.

In my opinion, then, November 10th is the best date for the Durin's Day of SA
2941 and the dwarves used the equinoxes and the solstices as the midpoints of
their seasons.

It should also be noted that the Dwarves seem to use a calendar based on the
actual observation of the moon and the sun, similar to the Islamic calendar.
Because of this, and because actual observation times differ depending on the
part of the world the observing is being done at, it's actually impossible to
determine in advance when exactly the New Year will be, how many days each
month will have, etc. For this reason, most Muslim countries have abandoned
the Islamic calendar as an official calendar (although it's still used for
religious observances). Saudi Arabia uses a somewhat simplified version not
dependent on actual observation and based on the sky above Mecca. Because of
this, it should be of little surprise that Thorin could not determine exactly
when the next Durin's Day would be although it should have been relatively
simple to estimate it within a couple days.

Comments anyone?

the softrat

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Apr 13, 2005, 9:42:37 PM4/13/05
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On Wed, 13 Apr 2005 19:36:55 -0500, Graham Lockwood
<g-...@yeehawgropes.com> wrote:
>
>Comments anyone?

Turn left at the ecliptic and librate.


the softrat
"Honi soit qui mal y pense."
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--
A conclusion is the place where you get tired of thinking.
(Arthur Bloch)

Michael Urban

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Apr 14, 2005, 10:35:45 AM4/14/05
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In article <0001HW.BE832557...@news.x-privat.org>,

Graham Lockwood <g-...@yeehawgropes.com> wrote:
>
>It should also be noted that the Dwarves seem to use a calendar based on the
>actual observation of the moon and the sun, similar to the Islamic calendar.

Or to the Jewish calendar. It is one of the ways that Dwarves resemble
semitic people. But while Dwarves are in some ways analogous to Jews,
it is dangerous to draw too many parallels. The Dwarves eat pork,
for example (at Bilbo's house).

Tamf Moo

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Apr 15, 2005, 1:25:31 PM4/15/05
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Michael Urban spoke softly, shivering:

> Or to the Jewish calendar. It is one of the ways that Dwarves resemble
> semitic people. But while Dwarves are in some ways analogous to Jews,
> it is dangerous to draw too many parallels. The Dwarves eat pork,
> for example (at Bilbo's house).

maybe they had other prohibtions - like CHOKLIT. maybe they didn't eat
CHOKLIT?

or perhaps they developed a strict rule against mixing meat and alcohol
after their rather uncomfortable experience with the barrels?

--
Tamf, lellow dwagin and CHOKLIT-eater at your service.

I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.

Graham Lockwood

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Apr 15, 2005, 1:42:33 PM4/15/05
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On Fri, 15 Apr 2005 12:25:31 -0500, Tamf Moo wrote
(in article <MPG.1cc9bf1ce...@news.individual.net>):

> Michael Urban spoke softly, shivering:
>
>> Or to the Jewish calendar. It is one of the ways that Dwarves resemble
>> semitic people. But while Dwarves are in some ways analogous to Jews,
>> it is dangerous to draw too many parallels. The Dwarves eat pork,
>> for example (at Bilbo's house).
>
> maybe they had other prohibtions - like CHOKLIT. maybe they didn't eat
> CHOKLIT?
>
> or perhaps they developed a strict rule against mixing meat and alcohol
> after their rather uncomfortable experience with the barrels?

Or apples.

"I hope I never smell the smell of apples again!" said Fili. "My tub was full
of it. To smell apples everlastingly when you can scarcely move and are cold
and sick with hunger is maddening. I could eat anything in the wide world
now, for hours on end -- but not an apple!"

---
Graham

Graham Lockwood

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Apr 15, 2005, 2:21:46 PM4/15/05
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On Thu, 14 Apr 2005 09:35:45 -0500, Michael Urban wrote
(in article <d3lv41$dsh$1...@reader1.panix.com>):

> In article <0001HW.BE832557...@news.x-privat.org>,
> Graham Lockwood <g-...@yeehawgropes.com> wrote:
>>
>> It should also be noted that the Dwarves seem to use a calendar based on
>> the
>> actual observation of the moon and the sun, similar to the Islamic
>> calendar.
>
> Or to the Jewish calendar.

Except that it's not. The Jewish calendar (Nowadays, anyway) is based on a
series of mathematical rules. It adds a 13th leap month, adds an extra day to
one of the months for leap years, and swaps a day between two adjacent months
to avoid certain holidays falling on certain days of the week but it does all
of this based on a 19 year cycle. So the Jewish calendar is likely to be off
of the actual lunar cycle by a day or so at any given time. By contrast, the
Islamic calendar re-calibrates itself every month.

>It is one of the ways that Dwarves resemble
> semitic people.

Of course, "semitic" refers to a bunch of other groups of people and
languages other than Jews and Hebrew. Arabs and Arabic, for instance.

>But while Dwarves are in some ways analogous to Jews,
> it is dangerous to draw too many parallels. The Dwarves eat pork,
> for example (at Bilbo's house).

Another example would be their language. Like semitic languages, its root
words seem to be clusters of consonants. For example, "Khazad" and "Khuzdul"
but have "Kh-Z-D" as a root.

---
Graham

the softrat

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Apr 15, 2005, 2:39:11 PM4/15/05
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On Fri, 15 Apr 2005 13:21:46 -0500, Graham Lockwood
<g-...@yeehawgropes.com> wrote:
>
>Of course, "semitic" refers to a bunch of other groups of people and
>languages other than Jews and Hebrew. Arabs and Arabic, for instance.
>
Don't forget the Akkadians!


the softrat
"Honi soit qui mal y pense."
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--

Frogs are my favorite vegetable.

Graham Lockwood

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Apr 15, 2005, 2:57:33 PM4/15/05
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On Fri, 15 Apr 2005 13:39:11 -0500, the softrat wrote
(in article <eh20611sg4kuimqm9...@4ax.com>):

> On Fri, 15 Apr 2005 13:21:46 -0500, Graham Lockwood
> <g-...@yeehawgropes.com> wrote:
>>
>> Of course, "semitic" refers to a bunch of other groups of people and
>> languages other than Jews and Hebrew. Arabs and Arabic, for instance.
>>
> Don't forget the Akkadians!

And Aramaic, the language of Jesus (among others). I *did* say "a bunch of
other groups of people". ;)

---
Graham

Raven

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Apr 15, 2005, 8:03:44 PM4/15/05
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"Tamf Moo" <liddle...@yahoo.co.uk> skrev i en meddelelse
news:MPG.1cc9bf1ce...@news.individual.net...

> maybe they had other prohibtions - like CHOKLIT. maybe they didn't eat
> CHOKLIT?

Then they can give theirs to me.

Ramn.


Flame of the West

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Apr 16, 2005, 12:35:59 AM4/16/05
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the softrat wrote:

> Don't forget the Akkadians!

Ah yes, the inventors of gumbo, jambalaya and the fait-do-do.


-- FotW

Reality is for those who cannot cope with Middle-earth.

Michael O'Neill

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Apr 18, 2005, 7:56:29 PM4/18/05
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Eeek! She's back!

M.

Michael O'Neill

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Apr 18, 2005, 7:56:58 PM4/18/05
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Agggkkk! He's back!

The group can only go downhill from now on!

M.

Tamf Moo

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Apr 19, 2005, 1:20:49 PM4/19/05
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Michael O'Neill spoke softly, shivering:

> Agggkkk! He's back!

> The group can only go downhill from now on!

knot to mention underground...

--
Tamf, lellow dwagin and CHOKLIT-eater at your service.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. (Chinese
proverb)

the softrat

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Apr 19, 2005, 3:40:11 PM4/19/05
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On Tue, 19 Apr 2005 18:20:49 +0100, Tamf Moo
<liddle...@yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

>It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. (Chinese
>proverb)

I don't believe so. I believe that it is a European or Near Eastern
proverb. Check a Bible, somebody.


the softrat
"Honi soit qui mal y pense."
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--

A cement mixer collided with a prison van on the Cajon Pass.
Motorists are asked to be on the lookout for sixteen hardened
criminals.

Stan Brown

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Apr 19, 2005, 11:45:14 PM4/19/05
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"the softrat" wrote in rec.arts.books.tolkien:

>On Tue, 19 Apr 2005 18:20:49 +0100, Tamf Moo
><liddle...@yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
>
>>It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. (Chinese
>>proverb)
>
>I don't believe so. I believe that it is a European or Near Eastern
>proverb. Check a Bible, somebody.

I think it's Charles Schulz. I read it in a Peacnuts cartoon.

Firt panel: one character tells another "It is better to light a
single candle than to curse the darkness."

Second panel: Lucy, alone, yelling "You stupid darkness!"

Third anel: The two characters from the first panel, with one saing
"Though there are always some who disagree."

Amazing the things we remember after 30 years. :-)

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/faqget.htm

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