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Shire and Numenorean calendars

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  • davise@cs.nyu.edu
    A friend of mine was proposing (not seriously) a calendar in which every month has 30 days, which led me to check Appendix D for the first time in many years,
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 11, 2011
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      A friend of mine was proposing (not seriously) a calendar in which every month has 30 days, which led me to check Appendix D for the first time in many years, and probably to look at it carefully for the first time ever. (There's a nice summary in the Wikipedia article "Middle-Earth Calendar".) A couple of things struck me. First is the extreme care that JRRT puts into the leap year issue --- which, of course, does add up over a 6000 year period --- calculating the deficits to the second; though the account of exactly when the Numenoreans added leap days is not perfectly clear. In any case, they and later the Gondoreans were doing some fairly careful astronomy.(Incidentally, astronomy also seems to be the only conventional subject studied at Hogwarts.) The hobbits, JRRT says, omitted the leap day on the centennial year, which makes their calendar more accurate than the Julian calendar, though less than the Gregorian, but it is not clear to me whether the Numenoreans did this as well. This is the only _scientific_ passage I know of in JRRT.

      Second the whole thing is very much like the French Revolutionary calendar, which also had months of 30 days, with 5 or 6 days falling
      outside the months. Also, the Wikipedia article quotes
      Jim Allen's "Introduction to Elvish" as saying that the Numenorean names for the months correspond to the names in the French Revolutionary calendar.

      Third is the extreme "tidiness" (JRRT's own expression) of the Shire calendar, which is set up so that not only every month has 30 days,
      but that any given date comes out on the same day of the week every year. This leaves their calendar (as regards the days of the week) in conflict with all the rest of Middle-Earth -- perhaps like the British/American weights and measures vs. the metric system? --- except the other way around; the hobbits have a _more_ orderly system.
      (The French revolutionists were even tidier; they used a 10 day week,
      so every month had exactly 3 weeks.)

      All in all, this hyperrational, French-Enlightenment inspired, approach to things is not what one usually associates with Tolkien. The only thing I know of that of a slightly similar flavor is the very systematic structure of Tengwar. Has anyone written about this? As far as I can find, Verlyn Flieger has no discussion of Appendix D in "A Question of Time".
    • John Rateliff
      I know of no exploration of affinities between the French Revolutionary calendar and Tolkien s, though I cd easily have missed such a piece. My suspicion wd be
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 11, 2011
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        I know of no exploration of affinities between the French Revolutionary calendar and Tolkien's, though I cd easily have missed such a piece. My suspicion wd be that it's parallel evolution, but you never know; Tolkien was quite interested in calendars, and obviously did his homework before creating Appendix D. Kristine Larsen might be a good person to ask, as she'd done a lot of work on the related topic of Tolkien's astronomy. It certainly seems a good topic to explore, and I hope you'll follow up on it.
        The precision of the LotR calendar makes Tolkien's vagueness over the 1960 Hobbit calendar-&-moons material all the more puzzling.
        In any case, thanks for sharing.
        --John R.


        On Sep 11, 2011, at 8:20 PM, davise@... wrote:
        > A friend of mine was proposing (not seriously) a calendar in which every month has 30 days, which led me to check Appendix D for the first time in many years, and probably to look at it carefully for the first time ever. (There's a nice summary in the Wikipedia article "Middle-Earth Calendar".) A couple of things struck me. First is the extreme care that JRRT puts into the leap year issue --- which, of course, does add up over a 6000 year period --- calculating the deficits to the second; though the account of exactly when the Numenoreans added leap days is not perfectly clear. In any case, they and later the Gondoreans were doing some fairly careful astronomy.(Incidentally, astronomy also seems to be the only conventional subject studied at Hogwarts.) The hobbits, JRRT says, omitted the leap day on the centennial year, which makes their calendar more accurate than the Julian calendar, though less than the Gregorian, but it is not clear to me whether the Numenoreans did this as well. This is the only _scientific_ passage I know of in JRRT.
        >
        > Second the whole thing is very much like the French Revolutionary calendar, which also had months of 30 days, with 5 or 6 days falling
        > outside the months. Also, the Wikipedia article quotes
        > Jim Allen's "Introduction to Elvish" as saying that the Numenorean names for the months correspond to the names in the French Revolutionary calendar.
        >
        > Third is the extreme "tidiness" (JRRT's own expression) of the Shire calendar, which is set up so that not only every month has 30 days,
        > but that any given date comes out on the same day of the week every year. This leaves their calendar (as regards the days of the week) in conflict with all the rest of Middle-Earth -- perhaps like the British/American weights and measures vs. the metric system? --- except the other way around; the hobbits have a _more_ orderly system.
        > (The French revolutionists were even tidier; they used a 10 day week,
        > so every month had exactly 3 weeks.)
        >
        > All in all, this hyperrational, French-Enlightenment inspired, approach to things is not what one usually associates with Tolkien. The only thing I know of that of a slightly similar flavor is the very systematic structure of Tengwar. Has anyone written about this? As far as I can find, Verlyn Flieger has no discussion of Appendix D in "A Question of Time".
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