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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Human and Hobbit Calendars

Happy Afteryule 17!

By our reckoning, we are in the first week of the new year. Hobbits are already half-way through the first month.  In honor of the new year, I have made charts comparing the Shire calendar with Human calendars of Middle Earth, and with our own.

Tolkien left detailed explanations of the Human and Shire calendars, in Appendix D of Return of the King. The notes about Elvish calendar are much less detailed. (The calendars of Elves, and of Dwarves, would be a topic for a different post.)


All the calendars used by Westron ("Common") -speaking Humans and by Hobbits derive from the calendar used in Númenor.  They all feature 12 months of 30 or 31 days, and all start at the Winter Solstice.

The Númenorean calendar (or “Kings' Reckoning”) was used in Númenor, and during the time of the Kings of Gondor. It was eventually replaced by the Stewards' calendar. This Stewards' Reckoning was the “common” calendar used by most Humans of Middle-Earth in the later Third Age.

There is no record whether Rohan uses the common "Stewards'" calendar (from their long historic association with Gondor), or whether they retain some unique ancient calendar system.

Tolkien, in his books, generally translated the names of months into their modern approximate equivalents, for convenience. 

The Quenya names of the months – widely used among “Common”-speaking Humans of Middle-Earth – are Narvinyë, Nénimë, Súlimë, Víressë, Lótessë, Nárië, Kermië, Úrimë, Yavannië, Narquelië, Hísimë, Ringarë. 
The Sindarin names of the months – “used only by the Dúnedain” Tolkien says – are Narwain, Nínui, Gwaeron, Gwirith, Lothron, Nórui, Cervath, Úrui, Iavanneth, Narbeleth, Hithui, Girithron.


The Hobbits made different modifications to the Kings' Reckoning, adding holidays in different dates. This means that, for about half the year, Shire dates are slightly different from the Human calendar of Middle-Earth. The hobbits also arranged that the days of the week should fall on the same dates every year, by declaring that Midyear's Day was part of no week. This meant that Monday in the Shire might not be Monday elsewhere. 
 “[The Shire-folk] found this quite convenient at home, but not so convenient if the ever travelled further than Bree.” (Return of the King, Appendix D)
On the calendar, I used the English translations of Hobbit days of the week. More authentic spellings would be Sterday, Sunday, Monday, Trewsday, Hevensday, Mersday, Highday. Tolkien points out that the Hobbit's work week begins on Saturday. 

“The last day of the week, Friday (Highday), was the chief day, and one of holiday (after noon) and evening feasts.” (Return of the King, Appendix D)
Bree uses the Shire calendar, though with slightly different names for the months.

The Calendar Charts

Tolkien was writing from the Northern Hemisphere, and Middle-Earth is set in the Northern Hemisphere, so the seasons marked on this calendar are the Northern Hemisphere seasons.

Click on any of the charts to enlarge.
 {In my browser, the View Full Size link is much more helpful than clicking directly on the image.  This may depend on which browser you are using.}

Human / Hobbit Calendar Part 1 - View Full Size

Human / Hobbit Calendar Part 2 — View Full Size

Human / Hobbit Calendar Part 3 - View Full Size
Human / Hobbit Calendar Part 3 -- View Full Size

Human / Hobbit Calendar Part 4 — View Full Size

“It appears … that Mid-year's Day was intended to correspond as nearly as possible to the summer solstice. In that case, the Shire dates were actually in advance of ours by some ten days, and our New Year's Day corresponded more or less to the Shire January 9.” (Return of the King, Appendix D) 
In my chart, Modern January 1 works out to Shire January 11. If anyone can explain this discrepancy, please put it in the Comments, or email me ( lihan_taifun(at)yahoo(dot)com ).

Leap Years

Part of the evidence that "Middle Earth" is intended to be our own world, at an earlier era, is the fact that calendars in Middle Earth are designed for years of 365 1/4  days, just like our own.

Both Hobbits and Humans added an extra leap-year day, at Midsummer, every four years. Hobbits call the extra day Overlithe. Humans call the two days at Mid-year “Middle Days” (“Enderi”). In Appendix D, Tolkien discusses at length which years of the Second and Third Ages were leap years. If we assume Middle-Earth calendar leap years are currently synchronized to our leap years, the calendar looks like this during a leap year:
Human / Hobbit Calendar Leap Year — View Full Size

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