Please help me work out: when is Durin's Day?

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Iodo
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Please help me work out: when is Durin's Day?

Post by Iodo »

Every year I usually work it out so my LOTR obsessed family can have a bit of a party, but I'm never confident of the date, Tolkien tells us the following:
the first day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter
The moon part is easy(ish), the first day of the last moon means the waxing crescent moon, or scientifically; the day after the new moon, but realistically by looking at the moon it's very hard to determine (without counting days from the last full moon) exactly when the moon is new, because one day either side the crescent is so small it would be near invisible (and there certainly wouldn't be enough light from it to shine on a key hole), so it's quite likely that Durin's day would fall on the first easily visible waxing crescent moon, or two or three days after the new moon. The evidence for this is as follows; Tolkien also tells us that the sun and the moon must be visible in the sky at the same time, a one day old waxing crescent moon is so thin and close to the sun you can't spot it in the sky when the sun is also up (unless you have a modern tracking telescope anyway), the crescent needs to be at least two or three days old to be bright enough, and far enough away from the sun, to be able to see it when the sun is up

The reason I never know if the date is right is because I have no idea what dates for autumn ending/winter beginning that Tolkien would have used? There are so many different definitions of autumn/fall in northern hemisphere nations from both history and the modern day, I actually think I have used a different set of dates some years than others

I've tried by best at researching season dates for Middle earth but it seems there are different ones for different regions and nations, and I can't find reference to a dwarven set of dates, I wondered if any of you know of any information regarding this? even if it's just a best guess it will be better than using the modern astronomical or meteorological definition of British autumn
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Re: Please help me work out: when is Durin's Day?

Post by Elleth »

If it helps regarding timing moon phases and such, I've found these enormously valuable when you've got to figure something out in correct detail, especially some distance into the future:

https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/
https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/

Regarding pure observation... just watching the moon and keeping it in mind every day and night as you go about your business does wonders for just knowing where in the cycle you are. I've been better about at some points in my life than others, but it's always been a remarkably grounding experience. :)

Also, the moon's position in the sky at a given point in time tracks with its phase. This is one of those "derp" moments when you first find out about it, because it falls naturally out of how sun, moon, and earth relate to each other in space. Tristan Gooley talks about this some in his books and course, but the basic idea is "the full moon is highest in the sky around [solar] midnight, the new moon is highest in the sky around [solar] noon, first quarter is trailing the sun, so ~6PM [solar], last quarter is leading the sun, so ~6AM [solar]." He uses that for direction finding, which gets a bit complicated over seasonal shifts:

https://www.naturalnavigator.com/news/2 ... avigation/

... but the dummy version is also surprisingly useful.


Regarding "last moon of autumn on the threshold of winter" -- oof.

I think I'd actually start looking into the Jewish calendar for that. I've never studied it, but I know they have a combined lunar/solar calendar. And that while the Professor notoriously hated allegories, he did speak of referencing the Jewish culture and experience when creating that of the dwarves.

I'll poke a bit more as I have time and see what I come up with.

---------------------

edit - OOOOooooh. After some quick reading, it looks like the lunar/solar aspect of the Jewish calendar is more or less the same as the "long-year" calendar referenced in both Greek and Norse circles, and which we see traces of all the way back into Hallstatt-era Celt artifacts. Which I guess makes sense, since we're all using the same sun and moon. :mrgreen:
(also, I wouldn't be in the least surprised if both Greeks and Hebrews got their astronomy from the Egyptians, but that part of ancient history isn't my strong suit)

Anyhow, a bit more detail on the long year here -

https://druidcraftcalendar.co.uk/

Will keep looking.

(PS, that the long year exists, and that it's just about one human generation long continues to strike me as something suspiciously hinky in the nature of the physical universe and how human beings are tied into it. But I've not a clue what. )
Last edited by Elleth on Thu Sep 23, 2021 6:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Please help me work out: when is Durin's Day?

Post by Elleth »

So this is interesting:
Unlike The Lord of the Rings Tolkien left no precise timetable for the events of The Hobbit. However, in The History of The Hobbit, Tolkien set 19 October as the date of that year's Durin's Day.[2]

Before the History some calculations were made. According to Andreas Möhn, the Durin's Day of T.A. 2941 occurred on 22 October of the Shire Calendar. This is based in the assumption that the orbital period of the moon, as described in The Lord of the Rings, was about 20 minutes shorter/faster than today.[3]

Karen Wynn Fonstad made a rough estimation based purely on the traveling times and distances, without any astronomical calculations. She puts the Durin's Day on 30 October.[4][2]
http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Durin%27s_Day

Sure all those reckonings are different, but they all cluster in late October. That's important because it confirms we're not using the Winter Solstice as the dividing line between fall and winter: there's always going to be at least a full lunar cycle between the last part of October and the last part of December.

Solstices/Equinoxes don't line up perfectly with our calendar dates, but they're generally pretty close. So just as a point of reference, let's use 1931 at Oxford, right when the Professor was in the thick of writing The Hobbit:

Summer Solstice: Jun 22 10:28 am BST
New Moon Sep 12
Fall Equinox: Sep 24 1:23 am BST [calendar day 267]
New Moon Oct 11
Cross-Quarter Day/"Fire Festival", neo-pagan "Samhain"): November 2 [day 306]
New Moon Nov 9
New Moon Dec 9
Winter Solstice Dec 22 7:29 pm GMT day [calendar day 356]
New Moon Jan 7


But first stab, let's try to figure out what HE means when he says "the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of winter."

We know he dates that to late October... which is about midway between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.
We know that the first waxing crescent moon is going to generally be visible in the afternoon and setting in the first part of the night (see above about the waxing moon is following the sun). On 19 Oct 1931, the moon in Great Britain was just past the first quarter (hardly "the first day of the moon," but rose about 3PM and set about 11:30PM - so was visible in the day.

BUT even if our dates are fuzzy, we're seeing still that this is the first new moon before the cross-quarter day between fall equionox and winter solstice, which in at least neo-pagan reconstruction is the traditional date for the "dark half of the year."

So that I think is our answer:

The first new moon before the fall/winter cross-quarter where you can see the sliver of the moon in the afternoon: lets say ~day 3.

For 2021 that's a bit hinky:
We have a new moon on Oct 6, the next on Nov 4, and the astronomical cross-quarter is on Nov 6

If you want to say "the last moon that completes before the crossover" = Oct 6-8
If you want to say "the last moon that begins before the crossover" = Nov 4-6
(the next new moon is on Dec 4)

Personally, I'd read that as ~Nov 5, since the 1931 new moon crosses over the cross-quarter.
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Re: Please help me work out: when is Durin's Day?

Post by Udwin »

Huh, I've read The History of the Hobbit a few times, and my impression was that Rateliff was never able to come up with a definite (or even satisfactory) solution for when Durins Day occurred. Now I need to go back to close read and double-check!
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Re: Please help me work out: when is Durin's Day?

Post by Iodo »

Awesome information, Thanks Elleth :P now I have a lot to think about
Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 11:31 am Also, the moon's position in the sky at a given point in time tracks with its phase. This is one of those "derp" moments when you first find out about it, because it falls naturally out of how sun, moon, and earth relate to each other in space.
Ha, yep, I've been an amateur astronomer for most of my life, and I clearly remember having this moment of realization when I was in my early teens :P
Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 11:31 am edit - OOOOooooh. After some quick reading, it looks like the lunar/solar aspect of the Jewish calendar is more or less the same as the "long-year" calendar referenced in both Greek and Norse circles, and which we see traces of all the way back into Hallstatt-era Celt artifacts. Which I guess makes sense, since we're all using the same sun and moon. :mrgreen:
(also, I wouldn't be in the least surprised if both Greeks and Hebrews got their astronomy from the Egyptians, but that part of ancient history isn't my strong suit)
I did look into this briefly, it's interesting stuff but the more reading I do the more confused I get :mrgreen:

Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 2:38 pm So this is interesting:
Unlike The Lord of the Rings Tolkien left no precise timetable for the events of The Hobbit. However, in The History of The Hobbit, Tolkien set 19 October as the date of that year's Durin's Day.[2]

Before the History some calculations were made. According to Andreas Möhn, the Durin's Day of T.A. 2941 occurred on 22 October of the Shire Calendar. This is based in the assumption that the orbital period of the moon, as described in The Lord of the Rings, was about 20 minutes shorter/faster than today.[3]

Karen Wynn Fonstad made a rough estimation based purely on the traveling times and distances, without any astronomical calculations. She puts the Durin's Day on 30 October.[4][2]
http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Durin%27s_Day

Sure all those reckonings are different, but they all cluster in late October. That's important because it confirms we're not using the Winter Solstice as the dividing line between fall and winter: there's always going to be at least a full lunar cycle between the last part of October and the last part of December.
Thanks so much for that, I may not yet have an exact date for the dwarves definition of "the threshold of winter" but at least now I'm certain that the astronomical definition of autumn is not used here

Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 2:38 pm But first stab, let's try to figure out what HE means when he says "the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of winter."

We know he dates that to late October... which is about midway between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.
We know that the first waxing crescent moon is going to generally be visible in the afternoon and setting in the first part of the night (see above about the waxing moon is following the sun). On 19 Oct 1931, the moon in Great Britain was just past the first quarter (hardly "the first day of the moon," but rose about 3PM and set about 11:30PM - so was visible in the day.

BUT even if our dates are fuzzy, we're seeing still that this is the first new moon before the cross-quarter day between fall equionox and winter solstice, which in at least neo-pagan reconstruction is the traditional date for the "dark half of the year."

So that I think is our answer:

The first new moon before the fall/winter cross-quarter where you can see the sliver of the moon in the afternoon: lets say ~day 3.

For 2021 that's a bit hinky:
We have a new moon on Oct 6, the next on Nov 4, and the astronomical cross-quarter is on Nov 6

If you want to say "the last moon that completes before the crossover" = Oct 6-8
If you want to say "the last moon that begins before the crossover" = Nov 4-6
(the next new moon is on Dec 4)

Personally, I'd read that as ~Nov 5, since the 1931 new moon crosses over the cross-quarter.
I really like this Elleth, it makes a lot more sense than trying to use a commonly accepted date for autumn's end from our civilization, and I know that both dates for Durin's day in Middle earth are October, if you say "the last moon that begins before the crossover" Durin's day is more likely to be in October even if it isn't always, I'd go with this :P
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Re: Please help me work out: when is Durin's Day?

Post by Eofor »

Hey Iodo,

I saw a few facebook posts over the past few days wishing me a Happy Durins day which they claimed was the 19/10. This made me think of your post and as I had a spare hour I did some digging.

I found this paper which seems to go into the matter in great detail - https://scholar.valpo.edu/journaloftolk ... l8/iss1/3/

The TL:DR version is below and can be found on page 13-14
As noted by Rateliffe (2007), Tolkien himself made a tentative estimation
of October 17 or 19 for Durin’s Day on the Shire calendar during his attempts to
revise The Hobbit in the 1960’s. But as Rateliff (2007) explained in his analysis
of Tolkien’s largely aborted revisions, using the Shire calendar led to a number of
internal problems of its own, and retrofitting the story to account for a Durin’s
Day of October 17/19 would have required a number of changes to the story,
including distances and timelines. It is therefore accurate to state that even
Tolkien was unable to pin down an unambiguous, internally consistent date for
Durin’s Day within his own legendarium.

We are ultimately led to the perhaps disappointing conclusion that there is
no completely self-consistent scientific date for Durin’s Day, not only because the
described observation is astronomically impossible, but again because we know
from Tolkien’s notes as published by Rateliff that Tolkien used a 28-day lunar
cycle (when he was being consistent), not 29.5 days. In theory one could devise a
consistent Secondary World description of Durin’s Day by assuming a 28-day
lunar phase cycle as normal in Middle-earth, and that the ability to see the
newborn crescent moon and the sun in the sky at the same time is somehow due to
the moon’s driver, Tilion, being “wayward” and holding “not to his appointed
path” (Tolkien 2001: 100). However, the internal inconsistencies with the lunar
phases in The Hobbit as published make it impossible to devise a completely
consistent lunar calendar for Bilbo’s adventures in general, and Durin’s Day in
particular.
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