Tolkien Calendar: The Great Years

Tolkien Calendar: The Great Years

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September 26, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

The hobbits take their ponies into the Old Forest. They meet Old Man Willow and Tom Bombadil, and spend the night at Bombadil's house.

Another day of contrasts: from a dark horror to warm light. Our hobbits struggle to find their way through the Great Forest toward the Withywindle, and decide to take a much-needed rest with their backs against a nice willow tree. We all know what happens next! Here we begin to see the extent of Tolkien's healthy respect for trees: he makes them sentient beings.

Sam begins to show his true colors: "'We might try to hurt or frighten this tree to begin with,' said Sam fiercely. 'If it don't let them go, I'll have it down, if I have to gnaw it.'"

But Sam's teeth are saved this ordeal by the emergence of one of the strangest and most mysterious characters in The Lord of the Rings:

Hop along, my little friends, up the Withywindle!
Tom's going on ahead candles for to kindle.
Down west sinks the Sun: soon you will be groping.
When the night-shadows fall, then the door will open,
Out of the window-panes light will twinkle yellow.
Fear no alder black! Heed no hoary willow!
Fear neither root nor bough! Tom goes on before you.
How now! merry dol! We'll be waiting for you!
Artwork: "Old Man Willow" by Alan Lee

Calendar entry by Merry

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October 1, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

Gandalf leaves Bree.

'"Ass! Fool! Thrice worthy and beloved Barliman!" said I. "It's the best news I have had since mindsummer: it's worth a gold piece at the least. May your beer be laid under an enchantment of surpassing excellence for seven years!" said I. "Now I can take a night's rest, the first since I have forgotten when."'
"Blackriders" by Alan Lee
It's not until the Council of Elrond that we learn this charming bit of vintage Gandalf, whose joy and sleep were occasioned by the news that the hobbits were now in the care of Strider. But his sleep was not as restful as he had hoped: five Riders rode through Bree in the night after throwing down the gates. Gandalf rose at dawn to follow them.

Sleep, or the lack thereof, becomes something of a minor theme in The Lord of the Rings. Legolas seems to be able to sleep standing up. When was the last time I was in a proper bed?, the hobbits ask themselves. I wish I were back home in bed. Were these the thoughts of Tolkien and his companions as they slogged through the terrible battles of World War I? John Garth, in his groundbreaking Tolkien and the Great War, makes a strong case for The Lord of the Rings as a realistic soldier's memoire, similar in description to other WWI writers. Gandalf is an old campaigner here, enjoying the comforts of the Prancing Pony while he can, even with the enemy on all sides.

Calendar entry by Merry

Artwork: "Blackriders" by Alan Lee

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October 4-5, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

Strider and the Hobbits cross the Stream from the Hills and traverse the Weather Hills.

This is a very bleak part of the Hobbits' and Strider's journey to reach the safety of Rivendell. They have left the Marshes and are out in the open. There is fear both ahead and behind. Strider seems doubtful of what precisely lay ahead, and the fall weather has brought cold evenings and mornings. The Hobbits yearn for hearth and home, but manage to stay cheerful as is their nature.

It is just in these sorts of places that Tolkien will bring the haunting beauty of his poetry as an oasis in the gloom. Strider speaks of Gil-galad and Sam supplies the verse.
Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

Artwork: "Fellowship Journey" by Alan Lee

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October 6, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

The camp under Weathertop is attacked at night. Frodo is wounded.

"Blackriders" by Alan Lee
On this night, the Black Riders who have skulked in the shadows around Frodo make their move on him. Night has followed the long day in which Strider and the hobbits climbed Weathertop and saw five riders in the distance, and they have camped in a sheltered spot on the side of the hill, where Strider cheers them, and heartens himself as well, by telling tales from his store of elven lore. But when the stories are done, a feeling of dread closes in around the group, expressed best by Sam, who cries "I don't know what it is, but suddenly I felt afraid. I dursn't go outside this dell for any money; I felt that something was creeping up the slope."

Something was. Five riders came out of the night, closing in on hobbits, focusing on Frodo. He cannot resist the pressure to put on the Ring, and when he does, he enters their terrible world, seeing for the first time their true form. The Witch King of Angmar stabs him in the left shoulder, claiming him for Mordor's own with a cursed blade that will make a wraith of him if the would cannot be healed. The wraiths scatter when Strider accosts them with flaming brands, and Frodo collapses.

Frodo's wound will never really heal, and its pain and residual terror are no small part of the reason he cannot remain in Middle Earth, even after the Quest is done. But one good result comes of this encounter--after the Weathertop battle, the hobbits finally realize they can trust Strider. In a moment displaying his inherent tenderness, Aragorn kneels by Sam's side and gently tells him, "I am not a Black Rider, Sam, nor in league with them. And finally Sam believes him--marking the true beginning of one of the most unique relationships in fantasy literature.

Calendar entry by librislove

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October 9, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

Glorfindel leaves Rivendell.

In real life, events are not linear and they do not happen in isolation.

The events of this day have their beginnings on the evening of September 24th, the second day on the road for Frodo, Pippin and Sam. That night they camped with the elves on the ridge overlooking the village of Woodhall and Frodo spoke long with Gildor. Frodo told Gildor of his plans to go to Rivendell and that Gandalf was long overdue to meet them for this journey. That Gandalf was late troubled Gildor greatly and he promised to send word to all the fair folk that Frodo and his companions were on the road, that the Black Riders were about and looking for the hobbits, and that Gandalf was missing.

Word reaches Rivendell and those few who have strength to resist the riders are dispatched to keep watch for the Travelers. One of these elves is Glorfindel. So while our travelers continue their painful and slow trek, on this day, October 9th Glorfindel leaves Rivendell to keep watch for them along The Great East Road.

Artwork: "Rivendell" by Alan Lee

Calendar entry by Elizabeth

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Last edited: 3 July 2022 14:29:05