Tolkien Calendar: The Great Years

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September 23, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar
Four Riders enter the Shire before dawn. The others pursue the Rangers eastward, and then retrun to the Greenway. A Black Rider comes to Hobbiton at nightfall. Frodo leaves Bag End. Gandalf having tamed Shadowfax rides from Rohan. The hobbits do an evening march in the Green Hill Country.
September 23, TA 3018 is one of those calendar dates when nothing else will do but the words of the Professor himself. The events of this day contain some of the most memorable passages in the entire span of the LOTR books. Sometimes it is wiser to admit that one cannot embellish on the magnificent writings of a true master. Today is one of those days when we should let Tolkien speak for himself, and we shall.

Four Riders enter the Shire before dawn. The others pursue the Rangers eastward, and then retrun to the Greenway. Gandalf having tamed Shadowfax rides from Rohan.

'But fear grew in me as I rode. Ever as I came north I heard tidings of the Riders and though I gained on them day by day, they were ever before me. They divided their forces, I learned: some remained on the eastern borders, not far from the Greenway, and some invaded the Shire from the south.'

A Black Rider comes to Hobbiton at nightfall.

He turned to go back and then stopped, for he heard voices, just round the corner by the end of Bagshot Row. One voice was certainly the Old Gaffer's; but the other was strange, and somehow unpleasant.

Frodo leaves Bag End.

'Good-bye' said Frodo, looking at the dark blank windows. He waved his hand, and then turned and (following Bilbo, if he had known it) hurried after Peregrin down the garden-path. They jumped over the low place in the hedge at the bottom and took to the fields, passing into the darkness like a rustle in the grasses.

The hobbits do an evening march in the Green Hill Country.

A mile or two further south they hastily crossed the great road from the Brandywine Bridge; they were now in the Tookland and bending south-eastwards they made for the Green Hill Country. As they began to climb its first slopes they looked back and saw the lamps of Hobbiton far off twinkling in the gentle valley of the Water. Soon it disappeared in the folds of the darkened land, and was followed by Bywater beside its grey pool. When the light of the last farm was behind, peeping among the trees, Frodo turned and waved a hand in farewell.
Tolkien's magnificent words describing the beautiful Shire belie the powerful events set in motion this day. The Enemy is at hand.

Artwork: "Bag End" by Alan Lee

September 24, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

Gandalf crosses the Isen. The hobbits meet both Black Riders and Elves, and spend the night West of Woodhall.

"Blackriders" by Alan Lee
Today is a day of gentle contrasts for our Travellers, which is perhaps a foreshadowing of the shocking contrasts between good and evil that are to come. Their first encounter with a Black Rider is troubling, but not terrifying. Much more memorable is Sam's first encounter with Elves, led by the enigmatic Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod, singing a hymn to Elbereth Gilthoniel.
Round the corner came a black horse, no hobbit-pony but a full-sized horse; and on it sat a large man, who seemed to crouch in the saddle, wrapped in a great black cloak and hood, so that only his boots in the high stirrups showed below; his face was shadowed and invisible.

When it reached the tree and was level with Frodo the horse stopped. The riding figure sat quite still with its head bowed, as if listening. From the hood came a noise as of someone sniffing to catch an elusive scent; the head turned from side to side of the road.
This is the beginning of a pattern that Tolkien follows all through The Lord of the Rings, one of movement from a dark and dangerous moment to a light moment, filled with comfort, friendship and beauty. The dialectic between these two moments will drive our Travellers deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Middle-earth.

Artwork: "Blackriders" by Alan Lee

Calendar entry by Merry

September 25, TA 3018

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

The hobbits cross the Marish, meet Farmer Maggot, get a ride on his wagon to the Buckland ferry, and cross over into Buckland. They spend the night at Crickhollow.

"Blackriders" by Alan Lee
Tolkien covers a lot of ground this day and devotes a lot of ink in the two chapters, A Shortcut to Mushrooms and a Conspiracy Unmasked, that span the day. The hobbits themselves cover 27 miles from the time they wake up at the encampment with the Elves to retiring at Crickhollow.

There are passages here. Frodo faces and moves past his childhood fear of Farmer Maggot and his dogs (the result of a misspent youth, stealing the good farmer's mushrooms and apples) and learns to accept help from unexpected places. Sam begins his transformation from the simple man and begins to reveal, to those who look, a depth of spirit that is hidden under the mask of a rustic hobbit. There is the theme of the bonds of friendship here. Frodo knows that the time has come to tell his friends that he does not mean to stay at Crickhollow and he doesn't know how to do it. He is beginning to have a glimmer that things are going to be rougher than he had thought and he thought it was going to be dangerous enough that he would not have asked his friends' help in the first place. His friends save Frodo from this dilemma. They have known all along what the plan was. In fact, Merry has known about the Ring since before Bilbo left. Frodo's friends have been readying themselves for this day. They have a plan. Most are going to go with Frodo, except for Fatty who has a different role to play, and there will be no denying them. Frodo, recognizing that it is hopeless to refuse, accepts this great gift. No-one knows at the time, just how great that gift is.

This theme of the needed, but unasked for gift, freely given is also woven throughout the books. There is a strength that comes from doing something out of generosity rather than obligation that brings endurance and courage.

At the end of the day Frodo slips into troubled dreams of sniffing things, white towers and the sound of the sea.
Calendar entry by elizabeth

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

September 27, TA 3018

Gandalf crosses the Greyflood. It rains in the Old Forest and the hobbits spend a second night at Tom Bombadil's house.

"The House of Tom Bombadil" by Alan Lee
The much delayed Gandalf is about to re-enter the Shire in his desperate race to find and warn Frodo. One wonders how much hope Gandalf still had for Frodo. Could he have sensed...seen signs...if the Ring had been reclaimed by Sauron at this point?

Meanwhile the hobbits continue their R & R with Bombadil. It is raining in the Old Forest, and they spend the day in conversation with Tom. This is the day when something very remarkable happens. Tom asks Frodo for the Ring and puts it on and astonishingly does not disappear. And when Frodo thinks he is clever and dons the Ring, Old Tom can see him plainly even though the others can not. All of this leads you to wonder...who is Bombadil? Why is he impervious to the Ring? Will he play some important role yet in the story? If not...why not? Why does Tolkien insert this remarkable character into the tale?

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Last edited: 3 July 2022 14:29:05