Contrary to reports, I am actually a very cool person
March 3, 2020 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Susana Polo writes for Polygon about her Twitter account, which, year-round, tweets out events in Lord of the Rings on the day that they happened. Tonight, the Battle of Helms Deep starts at midnight.
posted by damayanti (41 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
From what my research can tell, the Breaking of the Fellowship (roughly the end of The Fellowship of the Ring) happened on Feb. 26. Frodo destroyed the One Ring on March 25. Half of the entire story takes place between those two points.

Mind. Blown. I'm sure she is right, but... a month????!??!? I mean, I live in New Zealand and you could not travel to all the relevant places in Middle Earth on foot/horse in a month!
posted by maupuia at 4:29 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I mean, I live in New Zealand and you could not travel to all the relevant places in Middle Earth on foot/horse in a month!

Surely, one just calls the MiddleEarthGreatEagleUber.
posted by Fizz at 4:31 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


I take it this the timeline from movies. The books were quite bit more extended, no?
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 4:57 PM on March 3


I'm sure she is right, but... a month????!??!?

The time and distance timeline shows that from the Breaking of the Fellowship to the destruction of the Ring, Sam and Frodo traveled about 500 miles, or an average of about 15 miles per day. That's a stiff pace, especially for people as small as hobbits, but well within the range of, for example, a medieval or ancient army traveling on foot.

One of the things I like about the timeline is that it illustrates how much faster traveling over water was than traveling over land prior to the invention of the locomotive and automobile. The Fellowship travels 304 miles in just 6 days on the river Anduin, which helped make up for spending half of the time of the book in Rivendell and Lórien.
posted by jedicus at 5:04 PM on March 3 [14 favorites]


I suspect not? Frodo and Sam kept moving pretty steadily after they crossed the Anduin, and the Emyn Muil aren't that far from the borders of Mordor.
posted by tavella at 5:10 PM on March 3


I take it this the timeline from movies. The books were quite bit more extended, no?

It's based on the rough timeline in the Appendicies. Breaking of the Fellowship is February 26th; Ring in Mount Doom is March 25th, so it's pretty compressed.

The Atlas of Middle Earth also has some estimated timelines/speeds for comparison. Some illustrative numbers to get the range--she estimates 40 miles per day via boats on the Lorien; 36 miles per day for Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli chasing after the orcs on foot; 120 miles per day, Gandalf on Shadowfax , and between 10 (Emyn Muil) and 24 (North of Ithilien) miles per day for Frodo and Sam post breaking of the Fellowship.
posted by damayanti at 5:46 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: actually a very cool person.
posted by simra at 5:54 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


He concocts his own language for elves but just uses the same calendar? Sad.
posted by GuyZero at 5:55 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


He concocts his own language for elves but just uses the same calendar? Sad.

Actually, the post refers to having also used the Hobbits calendar, which is different, but ... well... I didn't read the whole thing. I take my LOTR fairly seriously, alas, and the flippant tone about some things just... reminded me of the movies... so I had to go do something else.
posted by emmet at 6:19 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


That time frame doesn't seem right. Too much happened after the breaking of the fellowship to be within a month. Didn't they spend about a week hanging out with Faramir and his crew?
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:42 PM on March 3


All of a sudden I m reimagining the hobbits as the soldiers from 1917, running and running and running
posted by eustatic at 7:56 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


This tweet clarifies that she is using the Hobbit calendar, in which February/Solmath (like all other months) has 30 days.
posted by Not A Thing at 8:01 PM on March 3


Didn't they spend about a week hanging out with Faramir and his crew?

That's largely a Jacksonism, as Polo notes in the article:
Meanwhile, as Helm’s Deep is besieged, Frodo and Sam have not even gotten to the part where Gollum talks to himself, which was why Peter Jackson et al. had to write a large plot detour into The Two Towers, with the side effect of throwing Faramir’s entire characterization under a bus so Frodo would have something to do. Adaptation!
posted by Not A Thing at 8:04 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


It's based on the rough timeline in the Appendicies. Breaking of the Fellowship is February 26th; Ring in Mount Doom is March 25th, so it's pretty compressed.

Huh. I never realized that but it doesn't contradict anything I remember.

But that means, historically speaking, the 3 great victories of the anti-Sauron forces (the reduction of Isengard by the Ents, the rebuff of the orcs at Helm's Deep, and the failure of the siege of Gondor) happened more or less simultaneously. I mean, not at literally the same time, but the logistics for the siege of Gondor were in motion long before Helm's Deep and the arrival of the Riders of Rohan at Gondor should be interpreted as an immediate transfer of forces in a desperate situation once Helm's Deep was saved. I'd always thought of it as more a "we've secured our land and we're sending what we can spare (a few months later)"

Also the retreat to Helm's Deep, which began after the breaking of the Fellowship, must have happened in less than a few weeks. It would have been a fairly fast paced scramble for safety, not a cautiously planned response.

So it really changes my view of all these things from a military sense.
posted by mark k at 9:23 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: actually a very cool person.

Contrary to reports: MetaFilter
posted by Ghidorah at 9:34 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Yes, in the books, the hobbits spent only a single night with Faramir and his men. It wouldn't make sense for them to linger there, surely, as Frodo is so driven to complete his mission?
Another thing: Tolkien manages to convey how exhausting the hobbits found of the passage through the marshes, the entrance into Mordor (all those stairs!) and the journey through Mordor so successfully that whenever I reread it I'm surprised at how short those sections actually are.
posted by Zumbador at 10:00 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


Tolkien having been an infantry officer would have a keen appreciation for marching distances, weariness and deprivation, all of which shines through in his books.
posted by Harald74 at 10:35 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


And I liked how much Tolkien had about how details of weather and terrain affect walking.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:01 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


The Entmoot explosively concludes. The Last March of the Ents reaches Isengard in the evening.

These roots are made for walkin'
And that's just what they'll do
One of these days these roots are gonna
Walk all over you
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:05 PM on March 3 [17 favorites]


Somebody somewhere pointed out that - IIRC - the events occur basically between Christmas and Easter. Tolkien slipped his Christianity in much more subtly than his friend C.S. Lewis did.
posted by clawsoon at 11:36 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


I have been purchasing a Tolkien Calendar every year since 1980. I still have them all. Many of them come with important Tolkien Dates located on the calendar. Spring was always quite busy. This year's calendar doesn't have the Tolkien Dates on it which is disappointing. Maybe next year's will.
posted by hippybear at 11:43 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Here we go:
As I was rereading LOTR (yet again), I picked up on something that I hadn't noticed before. The Council of Elrond takes place and the Fellowship leaves Rivendell on December 25, Christmas Day. It could have been any other day of the year, but Tolkien picked that specific day.

...

It is alsso noteworthy that Sauron is defeated on 25th March, which is the Feast of the Annunciation.

...

According to Tom Shippey, in Anglo Saxon times Easter was not a “movable feast” as it now is: it was a fixed date and the Crucifixion was commemorated on 25th March.
posted by clawsoon at 11:45 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


the hobbits spent only a single night with Faramir and his men.

Although JRRT spotlights Faramir here, I have more-or-less always as an adult understood this to be in part that Frodo, as a Ringbearer, is directing the force of the Ring upon Faramir’s will. I would further say that this is possibly so sublimated in the text that JRRT may himself have been bent to the Ring’s service without noting it himself.
posted by mwhybark at 1:28 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


According to Tom Shippey, in Anglo Saxon times Easter was not a “movable feast” as it now is: it was a fixed date and the Crucifixion was commemorated on 25th March.

That surely can’t be right? The correct method for calculating the date of Easter was one of the main issues between the Roman and Celtic churches, debated at the Synod of Whitby.
posted by Segundus at 1:54 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I think Shippey actually says there was a tradition of celebrating the crucifixion on 25 March, regarded as the historical date of the first Good Friday, but separately from Good Friday itself, Easter always being moveable.
posted by Segundus at 2:00 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Tolkien having been an infantry officer would have a keen appreciation for marching distances, weariness and deprivation
Absolutely, the experience of the First World War is a key subtext to the LoTR universe. In February and March, the rain stops, the ground dries out, and the weather is good enough for 19th–20thC campaigning in northern France and Belgium, after months of planning and preparation of materiel in rear. As lots of people have written Tolkien drew on the ammunition and material dumps of the Western Front for the scenes where Saruman destroys the environment preparing his forces. As to the sense of fatalism, doomed male comradeship, and dutiful despair, that's the emotional key of the trilogy, well.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:07 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Although JRRT spotlights Faramir here, I have more-or-less always as an adult understood this to be in part that Frodo, as a Ringbearer, is directing the force of the Ring upon Faramir’s will. I would further say that this is possibly so sublimated in the text that JRRT may himself have been bent to the Ring’s service without noting it himself.
This is a fascinating idea. My first reaction is to think that Frodo would never have had the power to direct the ring to act so exactly against its own interest. But maybe something more subtle is going on. The point at which Frodo really starts changing in ways that seem a bit uncanny is after he survives the attack on Weathertop, which involved him almost completely absorbing a Nazgul weapon. I always thought that Frodo's growth in power, especially toward the end of the books, was as a result of surviving suffering, a sort of burning away of everything his duty as a ringbearer (which is also why he is less human and relateable than Sam) But maybe he has somehow incorporated the power of the ring (and the Nazgul?) and feeds off it himself? And the fact that he was unaware of this is the reason he was able to do it, otherwise the ring would have rejected him as a host. He was being corrupted by the ring after all, and maybe as a result of that he did gain power.
posted by Zumbador at 2:33 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I share Bilbo and Frodo's birthday. And I go barefoot wherever possible. Oh, and I have hairy toes and eat a lot. There, I said it, secret's out.

Worship me in all my hobbity goodness.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:26 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


But that means, historically speaking, the 3 great victories of the anti-Sauron forces (the reduction of Isengard by the Ents, the rebuff of the orcs at Helm's Deep, and the failure of the siege of Gondor) happened more or less simultaneously.

Just looked at the Twitter feed; looks like the Ents hit Isengard yesterday and Helm’s Deep was overnight, ending at dawn this morning.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:28 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


RolandOfEld: Oh, and I have hairy toes

So where do you stand on socks in bed?
posted by clawsoon at 5:55 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Never thought of it but maybe that's yet again another Hobbit superpower.

Cheers!
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:07 AM on March 4


And standing on socks in a bed sounds like a fruitless endeavour if you ask me!
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:10 AM on March 4 [7 favorites]


Tolkien having been an infantry officer would have a keen appreciation for marching distances, weariness and deprivation

I wonder if Tolkien created lembas just so that his characters didn't have to look for food while they were travelling. It sounds like the kind of thing he would have thought about.
posted by antiwiggle at 6:23 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Yes, in the books, the hobbits spent only a single night with Faramir and his men. It wouldn't make sense for them to linger there, surely, as Frodo is so driven to complete his mission?

Yeah but it wasn't up to Frodo when he could leave, Faramir was holding them and deciding what to do about the situation. I just reread the books in 2018. I really thought he kept them for several days at least.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:36 AM on March 4


This highlights what I've found to be one of the more frustrating and disappointing aspects of Middle Earth: It's tiny! It's clearly supposed to be the size of western Europe but it's presented as if it's the only important part of the entire world with some vague handwaving to the south and to the east. I can understand many of the mortal characters holding the belief that the lands they know are the most important or even the only lands but the same beliefs are held by the immortal beings, too. So is this a much smaller (and denser) planet than Earth? If it's Earth-sized, is most of it uninhabited?
posted by ElKevbo at 9:37 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Earth is Earth-sized and the only important things here only happen in Western Europe, not sure why that's a problem for Middle-Earth.
posted by GuyZero at 9:47 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


And when the Elves sail to the West they're mostly going to Fort Lauderdale.
posted by GuyZero at 9:48 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


going to Fort Lauderdale

St. Augustine surely.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:54 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


If it's Earth-sized, is most of it uninhabited?

I would imagine underpopulation is a key feature of the world. Look at the primary inhabitants. You've got elves, who are functionally immortal outside of a violent death. You've got dwarves, who make regular references to their dwindling numbers, and ents (okay, they were never very populous, but still) who seem to have lost the entire female portion of their race. Even the hobbits live idyllic lives in spacious rural areas, so much so that when they visit Bree, which is by all accounts a simple village, they are stunned by the size of the town.

Between Bree and Rivendell, it seems there are simply no settlements along what is supposedly the main east-west road in the north, making even Westeros seem massively overpopulated (seriously, it seems Martin only mentions villages when they've been sacked). Going further south, Rohan seems most notable for its near emptiness, rather than any stable population. Gondor, and Belfalas to its west seem to be the only mildly populated area in any of the books. Obviously, in the battles, there are thousands of combatants, but no clear idea of where they come from, other than 'the south' or 'the east.' In terms of world building, it's one of those things where the world seems so empty, it's hard to understand if they'd have enough farmers to grow crops to feed the populace.

I mean, I say all of this as a fan, but it does seem like Tolkien built languages, history, and ages of heroes, but kind of glossed over the concept of population and economy.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:41 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Most of the northwest portion of Middle Earth was devastated by plague, and the human portions of it never really recovered in the Third Age. Which isn't entirely a great explanation, given nearly 1500 years pass before the events of the Lord of the Rings, even if you consider the pressure from orcs and the like. Certainly, the Shire prospered and grew and it's surprising that the nearby human populations didn't.
posted by tavella at 11:25 AM on March 5


This highlights what I've found to be one of the more frustrating and disappointing aspects of Middle Earth: It's tiny! It's clearly supposed to be the size of western Europe but it's presented as if it's the only important part of the entire world with some vague handwaving to the south and to the east.

Back in the eighties, now-defunct games publisher Iron Crown Enterprises8 approached Tolkien Enterprises** about the rights for a tabletop RPG based on the Tolkien books. The story goes that they received it because, despite D&D with its deep roots in Tolkien and Vance having been a success for a decade, no one had ever asked before.

Anyway, Here is the continent, in their rendition.

*I actually learned today what happened to them -- apparently when they published a few choose-your-own-adventure type books in the Middle Earth setting; Tolkien's literary publisher, George Allen & Unwin argued these were books and not games and thus violations of the licensing agreement. At the same time, the company that licensed Narnia to them for an upcoming game turned out not to have the license after all and evaporated, leaving ICE holding the bag financially on that just after it mulched a lot of Middle Earth material. Receivership beckoned in 2000.

**Note that Tolkien Enterprises is not the Tolkien Estate, but rather it is the forest that grew from the acorn of JRRT selling off the film and merchandising rights to United Artists in 1968. Tolkien Enterprises is happy to license video games, collectible chess sets, watches, stage adaptations. My understanding is the Tolkien Estate would prefer that we just all bought another leather-bound edition of LOTR annually and don't trouble ourselves with movies or games or any of that nonsense.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:57 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


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