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December 1–30, S.R. 1418 (T.A. 3018)

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer and winter looms down upon Middle-Earth, The Lord of the Rings offers quietly urgent descriptions of the preparations underway in the warmth and light of Rivendell. Scouts return with their reports. Aragorn and Gandalf spend hours planning for the journey ahead. A single black cloak is discovered downstream of the Ford of Bruinen.

And none of it, alas, is accompanied by a single date.

There is a vague reference to ‘mid-December’, which I suppose we can place on a similarly vague mid-December date.

The Shire-Reckoning · Dec 11 · 2:28 pm

In mid-December the scouts start returning to Rivendell, having found no trace of the Nazgûl. Elrond begins planning the Ring’s departure.

But the Tale of Years itself is silent for the entire two months between October 25 and December 25. Between those dates, the text only allows us to date a single event: Elrond finishes the debate about who will accompany Frodo with the words, ‘In seven days the Company must depart,’ so he must be speaking on December 18.

The Shire-Reckoning · Dec 18 · 5:00 pm

Elrond names the Company of the Ring, from all the Free Peoples:

Hobbits—Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin
(the latter over Elrond’s objection).
Men—Aragorn and Boromir.

And Gandalf—‘for this shall be his great task and maybe the end of his labours.’

One might have thought that Elrond’s Elven-smiths wouldn’t wait until a bare week before Aragorn’s departure to reforge his sword, but during that same discussion Aragorn uses the future tense when he tells Frodo that ‘the Sword-that-was-Broken shall be reforged ere I set out to war’—so it must be between the 18th and the 25th that the shards of the ancient sword are reworked in the glowing forges of Rivendell.

But, as with most of the other preparations, we are not given a specific date.

Thus, no further events can be securely dated until ‘the morning of the last day’ when Frodo makes a final visit to his old friend Bilbo in the hobbit’s small room on the ground floor.

The Shire-Reckoning · Dec 25 · 9:00 am

Today the Company will depart. Bilbo gives Frodo his sword Sting and—secretly—his magnificent Dwarvish mail-coat of pure mithril. The old hobbit sings softly.

‘I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see…’

The Shire-Reckoning · Dec 25 · 4:20 pm

The Company of the Ring (with their baggage on Bill the pony) gathers on Rivendell’s threshold at dusk. Boromir sounds his horn. Sam remembers that he hasn’t packed rope. And Elrond gives his blessing: ‘May the stars shine upon your faces!’

They walk south into the Wild.

‘Then with one glance at the Last Homely House twinkling below them they strode away far into the night.’

No chronology is offered of the days that follow. ‘The first part of their journey was hard and dreary, and Frodo remembered little of it, save the wind.’ Two weeks of travel are summarized in three paragraphs that describe the Company’s daily schedule, their order of march, and how the mountains loom higher as they move south.

The Shire-Reckoning · Dec 26 · 8:30 am

As the morning grows bright, the Company of the Ring stop walking and conceal themselves as best they can. They try to sleep. Thus begins the routine of their winter march: sleep during the day; supper in late afternoon; and an overnight walk south through bitter winter wind.

For how many days do they march south without an event that we might mark on our calendar? It’s the next paragraph that finally offers us an anchor: ‘They had been a fortnight on the way when the weather changed.’ The next dateable event will fall in January.

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