Bilbo's Departure conundrum

Discussion in '"The Hobbit"' started by Jmp69, Aug 12, 2018.

  1. Jmp69

    Jmp69 New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2018
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    England
    So-The Hobbit and Bilbo's departure date..So frustrated!!
    1."Just before May"(Roast Mutton)
    2."Started their journey that May morning"(Flies And Spiders)
    3."Under the clock on his mantlepiece in May"(Thief In The Night)
    2 and 3 contradict 1-however,1 is validated by Tolkien when he confirms a late April departure in Unfinished Tales.(Quest For Erebor)
    It is accepted I believe that the Party was on the 26th and Bilbo met the Company on the 27th April.
    These dates are based on the Shire calendar(like LOTR)and are approx ten days ahead of our calendar.Each month had 30 days.Hence the departure based on our calendar would actually be approximately 17th April.
    Neither calendar explains the discrepancies in the text but what I really don't understand is how this has not been flagged up with the numerous reprints.Or am I missing something?
     
    Merroe likes this.
  2. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2018
    Messages:
    791
    Likes Received:
    817
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Virginia, USA
    You're not missing something; they are errors that crept in and went uncorrected.

    I'll add one more to the list. Douglas Anderson has this:

    The statement that Thrain "went away on the twenty-first of April, a hundred years ago last Thursday" provides one of the few firm dates within The Hobbit for the chronology of the story. From what Bilbo should have put down in his Engagement Tablet, Gandalf and the dwarves came to tea on a Wednesday. Thus, if the previous Thursday was April 21, Wednesday would be April 27. (However, in "The Quest of Erebor," which was originally written to be part of an appendix to The Lord of the Rings and which tells Gandalf's account of how he came to arrange Bilbo's journey, the date of Thorin and his companions arriving at Bag End is given precisely as Wednesday, April 26, with Gandalf's visit of the previous day specified to be Tuesday, April 25. These dates cannot be reconciled with the text as given in The Hobbit.

    The Annotated Hobbit , Second Edition, "An Unexpected Party", Note 50

    BTW, the 1937 edition of TH had "and you father went away on the third of March".

    Not much help, I'm afraid. Considering not only the vast scope of the work to come, but the frustration due to editors and printers misreading and deliberately changing his text ("dwarves" to "dwarfs", "further" to "farther", "try and do" to "try to do", to give but a few examples) the wonder is that Tolkien found the time to make any revisions to TH at all.

    I'd let him off lightly. And modern editors would hesitate to change the long -standing text unless it could be demonstrated to disagree with his manuscripts.

    Edit: I second Merroe -- welcome to the forum!
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
    Merroe likes this.

  3. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2016
    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    209
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Luxembourg
    Hi Jmp69, welcome here. Very welcome in fact, because you start with a quite interesting bit!

    The UT relate the meeting Gandalf-Thorin, during which G convinced T to consider taking BB along. I'll quote here the following:

    “Look now, Thorin,” I [=Gandalf] said, “April is passing and Spring is here. Make everything ready as soon as you can. I have some business to do, but I shall be back in a week. When I return, if all is in order, I will ride on ahead to prepare the ground. Then we will all visit him together on the following day.”

    So that keeps it plausable that early May may have been meant; however two paragraphs further we can read:

    It was on the morning of Tuesday, April the 25th, 2941, that I [=Gandalf] called to see Bilbo; and though I knew more or less what to expect, I must say that my confidence was shaken. I saw that things would be far more difficult than I had thought. But I persevered. Next day, Wednesday, April the 26th, I brought Thorin and his companions to Bag End.

    That last bit confirms the last date you mentioned, indeed. I find no better information to offer; in "The Tale of Years" only the year (2941) is mentioned so that doesn't help here.

    Next, I checked my favourite list of "Mistakes and inconsistencies in Tolkien's works" (see here). What you picked up is indeed a known inconsistency; with due copyright reference made to that very interesting page, here is the following quote:

    Explanation
    The fifth month of the Shire Calendar, Thrimidge, falls between 22 April to 21 May. By the human calendar, the journey would have started just before May; but by the hobbit calendar, the journey started during Thrimidge. The second reference to May could have been a "translation error", where "Thrimidge" was translated as "May" regardless of the actual date.

    PS - you were a bit faster than me SES but now that I collected this, I send this too. :)
     
  4. Jmp69

    Jmp69 New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2018
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    England
    Thanks very much for your responses and kind words!
    As a huge fan of Tolkien and his stupendous achievements in world building I nevertheless usually try to avoid intricate nitpicking in favour of just marvelling at his sheer imagination.
    With regard to the Hobbit however -a tale that can after all be treated as an entirely self contained "fairy story"(as Tolkien originally intended)I find it surprising that modern editors haven't simply attempted to establish internal consistency here.Pick April or May.
    Or-Trying for comprehensive consistency...(preferred!!)
    Within the wider perspective of Tolkien's writings about the Third Age it seems quite clear that the journey began during April(The dates mentioned are Shire dates not "our" dates-April 27th was in Hobbit terms Astron,not Thrimidge)
    "Just before May"is surely correct?(UT)
    Points 2 and 3 should replace"May" with "April"
    Fixed?!