The Fellowship had just left Rivendell on a date which just happened to be December 25th. Since that seems pretty late in the season, let’s find out why. What was the timeline of events when they were in Rivendell?
Frodo was rescued from the Nazgul by the flood on October 20. He was moved to Rivendell that same day – it was only an eight mile trot. Three days later, on October 23, Elrond was finally able to extract the sliver of Morgul-blade from Frodo’s wound.
In the morning on October 24th, Frodo finally awoke. Gandalf told him that he had been out for four nights and three days and that he had bore the sliver for seventeen. Now awake, he reunited with his friends as well as Bilbo. That night, Boromir arrived in Rivendell and the Council of Elrond was ready to begin.
This meeting lasted all day of the 25th. But then Tolkien almost loses track of time. “So the days slipped away” as they apparently do in Rivendell. The Hunter’s Moon waxed and then it was December 18th.
On this day, Elrond finally chose the members of the Fellowship and told Frodo that he must prepare to leave.
Then, on the evening of December 25th, the Fellowship stepped off. Since this seemed like quite a bit of unaccounted-for time, I thought I might look into it to see how this came about. Sure enough, the original idea was a bit different.
In the original draft, Tolkien had the Fellowship departing Rivendell on November 24th. He gave two reasons for changing this. First, (and somewhat incomprehensibly) “too much takes place in winter.” Secondly, “this would have additional advantage of allowing Elrond’s scouts and messengers far long time.”
At first, he just pushed it back a month to December 24th, but then changed it to the 25th so that each of the dates would be the same number of days before the ends of their respective months. When he later made it so that all months (in the Shire reckoning) had thirty days, he simply never changed it back.
This date has, of course, given rise to ridiculous speculation that Frodo = Jesus because some people think they see Jesus stuff everywhere. And to this Tolkien had two answers.
The first, given in Nomenclature of the Lord of the Rings, which was a sort of glossary he wrote and gave to translators of the book, explains that the date meant nothing at all. The Elves did not celebrate any midwinter festival, and besides, if they had, “the Yule, or its equivalent, was then the last day of the year and the first of the next year.” Yule, in the Shire reckoning was after December 30th (the last day of the month), but before January 1st. It lasted two days. The first day of Yule was the last day of the year, and the last day of Yule was the first day of the next year.
In the Spring of 1967, he gave an interviewer another answer, though it mostly just fortified the first. When asked: “How do you feel about the idea that people might identify Frodo with Christ?” Tolkien said:
“Well, you know, there’ve been saviours before; it is a very common thing. There’ve been heroes and patriots who have given up for their countries. You don’t have to be a Christian to believe that somebody has to die to save something. As a matter of fact, December 25th occurred strictly by accident, and I left it in to show that this was not a Christian myth anyhow. It was a purely unimportant date, and I thought, Well, there it is, just an accident.”
So apparently Tolkien made the mistake of not changing the date to December 24th and left it in to show that it’s not a Christian story, only to have to interpreted as meaning something Christian.
A Few Notes
- The title of the post came from a Sparks song. See?
- I’ve found that a huge number of people who are into Jesus are also into Tolkien (or maybe that’s the other way around). I’m not so much, but here’s a quick dipping of my toes into the baptismal font.
About the Photo
I didn’t think I’d get to use any church photos on this blog (since they didn’t have churches/temples in Middle-earth)! I’m really thrilled to be able to share with you a lovely Spanish church in Montana. That’s right, Montana. Why is there an old Spanish style church in Montana? I have no idea. This looks like something from New Mexico. We actually turned around to go back to it.
- Day 96
- Miles today: 6
- Miles thus far: 474
- 446 miles to Lothlórien
- 1,304 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Book II, Chapter 3. Along the Bruinen! (map)