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Discussing: Time measurement in Gondor

Time measurement in Gondor

I believe that Beregond, in ROTK, mentions the time-scheme in Minas Tirith as hours counted from the sunrise; so that the third hour would be three hours from dawn. Is there any more information in the appendices or elsewhere about hour-counting in Gondor? Also, would the time count change after noon, i.e. the time being reckoned by hours after noon? Or moonrise? Sorry if that's more than one question.... RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Time measurement in Gondor

Hi Raksha In The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 1, Minas Tirith, Beregond says:
‘We rise ere the Sun, and take a morsel in the grey light, and go to our duties at the opening hour. But do not despair!' He laughed again, seeing the dismay in Pippin's face. 'Those who have had heavy duty take somewhat to refresh their strength in the mid-morning. Then there is the nuncheon, at noon or after as duties allow; and men gather for the daymeal, and such mirth as there still may be, about the hour of sunset.’
Earlier in the same chapter, Pippin equates the third hour of the morning with 9 am.
With that Gandalf went out; and as he did so, there came the note of a clear sweet bell ringing in a tower of the citadel. Three strokes it rang, like silver in the air, and ceased: the third hour from the rising of the sun. […] 'Nine o'clock we'd call it in the Shire,' said Pippin aloud to himself. 'Just the time for a nice breakfast by the open window in spring sunshine.’ The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 1, Minas Tirith
To match the “opening hour” at dawn, Tolkien refers to a “closing hour” at dusk:
Already the closing hour was drawing nigh, and the red sun had gone behind Mindolluin. Shadow came down on the City. The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 1, Minas Tirith
And the count appears to be from the “opening hour” until the “closing hour” (ie the count doesn’t change at noon), since later on we learn:
About the eleventh hour, released at last for a while from service. Pippin came out and went in search of food and drink to cheer his heavy heart and make his task of waiting more supportable. In the messes he met Beregond again, who had just come from an errand over the Pelennor out to the Guard-towers upon the Causeway. Together they strolled out to the walls; for Pippin felt imprisoned indoors, and stifled even in the lofty citadel. Now they sat side by side again in the embrasure looking eastward, where they had eaten and talked the day before. It was the sunset-hour, but the great pall had now stretched far into the West, and only as it sank at last into the Sea did the Sun escape to send out a brief farewell gleam before the night, even as Frodo saw it at the Cross-roads touching the head of the fallen king. But to the fields of the Pelennor, under the shadow of Mindolluin, there came no gleam: they were brown and drear. The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 4, The Siege of Gondor
Gondor appears to have a system which divides the day – dawn to dusk – into twelve equal hours. Presumably the night – dusk to dawn – is also divided into twelve hours. What this means is the length of an “hour” will vary between winter and summer. For a story I wrote, Marta helped me calculated that around midwinter, an “hour” in Gondor will actually be around 45 of our minutes, if you divide the time between sunrise and sunset into twelve equal parts. Also, some cultures calculate the day as running from sunset to sunset, not sunrise to sunrise or from a somewhat arbitrary midpoint of the night (as we do). I'm not sure which way Gondor reckons it. Hope that helps answer your questions. Cheers, Liz

 

 

Re: Time measurement in Gondor

This is very helpful, Liz; thanx much! Do you think that when a number of days is mentioned in ROTK, it can be taken as 24-hour days, i.e. sunrise to sunrise? It would be a big headache if each Gondorian (or other in M-e) were sunrise to sunset..... RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Time measurement in Gondor

You're welcome! Always pleased to make available for someone else's benefit the scary amount of thought I've put in to how Gondor works.... Do you think that when a number of days is mentioned in ROTK, it can be taken as 24-hour days, i.e. sunrise to sunrise? It would be a big headache if each Gondorian (or other in M-e) were sunrise to sunset..... Oh yes, I definitely think a reference to a number of days in RotK means 24-hour days. Faramir says something somewhere about setting out for Ithilien ten days previously that definitely matches up with ten 24-hour days in the Tale of Years in Appendix B. It's just a question of whether you consider each day as starting at sunset, sunrise, or some other point. Cheers, Liz

 

 

Re: Time measurement in Gondor

Holy Valar! This is a time system that would make any astronomer's head explode! One wonders how they keep track of the hourly divisions if they change from day to day. I'd love to see a Gondorian sundail. Wonder if I could build one... The implications of such a system boggle the mind, though. With the procession of the solstices, one couldn't use static markings on a sundail to denote length of the divisions by calendar date. It would have to be something that you could set day by day, or the timing of the bells would change rather noticably over the course of four years, the most noticable one being the twelfth at sunset. It would reset itself, more or less, on the leap year, but over the course of a couple hundred years, it would be irrepairably off and the whole system would need to be reworked. I'll have to ponder this while I fight off the nuzgúl that seems to be stalking me now. Bado na sídh. Berz. P.S. Wow! I just realized! A Gondorian league becomes a shorter distance in the winter!

 

 

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