Back to Middle Earth
Week 1, When to Show up?
We spent some time preparing to go to Middle Earth. First, what do we do about Pfusand? She'd really like to turn back into a Naza. Unfortunately, a Naza is just as out of place in Middle Earth as it was in Gwennedd. Could we perhaps disguise her as a bear or a horse, or some such, as we have on past occassions? Tom gives her the chameleon circuit and has Dr. Wu probe at it, hoping it will register as magical, so she can be an enchanted bear or whatnot. No such luck. The probe can barely feel the illusion, and it doesn't feel like magic. Pfusand sighs and decides to become a Beorning -- a hugely tall and powerful human who can change into a bear. (The autodoc has a gene code for this. It would be interesting to browse through its genetics library.)
While she does that, Tom decides to try and fix the pantope. It has developed a flutter in its 5th, 6th, and 7th dimension selectors. Tom takes one of the egg-shaped lab robots and goes exploring for the geometry engine. He gets lost and comes back several days latter, weak, famished, and muttering about omelettes.
We have some coordinates for Middle Earth -- they get us to the segment's drop-off point within a few weeks or months either way. Terrific. Just before or after a dragon attack. We feel we would rather not tackle this segment while a dragon is sitting on it. We will try to get a chronological fix on the Battle of Five Armies and hunt for the thing after the dragon is dead and while the story characters are all out fighting goblins. If we don't find it, we will come back when the dwarves have a peaceful community going and ask to look for it, being willing to pay for it.
We open at the given space coordinates, but 250 years futureward of the given time coordinate. We open a window on a mountainside. A broad but winding road goes up to a great gate in the mountain, guarded by folk with spears, conical helmets, and heavy beards braided in forks. We can only see them from the neck up, since they are behind a parapet, but we suspect they are dwarves.
Flipping the window around, we look down a forested slope and see a town in the distance, on the shore of a body of water. With any luck, this is the rebuilt town of Dale, on the Long Lake, and we are on the slopes of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain.
Tom moves the window to a copse of trees and turns it into a door. David and Fogi get out. We rather thought we had told them to go talk to the dwarvish guards, but they decided to check out Dale ... a long hike. So off they went. Dale is a walled city, with guards at the gate, but the guards look bored, not tough. Playing the (perfectly true) part of slightly befuddled wanderers, they ask what town this is. It's Dale.
David: "Oh! The place with the dragon?"
1st Guard: "Yep. 'Course, that were in my grandfather's day. Nigh on 75 years ago, now."
2nd Guard: "Last year, they had the 75th anniversary of the refounding of the city."
Fogi: "Is it peaceful hereabouts?"
1st Guard: "Haven't ye heard? It's peace at last! We're whipping the few orcs left, now they their Master is gone, and trade is picking up and..."
We haven't the faintest idea who this orc-master was, not having read "The Lord of the Rings." The wanderers disengage from the guards and have lunch at a nearby inn, yclept "The Dead Dragon." They try to pay with silver nuggets and barely get by. Monetary standards are high near a large dwarvish community. They return with their information by nightfall. Tom will try to use it to pinpoint the date of the Battle of Five Armies.
I/Tom have done some research since then. I cannot pinpoint the battle with certainty, though I can make a guess. The hobbit and the dwarves entered Erebor on Durin's Day, the day of the last new moon of autumn.
I would reckon that as the last new moon before the winter solstice, but a careful reading of "The Hobbit" shows that, for them, Midsummer and Midsummer's Eve fall in June, while Yule (traditionally a celebration of the winter solstice) falls in midwinter. I conclude that in Middle Earth the solstices and equinoxes mark the midpoints of the seasons, not their changes. This also makes better sense for the weather described.
Consequently, Bilbo's party entered Erebor on the day of the new moon most nearly midway between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, 75+ years ago. (Exactly how many years depends on when the people in Dale celebrate New Year's Day. We may want to make another visit before disconnecting from this time.)
The night preceding the Battle of Five Armies is descibed as "dark and moonless." This may only mean that it was overcast, or that the moon set early or rose late, but it may mean that the Battle followed the dark of the moon, that is on the day of the next new moon. This is at least consistent with the rest of the story.
Most importantly, perhaps, the dragon Smaug is slain on the evening of the day after Durin's Day. We could show up then and just WAIT for the rest of the events to slide by, being careful to stay out of the way of the plot (if possible, which it usually isn't).
By the way, we have now touched the future of Middle Earth. We won't be able to do anything to prevent the peaceful scenes experienced by David and Fogi.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.