Tolkien created not only a world and populated it with many races and people. He also developed a comprehensive language, culture and history for each race. In this article the calendar used by the elves in Imladris (Rivendell) is explained.
The Years and Months
The immortal elves regard time differently than we do. One elvish year - what they call Yén - equals 144(!) years of mortal man. Fortunately for us, the elves also have a shorter year - called Loa - which is used to observe the seasons, and this matches our year in length.
Loa is divided into 6 seasons - or months - of either 54 or 72 days:
- Tuilë, "Spring", is a month with 54 days.
- Lairë, "Summer", is one of two months with 72 days.
- Yávië, "Harvest" (autumn), has 54 days.
- Quellë, "Fading" (late fall), another month with 54 days.
- Hrívë, "Winter", is the second long month of 72 days.
- Coirë, "Stirring" (early spring), with 54 days.
Summing the days gives us only 360 days - 5 days are missing. To match a full astronomical year the elves added five special days that are not part of any month: The first day of the year (Yestarë), the last day of the year (Mettarë), and three days (Enderi) between Yávië and Quellë.
New Year is at Spring Equinox, the day after which is Yestarë. The Enderi are the days around Fall Equinox. There is no day that uniquely marks Summer or Winter Solstice.
The Loa year wheel above illustrates how the year is organized into seasons and special days.
The elves divide the astronomical year into 6 seasons. The number 6 also defines the elvish week, which has 6 days:
- Elenya, "Star-day". The first elves awoke when the stars appeared in the sky, and the stars have always been important to the elves. The very name Eldar means 'people of the stars'.
- Anarya, "Sun-day". When the Two Trees of Valinor died, Laurelin (the Golden Tree) gave a single golden fruit which was then put in a vessel and carried across the sky by Arien to shine over the world.
- Isilya, "Moon-day". Like the sun, the moon was the fruit of dying Telperion (the Silver Tree). It too is carried across the sky, although it's guide, Tilion, is somewhat unsteady, thereby causes phases of the moon.
- Aldúya, "Trees-day". The trees refer to the Two Trees of Valinor, which illuminated the world before the sun and moon were created. The years of the Trees were the golden age of Valinor.
- Menelya, "Heavens-day". The heavens, or sky, is the domain fo the stars, and a place where only the great eagles of Manwë can go.
- Valanya, "Vala-day". The Valar are the mighty powers of the West, and rulers of Arda, including the winds, the sea, the trees, and all life.
The 6-day week has the consequence of every month (unlike our months) contains a full set of weeks. The 'short' months contain exactly 9 weeks each, while the two 'long' months have 12 weeks.
Each month always starts on the same weekday. Tuilë, Lairë and Yávië all start on Anarya. The Enderi offsets the three following months, making Quellë, Hrívë and Coirë start on Menelya.
Each of the Loa years, as described above, have 365 days. In reality an astronomical year is closer to 365,25 days. In the Gregorian calendar we handle this by adding a leap day every 4th year.
The elvish calendar also has leap years. But instead of every 4th year, they add 3 days every 12th year. These leap years have 6 Enderi days instead of the customary 3 days.
Assuming that the elvish leap year occurs on the same year as one of our leap years, then the consequence of the above is:
- For four years the elvish calendar is synchronized with the Gregorian calendar.
- The next four years the Gregorian calendar is offset with one day compared to the elvish calendar.
- The final four years the Gregorian calendar is offset with two days.