The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
22 June in a leap year1 on a modern (Gregorian) calendar
Race
Cultures
Shire-hobbits, and probably also Bree-hobbits
Pronunciation
o'verlithe
Meaning
Lithe comes from the Old English month Liða, 'warm, gentle'; the 'over' prefix indicates that this was an extra or additional day
Other names
Similar in concept to the Enderi of the Númenórean calendars2

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About this entry:

  • Updated 23 November 2018
  • This entry is complete

Overlithe

A Hobbit holiday

To ensure that the Shire Calendar kept pace with the natural cycles of the year, the Hobbits found it necessary - just as in a modern calendar - to add an extra day to their calendar once every four years. Unlike a modern calendar, they did not do this by lengthening one of the months, but instead by adding an extra day that fell outside any month (this was a natural approach on a calendar that already contained several such days).

This extra day was placed among the Lithedays, three days of holiday that included Mid-year's Day and fell between the months of Forelithe and Afterlithe (which were approximately equivalent to modern June and July). The new day was named the 'Overlithe', and was placed after Mid-year's Day in the calendar. As an event that occurred only once every four years, the Overlithe was a special holiday and time of celebration among the Shire-hobbits.

The idea of adding an extra day to the calendar every fourth Midsummer was an ancient one, but the Hobbits made an adjustment of their own. Originally, the Shire-folk had named their days in a weekly sequence throughout the year, but the occurrence of Mid-year's Day and the Overlithe caused the sequence of weekdays to change each year (just as they do on a modern calendar). During the time that Isengrim II was Thain of the Shire,3 an adjustment known as the Shire-reform was introduced. After this reform, neither Mid-year's Day nor the Overlithe were considered part of any week, and so the sequence of the weekdays from year to year became fixed.


Notes

1

In those years of the Shire Calendar when the Overlithe occurred, it fell directly after Mid-year's Day, and since Mid-year's Day normally corresponded to modern 22 June, it would be natural to expect the Overlithe to fall on 23 June. Things are complicated, however, by the fact that the Gregorian calendar accounts for leap years by inserting an intercalary day (its equivalent of the Overlithe) at the end of February, and this means that for nearly four months from March to June, the modern calendar runs a day ahead of the Shire Calendar. Hence, in a leap year, the Shire Mid-year's Day falls on modern 21 June, and the Overlithe on 22 June. From the following day, the second Litheday (on the Shire Calendar) or 23 June (Gregorian), the two calendars fall back into synchronisation.

2

The Shire Calendar's system of managing leap years was doubtless derived from that of the Dúnedain, which was functionally identical. Going back to the old King's Reckoning of Númenor, the Dúnedain added an extra day after Midsummer, but in their system a leap year was marked by the single day Loëndë being replaced by two Enderi or 'Middle-days'. So, both approaches worked by inserting a day after the central day of the year, but the Dúnedain used the collective name Enderi for Midsummer and the day after, and hence had no direct equivalent of 'Overlithe'.

3

We are not told exactly when the Shire-reform came into effect, but we do know that Isengrim II was Thain from III 2683 to III 2722 (or III 1083 to III 1122 by the Shire-reckoning). The Shire Calendar must have been reformed within Isengrim's thirty-nine year Thainship, at a time about three centuries before the War of the Ring.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 23 November 2018
  • This entry is complete

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