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Old 03-17-2007, 05:46 PM   #1
The Might
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Time in Middle-earth

Especially in the Hobbit, time seems to be measured just like in our world.
Clearly the same system exists as Bilbo only received the message of the Dwarves at 10.45. Of course, this probably is only one of the many differences that exist between the Hobbit and other works by Tolkien.

But what about LotR?
I know the moon seems to play an important role there in the determination of time, perhaps the sun and stars as well.
But does he ever explain how clocks (such as the one owned by Bilbo) were invented or how they worked?
Perhaps you know of some quotes I didn't find so far.
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Old 03-18-2007, 02:07 PM   #2
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I'm guessing the clocks in lotr would work just like the ones in medieval times here's the wikipedia page on it
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Old 03-18-2007, 02:56 PM   #3
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I think hewhoarisesinmight is right about the medieval measure of time. Concerning hobbits - as we know, hobbits had many things which were not that much medieval (umbrellas...), so perhaps they had even mechanical clock? It seems clear however that in the Shire the time was measured from midnight to midnight (or more likely from midnight to noon as AM and from noon to midnight as PM), because it is not stated only in The Hobbit, but also in LotR. So, no only-Hobbit-contradiction here! The most obvious part speaking of counting of time is this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK, Chapter 1: Minas Tirith
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. After a minute Pippin went to the door and down the stair and looked about the street. (...)
"Nine o'clock we'd call it in the Shire," said Pippin aloud to himself.
Evidently here we face the typical time-measure system based on the movements of the Sun. But be this only Nśmenorean/Gondorian habit or be it used in more parts of M-E, we don't know. Taking into account the Nśmenorean enterprise and their impact on the whole world, this system of measure might have been adopted by other cultures as well. But maybe not, counting the time from dawn was not such a typical thing. Some cultures in our world, also in ancient times, also measured the time from dusk - the Jews, for example. Now speaking of it, I recall the Elves also did. Indeed:
Quote:
Originally Posted by LotR Appendix D, The Calendars
A "day" of the sun they called and reckoned from sunset to sunset.
So there might have been cultures who have measured the time many different ways, as much as in our world. About the Easterlings or Southrons we can only speculate, for example. And Orcs and Dwarves? I can imagine a Dwarf very well constructing a mechanical clock, since they being stuck somewhere underground would have no other way of keeping track of time (or - of course they would, by water clock for example, but this would be very, let's say, precise and also - dwarfish.) Maybe the Hobbits could have obtained the knowledge of the mechanical clock, as well as the 24h system, from them? (the Dwarves living in Ered Luin) This would explain why such system did not reach the other, even more "civilized" parts like Gondor (or even Arnor at the time of its glory). This would also imply that the Stoors from Anduin would still count time in some other, more "primitive" or better said, "natural" way.

Only speculating, though. We have no evidence of mechanical clock in ME - or have we?
(goes to look deeper)

Wow, a really interesting topic. I really dived into it
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Old 03-18-2007, 03:24 PM   #4
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I would assume that the clock on Bilbo's mantelpiece (The Hobbit, Chapter 2) is mechanical. As a matter of fact, I incorporated several ideas that you mention, Legate, into a fan fiction* about Hobbits who stayed in the Shire during the War of the Ring! I too assumed that clocks were a Dwarven invention and that any knowledge about their workings came to the Hobbits from them.


*Folco's fan fiction story - still incomplete, but not entirely without hope...
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Old 03-19-2007, 05:43 AM   #5
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If if we do not have hard evidence for the clock on Bilbos Mantelpiece, we have a picture by Tolkien of Bilbos hall ["Pictures by JRR Tolkien"; no 20: "The Hall at Bag-End, Residence of B. Baggins Esquire"]. In this picture we have two obviously mechanical clocks. On left beside the door showing six o'clock and one to the right with pendulum and two wieghts on a chain which shows to my great surprise seven o'clock.

Taking into account that Tolkien said that Hobbingen is on the latitude of Oxford then a difference of 1 hour in day time corrospondes to an distance of roughly 1500 km or 932 miles.
This is more or less the straight distance from Hobbing to the middle of Mirkwood. That means that he clock beside the door in Bilbos hall showed the Rhovanion time while that at his side wall showed Eridor time!

For the dwarvish reconing of time I assume that since the sundown on Dśrin's day was so improtant they would also recon time from sundown to sundown.

Therefore it might be a hobbitish invention to count day from midnight to midnight.

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Old 03-19-2007, 01:06 PM   #6
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Interesting find Findegil, nice idea, I guess that pretty much explains it.
Appendix D does indeed provide us with interesting information about calendars, but not about clocks, or on how they actually worked. I would assume they would be similar to older clocks from the past centuries, at least in the Shire, but it seems that their creation remains a mystery.
Anyway, I personally think that this took place some time after the creation of the Shire, after the Hobbits' lifestyle became more quite and peaceful.
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Old 04-03-2017, 03:53 PM   #7
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Thoughts on time reckoning

Looking up a quote for Palantir of Fortune, I came across the passage where Eomer and Theoden discuss with Ghan-buri-Ghan the time it would take to get their army through the hills. Here is the bit I find interesting:

Quote:
‘Wild Men go quick on feet,’ said Ghān. ‘Way is wide for four horses in Stonewain Valley yonder,’ he waved his hand southwards; ‘but narrow at beginning and at end. Wild Man could walk from here to Dīn between sunrise and noon.’

‘Then we must allow at least seven hours for the leaders,’ said Éomer; ‘but we must reckon rather on some ten hours for all. Things unforeseen may hinder us, and if our host is all strung out, it will be long ere it can be set in order when we issue from the hills. What is the hour now?

‘Who knows?’ said Théoden. ‘All is night now.’

‘It is all dark, but it is not all night,’ said Ghān. ‘When Sun comes we feel her, even when she is hidden. Already she climbs over East-mountains. It is the opening of day in the sky-fields.
Thoughts in no particular order. I am not making a specific point, rather I was going to ask a question but found this existing thread, so I'm adding on.

1. The Wild men do not seem to have a precise system of counting time like other races we know of that count hours. Time appears to be measured by the position of the sun (and perhaps moon at night?) in the sky.

2. The Rohirrim use the hour system of counting time. Do they have mechanical clocks? Sundials? While I can see Bilbo, and even perhaps other hobbits, having mechanical clocks, the Rohirrim have a completely different cultural feel (I don't think they have umbrellas either for that matter). Regardless, Eomer easily translates sun-time into hour-time.

3. Regarding things said earlier in this thread about the Gondor bell counting hours from sunrise - I wondered if maybe they only kept count of time during the day, not at night, because their first hour of the day appears to be fixed to the rising of the sun rather than the end of a preceding hour (i.e. the sun could rise at the half-hour if it was the second way). Hours could then be kept by hourglasses, or candles/wicks of measured burning time. They could be kept through the night as well, but the next morning they'd run into the the problem of sunrise not necessarily corresponding to the hour strike. If I did not consider all this, I would probably say that Gondor used sundials, but then again - sunrise =/= hour1.

4. Shire, Rohan, Gondor, speculatively Dwarf settlements (anyone else?), all reckon time by hours, and since they can understand each other perfectly presumably these hours are all the same length. This points to "hour reckoning" being invented at a single place and spread, rather than evolving independently in each population. The different races kept the mechanism and the "size" of the subdivision of the day, but may have altered when the first hour and the start of the day happened based on existing notions of when the day starts. I realize Pippin translates 3 Gondor hours past sunrise as 9 o'clock exactly, but he may be approximating. It's not like he'd think "At this time of year and latitude the sun rises at 6:00..." - just that it rises around 6. If methods of time reckoning evolved independently in all these places, there would be no reason for them to have the same length of each hour/subdivision. So I conclude otherwise.

5. Now that we know the sun comes up around 6am at that time of year around that lattitude, it technically takes a Wild Man only 6 hours (sunrise to noon) to get through the path. I guess Eomer added one to make 7 to consider that the army will be going at a slower pace. Or maybe he miscounted.

6. They may actually all have kept time differently, but as the LOTR as we know it is a translation, all time measurements were converted into hours that we understand. Or, Tolkien paid more attention to language than he did to the mathematics of time keeping. Given that counting time with the 24 hour system is so widespread and taken for granted, perhaps he never even considered alternative measurements. It's either based on the sun's position or on hours, nothing in between. I'm not a fan of meta arguments, but sometimes they are the most logical explanation of why the author really wrote it that way. However, one can still speculate.

And now my clock tells me it's bedtime and I still have to study for an upcoming test, which I neglected because this is so cool. Perhaps if I write them an essay on the nature of time they will give me an extension.
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Old 04-03-2017, 04:33 PM   #8
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As I'm reading onward, despite my previous claim about studying, I came upon this:

Quote:
Presently Ghān turned to the king. ‘Wild Men say many things,’ he said. ‘First, be wary! Still many men in camp beyond Dīn, an hour’s walk yonder,’ he waved his arm west towards the black beacon.
So even Wild Men at least understand, if not use, hours for counting time. They certainly don't have clocks.
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Old 04-06-2017, 11:49 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
So even Wild Men at least understand, if not use, hours for counting time. They certainly don't have clocks.
Which is kind of curious if they were really so isolated, where did they become so familiar with hours to know how far one could walk in an hour?

I think on that basis we must suppose that they used hours for telling time themselves.
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Old 04-06-2017, 04:38 PM   #10
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Which is kind of curious if they were really so isolated, where did they become so familiar with hours to know how far one could walk in an hour?

I think on that basis we must suppose that they used hours for telling time themselves.
I suppose the "hour" was an ancient concept, and the Druedain must have interacted at least a little bit with Men in the past, giving rise to common time-language. However, considering that no or few such interactions occurred in the past generations, it's a wonder they would still keep that knowledge if they had a more convenient way of counting time.
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Old 04-07-2017, 07:39 AM   #11
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Maybe Gahn-buri-Gahn was simply smart engouh to calculate what a hour means from what Eomer told only seconds before. Anyhow as Gahn was speaking Westron we can suppose that with learing Westron he also learned how other poeple counted time.

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Old 04-07-2017, 04:21 PM   #12
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I haven't really given time in Middle-earth reckoning much thought (beyond the Hobbitish calendar craze), but at first blush one would think that, relatively speaking, time (as far as seconds, minutes and hours) would be a fairly useless construct for Elves; however, I suppose time-segmentation would still be required by the Eldar. After all, Lembas takes 12-13 minutes to bake at 400 degrees.

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Old 04-13-2017, 06:20 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
I think hewhoarisesinmight is right about the medieval measure of time. Concerning hobbits - as we know, hobbits had many things which were not that much medieval (umbrellas...), so perhaps they had even mechanical clock?
I realise that this comment was made 10 years ago, but I often see the Hobbits' use of umbrellas mentioned as some kind of unwarranted intrusion from the "modern world". However, collapsible umbrellas similar to what we use today have existed for at least 2000 years - being described in ancient Chinese texts - and indeed one from the first century AD was recently found in a Korean tomb. The technology may well have existed for centuries before that.

In any case, simple umbrellas existed for thousands of years before that in various cultures, and it isn't obvious that the umbrellas in the Shire are anything like modern ones in any case.

Back on topic, the idea of clocks is also pretty ancient. Water powered mechanical clocks existed in Ancient Greece, Rome and China - although were probably fairly rare. Sundials and other timekeeping methods were quite common. As far as ancient cultures being able to tell time by some kind of division of the day into hours - well, even a culture with only sundials would understand the idea. The Ancient Egyptians divided the day up into 24 hours - which seems to have stuck with later civilizations in the West. They also developed the water clock, an accurate time measuring device, at least 3,500 years ago.

The English word "clock" derives from the Middle English clokke - which means "bell", and of course in earlier times bells would be rung to mark the passing of hours. Clokke is cognate with Middle Dutch, French and Latin words that also mean bell.

As with "umbrella" I don't necessarily think that we are meant to think that "clock" means a Victorian Era mechanical model. It makes perfect sense that if the Hobbits had a complicated Calendar (which we known they did) then they would also be interested in measuring the passage of time in units of measure smaller than a day. Perhaps the Hobbbits borrowed the actual design of their clocks from Dwarves (or Elves) or perhaps they even bought such things from the Dwarves.

As for Ghān-buri-Ghān - I'm sure he was a quick learner!
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Old 04-26-2017, 09:07 AM   #14
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When mechanical clocks were first introduced in the West in the 14th century (in monasteries, to ring the bells of the canonical hours-- faces and hands came later), they caused no end of confusion because they could only tell hours of a fixed length- which didn't work at all with Roman and early medieval practice of dividing the solar day into hours whose length varied with the seasons. Prime came at dawn and vespers at sundown, and the length of the hours in between were much longer in summer than in winter. Sundials didn't have this problem.

(NB: The Gospels, written in the 1st C. AD, reference the sixth and ninth hours (noon and midafternoon).
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Old 04-27-2017, 09:03 AM   #15
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Pipe A pendulum clock in Bag-End?

According to Tolkien's illustration of the Hall of Bag-End that he drew for The Hobbit, on the right (from the viewer's perspective) wall there appears to be a pendulum clock.



If that's the case, it shows how 'advanced' the hobbits were; because such a clock was invented by Dutch scientist and inventor Christiaan Huygens in 1656, and patented the following year. This invention, according to one book, meant that the accuracy of clocks could be improved to about 10 seconds per 24 hours:

https://books.google.ie/books?id=1jw...istory&f=false

There's also the issue of what looks like a barometer, on the wall to the left of the open door...

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Old 04-29-2017, 08:25 PM   #16
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Faramir, there's a second clock to the left of the door in that illustration. Interestingly, one clock is an hour off from the other. Perhaps to reduce the time from breakfast, brunch and elevensies.
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Old 04-29-2017, 10:57 PM   #17
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I think Faramir is correct; that isn't a clock but a barometer beside the door.

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Old 05-03-2017, 05:45 AM   #18
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Pipe An aneroid barometer?

Thanks for the comments about my last reply, and for the photo you posted, William!

The barometer depicted by Tolkien appears to be an aneroid one, meaning it uses a non-liquid way of measuring air pressure. A metallic cell or capsule, from which the air has been removed, expands or contracts depending on the air pressure. It is a nineteenth century invention, by a French scientist called Lucien Vidi, in 1844. Since late in that century, barometers, along with wind observations, have been used to make short-term weather forecasts.

Despite all this sophistication, we don't see hobbit meteorologists around Middle-earth in the late Third Age...
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Old 05-03-2017, 01:03 PM   #19
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I don't suppose Tolkien was much of a techie, certainly not the sort who would be aware of the difference and relative dates of aneroid and mercury barometers. I think, at least at the time of the illustration, he viewed Mr B Baggins Esq as enjoying the material lifestyle of an English country gentleman of, say, William and Mary's time. Such a man would very likely have had clocks on the wall and the mantle, and a barometer beside the door to check the weather before going out; I doubt T realized that the one depicted was 'anachronistic.'
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Old 05-03-2017, 02:34 PM   #20
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I think, at least at the time of the illustration, he viewed Mr B Baggins Esq as enjoying the material lifestyle of an English country gentleman of, say, William and Mary's time. Such a man would very likely have had clocks on the wall and the mantle, and a barometer beside the door to check the weather before going out; I doubt T realized that the one depicted was 'anachronistic.'
I agree, and think this is very important. The Shire is not purely Middle-earth material, it's a mix of Middle-earth and England, and certain elements can only be integrated into the rest of Middle-earth so much.

But it is still interesting to explain clocks and barometers in the Shire bypassing that argument, even though it's most likely the truest. Can we explain them purely in Middle-earth terms? The hypothesis of a dwarven invention was already addressed. I doubt many hobbits would invite Dwarven constructions into their daily lives with open arms - maybe toys, but not things that quite literally dictate your life. Perhaps Bilbo was unique in having a clock and barometer in his house, given his friendship and fascination with Dwarves. Or, if clocks were a common thing among hobbits, I wonder if they themselves made them. Is it possible to make a clock like that with mostly wooden pieces? Springs must be metal, but can the rest be wood? I don't think hobbits were that much into metal shaping to make gears and such, but I can see them tinkering around with wood as a hobby or something.
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Old 05-04-2017, 11:50 AM   #21
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I've done a quick search, and these are my apparent findings:

In The Hobbit, Gandalf mentions Bilbo's clock once, the narrator mentions Bilbo's clock twice, and Bilbo describes the interior of Erebor as a "clockless, timeless hole", which is the nearest we have to evidence that Dwarves did not have clocks. Of course other possibilities exist, such as that any clocks in Erebor had naturally become nonfunctional over many years. The word "o'clock" is used once on the sign put up by Grubb, Grubb and Burrowes announcing the auction of Bilbo's property.

Looking through The Lord of the Rings suggests that the word "clock" on its own occurs twice: once when Bilbo tries to put the envelope containing the Ring next to his, and once in Ithilien when Sam says that the time is "nigh on half past eight by Shire clocks, maybe." The word "o'clock" is used multiple times, but Gandalf is the only non-Hobbit to use it; he was familiar with Hobbits. The only non-Hobbit to whom the word is used is Mr. Butterbur, who evidently understands what the term means, although given the translation conceit we might imagine that the Hobbits were really saying "the Xth hour" when they say "X o'clock".

At one point when the hour is struck in Minas Tirith, however, Pippin muses to himself "Nine o'clock we'd call it in the Shire." This remark and Sam's about "Shire clocks", combined with Bilbo's complaint about Erebor being "clockless", suggest to me that Professor Tolkien imagined clocks to be an invention peculiar to the Shire and Hobbits, and perhaps only known outside it in neighbouring Bree-land, which was of course another place in which Hobbits lived in numbers.
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Old 05-05-2017, 05:11 AM   #22
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Pipe A few things

Thanks for all the comments, William, Galadriel and Zigūr!

William, you might be right in terms of Tolkien not thinking through the issue of the barometer being an aneroid one.

Galadriel, you asked the question, 'Is it possible to make a clock like that with mostly wooden pieces?' The answer is 'Yes'. It can be seen if we look at the life of the great John Harrison (1683-1776), the self-educated English carpenter and clockmaker, who invented the marine chronometer. Early in his career, he built wooden clocks, one being in Nostel Priory, Yorkshire, made by him in 1717:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/conten..._feature.shtml

Harrison was the son of a carpenter for the estate, who was trained by his father for the same trade. He found himself repairing, then making clocks. In terms of the one shown, the wooden mechanism enables it to keep accurate time centuries later, this being due to the woods used, including lignum vitae, not needing any lubrication like a metal clock would.

Zigūr, thanks for the references you have pulled out regarding clocks from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I would add to this by saying that, in Chapter 2 of the first book, hobbits appear to be, as a society, used to the idea of accurate time, due to the existence and plentiful nature of clocks. Those who don't have one at home might be able to at least see one, hear one, or both.

Even if the dwarves don't have clocks, they are aware that hobbits do; so the contract they leave for Bilbo has the term that it would be accepted by him if he turned up at the Green Dragon Inn at '11 a.m. sharp', with a reminder to him to be 'punctual'. (Their emphasis)

Bilbo has 10 minutes to get there, and does so 'just on the stroke of eleven'. Can this imply that there was a clock nearby, perhaps in the Green Dragon? I can imagine it being of service for travellers. Balin was keeping a look out for Bilbo at the door, and congratulated him for arriving on time with a 'Bravo!'

Bilbo then apologised for arriving at the last minute, explaining that he hadn't got their note (or rather contract) 'until after 10.45 to be precise'.

Zigūr, you then wondered if clocks were peculiar to hobbits, and only used in the Shire and in Bree-land. If that was the case, were there all kinds of local times, or some kind of agreed universal time, approximating to Greenwich Mean Time, if Pippin was able to make reference to 'Nine o'clock we'd call it in the Shire'?

It would, I suggest, make sense for the existence of a 'Shire time', originally introduced to facilitate the postal service. A common time would make it easier for those using it, in terms of knowing when the post offices would be open, and when the post would be delivered. What do people think?
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Old 05-06-2017, 07:48 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Zigūr View Post
and Bilbo describes the interior of Erebor as a "clockless, timeless hole", which is the nearest we have to evidence that Dwarves did not have clocks. Of course other possibilities exist, such as that any clocks in Erebor had naturally become nonfunctional over many years.

-and-

suggest to me that Professor Tolkien imagined clocks to be an invention peculiar to the Shire and Hobbits, and perhaps only known outside it in neighbouring Bree-land, which was of course another place in which Hobbits lived in numbers.
I think Bilbo was describing Erebor as it was at that current time, which was essentially a ruin.

My thought is that clocks might be construed as a dwarven invention to help them tell time in their underground homes where they did not have the benefit of the sun to mark the passage of time.
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Old 05-11-2017, 06:07 PM   #24
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Is it possible to make a clock like that with mostly wooden pieces?
Oh, yes; I have one on my wall. It's a copy of one made in Germany dated 1640; the only metal pieces are the crownwheel escapement and the small lead foliot weights- the drive weight is a rock. (note: no need for springs in a weight-driven clock). I have a much later clock, an Eli Terry from 1845 with mostly wooden works; even in the earlier 19th century wood was more affordable than brass.
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