Today is the Feast of the Annunciation and of the Downfall of Barad-dur

If you think that a mere coincidence, you don’t understand Tolkien.  Paul Catalanotto offers a some reflections.

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  • Sherry Weddell

    i never made the connection. But then, I never paid attention to the date of the fall of Barad-dur before.

    • Mark Shea

      Sherry, Sherry, Sherry. You think you know somebody…

    • Susan

      Stratford Caldecott, of whom Peter Kreeft said that he wrote the best book on Tolkien ever, pointed out this date years and years ago. (Not a criticism of anyone for not having noticed, but just giving credit where at least some credit is due – probably others pointed it out before Caldecott).

  • Robin Hood

    Also note worthy that the quest to destroy the ring left Rivendell on December 25th. Though I feel compelled to remind you, my good Mr. Shea, that the Annunciation isn’t celebrated this year until April 8th.

    • orthros

      That may be true in the West, but I’m headed to my Eastern Rite Church tonight for the celebration of the Annunciation… we’re allowed to eat fish and drink wine today. Whoo whoo! =D

  • Obpoet

    “That’s right, Jesus was made flesh and died on the same day. This is keeping with a tradition that believed that prophets of God died on the same day they were born.”

    I think this was meant to read conception, not birth. Jesus’ conception date figures into picking Dec. 25 as the day for Christ’s mass.

    • Mark Shea

      That’s right, Jesus was made flesh and died on the same day.

      We don’t know that. All we know is that it was a Jewish pious tradition that some early Christians took seriously.

      • df

        Among the early Christians who accepted the traditional identification of March 25 as the date of the Lord’s Conception and Crucifixion, by the way, was Saint Augustine, who notes this as already traditional in Book IV, no. 9 of De Trinitate. It is likely, I think, the early Church kept first a memory of the date of the Crucifixion, and subsequently divined its connection to the Annunciation. Placing Christmas on the Roman calendar on December 25 came a bit later, and has more to do with the nine months after March 25 than any supposed early Christian strategy to co-opt the pagan feast of the sun; this is a delightful debunking of a fashionable modern critique of the Church’s celebration of Christmas in December:) I also think that adumbration, or foreshadowing, is a probably the best way to describe how Tolkien used dates to inscribe that sense of history’s leaning toward redemption that permeates his work. What a great day to remember gratefully Tolkien’s literary achievement!

    • Andy, Bad Person

      The tradition was either/or. Prophets were thought to have died on the day of their birth or their conception.

      • deiseach

        Aha! But, in Tolkien’s legendarium, the Elves had a twelve-month pregnancy period, so the date of conception and birth were the same! So they do not celebrate birthdays as such (“it is the day of begetting that is remembered year by year”, Laws and Customs among the Eldar).

        Wearing my geekdom proudly since the age of seven :-)

  • Bill Kirby

    Except technically March 25th in Shire Reckoning (or 25 Rethe) has already passed us by. It was approximately our March 17th. Not that that means its a coincidence. I would be very surprised if it were.

    • Mark Shea

      “‘Shut up,’ he explained.” – Ring Lardner, Jr.

      • Bill Kirby

        This is a perfect example of Tolkien’s applicability versus allegory. If you were to point out in casual conversation that the dates were the same he would probably respond, “How serendipitous.” But if you were tell him, “The fall of Barad-dur is obviously an allegory of the Incarnation, and possibly even the crucifixion,” he would probably retaliate with a full-scale analysis of Shire Reckoning versus the Gregorian Calendar.

        It’s all about freedom of the reader versus domination of the author, as he would say.

        • Mark Shea

          Drawing the connection is not stating an allegory. It’s drawing a connection.

  • Ben @ 2CM

    I find the “coincidences” and downfalls during WWII during the Feast of the Assumption to be even more intriguing…
    - Sicily taken: August 15, 1943
    - Allies land at Toulon: August 15, 1944
    - Japan’s initial surrender ending WWII: August 15, 1945
    (formal surrender was September 2)

  • Brian Niemeier

    I remember reading that Tolkien chose March 25 because it was the Irish Church’s traditional date for Easter.