Rough time-line of events in Bree, September 29, SR 1418



This research arose from a thread in Entmoot, “Why did the Nazgűl drop Merry in Bree?


In this document:


Rough Time-line






Please understand that this is a rough time-line of events in Bree, Thursday, September 29, SR 1418.


In the thread, I posted that Bree “is where the Black Riders finally discover the Ring, and this is where the real Hunt for the Ring begins.  From Bree to Rivendell, Frodo is never safe again, and he’s in the hands of this strange man whom he doesn’t entirely trust, Strider.


Everything that happens to Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry that evening takes place in about five hours.  The Bree story-line is extremely complex: that’s why I built this rough time-line.  I have read The Lord of the Rings (many) more than 35 times, and until now, I never completely understood how all the pieces of the events in Bree fit together.  After finishing this rough time-line, I have come to believe that the scene at Bree is possibly the most underappreciated jewel in Tolkien’s masterpiece.  Because readers do not see the off-stage activities, they do not appreciate how intricately, carefully, and artfully it has been assembled.  There are scenes that are more moving, more evocative, and that reach deeper into the hearts and souls of their readers: but simply considering technical expertise, this one is hard to beat.  And at its conclusion, readers must believe it plausible when Frodo willingly leaves the next morning with this strange new character, Strider, for whom he has only (what he hopes is) Gandalf’s letter, little logic, and his own hunch to vouch.*


Since Hobbiton in The Shire is supposed to be about even longitudinally with Oxford, England, I figured that I could use the times for sunset, dusk, and twilight from London, England, for September 29, 2009, to establish starting times for the events in Bree.  These times are:




Civil Twilight End (“Dusk”)


Nautical Twilight End


Astronomical Twilight End


The times are established from JRR Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, chapters “The Sign of the Prancing Pony”, “Strider”, and “Knife in the Dark”; from the essay, “The Hunt for the Ring”, published in Unfinished Tales; and from references to and citations from Tolkien’s original manuscript for “The Hunt for the Ring” published by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion.  Specific references to the events can be found and verified in the Entmoot thread, “Why did the Nazgűl drop Merry in Bree?


Again, these times are rough: they should not be considered exact.  There may still be (and likely are) errors in the time-line.  If you want to offer emendations or corrections, please post to the thread.


I want to thank the members of the Entmoot community for helping me with this.  People who posted in the thread with me include Gordis, The Dread Pirate Roberts, Attalus, Coffeehouse, CAB, Galin, Valandil, and Olmer.  My thanks to all of you, because without you, this would not have been possible.  In particular, Gordis, The Dread Pirate Roberts, Coffeehouse, and CAB posed particularly difficult or insightful questions and made comments that led me into this direction.  Gordis, you always push back hard, and I appreciate it!


For anyone who is interested, I began the thread because, although I have read The Lord of the Rings (many) more than 35 times, I never understood why the Nazgűl dropped Merry at Bill Ferny’s house when they could simply have kidnapped him and foiled Frodo’s escape.  The answer is that while the Black Riders were preparing to take Merry, Nob, the hobbit who worked for Barliman Butterbur at the Prancing Pony, began to shout at them while he was still too far away for them to silence him.  Had they continued, Nob could raise an alarm and rouse the town, and in the confusion, the Ringbearer might elude them yet again.  So they dropped Merry where he was.


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Rough Time-line



Remember: it’s not exact, it’s rough.


Time *

Oval: Version 6.1

good guys

bad guys



Black Riders

Ferny, Harry, Isengarder


Frodo, Sam, Pippin

7:45 PM

still west of Bree

follows hobbits

arrive in Bree

Harry at West Gate

8:30 PM

arrive in Bree

climbs over gate behind hobbits

3 Black Riders learn 4 Shire-hobbits have entered Bree through West Gate

8:45 PM

Butterbur takes them to parlor

Butterbur won't let him see Frodo; goes to Commons room

in Commons room at Prancing Pony

9:00 PM

hobbits eat dinner

9:45 PM

stays in parlor

go to Commons room

10:45 PM

goes for walk

Pippin gets "warm", talks too much

Frodo and Strider speak in corner

11:15 PM

sees Black Rider outside Inn; follows

Frodo has "accident"


one Black Rider outside Inn

see "accident", leave Inn, walk home

11:30 PM

reaches Ferny's house. 

Aragorn meets hobbits in parlor

Black Rider speaks with someone on other side of Ferny's hedge

Tell Black Riders about "accident"

11:45 PM

overcome by Black breath, faints

Butterbur shows up with Gandalf's letter; sends Nob to find Merry

one Black Rider leaves to tell Witch-king Ringbearer is in Bree; other 2 decide to take Merry

recognize Merry  as Shire-hobbit

12:00 AM

Nob yells at people lifting Merry.  Merry wakes, bolts to Inn

hobbits read Gandalf's letter

They drop Merry

12:15 AM

Merry bursts into parlor

Using information provided by Ferny, Black Riders plan an attack on hobbit-rooms on north side of Inn

12:30 AM

Frodo tells Merry what has happened

Strider and Nob fix hobbits' beds to look occupied.

12:45 AM

Strider barricades parlor; keeps watch all night


attack Inn








* Tolkien appears to have forgotten about an extra hour added year-round to British time during World War II.  See Entmoot thread, "Why did the Nazgűl drop Merry in Bree?"



If you want to insert this chart into a Tolkien forum post:


You probably cannot copy-and-paste this chart into your favorite Tolkien website.  Most Tolkien forums run using a program called vBulletin.  I know that Entmoot, The Tolkien Forum (TTF), SF-Fandom, Minas Tirith, and Barrow-Downs all do, for instance; however the [HTML] extension in vB Code is typically disabled for security purposes.


If you want to paste or insert a graphic version of the chart, use this line of code:


If there are any updates to the time-line, I’ll try to remember to put them into that file, too.



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Entmoot is part of the Tolkien Trail.  It maintains its own disclaimers.


Please do not simply plagiarize this chart.  I would be delighted for you to cite it, quote it, criticize it, and dissect it.  That's why it's posted here!  Just don't copy it and put your name on it.  For citations, please give credit to Entmoot:


If you are quoting or posting this chart in any Tolkien forum, just offer a link back to Entmoot at


If you publishing a book or magazine article, I suggest you cite this as

Entmoot, from the thread “Why did the Nazgűl drop Merry in Bree?,


If you want to comment on, amend, criticize, correct, or alter the rough time-line, please comment on it in the thread Why did the Nazgűl drop Merry in Bree?  If you are not a member of Entmoot, I am sure they would be delighted for you to join.



If you wonder why I spent so much time on this and seem so intensely interested in it, there are three reasons.

  1. I’ve wondered why the Black Riders dropped Merry in Bree since I first read the Fellowship of the Ring.  I just found out, and in addition, encouraged by my friends at Entmoot, I figured out what happened at Bree and how intricate it was.
  2. I worked very hard on this.
  3. It’s been therapeutic.  Now stop asking.



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FootnotesI never write anything without footnotes, it seems.


  * One of these days, English professors will discover what a remarkable, thoroughly professional job Tolkien did putting together the scene at Bree.  When they do, they’ll make undergraduates pull it apart.  After a while, other writers will begin to copy this technique, and studying the assembly of the scene at Bree will become a typical college exercise.  Some undergraduates, who might have loved Tolkien, will remember only the torture they underwent, and hate his work.  After a longer while, a few of the undergraduates will become high school English teachers, and they’ll make their high school students pull the scene apart.  Then high school students who would otherwise have loved Tolkien will come to dread studying him, rather than reading and enjoying his works.

  The source documents Hammond and Scull cite are Marquette MSS 4/2/36, which means “Marquette manuscripts, series 4, box 2, envelope 6”.  Tolkien sold some of his published and unpublished manuscripts to Marquette in 1958 for the sum of Ł1250 in order to pay his taxes.  (Humphrey Carter, Tolkien: A biography, Houghton Mifflin, copyright 1977, “Cash or kudos”, p 224)

  The Dread Pirate Roberts at Entmoot has reminded me, and I pass along to all you who read this, that the times for sunrise, sunset, and twilight should be in standard time (i.e., noon is when the sun it at its zenith) rather than daylight savings time.  Dusk at 6:16 PM on September 29, 2009, is for Greenwich Mean Time.  Tolkien used the phases of the moon for 1941–42 to write The Lord of the Rings.  (Hammond and Scull. Reader's Companion, pp xlv-liv)




This document was prepared by Alcuin,



Last updated on Monday 14 September 2009

Previous update on Saturday 14 February 2009