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"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
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Other namesIthil, Rána, Isíl, Phainakelūth, Nīlū
Locationthe sky
"The round Moon rolled behind the hill,
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!
The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late[1]

Ithil, the Moon, is a celestial object seen in the skies of Arda at night.



After the Darkening of Valinor and the destruction of the Two Trees, Telperion the White Tree bore one last Flower of Silver before its end. According to the lore of the Elder Days, Aulë and his people made a vessel to carry to the silver flower aloft, and Tilion, one of the hunters of Oromë; was granted the task of steering the new Moon through the sky.

Tilion guided his charge up into the western skies just as Fingolfin entered Middle-earth, and so marked the beginning the First Age. After seven lunar "days", Arien, the Sun also rose. The Moon first rose above Valinor in the far West of the World, but Varda came to change this arrangement, so that the Moon would pass beneath the World, and arise in the east instead, as it does to this day.

According to the legends of the Elves, Tilion was an unsteady steersman, sometimes dwelling overlong beneath the Earth, or appearing in the sky at the same time as the Sun. He was drawn to the bright new Sun, launched from Valinor shortly after his own vessel, and his coming too close to his fiery companion was said to account for the darkening of the Moon's face.

According to a tradition,[2][3], Melkor will discover how to break the Door of Night, and will destroy both the Sun and the Moon.

Lore of the Moon


For the Númenóreans, the Sun and the Moon - Ûri and Nîlû, called collectively also Ûriyat ("two suns") or Ûrinîl(uw)at ("two sun-moon") - were personified entities, the Man in the Moon and the Lady in the Sun.[4] They were the chief heavenly lights, and the enemies of the eternal Dark.[5]

This notion was carried over to Gondor, where the sons of Elendil each had either of the lights in his name: Isildur and Anárion, and with them their cities Minas Anor and Minas Ithil, and the lands that lay about them, Ithilien and Anórien.[5]


When the Hobbits were still a wandering people, their calendaric unit was not a 'week' , but a 'month', governed more or less by the Moon. However they adopted the weeks they had in the Shire Reckoning from alien peoples.[6]

In Hobbit folklore, the moon was imagined to be inhabited by the Man in the Moon[1]. Possibly this tradition was derived by the Dúnedain.


It is not known if the Moon had any significance in the Dwarven folklore and tradition. It is known however that the Dwarves had earlier based their calendar on the Moon. The Dwarven year begun with the first day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter[7]. However it seems that by the late Third Age the Dwarves adopted the Stewards' Reckoning[8], and few had the skill to calculate the Durin's Day.



The fact that the Moon in Tolkien's legendarium is connected to a male entity or person (like Tilion or the Man in the Moon), is obviously derived from the Germanic mythology where the Old Norse Máni is a male lunar god.

On the contrary, other mythologies of the world had connected the Moon with the feminine, like the Greek/Roman deities Luna, Selene, Hecate and others.

The gender of the celestial deity, is mirrored also in the gender of the noun for "Moon" in these languages (eg. French la Lune but German der Mond). This was also perhaps the case with some of the languages of Arda.


Tolkien was very careful in the moon phases described in his works, so that they fit the passing of days realistically. Tolkien was remodelling the phases while reviewing the book in 1944 so that he preserves the consistency. The moon phases described in the Lord of the Rings correspond to the phases of years 1941-2 and its probable that he used a recent calendar for reference[9]. Unfortunately, some minor errors (that can be detected only after thorough measurement and astronomical knowledge) slipped his attention (for example cf. September 22)


The mention that Hobbits and Dwarves based their year and months on the Moon, mirrors the lunar calendar used by several ancient cultures through history, such as the Hebrews. The observation of the Moon was very useful to calculate the months; the words are even related etymologically in some languages (cf. the English words "Moon" and "month")

According to Andreas Moehn, the orbital period of the moon as described by Tolkien, indicates that it was about 20 minutes shorter/faster than today[10]. It is not known if this was deliberate by Tolkien to mirror the astronomical fact that the moon has slowed down over the millennia by the tidal friction.

Other versions of the legendarium

Early concepts

In the early versions of The Silmarillion as described in The Book of Lost Tales Part 1, a part of the History of Middle-earth series, the Moon was described in great detail as an immense island of crystal. It was also said there that the youth Tilion was said to secretly be in love with Arien, the maiden who guided the Sun, and that because he steered the Moon too close to the Sun the Moon was burned, causing the darker spots on the Moon which in reality are caused by the great basalt plains known as Lunar maria.

The Man in the Moon is even described in those writings, as being an old Elf who secretly hid on the island of the Moon, and built his minaret there. This is alluded to further in Tolkien's Roverandom, where the Man in the Moon also lives in a Minaret.

In writings which are older than the material from which the publised Silmarillion was drawn, the Moon was described at one point rather as being created by Morgoth as a mockery of Arda the world, but this notion was abandoned.

Later concepts

In the Round World version of the legendarium, the Sun and the Moon were not the fruit of the Two Trees, but actually preceded the creation of the Trees. Instead, the Trees preserved the light of the Sun before it was tainted by Melkor when he ravished Arien.

Portrayal in Adaptations

1978: Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings:

The moon appears in the background of various scenes. In a notable animation error, it is visible behind both Frodo and Boromir when the latter tries to persuade Frodo to give the Ring at Amon Hen.[11]

2002: Vivendi's The Fellowship of the Ring:

The Moon - or rather, an image of the near side of the moon in the plenilune - is used as a backdrop for scenes playing at night, and appears recognizably in the sky in cut scenes. It appears behind Strider as he finds Merry in the streets of Bree,[12] behind the Watcher in the Water, [13] and behind the fell beast in the final cut scene.[14]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "The Drowning of Anadûnê"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 347 (dated December 17, 1972)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix D
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, A Short Rest
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix D
  10. The Moon and Durin's Day; However she doesn't explain her mathematical calculations that led her to this conclusion.
  11. Goofs,
  12. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), "Bree"
  13. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), "Hollin Gate"
  14. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), "Amon Hen"

External links