Merry wakes the rest of the hobbits up at 4:30 to get a head start on the Black Riders when leaving Crickhollow.

‘What is it!’ cried Merry. ‘It is time to get up. It is half past four and very foggy. Come on! Sam is already getting breakfast ready. Even Pippin is up. I am just going to saddle the ponies, and fetch the one that is to be the baggage-carrier. Wake that sluggard Fatty! At least he must get up and see us off.’

Do Hobbits have clocks or alarm clocks, and if not how would they ensure they didn't oversleep and not leave early?

  • 25
    My grandmother is not a hobbit, but she often tells me she never used an alarm clock the entire time she worked as a typist. She just woke up at the right time, every day, without fail. It's possible hobbits have similar abilities (except the lazy ones, who get other hobbits to wake them up) – DaaaahWhoosh Jan 26 '17 at 14:32
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    When I have an important early appointment I sleep lightly and almost always wake up before my alarm. I think many people do this. Certainly escaping the Black Riders is an important appointment. – Scott Jacobsen Jan 26 '17 at 16:33
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    Given that they have to keep track of 7 (or 6) meals a day, it seems likely hobbits have much better time sense than humans do. – T.E.D. Jan 26 '17 at 16:34
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    @WayneWerner I'm a programmer, and while I don't need an alarm to get up for work, I wouldn't rely on myself being able to wake up at a really early hour like 430 – user46509 Jan 26 '17 at 19:33
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    I'd say Hobbits rely on hunger...... – NZKshatriya Jan 26 '17 at 20:43

They certainly have clocks.

And of course they did none of these dreadful things, and everything was cleaned and put away safe as quick as lightning, while the hobbit was turning round and round in the middle of the kitchen trying to see what they were doing. Then they went back, and found Thorin with his feet on the fender smoking a pipe. He was blowing the most enormous smoke-rings, and wherever he told one to go, it went—up the chimney, or behind the clock on the mantelpiece, or under the table, or round and round the ceiling; but wherever it went it was not quick enough to escape Gandalf.

The Hobbit - J.R.R Tolkien

Bilbo took out the envelope, but just as he was about to set it by the clock, his hand jerked back, and the packet fell on the floor. Before he could pick it up, the wizard stooped and seized it and set it in its place. A spasm of anger passed swiftly over the hobbit’s face again. Suddenly it gave way to a look of relief and a laugh.

A Long-Expected Party- Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R Tolkien

There does not appear to be specific reference to alarm clocks...perhaps Tolkien did not consider it necessary to be that detailed.

Thing is...they probably bought or imported the clocks they did have from traders / travellers.

Tolkien gives us information on hobbits..in the Concerning Hobbits preface.

They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with tools.

[snip]...but they had long and skilful fingers and could make many other useful and comely things.

Thus it seems likely that they might have had the skill to make clocks, they did not have the knowledge or desire.

  • 29
    It's interesting how the Shire has clocks there's no mention of them in supposedly more "civilized" places such as Gondor. Tolkien is taking the reader on a journey into a strange land, and he wants us to identify with the hobbits who are undertaking this as an actual journey. Hence, the shire is described as being full of home comforts readers would be familiar with as a contrast to the more out of the way places which are made to seem alien, even when the inhabitants are friendly. – Matt Thrower Jan 26 '17 at 14:56
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    Plenty of folks would consider ALARM clocks to be uncivilized. :) Many people find that when their routine is regular enough they wake up on their own, binge drinking and all-nighters tend to mess with that, but when things are regular it's pretty normal to just wake up at your "normal" time. – Seeds Jan 26 '17 at 15:40
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    @Matt Thrower: Because those particular things establish a background for the Shire as a familiar place (to mid-20th century rural Britons, anyway). Gondor isn't a familiar place to the hobbits, so we see just glimpses of what they encounter. E.g. ordinary Gondorians might well have clocks, but Denethor is a great lord and so has servants to keep track of his appointments. – jamesqf Jan 26 '17 at 21:03
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    What do you think people did before alarm clocks existed, sleep in? They got up at the crack of dawn because of habit, sunlight, or perhaps a rooster. Drinking lots of water before you go to bed can also work as a "water clock". You'll wake up needing to use the restroom. – mbomb007 Jan 26 '17 at 21:47
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    @mbomb007 there was a job called "knocker upper" back before people could afford personal timepieces - it was literally someone who walked around at the right time of the morning (going by the public time keeper) and knocked on your bedroom window to wake you up. They typically had other nighttime jobs such as lamp lighter or night soil man, so knocker upper was a natural extension of their nighttime duties. – Moo Jan 26 '17 at 22:37

Paulie_D's answer points out that hobbits had clocks. Whoever made the clocks could surely have made an alarm clock, so there is no reason to suppose they didn't exist.

The hobbits had several things that seem a little out of place (more modern) compared to the rest of Middle-earth. Out of universe, I put that down to the fact that the hobbit society had already been described in The Hobbit before Tolkien fully developed the stories of the Third Age of Middle-earth (and settled on the technology that was available at that time).

I should also point out that it in past centuries, people managed to regularly get up early in the morning (for example, to milk cows) without alarm clocks.

One way that Merry could have been sure to wake up before 4:30 AM

This is the end of September, so 4:30 would be well before dawn. But if Merry needed to be sure he would wake up by then, he could simply have asked Fredegar (Fatty) Bolger to stay up all night and wake him early. Fatty is not traveling with the others the next day, so he would be able to catch up on his sleep after his friends had left.

  • This seems to contradict your last paragraph: "Wake that sluggard Fatty! At least he must get up and see us off." – Brian McCutchon Sep 22 '18 at 18:43
  • @BrianMcCutchon We can still hope that Fatty could have managed to stay awake if he had been asked. – Blackwood Sep 22 '18 at 18:46

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