The LotR trilogy made some significant condensation to the timeline, with the Quest taking place immediately after Bilbo's 111st birthday, instead of 17 years later, as in the book.

This change in timeline was then corroborated by the Hobbit with reference to an adult Strider

As such, is there any official info, in the style of 'The Tale of Years', regarding the movie timeline?

Specially with respect to ages of the various players in the saga, and also with reference to years according to a Middle-earth calendar? As in, does the LotR movie trilogy still take place during 3018 T.A. and it is the Hobbit that has now been taking place around 17-years-later-than-in-the-books or vice-versa?

ETA Note: I am not looking for a comparison of the movie timeline with the book timeline, so much as just the movie timeline with extra bonus for any canonical movie mention of date. For example, this interesting movie canon tapestry linked in the comments below which put Year of Births on some of the dwarfs: e.g. 2746 (of presumably the Second Age) for Thorin.

So information like number of years passing between events, with bonus for actual dates of the 'They did this in numpty numpty numpty six of the Second Age' or 'Blippity Bloppity Four of the Shire Calendar' from sources in the movies is what I'm looking for.


2 Answers 2


A fixed point

The only complete date (day, month and year) explicitly cited in the movies is the day of the long-expected party, Bilbo's final birthday celebration in the Shire:

[Bilbo:] The 22nd day of September in the year 1400, by Shire reckoning ...
LOTR:FOTR SEE, scene 2 "Concerning Hobbits"

This happens at the beginning of the FOTR movie, in the first scene after the prologue, only present in the extended edition. Note that the opening scene of TH:AUJ (old Bilbo writing) and the final scene of TH:BOTFA (old Bilbo greeting Gandalf) depict events happening in the very same day.

Movies vs books: in the books, Bilbo's 111st birthday happens in year 3001 TA (Third Age) = 1401 SR (Shire Reckoning); we can easily reconcile this difference supposing a slightly different conversion for Shire reckoning.

General time frames

Bilbo's adventure starts 60 years before his 111th birthday ...

[subtitle:] 60 years earlier ...

[Gandalf:] For sixty years the Ring lay quiet in Bilbo's keeping prolonging his life. Delaying old age.
LOTR:FOTR SEE, scene 10 "The Shadow of the Past"

... and spans about 13 months (let us call this period "the events of TH"):

[Auctioneer:] “This is most irregular. Excuse me, it’s been more than thirteen months since the disappearance. If you are, in fact, Bilbo Baggins and undeceased - can you prove it?”

While there is no precise indication of how much time passes from Bilbo's birthday to Frodo's departure, we know for sure that the four hobbits' adventure spans 13 months too (let us call this period "the events of LOTR"):

[Frodo (voice-over):] Thirteen months to the day since Gandalf sent us on our long journey we find ourselves looking upon a familiar sight.
LOTR:ROTK SEE, scene 75 "Homeward Bound"

Movies vs books: the 60 years gap is in the book too (from 2941 TE to 3001 TE); I couldn't find a book quote concerning the duration of Bilbo's voyage, but the Tale of Years in Appendix B states that he left in 2941 TE and came back in 2942 TE, which is compatible with the 13 months of the movie; Frodo leaves the Shire in September 3018 TE and, together with the other three hobbits, re-enters at the end of October 3019 TE (13 months later).

The obvious chronology difference is the gap between Bilbo's and Frodo's departures from Bag End. In the books it's a 17 year gap; in the movies I think we can assume that Frodo leaves at some point in the year following the long-expected party.

Anyway, this change has no repercussions apart from Aragorn's age at the time of the battle of the five armies, as time expressions in the LOTR movies refer either to a moment following Frodo's departure (so the time difference is not affected by the gap duration), or to an event happened long before (so that a 16 year discrepancy is not so relevant).

The Tale of Years

Notable events in the distant past

  • ~ 3,000 years before the events of LOTR: forging of the great rings; Last Alliance of men and elves against Sauron; Sauron defeated; the one ring passes to Isildur; Isildur is ambushed and killed, the ring falls into Anduin

[Elrond:] I was there Gandalf. I was there three thousand years ago when Isildur took the Ring.
LOTR FOTR SEE, scene 24 "The Fate of the Ring"

[Gandalf (reading):] The year 3434 of the Second Age. Here follows the account of Isildur, the High King of Gondor, and the finding of the Ring of Power.
LOTR:FOTR SEE, scene 8 "The Account of Isildur"

Movies vs books: perfectly compatible; the only difference is the compression of the war of the last alliance to just the Dagorlad battle (without the several year long siege of Barad Dur), so that year 3434 SA (which in the books is the year of the Dagorlad battle) in the movies is also the year of Sauron's demise and the end of the Second Age.

  • ~ 500 years before the events of TH: Smeagol finds the ring

[Galadriel (voice-over):] History became legend, legend became myth, and for two and a half thousand years the Ring passed out of all knowledge. Until, when chance came, it ensnared a new bearer.
[Galadriel (voice-over):] The Ring brought to Gollum unnatural long life. For five hundred years it poisoned his mind. And in the gloom of Gollum’s cave it waited.
LOTR:FOTR SEE, scene 1 "Prologue"

Movies vs books: perfectly compatible.

  • ~ 400 years before the events of TH: a period of peace (for the elves? for the people of Imladris and Lorien?) starts

[Elrond:] “Gandalf, for four hundred years, we have lived in peace. A hard-won, watchful peace.” TH:AUJ

Movies vs books: It is not really clear what Elrond is referring to in the movies. The book cronology places in year 2509 TA the goblin ambush to a group of Rivendell elves travelling to Lorien (including Elrond's wife Celebrian), which could fit the definition of "last time the elves were attacked".

In the books there is a period called "the Watchful Peace", lasting about 400 years from 2063 TA to 2460 TA, that precedes the creation of the White Council.

Prelude to the events of TH

  • the birth year of many dwarves (including Thorin, Dain, Balin, Dwalin, Oin and Gloin) is depicted in the tapestry found by Bard in Esgaroth

Tapestry depicting the lineage of Durin
source Weta Workshop

  • unspecified date: Thror, father of Thrain, father of Thorin, is King under the Mountain; finding of the Arkenstone
  • unspecified date: coming of Smaug, sack of Erebor
  • unspecified date: Thrain meets Gandalf and gives him the map and the key

[Thorin:] “My father came to see you before he went missing. What did you say to him?”
TH:DOS SEE, Scene 1 "The Quest for Erebor"

[Thorin:] “How came you by this?”
[Gandalf:] “It was given to me by your father, by Thrain, for safekeeping. It is yours now.”
TH:AUJ SEE, Scene 7 "A Map, a Key and a Contract"

  • unspecified date: Thror tries to reclaim Moria and is killed by Azog; Thrain is captured

  • ~ 60 years before the events of TH: Smaug is last seen outside Erebor

[Thorin:] “Rumours have begun to spread. The dragon Smaug has not been seen for 60 years.”
TH:AUJ SEE, scene 7 "A Map, a Key and a Contract"

  • a Midsummer's Eve ~ 45 years before the events of TH: Gandalf meets a very young Bilbo

[Bilbo (voice-over):]
TH:AUJ SEE, scene 1 "Prologue"

  • somewhere in late Summer / early Autumn 2940 TA: Gandalf meets Thorin in Bree

(this is shown in the DOS prologue; "12 months later", as the subtitle says, we meet the dwarves in Beorn's territory)

The events of TH

(the Hobbit trilogy is really scarce in time references)

  • somewhere in April 2941 TA: Gandalf visits Bilbo; the unexpected party arrives at Bag End; Bilbo joins Thorin's company and leaves the Shire

no quotation for that, but TH:AUJ SEE BluRay menu has a background clip showing the interior of Bag End at the time of young Bilbo, and there is a wall calendar clearly showing the April page; in the movie, the month name can be seen in the lower left corner of this screenshot:
enter image description here TH:AUJ, source screencapped.net

  • Midsummer's Eve 2941 TA: Thorin's company is in Rivendell; Elrond reads the moon runes

[Elrond:] “Moon runes can only be read by the light of a moon of the same shape and season as the day on which they were written.”
[Thorin:] “Can you read them?”
[Elrond:] “These runes were written on a Midsummer’s Eve by the light of a crescent moon nearly two hundred years ago. It would seem you were meant to come to Rivendell. Fate is with you, Thorin Oakenshield; the same moon shines upon us tonight.”
TH:AUJ SEE, scene 19 "Moon Runes"

  • penultimate day of Autumn 2941 TA: Thorin's company is in Esgaroth at Bard's house

[Thorin:] “Tomorrow begins the last days of autumn.”
[Balin:] “Durin’s Day falls morn after next. We must reach the mountain before then.”
TH:DOS SEE, scene 23 "The Home of Bars"

  • first day of Winter (Durin's Day) 2941 TA: Thorin's company (minus Kili, Fili, Oin and Bofur) leaves Esgaroth by boat in the morning; before midday they reach the ruins of Dale; finding of the secret door

[Bilbo:] “You do know we’re one short; where’s Bofur?”
[Thorin:] “If he’s not here, we leave him behind.”
[Balin:] “We have to, if we’re to find the door before nightfall. We can risk no more delays.”
TH:DOS SEE, scene 27 "The Parting of the Company"

[Bilbo:] “What is this place?”
[Balin:] “It was once the city of Dale. Now it is a ruin. The desolation of Smaug.”
[Thorin:] “The sun will soon reach midday; let’s find the hidden door into the mountain before it sets.
TH:DOS SEE, scene 28 "The Lonely Mountain"

  • a few days later (2 or 3, at a guess): Kili, Fili, Oin and Bofur arrive in Erebor

[Bilbo:] “I have tried talking to him, but he won’t listen.”
[Oin:] “What do you mean, laddie?”
[Bilbo:] “Thorin. He’s been out there for days. He doesn’t sleep. He barely eats. He’s not been himself - not at all. It’s this - It’s this place. I think a sickness lies on it.”

  • 22 June 2942 TA: Bilbo is back at Bag End

enter image description here TH:BOTFA, source screencapped.net


  • I'm working on the list of time references in the LOTR movies, I will update the answer when finished (provided this answer is considered useful)
    – lfurini
    Apr 10, 2015 at 14:12

There's no official full timeline that I'm aware of, but we can work a few things out.

  • The prologue ("Concerning Hobbits") to the Extended Edition of Fellowship of the Ring places Bilbo's birthday party in the year 1400 (Shire Reckoning), which (assuming the same conversion system as the books) equates to Third Age 3000 (in the books Bilbo's party was TA 3001 or SR 1401).

    The 22nd day of September in the year 1400 by Shire reckoning.

  • The events of the Hobbit trilogy take place 60 years earlier, as is confirmed in the other question you link:

    For sixty years the ring lay quiet in Bilbo's keeping, prolonging his life, delaying old age...

  • In An Unexpected Journey, it is suggested that Smaug's attack on Erebor took place 60 years earlier again, compared to 171 years in the books.

    Rumors have begun to spread. The dragon, Smaug, has not been seen for 60 years.

  • Also in An Unexpected Journey, Elrond suggests that the defeat of Sauron was a mere 400 years earlier.

    Gandalf, for 400 years we have lived in peace ... a hard-won, watchful peace.

  • However, the Fellowship of the Ring states that Gollum had possessed the Ring for 500 years:

    The Ring brought to Gollum unnatural long life. For five hundred years it poisoned his mind.

  • And also that it had been lost for 2500 years before then:

    History became legend, legend became myth, and for two and a half thousand years the Ring passed out of all knowledge.

At this point I'll stop, because it's clear that there's little relationship between the timeline of the movies (in particular the Hobbit movies) and that of the books, and that even the internal consistency of the movies is doubtful.

  • It's worth adding regarding ages of characters that in the book Thorin is the oldest of the Dwarves on the Quest of Erebor, whereas in the movie he appears to be quite a bit younger.
    – user8719
    Jan 20, 2015 at 1:00
  • 1
    I think it's worth to mention that the actual events of both six films seem to be consistent in the Jacksonverse. A good example is the 17-year gap that does not exist in the FOTR and how that means that Aragorn is ~28 years old at the end of the events of the Hobbit (which is implied by Thranduil in his speech to Legolas at the end of the film), instead of the 10 years he has in the books canon chronology. Jan 20, 2015 at 1:06
  • 2
    You say "it is suggested that Smaug's attack on Erebor took place 60 years earlier again, compared to 171 years in the books", but I think the very text you quote says a different thing, unless you imply that Smaug destroyed Dale, attacked Erebor and immediately went to sleep and was never seen again; I think the movies suggest that, after the sack of Erebor, Smaug would often and for many years roam the surrounding area, thus creating the Desolation of Smaug.
    – lfurini
    Feb 8, 2015 at 16:29
  • Concerning Thorin's age: the tapestry, that in the DOS movie reveals the identity of Thorin to Bard, shows the correct birth years for Thorin, Balin, etc. In the Unexpected Journey EE extras, the filmwriters explain that they needed Thorin to appear younger for his claim to be believable to the casual viewers (= if he looks decrepit, no one will believe he can really hope to rule a kingdom and have a descendant that will inherit it).
    – lfurini
    Feb 8, 2015 at 17:17
  • @lfurini - hence "it is suggested"; I'm not making a definite claim here.
    – user8719
    Feb 8, 2015 at 18:21

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