Taking a Year to Read The Lord of the Rings



This year I’ve embarked on the project of reading JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings by way of his own calendar of dates, as laid out in the novel’s Appendix B, “The Tale of Years.” Each day I read as much of the story as takes place on that date. (I like to think that as a practising Catholic, Tolkien might have approved of this kind of daily “devotional” reading). The reading begins in late September, with Bilbo’s “long-expected” 111th birthday party, and concludes the following September, with the final chapter, “The Grey Havens.” Strictly speaking, the events in this final chapter take place over two years and end in October, but I didn’t want to draw the reading out too long, and I liked the neatness and circularity (like a ring) of taking one complete year to read the book.

Here is the schedule I’ve drawn up for reading the book. It should be noted that Tolkien’s Middle-Earth calendar give each month 30 days, including February. Since it’s not possible to read on days that don’t exist (in the book tomorrow is Feb 29th, not March 1), I’ve suggested reading the chapters that take place on these imaginary days on the day before or after.









Reading The Lord of the Rings by “The Tale of Years”

A suggested itinerary for a year-long reading, by T. Wharton


Sept 20: The Prologue

Sept 21: “A Long-Expected Party” up to “That very month was September….”

Sept 22: “A Long-Expected Party” continued to end.

Sept 23: “The Shadow of the Past” and “Three’s Company”

Sept 24: “A Short Cut to Mushrooms”

Sept 25: “A Conspiracy Unmasked”

Sept 26: “The Old Forest”

Sept 27: “In the House of Tom Bombadil”

Sept 28: “Fog on the Barrow-Downs”

Sept 29: “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony” and “Strider”

Sept 30: “A Knife in the Dark” up to “Whether because of Strider’s skill….”

Oct 1 – 5: Continuing “A Knife in the Dark” up to “It was already mid-day….”

Oct 6: The rest of “A Knife in the Dark” to end.

Oct 7 – 12: “Flight to the Ford” up to “At once they went on again….”

Oct 13 – 19: “Flight to the Ford” continued, to the meeting with Glorfindel and “The         hobbits were still weary….”

Oct 20: “Flight to the Ford”, final scene of escape across the Ford of Bruinen.

Oct 24: “Many Meetings”

Oct 25: “The Council of Elrond”

Oct 26 – Dec 24: “The Ring Goes South” up to “The hobbits had been nearly two months           in the house of Elrond….”

Dec 25: “The Ring Goes South” up to “They had been a fortnight on the way….”

Jan 8 – 12: “The Ring Goes South” continued to end.

Jan 13: “A Journey in the Dark” up to “Gimli now walked ahead….”

Jan 14: “A Journey in the Dark” continued to end.

Jan 15: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum”

Jan 16 – 17: “Lothlorien” and “The Mirror of Galadriel” up to “They remained some        days in Lothlorien, so far as they could tell….”

Feb 14: “The Mirror of Galadriel” continued to end.

Feb 16: “Farewell to Lorien”

Feb 17 – 23: “The Great River” up to “The night passed silently….”

Feb 25: “The Great River” continued to end.

Feb 26: “The Breaking of the Fellowship” and “The Departure of Boromir”

Feb 27: “The Riders of Rohan” up to “So the third day of their pursuit began” and “The Uruk-Hai” up to “Neither Merry nor Pippin remembered”

Feb 28: “The Riders of Rohan” and “The Uruk-Hai” to the end.

[Tolkien’s Middle-Earth calendar gives every month 30 days, including February. Chapters that take place on Feb 29 & 30th (“The Taming of Smeagol” and “Treebeard”) could be read on either Feb 28 or Mar 1]

Mar 1: “The White Rider”

Mar 2: “The Passage of the Marshes” and “The King of the Golden Hall”

Mar 3: “Helm’s Deep”

Mar 4 – 5: “The Road to Isengard”, “The Black Gate is Closed”, “Flotsam and Jetsam”,   “The Voice of Saruman”

Mar 6: “Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”

Mar 7: “The Window on the West”, “The Palantir”, “The Forbidden Pool”

Mar 8: “The Passing of the Grey Company”

Mar 9: “The Journey to the Cross-Roads” and “Minas Tirith”

Mar 10 – 11: “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol” and “The Muster of Rohan”

Mar 12 – 13: “The Choices of Master Samwise”, “The Ride of the Rohirrim”, “The Seige             of Gondor”

Mar 14: “The Tower of Cirith Ungol”

Mar 15: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” and “The Pyre of Denethor”

Mar 16: “The Houses of Healing”

Mar 18: “The Last Debate” and “The Land of Shadow”

Mar 19 – 20: “The Black Gate Opens” up to “So time and the hopeless journey wore       away….”; “Mount Doom” up to “The last stage of their journey to Orodruin     came….”

Mar 24: “The Steward and the King” up to “the days that followed were golden….”; “The            Black Gate Opens” continued to end.

Mar 25: “Mount Doom” continued to end.

April 8: “The Field of Cormallen”

May 1: “The Steward and the King” continued up to “In the days that followed his          crowning….”

May 2 – Jun 16: “The Steward and the King” continued to end.

June 17 – July 1: “Many Partings” (This is where the reading itinerary departs from         the chronology)

July 2 – Aug 1: “Homeward Bound”

Aug 15 – Sept 1: “The Scouring of the Shire”

Sept 2 – Sept 22: “The Grey Havens” and the Appendices.


Note: Reading the last few chapters by the dating of events would extend the reading to two full years (three years if you wait as long as events take to happen from Bilbo’s party to Frodo’s departure from the Grey Havens). The shorter alternative above allows you to finish on Bilbo’s birthday one year after you began. Alternatively, one could forgo Tolkien’s chronology altogether after the fall of Sauron on Mar 25th, and finish the remaining chapters at one’s own chosen pace; e.g., finishing on some pre-selected, significant date such as May 1st, when Aragorn is crowned king.







  1. Aidan Wotherspoon says

    This is really great and I’m glad you’ve compliled this, but you ought to note:

    There’s actually an eighteen-year gap from the first to the second chapter; on Bilbo’s eleventy-first Birthday, Frodo is coming of age at thirty-three, but he doesn’t set out from Hobbiton until the eve of his 50th birthday, just as Bilbo had done.

    • Thank you. Yes, in this year-long reading schedule I had no choice but to skip over those 18 years (and the other 2 year gap at the end of the novel, before Frodo leaves Middle-Earth), otherwise it would have taken me twenty years to read the book!

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