World-building Athron: Timekeeping: Months

There’s a lot of stuff that comes into play in world building that can be changed or tweaked that one tends to take for granted as far as our own world is concerned. One of the most prominent of these is time and how it is measured. I remember many years ago, the first time I read The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo, Aragorn, and the other hobbits are at Weathertop, they find a rock with markings on it that indicate that Gandalf was there on October 3rd (if I recall correctly). That always struck me as being really out of place. There are advantages to using our own month system in your fantasy world—it makes following time and place quite easy—but it lacks that mystical, magical zing we expect from our fantasy novels. The same can be said for weeks, hours of the day, or what have you. My favorite method for dealing with this issue is that devised by (I believe) Tad Williams in his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Basically, he uses a system of mnemonics. You use a system of parallel months to our own, all of which share the first three letters of their names with the corresponding months in our calendar or something similar. So, November becomes Novander, December becomes Decander, etc… I use a similar system in the world of Athron. Here is the list of twelve months and their corresponding names in our world:

Months of the Year
January – Januillon
February – Febrillon
March – Marill
April – Aprillon
May – Maistra
June – Junyer
July – Julyar
August – Augrillon
September – Septendra
October – Octanya
November – Novenya
December – Decendra

It’s not a perfect match, though. There are some subtle differences. In Athron, every month is thirty days long. This gives you a 360 day year which is close but not equal to our 365 ¼. I figure it is close enough to give the reader an intuitive grasp of the time of year an event happens in, yet different enough to make it feel alien. As a consequence, readers should be able to easily grasp the time of year a referenced event occurs in. Augrillon 12th? Okay, that’s roughly equivalent to August 12th. That means its late summer in the northern hemisphere, winter in the south, etc… This is, of course, assuming I’m using the same seasons as ours (which I do: summer, autumn, winter, and spring). Some authors devise their own seasons (the one that comes to mind is Brandon Sanderson in his Stormlight Archive series). If you take that route, that introduces a whole new host of issues. You won’t need mnemonics for your months, because they won’t ‘map’ to appropriate times of year anyway. In fact, you might find yourself doing away with months entirely. Regardless, the reader will have a difficult time following your new seasons unless you take appropriate measures to deal with them. Naming the seasons after something indicative of their nature (i.e. using another form of mnemonics like in Sanderson’s case, he named a rainy season ‘The Weeping’) is one avenue you can take.

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