12/21: International Chiasmus Day

Today is the 21st of December on the Orthodox Church Calendar or 12/21 in the US and 21/12 in the UK. Besides meaning that there are only four more days until Orthodox Nativity and the Twelve Days of Christmas, it also marks what I hope will hereafter be celebrated as International Chiasmus Day.

I think this day of all days is best for commemoration of self-echoing phrases, verses, passages, books, and series of books both because it is the only calendar date that has digits repeating the other in reverse order (I say “Fie!” to those offering up March 30th as 03/30…) and because it is the date by which Phileas Fogg had to complete his 80 days circumnavigation of the globe in Verne’s chiastic Around the World in Eighty Days.

Yes, I believe Verne chose this date to highlight the ring structure of the work in question; my 2013 post on the subject details how Fogg’s journey is an exact mirror reflection in forward and then reverse order, the return trip beginning with his sailing from Japan, complete with hilarious inverse parallels in the adventures Fogg, Passepartout, and Aouda have in India and America.

I have moved the date from Fogg’s calendar to the traditional Christian one because the Church calendar includes both solar and lunar components and there was a lot of kerfuffle about 12/21 in 2012. Too many people think “Mayan Apocalypse!’ when they see that date in December so I thought a move to Gregorian January might help. Not to mention the date slipped by me.

How to celebrate International Chiasmus Day? Sadly, Worlds of Fun, an American Theme Park dedicated to Vernes’ Around the World in Eighty Days (I kid you not) is closed until the Spring. And though you can fly around the world on commercial flights, believe it or not, in eighty hours, that is still a might long for Chiasmus Day as a single day. And trying to do it in eighty minutes? You’d have to break into Cape Caneveral or Bill Gates’ 401k to do that.

I think the best way to celebrate the day is to pick up a favorite book by an author that is known to have structural concerns and read that book chiastically, a ring-reading. This involves reading the first chapter, then the last, then the second chapter and the next to last, and so on until you reach the middle. Did you discover hidden correspondences? Is the ‘meaning in the middle’?

I’ll testify that this a lot of fun, especially with Rowling’s books and screenplays (and Galbraith’s!). Tomorrow I’ll share my notes on Crimes of Grindelwald when read as a ring composition. I look forward to reading your findings on Crimes or your favorite book. Until then, find a Palindrome Pal and get reading!






  1. Steve Morrison says

    This is also J. R. R. Tolkien’s birthday, but I can’t think of any book of his which uses a chiasmus structure (in spite of his subtitle “There and Back Again”).

  2. Fascinating! Of course, JRRT was a faithful Gregorian so he wouldn’t have acknowledged 1/3 as 12/21, but he was a ring writer. In spades.

    I have charted ‘The Hobbit’ as a two-fold ring and Kelly Kerr has convincing plotted LOTR as a chiasmus structure in remarkable detail.

    If anything, today being Tolkien’s birthday makes it especially appropriate that it is International Chiasmus Day. ‘Beowulf’ is chiastic as are several other of Tolkien’s favorites.

    I defer to Kelly Kerr on this and encourage you to take a look at his LOTR charts. The Tolkienistas I have sent it (with Kelly’s permission) have been astonished by the parallels and by the fact that this isn’t common knowledge in the community.

  3. Tyler Brown says


    Daily reader and first-time commenter—the LOTR ring structure stuff sounds fascinating. Could you direct us to where can we find Kelly Kerr’s work on the matter? I did some google searching with no success (maybe user error).

  4. Kelly tells me he will respond on this thread about how LOTR fans can get a copy of his charts. I hope he’ll share his explanation of them, too, but understand he is looking for a journal to publish it which only makes sense.

  5. Kelly Kerr says

    If anyone is interested in a possible chiastic structure of The Hobbit and LOTR, just email me at kxk220@yahoo.com, and I’ll send you what I’ve come up with so far. Thanks for the interest!

  6. Hi! I am a long-time reader and first-time poster here. Thanks so much to John for your work on this site and for offering to connect us with Kelly Kerr for more info on the chiastic structure of Tolkien’s work, and thanks for Kelly for offering to share!

Speak Your Mind