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Meriadoc Brandybuck

Saruman
Bree


Feb 7, 11:17pm

Post #1 of 25 (767 views)
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Meriadoc Brandybuck Can't Post

I like Merry, but I'd like to see what fellow fans think of some issues I am finding with his character, or lack of it. This is only my opinion, but I feel like out of all of the Fellowship, Merry is the least fleshed out and the hardest to identify with. I am currently on my third reread of LotR, and I still don't have a good grasp on Merry's personality. I feel like I don't know him that well. The personalities of the other hobbits are clearly defined and are relatable. Merry is perhaps most akin to Frodo, but Frodo has much more depth and is more sensitive. Merry's just kind of... there. During the journey with the Fellowship, he isn't given much spotlight. When he and Pippin are taken by orcs, Merry is knocked out and so Tolkien has no choice but to view events through Pippin's point of view, but it seems to me that this trend continues into Fangorn and beyond. When they're separated, and Pippin goes with Gandalf to Minas Tirith and Merry remains with Theoden, there isn't much going on with Merry except for his feeling sorry for himself, like he's baggage. I feel like I read the same sentence in different words numerous times in the chapters centered on the Rohirrim. I get that he's brave and willing to go to the end for the cause and his friends, but so are all of the Fellowship. Even though Pippin doesn't vocalize his bravery often, nobody can tell me that he isn't brave, even though Tolkien referred to him once as "cowardly." Merry's not cowardly, but what is he that makes him stand out?

"I have seen it..."

(This post was edited by Saruman on Feb 7, 11:18pm)


Cygnus
Lorien


Feb 8, 12:29am

Post #2 of 25 (670 views)
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Merry [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmmm, I hadn't really looked at it like that. You do make a good point.

"I found it is the small things.....everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.....simple acts of kindness and love." - Gandalf (movie quote)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 8, 1:10am

Post #3 of 25 (662 views)
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I'm not sure either Merry or Pippin are fleshed out that much [In reply to] Can't Post

and Pippin seems to gain attention usually by making mistakes that Merry never would (dropping the stone in the Moria well, stealing the palantir from Gandalf), so by default Merry is more sensible, most of the time. Merry is the one who has organized their departure from Crickhollow, and he accidentally helps Gandalf decipher the Hollin Gate riddle. In general, you'll notice Gandalf will criticize Pippin but I think he never does Merry.

Merry seems to show his stuff on the ride to Gondor and in saving the Shire from ruffians. But all in all, I agree what we have on Merry is pretty sparse. It took me several reads to form a good picture of him, whereas Sam and Frodo are much more developed.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 8, 10:17am

Post #4 of 25 (645 views)
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I wonder why that is? [In reply to] Can't Post

It does seem to fly in the face of advice I've often seen for writers which advises (or sometimes insists ex cathedra) that, aside from 'extras' like The Taxi Driver or The Barmaid, each character should be made distinct enough so that the audience can keep track. But maybe Tolkien just didn't do that? Aside from Merry-and-Pippin we have a bunch of not-very-differentiated dwarves in The Hobbit (it's pretty much Thorin, Balin, Fili, Kili, Bombur as a one-note character for jokes about fat people; and the rest of 'em are pretty interchangeable). And in the Silmarillion, the Valar are each introduced with a sketch, and then some of them do nothing much for the rest of the cycle - or at least nothing that has stuck with me.

Of course it comes in handy to have both Merry and Pippin later on, when it gives us a character we already know in each part of the action in ROTK. But from what I remember of reading HoME (Christopher Tolkien's collation and scholarly study of all his Dad's available drafts), a group of four hobbits setting out from the Shire was pretty well established before there's much evidence of planning for ROTK. So perhaps Merry and Pippin were there when needed, rather than them being created in order to fill their ROTK roles.

The number of four hobbits reminds me that Tolkien was one of a friendship group of four at school, two of whom died in the First World War. Of course, that could be a total co-incidence.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 8, 3:17pm

Post #5 of 25 (615 views)
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Interesting to compare them to the Dwarves in The Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think anyone can argue each Dwarf in The Hobbit had a full-fledged, distinct personality. They were there to make a viable group. If M&P started off that way in LOTR, then it must have been Tolkien's struggle to give them something to do along the way and someone to become, and it's rather telling that they don't come into their own until much later.

In general, it seems that hobbits perform the structural task of giving readers a "human" perspective on the story, so when Frodo & Sam are on the eastern theater, it falls to M&P to carry the weight on the western. If you think about Gandalf's ride to Minas Tirith after Helm's Deep, Pippin's main purpose is to listen to and break up Gandalf's expository monologue with periodic questions. It's not as if we learn much about Pippin on that ride, nor does he move the plot forward in any way, he's just there so Gandalf isn't talking to himself. And Pippin is like our tour guide to Gondor once Gandalf is off doing important things.

That's my analytical brain talking. I like M&P and can't imagine LOTR without them.


Roverandom
The Shire


Feb 8, 5:27pm

Post #6 of 25 (605 views)
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"Indeed Cousin Brandybuck is going in front now." [In reply to] Can't Post

Someone, possibly from these boards, once said that the author made these books "hobbit-centric" because readers can best identify with their sensibilities. The hobbits function as our stand-ins. Being the least experienced characters in the ways of the wider world, we are best able to discover the wonders of Middle-earth through their eyes. Almost every chapter is told, predominantly, from the point of view of a hobbit --- the only exceptions I can think of, off the top of my head, are "Fire and Water" (Bard) and a large segment of Book III which focuses on the Rohan sub-plot. My understanding is that, even without the presence of a hobbit, Tolkien chose to tell the story from the point of view of the character least experienced in the "magic" of the world, and so the mantle fell to Gimli.

This may be the reason that Merry is so often overlooked, as he is rarely the least experienced or least able character on stage (think Pippin in their chapters together), only standing in the spotlight during the ride to, and battle for, Minas Tirith.

This is actually what makes him a good fit for the story, in my opinion. While he doesn't present the powers or knowledge of a leader (until "The Scouring of the Shire", where he truly shines), he is capable of anything from managing the removal to Crickhollow to becoming option 1B in the unanswerable question of "Who killed the Witch-King?"

It's Merry who gets them across the Brandywine. He has the key to the gate under the Hay and steadies the others on the way into the Old Forest. He is the de facto leader of the Conspiracy, since it is his knowledge of Bilbo and the Ring that drives its purpose. All in all, he's one of my favorites, and he has one of the best lines of the book in "She should not die, so fair, so desperate."

For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the threshold of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 8, 6:20pm

Post #7 of 25 (598 views)
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and maybe Merry is the quiet one [In reply to] Can't Post

The hobbits sort-of correspond to that proto-psychcological theory of the four temperaments (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_temperaments ). Sanguine Sam, with his optimism and openenss to the wonder of the wider world balances out Melancholy Frodo, with his tendency to feel the misery of the world or go into analysis paralysis. Choleric Pippin craves action and makes quick decisions, not all of them good. Phlegmatic Merry (in this analysis) has more going on than meets the eye, and likes to help others out selflessly without making a fuss or drawing attention to himself.

One could, of course, totally overdo this kind of analysis. I don't know (and probably it doesn't matter) whether Tolkien had this scheme in mind, whether his characters turned out that way, or whether Merry is somethng of a blank surface of a character and I'm projecting things onto him. For me the question is - does it make the story more understandable or enjoyable?

Let's see - I do note that all Merry's key moments (sorry, no pun intended about getting into the Old Forest) are selfless. As I see it:

=>Merry won't countenence Frodo sliping off after Bilbo alone, hence the start of the conspiracy (which only later learns about the Ring).

=>Merry takes service with Theoden out of gratefulness for the king's kindness (c.f. Pippin who I see as somewhat needled by Denethor, and wanting to repay a debt to Boromir).

=>I think 'Dernhelm' recognises a kindred spirit and so understands why Merry must go of to war - to die with the rest of them presumably... (Eowyn is another quiet, selfless one - they're easily overlokd and the surprises if pushed too far!)

=>...and as you've said Roverandom, Merry makes himself get up and stab the WK not for glory, but because he's just got to help Eowyn and the King.

So it kinda works. And if so, then of course we don't 'see' Merry much - he's uncomfortable drawing attention to himself.

I'm not sure what happens if we swap Pippin & Merry - Pippin I suppose comes up with his own scheme to tag along with the Riders - Eowyn might not help him as he's just another pushy bloke (though a smaller than usual one); Merry would, I think, try to save Faramir, but I'm not sure he'd make the snap decision to go for Gandalf


(Time for a profile image change BTW: with any luck it says YMMV in dwarf runes a la Hobbit, and that certainly applies to the above,)

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 8, 6:37pm

Post #8 of 25 (589 views)
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We'd need someone more 'HoME-educated' to help [In reply to] Can't Post

Still me, despite the profile-picture change! Firstly - yes I like M&P too & wasn't arguing for chucking one of them out of the balloon.

Someone more 'HoME-educated' than me would know more, but if I remember there were four hobbits setting out from very early on in Tolkien's drafts. The names changed and I thought Bungo (the proto-Frodo) seemed a bit more Bilbo-like at first, and had some exchange of characteristics with the others. But I could be misremembering - I found it hard to keep track. As in the published work, Tolkien seem to be in a rush to make me see how teh characters differ (either that, of course, or things went over my head).

Clearly it was all up in the air in the early days - at one point Tolkien experiments with our dear F Bolger being captured at Crickhollow, being rescued from the Black Riders by Gandalf and turning up at Rivendell to meet Frodo there. I quite liked that and am not sure why Tolkien had to axe it. ;)

And of course Strider hadn't been invented at that early time, and was still Trotter, a travelling hobbit in clogs....

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 8, 6:42pm

Post #9 of 25 (583 views)
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Your avatar change--oh, I thought it was alien runic code for "Earthlings distracted by Tolkien; begin the invasion." // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 8, 6:48pm

Post #10 of 25 (589 views)
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That is a good Merry vs Pippin comparison [In reply to] Can't Post

And you're right about quiet characters--they can surprise you!

Some of my favorite moments in films and books are when you have a quiet, non-physical person in the company of people like Aragorn & Boromir, who are men of action and show it repeatedly, and the quiet person will upset the apple cart by stabbing or clubbing the Bad Guy when least expected. I think that's what adds to the greatness of the Witch-king/Pelennor scene. We expect a Rider of Rohan to do something physical and heroic, but the stab from behind by Merry catches you by complete surprise.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 8, 7:24pm

Post #11 of 25 (581 views)
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Yavanna Makes Mushroom Vol-a-vents, of course :) [In reply to] Can't Post

Or possibly Yavanna Makes Mega-hot Vindaloo, and that's why to this day elves glow in the dark*

--
*Don't worry, I know they don't really.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


hanne
Lorien

Feb 8, 9:12pm

Post #12 of 25 (576 views)
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Agree - and love that line too! [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think it's so much that we don't have a lot of Merry - we have a lot that adds up. As you and others point out, he deduced the existence of the Ring and led the conspiracy to organize the Crickhollow ruse. He was the local guide in Buckland and for part of the Old Forest. He led the Scouring of the Shire. He's interested in history - herblore and geneology and the things he learned in Minas Tirith. He's compassionate and notices how Frodo and Theoden and Dernhelm are feeling and thinking. And of course he's brave.

My theory is that he changes very little compared to the other hobbits, and that is why it's harder to feel he's a favourite character. Pippin grows up and matures, Frodo finds unbelievable strength within, Sam becomes a wise and resourceful campaigner, but Merry makes no similar great leap. Perhaps if Tolkien had put in a bit more about what it meant to have come under the Shadow of the Nazgul, but Merry bounced back even from that. He is mostly as he ever was.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 8, 9:36pm

Post #13 of 25 (568 views)
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Merry is incredibly insightful [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a little hard to think of Pippin or Sam having the reaction to "Dernhelm" that Merry did, though I'd expect it of Frodo also. This is empathy cranked up to full steam.


Quote
But when they had come almost to the end of the line one looked up glancing keenly at the hobbit. A young man, Merry thought as he returned the glance, less in height and girth than most. He caught the glint of clear grey eyes; and then he shivered, for it came suddenly to him that it was the face of one without hope who goes in search of death.



dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 9, 3:10pm

Post #14 of 25 (503 views)
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Anglo-Saxon Futhark? [In reply to] Can't Post

Not Dwarven runes? Shocked

YMMV (or U)?

Yes, Monsters Mash Vegetables?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 9, 4:48pm

Post #15 of 25 (505 views)
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The Sensible Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

We see early on that Merry is mature for his age, especially when compared to Pippin. He is practical-minded and detail-orientated. This is demonstrated at Bag End and the help he provides to Frodo after the departure of Bilbo.

"I reject your reality and substitute my own." - Adam Savage


Saruman
Bree


Feb 10, 3:31am

Post #16 of 25 (479 views)
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Agreed on many points [In reply to] Can't Post

I am glad that this thread has become an excellent outlet for discussion on dear Merry. I agree on many points that you all have made - Merry being the "quiet one," detail-oriented, mature for his age, able to lead while keeping himself out of the spotlight. He has a mind of his own, surely, which can be seen also when he ventured out of the Prancing Pony on his own, without letting anyone know, and fell victim to the black breath of the Nazgul.

I still think Pippin was far more fleshed out than Merry. For me, I really started to know Pippin in Fangorn. He's not dumb, although Gandalf would like to think so, as he was extremely brave and wise by discarding the Lorien brooch while in the company of orcs. As others have mentioned, we see Pippin change as the story goes on to a rather immature hobbit to a hobbit of great renown. As has been noted, Merry just doesn't go through any sort of obvious progression of character development because he's kind of the same throughout the story.

"I have seen it..."


uncle Iorlas
Rivendell


Feb 12, 4:12am

Post #17 of 25 (391 views)
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thoughts of Merry and Pippin [In reply to] Can't Post

Iím only adding on to a lot of whatís been said already. I think to call Merry ďthe quiet oneĒ is on point, as is the interesting take on the hobbits as the four humoursówhether the author intended this or not, I canít doubt he would recognize and understand its application and might well assent. (That also reminded me a bit of an old friendís theory of the Beatles as an encapsulation of birth order psychology: John the eldest, Ringo the youngest, George lost in the middle, Paul an only child forever looking for the long and winding road home. But anyway. Ahem.)

For my part I donít think either of our young hobbits is faintly fleshed at all (and a dismal judgment indeed that would be in the heart of a hobbit), certainly not so much so as Legolas, say, or even Boromir, or Gimli (and I mean no disrespect to those guys). When I read the book aloud to my kids, I give Pippin a higher, brighter voice, cheery and sort of self-consciously upbeat; but Pippin is impish, almost a trickster character in Bilboís own mold. More on him in a sec. Merry is conspicuously humble, even among his humble kind. I give him a soft, mildly melancholic voiceónot so very different from Frodo that way, fair enough, but still his own.

There are two principal character traits to Merry, I guess Iíd say. One, he is the mature one among the younger hobbits; he is socially proper, and also practical and forward-thinking, the one who lays plans. ďTrust me to arrange things better than that,Ē he says early on, and they do, and he does. The conspiracy and the Crickhollow house are his, yes, and he is the one who studies maps and histories while at Rivendell. Before we leave the Shire, he is a comforting, reassuring arrival, a bulwark against dangeródangers which grow as we come to know them, so that we will then need Gildor, and Aragorn, and Glorfindel, and the Bruinen itself, and Gandalf, to give us any comfort against them. As the world widens Merry remains small with the rest of them, of course, but he is still the one who knows the lay of the land, in Fangorn even as he did in the Old Forest. It is this aspect of him, his sensible and well-prepared nature, that leads him to sprout by the final chapters into the hobbit general, the one who plans out military engagements. Heís seen a few battles by now and apparently he was taking notes on those, as well. Good old Merry.

The other thing of course is precisely the contrast between his unpretentious, mild demeanor and the steadfastness of his courage (first remarked on by Strider back in Bree). This is a core trait of hobbits in general, of course, Tolkienís little Englishmen, noble and simple at once. Merry is the mildest of all our hobbits, so civil and sensible, sometimes berating himself for not making madcap gaffes like Pippin, and yes, feeling like useless baggage, immiserating in his own insignificanceónot by accident! No, all of that sets the stage for him to do the greatest single martial deed of anybody in the Fellowship save only Gandalf. Just as a nation of shopkeepers rose to victory, twice, against a terrifying, gleefully militarized aggressor. That particular sort of Cinderella story hummed in the professorís heart like an anthem. Of Frodo and Sam both powerfully embody this motif as well, but Merry no less so. And really the foundation of both his story functions is precisely that he is unassuming.

Pippin, now, is a bit set apart from the others in that way; he does put himself forward. He is puckish and a bit showy, at least by hobbit standards. For one thing, he manages to personally aggravate almost much all the available maiar in the book, which I love. But more broadly, he tends to inspire people by his speech and conduct. Not only in the Shire; Treebeard is rather taken with him, his thoughts guided by the young scampís influence, he crosses swords verbally with Grishnakh at considerable stakes, the Rohirrim and even arguably Saruman wonder at him and strain to understand his significance, and of course the entire city of Minas Tirith seems to fall in love with him, particularly Beregond but even Denethor himself a tiny bit. Ernil e Pherrianath they call him, prince of the halflings, and of course it is one of the quiet underlying Easter eggs of the book that not only does he verily look it, thatís exactly who he is, and always was, from birth. Pip is a miniature Aragorn, really, heir to the hereditary lordship of the Shire, in a country that has all but forgotten its royal line and leaves the position almost vacant, or at least there is a line of correct heirs who donít really claim their privileges. And that aspect of Pippinís character, that he stirs peopleís hearts and inspires them to act, places him in line with all the prodigal royalty of Tolkien: Thorin, Bard, Aragorn, Faramir. Most unquenchable. Not your average hobbit. He is of their kind and of their magnitude, of course, but heís the right Thain and the others are not, and because Tolkien is Tolkien, it shows.


hanne
Lorien

Feb 12, 4:23pm

Post #18 of 25 (329 views)
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but that's an awesome addition! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm glad you made it.


Saruman
Bree


Feb 12, 11:01pm

Post #19 of 25 (287 views)
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Bravo! [In reply to] Can't Post

You, my friend, write very well! Thanks a lot for your very insightful take on Merry & Pippin. I think you nailed it, and as I prefer Pippin over Merry, I was quite pleased and reaffirmed to read what you said about our most admirable and charismatic hobbit prince.

"I have seen it..."


uncle Iorlas
Rivendell


Feb 13, 2:15am

Post #20 of 25 (269 views)
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Well thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I just love all of them so much, I'm always happy to ruminate over them ad infinitum.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 13, 4:52pm

Post #21 of 25 (243 views)
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Another Bravo from me, too! Thank you for writing this. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Saruman
Bree


Feb 14, 2:28am

Post #22 of 25 (236 views)
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Dear Merry [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel like after this thread I have a better understanding of Merry. I will admit that I find him a bit bland compared to Pippin, but as you've all pointed out he was absolutely indispensable to the Quest, especially in his helping Eowyn slay the Witch-King. It wasn't his actions that I was lost on, more the uniqueness of his personality - which I think has been touched on nicely here.

"I have seen it..."

(This post was edited by Saruman on Feb 14, 2:29am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 14, 7:10pm

Post #23 of 25 (219 views)
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Fancy a Merry's Mathum tangent? [In reply to] Can't Post

...because this fine discussion cause me to remember this:


Quote
In his article entitled ďThe Social Context of Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England,Ē[5] Dr. Richard Underwood explains the significance of mathums, which in his modern text are referred to as gifts.

[W]arriors were rewarded for their service with gifts, particularly of weapons and armour, and, after long service, with grants of land. These warriors were in no way mercenaries, however; the relationship between lord and his warband was long term and was considered to be honourable for both parties. Personal prestige was considered extremely important. The value of gifts given by the lord therefore lay not only in their monetary worth but also in the prestige they brought. Gift Giving was both public and formal, and reflected well on both the lord, who demonstrated his ability to provide gifts and the warrior who earned them.

In return for their lordís generosity the warriors accepted a number of social obligations. The most important of which was the duty to fight in the warband and, if their lord was killed, to avenge him or die in the attempt.

Tolkienís knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon tradition of Gift Giving is clearly present in The Lord of the Rings. ...

The reason that …omer is prepared to shower gifts (mathums) on Merry is that Merry had fulfilled the social obligation placed upon him by entering into King Theodenís service (R.59; V.2), and by the previous bestowal of mathums of war gear (R.90; V.3). When all the other Kingís men had been killed or carried away by their terrified steeds, Merry had indeed come forward to fight with Eowyn as she stood between the NazgŻl and his prey, prepared to avenge Theodenís death, or die in the attempt (R.142-143; V.6). Merryís steadfastness in the fulfillment of his duty to the King had increased his honor and prestige beyond …omerís ability to bestow a gift worthy of it.

The narrator concludes Tolkienís exposition on the tradition of Gift Giving in this scene, with the explanation that ďMerry took the horn, for it could not be refusedĒ (R.316; VI.6). The gift was not merely a kindness, but a traditionalized obligation that bound the bestower to present it and the recipient to take it.

Sample from Mark T. Hooker's book 'A Tolkienian Mathomium (Llyfrawr, 2006)' - http://llyfrawr.com/mathomium/Mathom.html


~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


uncle Iorlas
Rivendell


Feb 15, 5:15am

Post #24 of 25 (203 views)
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Outstanding! [In reply to] Can't Post

I never picked up on this, but yes, it all adds up. I have lately enjoyed the game he's playing with his strong hints that the Rohirrim (somewhat anachronistic forerunners of Englishness, straight out of Beowulf) and the hobbits (somewhat anachronistically modern English commoners) are linguistically linked, that somehow their distant pasts are entwined, a relationship lives there (that is, little modern English kids, the valor of the vikings lives on in your inner resilience, you are still heir to all this martial glory). I knew "mathom" really was an archaic English word, but I never noticed another clear articulation of that theme riding on it.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Sun, 11:25pm

Post #25 of 25 (37 views)
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Merry was better with boats [In reply to] Can't Post

With the boats after leaving Lorien, Merry was the only Hobbit that had some idea about them and did not fear them. As opposed to Sam!

 
 

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