Monday, April 25, 2016

Family Life in The Lord of the Rings

Prompt from The Tolkien Society:  Carefully read the book you want to work from if you have not already done this. Note down and think about the way Tolkien writes about families. Does everyone in the story have a family? Are there any unusual families? Are the families happy or sad? What are the parents like? How do the children behave?

The first families we are introduced to are the Hobbit families.  Bilbo is an old man, so there is not much about his family to go off of.  We know that his father was the builder of Bag End and that he worked hard to build it for Bilbo's mother, Belladonna (mostly using her own money, we're told).
Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins, as portrayed in the movies.  The paintings were actually based of director
Peter Jackson and his wife, Fran.  Photo from Pinterest.
We also get to know Frodo's parents via some shifty gossip from the Gaffer and Ted Sandyman early on in The Fellowship of the Ring.
"You see: Mr. Drogo, he married poor Miss Primula Brandybuck. She was our Mr. Bilbo's first cousin on the mother's side (her mother being the youngest of the Old Took's daughters); and Mr. Drogo was his second cousin. So Mr. Frodo is his first and second cousin, once removed either way, as the saying is, if you follow me.

And Mr. Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall with his father-in-law, old Master Gorbadoc, as he often did after his marriage (him being partial to his vittles, and old Gorbadoc keeping a mighty generous table); and he wount out boating on the Brandywine river; and he and his wife were drownded, and poor Mr. Frodo only a child and all." 
Frodo's parents both died tragically, leaving him an orphan.  Since Frodo was Bilbo's favorite nephew, he went to go live among "sensible folk" in the Shire.  Bilbo was very hospitable towards Frodo by making him his heir and it seems like Bilbo and Frodo got along very well, and were very happy.

We also learn a bit about Samwise and his family, especially in The Return of the King.  His father apparently calls him names often, but it is clear that the Gaffer does care about Sam when he says he "hopes no harm will come of it" concerning Sam learning his letters.

The Sackville-Baggins are very hostile towards Bilbo and Frodo which shows a bit of the dysfunctional side of Hobbit familial relations.  They show irritation with Bilbo living so long and wish he was dead so they could get Bag End.
Middle-earth on Pinterest.
The Hobbits show interest for mapping out their family relations and take great pride in their family names.  Overall, it seems that--as with most things in the Shire--family life is generally very simple and pleasurable.

Moving towards Bree, we meet Aragorn.  Aragorn's father died when he was very young and his mother also passed away, making him an orphan, just like Frodo.  Aragorn lived in Rivendell with Elrond (his very distant uncle) as his foster-father, just as Frodo went to live with his uncle, Bilbo.  We can see some parallels between two of our heroes right there.

Elrond was very close to both his daughter and his wife.  His relationship with his sons is not detailed very specifically, but I think it is safe to assume they were close.  Celebrian, Elrond's wife, departed early into the West following her torture in the caves of the orcs.  Elrond tried to heal her but she was mentally and emotionally scarred and needed rest.  This leaves not only Elrond a widower, but Arwen and her brothers half-orphaned.  Both Arwen and Celebrian prior to her death, made the long trip to Lothlorien on occasion to visit their grandparents and parents, respectively, Galadriel and Celeborn.  This demonstrates how close they all were.

Arwen chooses to leave her family in order to start a new one with Aragorn at the end of the story.  This shows that she values change and of course, Aragorn.  From what we see in The Lord of the Rings (and partially in spite of what we see in The Silmarillion) the Elves have good family relationships.
... and Arwen Evenstar remained also, and she said farewell to her brethren. None saw her last parting with Elrond her father, for they went up into the hills and there spoke long together, and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world.
We meet Boromir, also in Rivendell who has an...interesting family life.  His mother, Finduilas, died young partially because she was unhappy in the city and missed the seashore, where she grew up.  This apparently left a deep impression on Denethor.  We also know that Boromir is directly and outwardly favored by his father, while Faramir is marginalized.  From what we see about Men in this area, they seem to have certain family problems.

The next major family we meet is that of Eowyn, Eomer, Theoden, and Theodred.  Eowyn and Eomer are Theoden's niece and nephew.  Their mother and Theoden's sister, Theodwyn died early (similar to Finduilas) which devastated Theoden.  Theoden's own wife also died an early death.  Theoden took in Eowyn and Eomer (again, similar to Bilbo/Frodo and Elrond/Aragorn) and treated them like family.  They were raised together with Theoden's son, Theodred which created a unique yet loving family.  Theodred died at the Crossing of the Isen.

Thoeden, following the burial of his only son.  New Line Cinema.
Theoden himself died soon after at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, leaving Eowyn to go get married to Faramir and live in Ithilien and Eomer to become the king of the Mark and marry Prince Imrahil's daughter.  Despite all the tragedy this family of Men went through, they still were loving and made it through.  This flies in the face of Denethor and his dysfunctional family.

Eowyn shows how much she cares about Theoden in this passage from The Return of the King:
"But no living man am I! You are looking upon a woman. Eowyn am I, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him." (emphasis mine)
We get a taste of all kinds of families throughout The Lord of the Rings.  We get a clear sense that a family doesn't have to be perfectly nuclear in order to be happy and loving as well as are able to draw some parallels between some characters based on their family lives.


Another debate update: Unfortunately, my friend has not completed his part of the debate (grrr...) so it's not going to be up for awhile.  So sorry!  We did watch An Unexpected Journey yesterday, but since the debate question concerns The Hobbit vs. The Lord of the Rings movies, we have to watch them all (apparently my friend forgot a lot about LOTR movies).  Apologies!

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