aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

A Tolkienian pattern

Reading through the supplementary material to The Lord of the Rings, we come upon an interesting statement: that there were three tribal groups of Hobbits, originally -- the Fallohides, Harfoots, and Stoors. Further mucking about in Hobbit history informs us that the Shire was settled by a group of Hobbits from Bree, led by the brothers Marcho and Blanco. For those who are paying attention, both those names mean some kind of "horse" in Old English. Just like the brothers Hengest and Horsa, who traditionally started the 5th Century invasion of Britain by the tribes of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Okay, so Hobbit history is modeled upon Old English history. That goes along with all the other cultural material which is so very Old English, including the names of their weekdays and months.

Meanwhile, when you read the Silmarillion (and go back and read The Hobbit in its light), you discover that there were three great kindreds of Elves who made the great journey from their place of origin to the Blessed Realm in the West: the Vanyar, the Noldor, and the Lindar (or Teleri). In going into all the tribes of Elves, Tolkien seems to be straightening out the confusion of old Jacob Grimm, whose inquiry into the nature of elves in Germanic legend could not find a satisfying conclusion. At least, so says Tom Shippey, and he publishes the evidence for us. So that makes sense.

But what, then, shall we make of the three Houses of the Edain, the Men called "Elf-friends" in the First Age, who became the Numenoreans, and created the realms of Arnor and Gondor after Numenor's Downfall? Does no one else not notice this motif re-occuring? Three tribes of Hobbits. Three kindreds of Eldar. Three houses of the Edain. The pattern is certainly there, it's not a mirage. "Three times is a threat," said Gollum, but there is no threat here. But is there a lack of imagination? Does the evidence run that way on its own, or is this the only pattern Tolkien knew? Is this a defect or a mere duplification (or triplification, as it were)?

We wonders, aye, we wonders.

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.