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Old 11-07-2008, 05:46 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril Why Genealogies?

I've been wondering about Hobbits and their strong interest in their family histories - what motivates them, a fairly rustic people with little book learning, to busy themselves with genealogy? We read that their family trees are important, indeed, providing the contents of the only books that interest many of them at all.

Why would a folk so concerned with the immediate creature comforts of daily life spend so much time delving into the past? Is it because they show little interest in the future, not being very concerned with what is to come? Is it because they have almost no interest in matters of the big world outside of the Shire that they concentrate on small matters? Or is it the close-knit community feeling that inspires them to stress the links between the families, a desire for harmony in their society?

The other question that ties into this one concerns Tolkien himself; he said that he was a Hobbit in all but stature. I don't remember reading of any particular interest in his genealogy, but if he endowed his Hobbits with personal traits, it is possible that there was some of that in him. Would he have been desirous of proving his Englishness despite his German last name by concentrating on the English family tree?

Are any of you into genealogy and family history? What motivates you - do you see yourself as having Hobbit nature?
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Old 11-07-2008, 06:35 AM   #2
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Well, just a short comment from me now. I think most of what you said could be a part of the reason. But I also thought of something else, and that's what I thought of as the first, that simply Hobbits were so much of a rural simple folk, that they just had to have something "intellectually deep" to spend their time with. I am pretty sure they usually did not delve into complicated philosophical disputations, we know they did not construct complicated technological inventions, but let's face it, they must have had some "intellectual needs" and they must have ventilated them in some way. So they picked the genealogies. As good topic as any.
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Old 11-08-2008, 05:36 AM   #3
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The Hobbits of The Shire lived in a society modelled on that of Nineteenth Century rural England. In such a system, a person's identity depended not so much on his character or abilities as on the relative importance of his family and his "class".

Geneology becomes very important to you if your position in society and your prospects in life depend on how closely related you are to the more powerful, land-owning families.

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Old 11-09-2008, 10:03 AM   #4
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A very interesting thread, Esty, and a rare one, as I cannot recall seeing this topic discussed in the ancient days of the Barrow.

Selmo's response about the class-riddled nature of the English society upon which Tolkien based his Shire is a good point. It reminds me of a book I read as a youngster about young Victoria, someday queen and empress. Her tutors had been forbifdden to tell her where she stood in line to the throne but as she was filling out, at the age of 11, her personal family tree upon the death of her uncle George (the IV), and writing in Uncle William now as William IV, she asked her tutor how she should fill out heir apparent. At that point, her tutor broke with his instructions and informed her to write in her own name. What a welcome to puberty that must have been.

Yet who outside the British nobility and aristocracy kept family geneologies? In many Protestant families, family Bibles were used to record marriages, births, deaths--and how fitting, considering how often "begats" form the record of the early books of the Bible. Yet I don't think the record of family histories is so easily traced for the lower classes.

Yet kinship is a fascinating topic, for that is essentially what geneologies trace. And kinship became a focus of formal study only in the late Victorian era and was predominant in anthropology in the early twentieth century, when Tolkien was himself an academic involved in, if one may say, the geneology of languages. Certainly his own created languages display an interest in language trees.

For anthropology of the early twentieth century, studying kinship systems was limited to studying early cultures, not the so-called modern Western cultures. So study was focussed on such societies as the various Aboriginal tribes of North America, Inuit groups in the north, south Pacific societies, and some African and Australian groups. Was Tolkien influenced by this focus on so called "primitive" cultures to give his hobbits an extensive kinship system, as a way of differentiating them from the elevated societies of elves? If so, he does not really give us much sense of what obligations this kinship created, of what obligations were involved in the organising of society this way. We know that Bilbo adopted his nephew Frodo upon the death of Frodo's parents. And we know something about the Sackville-Baggins' view of the kinship, which seems to have developed through extensive intermarriage. But we aren't really sure if degrees of kinship are related to inheritance or succession or how they created, if at all, patterns of behaviour in The Shire.

In a recent post (which I don't have time to find at the moment), Squatter of Amon Rudh suggested that the hobbits were a faulty society which had forgotten their mythological origins, a form of learning and history not forgotten in Gondor. If one accepts this valuation, it does seem that the hobbits' interest in family trees is regarded as a petty learning. Yet we do know how Arwen was related to Aragorn and that she was lost to history upon her death--having chosen mortal men. The elven kinship seems clearly related to inheritance and succession and we don't know if the non-ruling elven families had the same interest in family trees that hobbit families had.

So, was Tolkien merely borrowing the anthropological focus on indigenous cultures to characterise his hobbits? Or was something more involved, something which would prompt a Frodo to accept an obligation to preserve the group?
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Old 11-09-2008, 12:18 PM   #5
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correct spelling: genealogy
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Old 11-09-2008, 01:17 PM   #6
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So, was Tolkien merely borrowing the anthropological focus on indigenous cultures to characterise his hobbits? Or was something more involved, something which would prompt a Frodo to accept an obligation to preserve the group?
I think it might perhaps be a bit of both, although I'm most inclined to think that Tolkien was attempting to make the Hobbits the "most English" of the peoples of Middle-earth. Genealogy appears to be a pastime of the mortals rather than the immortals, no doubt because there are more generations of Hobbits and Men than there are of Elves (and possibly of Dwarves, but being secretive in nature, we know less about them). There are certainly aspects of the importance of lineage among the descendants of the Numenoreans; remember Faramir's comment to Frodo, "Kings made tombs more splendid than houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons." I find it interesting that the tracing of family history is a common interest among the "lowly" Hobbits and the "high" Numenoreans, particularly since it seems a more wholesome pursuit among the Hobbits. The Men of Gondor seem to have made it into something not exactly twisted, but also not quite healthy. In the Hobbits, it feels more like a connection to life, remembering all your relatives as part of one large family. And among the Numenoreans, it feels like a preoccupation with death and an attempt to gain some kind of immortality, in memory if not in the flesh. I often think that the people I know who are genealogy buffs are like the Numenoreans, searching for the nobility of their ancestors so that they can become a part of a family tree that will never die, since they themselves will, and fear becoming forgotton.
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Old 11-09-2008, 01:42 PM   #7
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Wow, Ibri, it does not allow me to give you a reputation right now, so let me say it just here that I find what you said here very well-thought and very well said, and I would agree with what you say here about both the Hobbits and the Númenoreans (or Men in general, with the kind of "wish to preserve immortality by setting their name into a part of something", either history or inscribing it into stone somewhere. Hey, do not - or did not, maybe? Not as much anymore nowadays? - humans actually do that always, trying to find themselves immortality as part of something that transcends them, a history of a noble family, or a history of a country, a history of a movement?). The only question here would be - how do the Elves fit into the picture? What role does genealogy play among their kind? Except for the status of e.g. inheriting the title of the King of Noldor, there seems not to be much point in that. So, for myself, I would say that the Elves, except for when it comes to inheriting such a title, would actually have little interest for the genealogy themselves, neither of their own (since they could as well just remember it anyway, who is whose cousin, with their long lifespan, even if it had any high importance which I somehow doubt) nor of any other peoples (simply as, said with Lindir, "they have more important matters on their hands"). Maybe with the slight exception of following the lineage of Lúthien, which, however, was just a single and special case. But otherwise, probably just this High King of Noldor heritage and such.
Anyway I still think it is kind of weird for the Elves to have any hierarchy of nobility (an inherited one, the more) in their society at all. But that would be for a different topic.
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Old 11-09-2008, 02:07 PM   #8
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Anyway I still think it is kind of weird for the Elves to have any hierarchy of nobility (an inherited one, the more) in their society at all. But that would be for a different topic.
Actually, I've often thought that (especially when I read things that make much of Legolas being "an Elven prince" ). "Prince" can merely mean the son of a king, not necessarily someone being groomed to inherit a throne that may never be emptied. Perhaps it made more sense in Middle-earth, where the minions of evil made life more dangerous, and even Elven kings could be slain, never to return to their throne. Even so, I tend to feel that the Elves place less importance on such lineage, because of their immortality, and the fact that two out of three of their first kings are still alive. Some of their family trees are quite short, since few of the Elves appear to have had more than two or three children, and they appear to take a long time before they even decide to contemplate marriage. Because LotR is "Hobbit-centric," the ways of the Elves seem perhaps more mysterious, but to me, it feels as if they are more concerned with finding fulfillment in their own lives than in reflection on the achievements or station of their ancestors -- many of whom are still around and active. In fact, it seems to me that the Elves who do put too much stock in their lineage (as in Feanor and his sons) come to unhappy ends. But that, too, could well be for a different discussion.
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Old 11-10-2008, 05:31 AM   #9
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Another thought on the importance of Genealogies:

Perhaps Tolkien first created genealogies for the First Age and earlier simply as a writers tool to help him keep track of who was who among the large number of characters. Were they ever intended for publicatuion?

Having got into the habit he just carried on when he came to write LoTR.
Having the family trees avaiable, perhaps making Hobbits obsesive about family connections was just an afterthought on Tolkien's part, to add a little more colour to Hobbit society.
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Old 11-10-2008, 12:29 PM   #10
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correct spelling: genealogy
Oops! My English skills have obviously diminished since living in Europe. I will edit the title and my first post so that they are correct. Thanks, Gwath!

Thanks to all who have added their thoughts to the discussion - I very much enjoy reading them. Selmo brings in an important British cultural aspect which is quite relevant. Interesting thought on philosophical depth, Legate!

Thanks for the cultural and anthropological comparisons, Bb - lots of food for thought there. Ibrîn, that's a very good quote on the Gondorian relationship to genealogies. Your thoughts on the connection between family trees and immortality are fascinating. Legate carries on what the two of you began, reflections on Elves and family history. It is interesting to realize that their ancestors were often still alive! I wonder, are family trees only interesting when the people listed on them are dead and gone?

Selmo, your last thought is quote practical - we know how much easier it is to keep track of historical (and faux-historical) characters when we have a written family tree on which to locate them.

I'm very much enjoying all of the contributions here!
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Old 11-10-2008, 02:34 PM   #11
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It seems to me genealogy is important amongst all the free peoples of Middle Earth, Elves included. Ibrin has already noted how much lineage seem to matter for the ex-Numenorians, with the dogmatic principles regarding the succession to the throne as the obvious example. When Eärnur was lost and Mardil took over the governance, his Stewardship became inheritable, but despite the passing of more than a thousand years they never ascended the throne, which is remarkable and I would be surprised if a real-life parallel to this could be found.

As for the Elves, I suppose the formal study of genealogy is less needed, as has been noted, since they are immortal within the limitations of Arda, and since most of their ancestors still exist, in Middle Earth or in the West. Their memory is also near flawless, and as the mind of most Elves seem to linger in the past, their family history would be lucid without the need for any formal, academic study. Lineage and Kinship seem to matter as much to them as it does to the Numenorians though. Once again, the obvious example is the succession order. One would think Elrond should be entitled to the High Kingship of Noldor (something more than just a formal title, I'd say) being a direct descendant of Finwe, but I suppose he isn't considered because he isn't a descendant father to father (His grandmother Idril, daughter of Turgon, once High King, being the missing link).

Note also that Gildor introduces himself to the Hobbits as "Gildor Inglorin of the house of Finrod", indicating that kinship is a big deal also to Elves. When Elrond speaks of Frodo, he is also "Frodo, son of Drogo". If lineage mattered little to Elves, he would not name him like this, I believe. There are other examples I can think of but I will leave it as this for the moment.
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Old 11-10-2008, 02:40 PM   #12
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Selmo's probably right. Tolkien created them so he probably thought he might as well pop them into the books as well, as they'd be as useful to the reader as to the writer - and hands up all those who have had a go at writing fantasy and have drawn up family trees. Heh, I bet most people have - along with that other staple, drawing a map (which is something else Bilbo liked).

Though it's not quite as poetic a reason for having them, I'll admit.

I happen to think Hobbits maintained records of ancestry mostly for purposes of determining inheritance, though that doesn't stop it from being a fascinating pastime to look up who they may be related to and so on...

However, genealogy was an important area of study for the upper classes, as lineage determined not just inheritance of fortunes but of nations - take a look at the family trees descending from Edward III And for those concerned with 'bloodlines' they determine pedigree, class and breeding - look at Jane Austen's snootier characters like Lady Catherine De Bourgh.

These days genealogy is an absorbing pastime enjoyed by people from all sorts of backgrounds, and I like to think this is in part due to how families are now spread out on a national and global scale and yet people still like to have some sense of roots, which they hope to find through searching their ancestry. I think in particular it affects those who live in 'colonised' countries like the USA and Canada as even though families may have been there for centuries, it's always intriguing to think of how/why they got there in the first place.

Would ordianry Elves need to maintain family trees? After all, they could just go and ask their great-great-aunt, couldn't they?
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Old 11-11-2008, 09:31 AM   #13
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I happen to think Hobbits maintained records of ancestry mostly for purposes of determining inheritance, though that doesn't stop it from being a fascinating pastime to look up who they may be related to and so on...
Interesting ideas all round here, especially the point that the elves didn't need written records as they had the original witnesses still around, for the most part.

Well, cultures the world over used genealogies to determine not only inheritance but to define the limits of incest--who could marry who. Given the fecunity of hobbits, this probably was also a valuable function.

The Gondorian attitude is clearly more political than the attitude in The Shire, which to me still seems to harken back more to aboriginal cultures. For instance, we have the example of Gollem/Smeagol's branch of the hobbits, which apparently is (was?) matriarchial and used shunning as a form of communal punishment, which was (is?) used by religious groups to condemn proscribed behaviours whereas Gondor seems to be more legalistic. Perhaps this is simply because of the role of the Stewardship, which takes central focus on Gondor, and we hear little about other families. Hobbits seem to be a form of social or cultural organisation that is still largely based on the extended family rather than the nuclear family. Of course, it still didn't stop denizens of The Shire from typecasting families, such as the Tooks. At the very least, the family trees in The Shire suggest a conservative culture.

Is anyone very conversant in kinship in Viking/Scandinavian cultures? All I know is the prevalent use of patronymics rather than surnames.
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Old 11-11-2008, 01:50 PM   #14
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Well, cultures the world over used genealogies to determine not only inheritance but to define the limits of incest...
Hmmm...that puts a whole new slant on a phrase such as "Being Merry with Mr. Bilbo is not always Rosie. "

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Is anyone very conversant in kinship in Viking/Scandinavian cultures? All I know is the prevalent use of patronymics rather than surnames.
I'm not too conversant in Nordic cultural naming conventions, but patronymics are most prevalent (Gottfredson, Ericson, or the Icelandic/Faroese dottir for female descendants); however, it seems patronymics are just as endemic in English history (perhaps the Anglo-Saxon variant?), with naming conventions ending in -son (Smithson, Williamson, Johnson, etc.), and in Irish and Scots genealogy (the O prefix in O'Neil, or Mc or Mac in McClellan or MacDonald).
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Old 11-11-2008, 02:43 PM   #15
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Icelanders still use patronyms, genetive form of father's name + son/daughter depending on gender of child. Women always keep their patronymic surname whether they marry or not.
Matronyms are sometimes used in today's egalitarian society and also occasionally in Viking/Old Norse times.
Vikings would also use nicknames, for example Aud the Deepminded was daughter of Ketil Flatnose.
This is a fascinating subject on which I have a LOT to say, when I have time. Be warned. Icelandic has a lot of names for different kinds of relations which I just can't *wait* to bore you with.
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Old 11-15-2008, 01:02 PM   #16
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I'm not too conversant in Nordic cultural naming conventions, but patronymics are most prevalent (Gottfredson, Ericson, or the Icelandic/Faroese dottir for female descendants); however, it seems patronymics are just as endemic in English history (perhaps the Anglo-Saxon variant?), with naming conventions ending in -son (Smithson, Williamson, Johnson, etc.), and in Irish and Scots genealogy (the O prefix in O'Neil, or Mc or Mac in McClellan or MacDonald).
Umm, well, is there an English/Scottish/Welsh/Anglo Saxon version of the -dottir variant? I don't think so. We've got tons of -sons but no Stuartdottir or Jamesgirl. And Rosie was Rosie Cotton, not Tomsdaughter.
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Old 11-15-2008, 01:22 PM   #17
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Umm, well, is there an English/Scottish/Welsh/Anglo Saxon version of the -dottir variant? I don't think so.
I don't believe I ever inferred there was. *shrugs*

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We've got tons of -sons but no Stuartdottir or Jamesgirl. And Rosie was Rosie Cotton, not Tomsdaughter.
Well, as females were mere chattel in jolly old England, what would be the point of recognizing them?

*runs for cover in case of possible feminine animosity*
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Old 11-16-2008, 03:09 PM   #18
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Apart from Icelanders, the only other people I know that still keep the male/female patronymic system are the Russians: ov/ova; ev/eva.
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Old 11-16-2008, 03:11 PM   #19
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Apart from Icelanders, the only other people I know that still keep the male/female patronymic system are the Russians: ov/ova; ev/eva.
A patriotic note: not just Russians. I believe all the Slavic nations have something like that...
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Old 11-16-2008, 04:11 PM   #20
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I find it interesting that the tracing of family history is a common interest among the "lowly" Hobbits and the "high" Numenoreans, particularly since it seems a more wholesome pursuit among the Hobbits. The Men of Gondor seem to have made it into something not exactly twisted, but also not quite healthy.
With the Numenorean aspect, and especially during the third age it makes sense why those of nobility living in or outside of Gondor would be concerned so much with bloodlines. Faramir gives us an example when he reflects to Frodo about his brother asking how long it would take for their father (or himself) to become a king if a king didn't return, and Denethor replies, "Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty … In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice." Being in such a hotseat as the stewardship could give some governing reason why they would be choosey over whom they married.

Hobbits, except for a few (sackville-baggins par example), seem to use it as a more involved method of cultural and heritage celebration. There doesn't seem to be so much pressure put on preservation as merely enjoying your family, or less than favourably get something out of them (Bilbo's silver spoons incident). In a way it gives them a strength that other societies in middle earth might lack, such as strength in relation and greater connections of kinship. Frodo's 'taking in' by the Brandywine branch and Bilbo's adoption are a few examples of this.

Some members of my mom's family have the 'Numenorean view', but as for my immediate family and my dad's family we're related to far too many people from anywhere and everywhere that its kind of useless trying to gain 'acceptance' to any long lost nobility. Plus it's all rather silly.
So, I guess I have more of the hobbit view on things, it's kind of nice to find out every few years or so who else you're related to, but I'm more into recognizing even 'fictive kinship' than someone who is rather distant and I probably never will know.
(Fictive kinship is where, for example using m'self, your mother's best friends might be called and treated as 'auntie' or 'uncle', or you have a best friend for ages and they become your 'sister' and a 'daughter' to your family and vice versa).

~ Ka
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Old 11-17-2008, 03:55 PM   #21
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A patriotic note: not just Russians. I believe all the Slavic nations have something like that...
There is also Ni/Nic in Irish Gaelic, the female equivalents to O/Mac, and now being used more widely by revivalists. If you look on any random Irish folk music album you'll probably find a woman using this.

I have a feeling there's also a Welsh version of this but I'll have to dig out my surnames books.
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Old 11-20-2008, 12:25 PM   #22
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Okay.
In this respect – to go back to Esty’s original question – I am most definitely a hobbit. I can look at any family tree, no matter how complicated, and immediately take in all its details and understand all the relationships involved. Same as an electrician looking at a circuit board. I had no idea that this was an unusual skill until I realised that most of the English people around me can’t do it. It’s cultural or genetic programming, I suppose.
There’s a whole area of language linked to kinship, too. ‘Cousin/uncle/aunt’ is far too general. You would be a mother-brother (móđur-bróđir) grandfather-sister (afa-systir) or sibling-children (systkynabörn).
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happen to think Hobbits maintained records of ancestry mostly for purposes of determining inheritance
I don't agree about this, I think Ka is spot on with her ideas of Numenorean and hobbits family interest.
Hobbits I think are like Icelandic geneaologists, it’s got bugger all to do with inheritance - it’s all about knowing who you are and where you come from. Your extended family is a part of your identity – it’s about how you define yourself and also how others define you. You meet someone for the first time, you might view them with circumspection, and then you realise they are so-and-so’s first cousin or grandchild or whatever, and everything falls into place and calms down.

Also, claims of kinship are sacrosanct. (I should know, I’ve just my father’s first cousins staying for four days and I couldn’t even remember what one of them was called, when they first arrived, I had to text my mum.)

I can also really relate to Frodo’s friendship with his cousins Merry and Pippin. I think the easy camaraderie of the hobbits of the Fellowship comes from kinship – not the claustrophobic closeness of siblings, but the looser, friendlier and more tolerant bonds of cousinship. I go on holiday all the time with my cousins and their families, but not so much with my brothers.
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Old 11-20-2008, 05:43 PM   #23
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Hi Lal and all,

good thread indeed, the Welsh system was 'Ap' for son-of and 'Verch' for daughter-of, though it was apparently ia bit more tricky at times -

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Many idiosyncrasies exist in Welsh naming patterns: Patronymics, for example (see Gwynedd Roots No. 32) and the following pattern.

As an example of the old-fashioned habits of Beddgelert in my early days, I may mention the way in which wives and children used to be named. The custom was that the wife never took her husband’s family name, but retained the one she had as a spinster. Thus, my grandmother on my mother’s side was called Ellen HUGHES, daughter of Hugh Hughes of Gwastad Annas. The name of her husband, my grandfather was William PRICHARD, son of Richard WILLIAM, of the Efail Newydd. The name of their eldest son, my uncle (brother to my mother) was Hugh HUGHES and the second son’s name was Richard WILLIAMS. The mother had the privilege of naming her first born after her own family, in case it was a boy; but if it happened to be a girl, she took her name from the father’s family, for which reason my mother’s maiden name was Catherine WILLIAMS. This remained her name to the day of her death, and the old people of Beddgelert persisted in calling me, so long as I was at home, William PRICHARD, after my grandfather, as I was my mother’s eldest child.

Another variation of the above naming custom was to name the eldest son after his paternal grandfather, and the eldest daughter after her paternal grandmother. The second son and daughter took the names of their maternal grandparents and the third son and daughter the names of their parents.
Of course this a bit much for the English to understand so Ap-Rhys went to Price, Ap-William went to Williams etc.
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Old 12-21-2011, 06:51 PM   #24
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Let me bump this one up, seeing as I've been almost completely immersed in family tree research for some time now and it interests me...

I was thinking about exactly how Hobbits would even begin to go about family tree research, or if they simply enjoyed reading family trees that were already drawn up. Because just looking up a completed family tree is a very different thing to actually doing the lengthy and very expensive research yourself.

To compile a tree, a Hobbit would need lots of accurate records to look up. There must have been some kind of administration in The Shire given that there is a Mayor and it is divided up into regions, but did they register events such as births/marriages/deaths in any way? Did they take part in official ceremonies for these and thus leave some kind of 'parish record'? Or did someone simply record events in a communal book that had been held and annotated by previous generations? Hmmmm...

I do think that a primary concern for Hobbits was inheritance, given that 'headships' of families seemed to be inheritable (even if they didn't necessarily come with any land - see the next head of the Baggins family after Bilbo and Frodo left) and also that in some families they seem to have been restricted to males only. The Baggins 'headship' bypassed several females with a strong claim and went to males only, even if they were distant on the tree, whereas the Sackville line could obviously pass through a female branch of the tree (Otho inherited his Sackville name from his mother).

I say that objectively, as someone who is knee deep in my own research and neither expecting nor hoping to find anyone who was anything more than 'umble. I find pure pleasure in this, and I'm certain Hobbits would too, plus enjoy knowing which neighbours were distant family. But they clearly had important 'legal' (maybe not legal in the formal sense but certainly in the sense of following established family custom) reasons to pursue family history too.

Side note - did they have lawyers in The Shire? What a horrible thought...

As for whether Tolkien himself was interested in this, I wonder whether he was ever successful. If so, then he must have visited a lot of parishes and looked through dozens of dusty books of records. It's quite strange to think that I could sit down now and trace his family tree back through the 19thC just from my computer and it would have taken him months, even years, to achieve that.
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Old 12-21-2011, 07:20 PM   #25
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To compile a tree, a Hobbit would need lots of accurate records to look up. There must have been some kind of administration in The Shire given that there is a Mayor and it is divided up into regions, but did they register events such as births/marriages/deaths in any way? Did they take part in official ceremonies for these and thus leave some kind of 'parish record'? Or did someone simply record events in a communal book that had been held and annotated by previous generations? Hmmmm...

I do think that a primary concern for Hobbits was inheritance, given that 'headships' of families seemed to be inheritable (even if they didn't necessarily come with any land - see the next head of the Baggins family after Bilbo and Frodo left) and also that in some families they seem to have been restricted to males only. The Baggins 'headship' bypassed several females with a strong claim and went to males only, even if they were distant on the tree, whereas the Sackville line could obviously pass through a female branch of the tree (Otho inherited his Sackville name from his mother).
Well, we know that Bilbo's will needed seven signatures in red ink to be legal, that there makes me think that there was some sort of strict filing system in place.
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Old 12-22-2011, 02:30 AM   #26
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At the end of the Hobbit, Bilbo finds his possessions being auctioned by "Messrs Grubb, Grubb, and Burrowes", which certainly sounds like a legal firm. His return caused a "legal bother", so the Shire had lawyers at any rate.
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Old 12-22-2011, 06:32 AM   #27
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Maybe the lawyers had some responsibility for record keeping? There was obviously some form of administration but not a 'state' as there was little need for control (few external threats and abundance of resources).

It all adds to my long-held impression that The Shire is a very different and much more modern place than the rest of Middle-earth. Rohan is still operating like an Anglo-Saxon society with portable wealth and something like 'wapentakes'; Gondor is like a feudal city state in stasis; and the Elves in some kind of pre-historic society (all very debatable of course - this is just a quick glance at the contrasts). While The Shire has a postal service, 'museums', lawyers, complex inheritance customs, developed trade, an elected Mayor, even a rudimentary police force. It always reminds me of a highly idealised view of Edwardian England without the heavy industry or intense poverty...I digress....

The position of Thain was inherited, and though the Thain wasn't an 'aristocrat' by any means, and more like a titular steward in control of any military needs, no doubt it was still an honoured position and it would be important to keep track of who was in the line of succession. Pippin had sisters who were older to the best of my knowledge, so it looks to have been inherited through males only - another reason why they would need to keep an eye on the family tree!
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Old 12-22-2011, 08:16 AM   #28
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Maybe the lawyers had some responsibility for record keeping? There was obviously some form of administration but not a 'state' as there was little need for control (few external threats and abundance of resources).
Oh, I don't know. The Hobbits seem so fond of their genealogical knowledge I can't see them entrusting it to an outside party. Besides, so many families were related in some way, with each keeping track of its own relations, I would think solid evidence of who was kin to whom would have been that much more reliable.

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It all adds to my long-held impression that The Shire is a very different and much more modern place than the rest of Middle-earth. Rohan is still operating like an Anglo-Saxon society with portable wealth and something like 'wapentakes'; Gondor is like a feudal city state in stasis; and the Elves in some kind of pre-historic society (all very debatable of course - this is just a quick glance at the contrasts). While The Shire has a postal service, 'museums', lawyers, complex inheritance customs, developed trade, an elected Mayor, even a rudimentary police force. It always reminds me of a highly idealised view of Edwardian England without the heavy industry or intense poverty...I digress....
The Shire is an obvious enigma in relation to the rest of ME. I think the idea that it's the most "modern", while at the same time pretty darned near to an idyllic way of life from my point of view, is fascinating.

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The position of Thain was inherited, and though the Thain wasn't an 'aristocrat' by any means, and more like a titular steward in control of any military needs, no doubt it was still an honoured position and it would be important to keep track of who was in the line of succession. Pippin had sisters who were older to the best of my knowledge, so it looks to have been inherited through males only - another reason why they would need to keep an eye on the family tree!
It certainly seems more important than the Mayor's position, though the Thainship by the Third age was, as you note, more of an honorary title like the noble titles still used in Europe today. The Thainship would seem to be a fairly easy succession to track, though one wonders what would happen if the Thain died or went off into the wild (like them crazy Tooks sometimes did ) before he had produced an heir.
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Old 12-22-2011, 06:33 PM   #29
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Oh, I don't know. The Hobbits seem so fond of their genealogical knowledge I can't see them entrusting it to an outside party. Besides, so many families were related in some way, with each keeping track of its own relations, I would think solid evidence of who was kin to whom would have been that much more reliable.
It is pure speculation on my part of course. Though I'd like to think there was some authoritative volume of 'correct' research which any others were based on - and that's probably rooted in my own annoyance at coming across bad family research online where other people have members of my family noted down with totally incorrect facts!

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The Shire is an obvious enigma in relation to the rest of ME. I think the idea that it's the most "modern", while at the same time pretty darned near to an idyllic way of life from my point of view, is fascinating.
I couldn't cope in any other part of Middle-earth.

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It certainly seems more important than the Mayor's position, though the Thainship by the Third age was, as you note, more of an honorary title like the noble titles still used in Europe today. The Thainship would seem to be a fairly easy succession to track, though one wonders what would happen if the Thain died or went off into the wild (like them crazy Tooks sometimes did ) before he had produced an heir.
It would be, and is, an easy line to trace, but there seems to have been quite a big remove between Pippin and the next male in line, had he not made it back from his adventures. If all female descendants were bypassed (as under Salic Law), I think they'd have had to look for descendants of his great-grandfather's brothers, though I can only see evidence of the usual kind of primogeniture, as no female lines were in the running to have ever been discounted.
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Old 12-22-2011, 06:47 PM   #30
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The Shire is an obvious enigma in relation to the rest of ME. I think the idea that it's the most "modern", while at the same time pretty darned near to an idyllic way of life from my point of view, is fascinating.
Intriguing! Put that way, it runs counter to the idea of the "long defeat".

Just a bit of an aside, too, about the dominance of male primogeniture: Gollem's tribe was matriarchial apparently.
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Old 01-04-2012, 01:16 PM   #31
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Living in a very small town with a lot of farmers and at best, a slow trickle of new faces, I can tell you that many of the people here of my grandparents' and to a somewhat lesser degree, my parents' generation aren't too different. It looks as though it'll be lost a bit with my generation with more of us getting jobs elsewhere, completing college, etc.

Just a part of small town life?

Perhaps part of it is because many of us live on the same family land, passed down and divided among the generations, so we have benefited quite tangibly from some of their toils.
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Old 01-06-2012, 06:18 PM   #32
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Living in a very small town with a lot of farmers and at best, a slow trickle of new faces, I can tell you that many of the people here of my grandparents' and to a somewhat lesser degree, my parents' generation aren't too different. It looks as though it'll be lost a bit with my generation with more of us getting jobs elsewhere, completing college, etc.

Just a part of small town life?

Perhaps part of it is because many of us live on the same family land, passed down and divided among the generations, so we have benefited quite tangibly from some of their toils.
I've been reading about how there were so many families with the same surname concentrated in the area where I grew up that some of them took on nicknames, so that one family could be distinguished from each other. For example, you might be a 'Yen Caunce', 'Moss Caunce', or you might be a 'Danny Leatherbarrow'. No doubt it was further complicated by parents using the traditional naming patterns for first names - e.g. first son named after his paternal grandfather, first daughter after her maternal grandmother etc.

I note that with Hobbits, they sometimes were identified not just by surname but by their location too. Though they seemed to have more variety of first names.

I just wish the Noldorian Elves had been more considerate, given how awkward it can be to discriminate between all the names beginning with F.
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Old 01-07-2012, 12:14 AM   #33
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Leaf Roots?

As my father approached retirement age, he started getting into genealogy. After his death, as my sister and I approached retirement age, we took it up as well. I fulfilled my father's quest to trace back to the Mayflower, and confirmed a family rumor that we're distantly related to Abe Lincoln.

Maybe the hobbits need roots. Can't say why Tolkien thought hobbits would be into genealogy, but while the humans had great cities, the dwarves great halls, the elves a deep history not so many generations back, what did the hobbits have? Sure, they had an idealized rural pre-industrial culture, not as such cultures were, but perhaps as they ought to have been. But what did the hobbits have personally?

Anyway, that's a bit of why I got into it. I'm not going to leave a lot for history to find me, but it's nice to know you're part of it?
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Old 09-07-2014, 06:10 PM   #34
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As threads go, this isn't such an old one to be relifting... but I do not recall reading it before and it turns out I have something to add.

Regarding the Hobbits and genealogy, my own experience leads me to make a connection to their large families. On my mother's side, she was one of nine children, her mother was one of fifteen and her father (my grandfather, who was also my grandmother's second cousin--they shared great-grandparents) was one of eight, and these numbers were not at all unusual in the area they grew up: a farming area in western Saskatchewan settled by interrelated families of the same ethnic background (in this case, Catholic Germans who'd been farming in Russia from the time of Catherine the Great until the Russian Revolution). So... not an un-Hobbitlike community.

And although far better records exist on the other side of the family for research, I have always associated genealogical interest with my maternal side, because that was something that was always a topic for conversation when visiting--and in true Hobbit fashion (think: mushrooms), it was something that we never seemed to tire of: who was who's kid and how were they related. I have second- and third-cousins (once or twice removed) and great-aunts who have taken the trouble to record a lot of this information, but it was rarely written down in my memories: Grandpa just knew that so-and-so was his cousin on his father's side and that this cousin was married to the Thems-its, and we had a connection to that family on through the OtherOnes (connections of both him and my grandmother).

In other words, this genealogical interest was necessary for keeping track of your relatives in a community full of large familes--and large families grow at an exponential rate. At only 38 grand-children on that side of my family, I can keep track of them all (my younger siblings can't). My mom could keep track of all 80 or so of hers, but it took dialogue with my grandparents to keep track of anyone more distantly related. I imagine, especially given the stability of Hobbit communities, which were not spread across four provinces as mine came to be (four farthings, maybe) would have found such information relevant on a far more regular basis. After all, Hobbits are a bit gossipy, and gossip, like soap operas, make so much more engaged entertainment if you know the backstory--in other words, the family history.
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Old 09-08-2014, 02:59 AM   #35
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Just my own irrelevant observations here.

In contrast to the Elves of Dwarves, the Hobbits didn't have much of a heroic mythology they could refer to or justify their nationhood with. They didn't like or seek out adventures and things stayed more or less the same for generations.

Now mythologies are important things for nation building. Americans have a fascination for the Founding Fathers, the Civil War, the Civil Rights era etc and especially the individual leaders who moved and changed things during those crucial periods. The Germans do similarly with Charlemaigne, their great philopshers, heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance etc. The French have Joan of Arc, the philosophers and heroes of the Revolution, Chales de Gaulle etc. In any town you can find streets, schools and monuments named after these figures. Quoting their words is almost akin to quoting from the Bible. I'm intentionally leaving out England here as I think England doen't really have a culture of worshipping heroes. Smaller nations who have had a less warlike history need to look to less mythological figures to define their nationhood. Quite often this means people behind smaller invetions and people who achieved smaller things.

So not having mythology, the next best thing is to study the smaller deeds of your great-grand uncles. Cue Merry's ability to entertain Theoden with the back-history of the Hornblower leaf.
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Old 09-08-2014, 06:10 AM   #36
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Just my own irrelevant observations here.

In contrast to the Elves of Dwarves, the Hobbits didn't have much of a heroic mythology they could refer to or justify their nationhood with. They didn't like or seek out adventures and things stayed more or less the same for generations.

Now mythologies are important things for nation building. Americans have a fascination for the Founding Fathers, the Civil War, the Civil Rights era etc and especially the individual leaders who moved and changed things during those crucial periods. The Germans do similarly with Charlemaigne, their great philopshers, heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance etc. The French have Joan of Arc, the philosophers and heroes of the Revolution, Chales de Gaulle etc. In any town you can find streets, schools and monuments named after these figures. Quoting their words is almost akin to quoting from the Bible. I'm intentionally leaving out England here as I think England doen't really have a culture of worshipping heroes. Smaller nations who have had a less warlike history need to look to less mythological figures to define their nationhood. Quite often this means people behind smaller invetions and people who achieved smaller things.

So not having mythology, the next best thing is to study the smaller deeds of your great-grand uncles. Cue Merry's ability to entertain Theoden with the back-history of the Hornblower leaf.
The Hobbits have tales of Bullroarer Took and the war with the wargs and goblins in the Battle of Greenfields, but that's about it. I suppose Gerontius Took was a well known figure, too.
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Old 09-08-2014, 07:43 AM   #37
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In contrast to the Elves of Dwarves, the Hobbits didn't have much of a heroic mythology they could refer to or justify their nationhood with. They didn't like or seek out adventures and things stayed more or less the same for generations.
Did Hobbits have a very strong concept of "nationhood"? The structure of their society seems in some ways to have circumvented the concept of the State (a concept of which Professor Tolkien appears to have disapproved - see Letter 52) particularly in its lack of formal government.

The interest in genealogies evokes to me the notion presented in the Prologue that Hobbits "liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions." It seems to me to be associated with that not-entirely-involuntary myopia which seems to have been a characteristic of Hobbit society's psychological survival in a dangerous world: establishing what they did know, and convincing themselves that that was all there was to know, or all that anyone would ever need to know.
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:28 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Zigűr View Post
The interest in genealogies evokes to me the notion presented in the Prologue that Hobbits "liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions." It seems to me to be associated with that not-entirely-involuntary myopia which seems to have been a characteristic of Hobbit society's psychological survival in a dangerous world: establishing what they did know, and convincing themselves that that was all there was to know, or all that anyone would ever need to know.
Yes, indeed. I think the Hobbits had become so comfortable and contented with their state in the world that their insularity was a foregone conclusion.
Other races, such as the Dwarves and exiled Númenóreans set a lot of store by ancestry, but that seems to have been mainly confined to establishing links to royalty and "noble" blood.
Hobbits were, of course, only afforded the luxury of being able to focus on mundane matters through the efforts of Gandalf and the Rangers. I know of no other group in Middle-earth that could allow themselves to focus so inwardly for so long.
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:10 PM   #39
radagastly
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Originally posted by Inziladun:
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I know of no other group in Middle-earth that could allow themselves to focus so inwardly for so long.
Except, perhaps, the Ents.
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:25 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by radagastly View Post
Except, perhaps, the Ents.
Well, that's true. Due to their shrinking population and having their dwelling-place protected by an aura of fear, they were pretty much unthreatened. I'd put them apart from Elves, Men, Dwarves, and Hobbits though.
Also, Ents don't seen concerned with genealogies, probably because their family trees (ha!) would only have had a branch or two, due to their longevity and slow rate of breeding.
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