🧙 The Tolkien Forum 🧝

Welcome to our forum! Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox! Plus you won't see ads ;)

A terribly dull question regarding "Shire genealogy"

Merroe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
316
Reaction score
382
Location
Luxembourg
‘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.’

I had a look at the family trees and I proudly managed to follow this complex reasoning except for the wording "once removed either way, as the saying is": no, I don't follow him there!

Does anyone with English as mother tongue know what that expression is supposed to mean?

In my own home country, removing healthy living cousins is a capital offense! :eek:
 

Alcuin

Registered User
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
978
Reaction score
657
Location
Consigned to the salt mines of Núrnen…
Here is a graphic from Wikimedia that might be helpful.


Remember Gandalf’s admonition to Théoden when Merry began discoursing upon pipeweed:
You do not know your danger, Théoden… These hobbits will sit on the edge of ruin and discuss the pleasures of the table, or the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, if you encourage them with undue patience.
 
Last edited:

Valandil

High King at Annuminas
Joined
Jun 8, 2004
Messages
463
Reaction score
62
Location
Casper, WY
My first cousin's son and I - are first cousins once removed. My first cousin's grandson - is my first cousin twice removed.

My first cousin's son and my son - are second cousins.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

Pawing through the trash behind the Pony
Joined
Apr 9, 2018
Messages
1,850
Reaction score
1,689
Location
Virginia, USA
Another recent thread on this apparently fascinating topic:

http://www.thetolkienforum.com/index.php?threads/i-hope-this-goes-in-here-….23627/

The question that suggests itself is "why such a complicated relationship?".

One answer is that complications are inherently absurd, and absurdity is a characteristic of comedy. The comic tone at the beginning of LOTR emphasizes the absurd aspects of Hobbit society, though the tone quickly darkens with the introduction of the Ring.

But it goes beyond this: the story arc of the romance hero often includes a somewhat mysterious birth; the closer it is to pure myth, the likelier it will be to involve the gods. In the other direction, towards "realism", it can be attributed to "fate" in romance, or to "accident" in mimetic modes. But the principle remains, whatever concessions to plausibility are made; we see it still going strong in the mimetic novel: Tom Jones, Tom Sawyer, and the various orphans in Dickens come to mind. At this point, "mysterious" begins to seem inappropriate, and "confused" becomes a better term; that is certainly the case with the Frodo/Bilbo relationship.

Further, there is often an association with flood or water imagery: the infant hero is imagined as borne on the flood, enclosed in a box -- think of Moses in his basket of reeds, Perseus in the casket, and the persistence, in European imagery, of Jesus in the manger, with Bethlehem deep in snow. It has been suggested that the association is with the picture of the unborn fetus, floating in the amniotic fluid of the womb, ready to unfold the story of the new redeemer.

It may seem a stretch to include Frodo in the flood archetype, but the confused associations of images that go on in the subconscious mind of a reader may account for the inclusion of the drowning story about his parents; there is a sense in which Frodo's story is "born" from the waters of the Brandywine. In a similar sense, the story of the ultimate King is "born" from Isildur's death in the Anduin.

There are further, structural reasons for the relationship, as I mentioned in the other thread, but they are even more tangential to the subject here, so can wait for another time.
 
Last edited:

Alcuin

Registered User
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
978
Reaction score
657
Location
Consigned to the salt mines of Núrnen…
The question that suggests itself is "why such a complicated relationship?".

One answer is that complications are inherently absurd, and absurdity is a characteristic of comedy. The comic tone at the beginning of LOTR emphasizes the absurd aspects of Hobbit society, though the tone quickly darkens with the introduction of the Ring.

But it goes beyond this: the story arc of the romance hero often includes a somewhat mysterious birth; the closer it is to pure myth, the likelier it will be to involve the gods. In the other direction, towards "realism", it can be attributed to "fate" in romance, or to "accident" in mimetic modes. But the principle remains, whatever concessions to plausibility are made; we see it still going strong in the mimetic novel: Tom Jones, Tom Sawyer, and the various orphans in Dickens come to mind. At this point, "mysterious" begins to seem inappropriate, and "confused" becomes a better term; that is certainly the case with the Frodo/Bilbo relationship.

Further, there is often an association with flood or water imagery: …
That’s fascinating, SES. I had never before considered any of those ideas in this context. Thank you.

I always just assumed that Tolkien’s Shire reflected real-world rural England before the twentieth century. Endogamous marriage and consanguinity are common in those parts of the world in which the population is low and transportation slow. I remember reading recently (this year, anyway) that until the end of the nineteenth century when railroads made travel easier, faster, and less expensive, marriages between cousins was quite normal: Of necessity, people married their third, fourth, and fifth cousins, and so forth, because there simply were no other people around after a region had been inhabited for several generations. The whole point of the Relationship Chart in post #4 in this thread was to clearly outline who could and could not get married. The chart was developed by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages to prevent too much interrelatedness among parishioners: After all, nearly everyone dealt day-by-day with the animals they kept, and they knew that too much interbreeding led to deformity and illness. They noticed this among strongly interbred communities. (Interbreeding – incest, we would call it – was the primary reason Egyptian pharaonic dynasties collapsed: Pharaohs married their sisters for cultic reasons. After a few generations, their children either died at birth or were unable to function, and the Pharaoh and his dynasty were replaced.)

Gatherings such as markets, fairs, and religious activities were places at which to arrange marriages between people who were less related than the neighbors. Archeologists believe this was one of the social activities around Stonehenge during the Neolithic period, when several thousand people would gather for festivals. Large gatherings of Plains Indians are documented from the nineteenth century, and observers noted that one of the purposes of these gatherings was to arrange marriages outside one’s own clan.

If you look at genealogy, particularly before 1900, you will find that people tended to marry their distant relatives, simply because they had no other choices, or (in their minds anyway) no other good choices. The Relationship Chart, or canon chart of relationships (“canon” in this instances means religious law, specifically the Canon of the Catholic church), was used to forbid marriage in close relationships: first cousins, for instance. (This is also in the Bible, mostly in Leviticus 18, but also in other places in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.)

I just assumed that Tolkien was following a known pattern of relationships.

The broader literary implications had never before occurred to me. Are there others?
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

Pawing through the trash behind the Pony
Joined
Apr 9, 2018
Messages
1,850
Reaction score
1,689
Location
Virginia, USA
Yes, but I don't want to get too expansive about that on this thread. As I said when I joined, my main interest these days is in the structural elements that help show Tolkien, not as the one-off eccentric he's traditionally been taken to be, but an author belonging well within the mainstream of literature. I'm still nibbling around the edges so far.

You're quite right on the endogamy theme, of course. In fact, I'd say that it may have been practiced more in the upper classes, in order to keep wealth, and especially land, in the hands of the nobility, and later, the gentry. Modern readers are probably made a little uncomfortable by the characters in Jane Austin, say, who are persuaded to refuse "unsuitable" matches, in order to marry a cousin. And in LOTR, we are dealing mainly with the gentry, as the family trees show, with the exception of Sam Gamgee, who, as the low mimetic hero, moves into an elevated social status as part of the reward for his exploits.

However, the two factors aren't really contradictory; I'd put it like this: the social and familial stucture of the Shire, based on that of Tolkien's own England, became part of the content of his story, but the use to which he put it is, in its form, part of the traditional myth of hero, as I outlined above.

I guess I could add one more structural feature of the hero's birth, taken, like the other ideas on structure, from Frye (though moving even further from the topic at hand):

There is often a hunt for the young hero, who must be disguised or hidden away from a false father seeking his destruction; the true father is akin to Jung's Wise Old Man archetype, who adopts, protects, and guides him through his youth. These figures are not hard to find in Tolkien.
 
Last edited:

Alcuin

Registered User
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
978
Reaction score
657
Location
Consigned to the salt mines of Núrnen…
I must admit I have never read Jane Austin: I hated Pride and Prejudice and gave it up. I liked A Christmas Carol and so tried to read more Dickens, but found it absolutely awful. I think I had to read Wuthering Heights in college, but I’m no longer sure: I do remember I loathed it with a passion that carried over to the semaphore version.

Yes, but I don't want to get too expansive about that on this thread. … I guess I could add one more structural feature of the hero's birth, taken, like the other ideas on structure, from Frye (though moving even further from the topic at hand):

There is often a hunt for the young hero, who must be disguised or hidden away from a false father seeking his destruction; the true father is akin to Jung's Wise Old Man archetype, who adopts, protects, and guides him through his youth.
Then by all means, let us open another! But from this, I take it you mean that Drogo (and by coverture Primula, too?) is not Frodo’s “true” “hero” father, but rather Bilbo?

You're quite right on the endogamy theme, of course. In fact, I'd say that it may have been practiced more in the upper classes, in order to keep wealth, and especially land, in the hands of the nobility, and later, the gentry. Modern readers are probably made a little uncomfortable by the characters in Jane Austin, say, who are persuaded to refuse "unsuitable" matches, in order to marry a cousin. And in LOTR, we are dealing mainly with the gentry, as the family trees show, with the exception of Sam Gamgee, who, as the low mimetic hero, moves into an elevated social status as part of the reward for his exploits.
I am only a mathematician, and data science is my job, if you understand me, and I’m not much good at social sciences, but it seems to me from studying genealogy and medieval demographics and village censuses that it’s pretty clear that most people married their more or less distant kin in Britain and Ireland throughout the Middle Ages and well into the modern era until, as I said before, fast, easy, inexpensive transportation enlarged the pool of eligible marriage partners. The same was true in the New World, too, except that the frontier tended to mix people across social and economic strata and in geographic origins: that’s one of the primary things that made America an unusual and even exceptional place. The situation was somewhat different in great cities such as London or Philadelphia or New York, where the pool of eligible partners was naturally larger, and so intermarriage within large family groups was less common; but marriage according to social and economic strata remained, and still remains, for the most part.

This is the natural way in which clans form in a tribal society, and given time (and isolation), the way tribes themselves form. Tolkien’s hobbits are the same way: there were initially three tribes. Originally separated for a time in Wilderland (in the Vale of Anduin), or even before, the Harfoots, Fallohides, and Stoors became somewhat distinct from one another. They resettled more or less together in the Shire, where they mixed across tribal groups, although some differences remained: the Stoors tended to congregate along the Brandywine. Intermarriages then became less a matter of tribe and more of social strata.

From this perspective, the family trees make perfectly good sense. The tribes have been replaced with Shirefolk, who form a more or less well-intermixed tribal group, though the Bucklanders with their still-distinctive Stoor characteristics, such as swimming and boating, are seen as different; the Breelanders, another and somewhat older and thus more thoroughly tribally intermixed group; and Outsiders, neither Shirefolk nor Breelanders, about which Tolkien as narrator says were “probably … [more numerous] scattered about in the West of the World in those days than the people of the Shire imagined.” The Baggins, Tooks, and Brandybucks are three of several, perhaps many, prominent clans of Shire Hobbits, and like most clans, interrelated by marriage within their social strata.

The Ropers and Gamgees are akin, but rather than having permanent surnames, take surnames from their occupations, as do the Cottons (their forefather is “Cottar” or tenant farmer: sharecropper), who marry into the Gamgees: Sam and Rosie share a common great-grandfather and are thus third cousins. Again, I think these are typical “live in the same neighborhood” relationships.

Long before Frodo sails into the West, Pippin and Merry, who initially teased Sam regularly, even to the point of making mildly disparaging remarks towards him in his presence, have completely ceased to make jests at Sam’s expense! Upon their return to the Shire, they and Frodo treat Sam as an equal, and indeed he is: all of them have grown spiritually, and Merry and Pippin physically (ent-draughts), but Sam has changed the most. As Frodo leaves, he tells Sam, “you are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you.” Sam inherits all that belonged to the Baggins clan through Bilbo and Frodo – and the Sackville-Baggins, too, now extinct, since Lobelia left all to Frodo: Bungo and Belladonna (Took) Baggins’ beautiful hole under the Hill, their wealth, and most importantly their social position. He assumes the permanent surname Gardener from his trade; his daughter Goldilocks marries Pippin’s son and principal heir, Faramir, and so takes the place of the Baggins clan in family relations; and his eldest and beloved Elanor not only marries one Fastred of Greenholm, whom we may assume to be a prominent person in Westfarthing, but royal promotion to peerage with lands and family titles of her own, distinct from any other families in the Shire. Note that this elevation is parallel to that of Silmariën, daughter and eldest child of Tar-Elendil of Númenor, who married Elatan of Andúnië: their son Valandil was made the first Lord of Andúnië by his grandfather the king, and was the ancestor of both Elendil the Tall and of Aragorn Elessar. Just as Valandil in Andúnië held the westernmost region of Númenor, the descendents of Elanor held the westernmost region of the Shire and could, were they so inclined, climb the now-abandoned White Towers of Gil-galad and if conditions were right, see the sea, just as Valandil could climb the tower in Andúnië and on a clear day catch a fleeting glimpse of Tol Eressëa.

Sam changes more than any other character in Lord of the Rings.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

Pawing through the trash behind the Pony
Joined
Apr 9, 2018
Messages
1,850
Reaction score
1,689
Location
Virginia, USA
I take it you mean that Drogo (and by coverture Primula, too?) is not Frodo’s “true” “hero” father, but rather Bilbo?
In structural terms, yes. Although Gandalf takes over the role, after Bilbo's departure.

It's generally agreed that literature is best appreciated in semaphore form.

Well, that and Aldis Lamp.



Or maybe hand signal.

qw2PAlP.gif
 

Attachments

Alcuin

Registered User
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
978
Reaction score
657
Location
Consigned to the salt mines of Núrnen…
I take it you mean that Drogo (and by coverture Primula, too?) is not Frodo’s “true” “hero” father, but rather Bilbo?
In structural terms, yes. Although Gandalf takes over the role, after Bilbo's departure.
Then Aragorn has this issue in spades: Arathorn his father was killed when Aragorn was still an infant, and Arador Arathorn’s father was killed about the time Aragorn was conceived. Elrond is really is his foster-father and structurally his “true” father or hero-father, and in fact his ancestral uncle: so it’s almost as if he were reared by his ancestor Elros son of Eärendil himself, only older and wiser than Elros ever was. Five years after Aragorn sets out upon errantry, he is “adopted” again by Gandalf.

Julius Caesar is wasted with Aldis lamps, but Heathcliff with semaphores is a great improvement don’t you think?
 

Merroe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
316
Reaction score
382
Location
Luxembourg
I remember reading recently (this year, anyway) that until the end of the nineteenth century when railroads made travel easier, faster, and less expensive, marriages between cousins was quite normal: Of necessity, people married their third, fourth, and fifth cousins, and so forth, because there simply were no other people around after a region had been inhabited for several generations.
Quite right you are, Alcuin. The Catholic Church carefully vetted interrelatedness between couples wanting to get married.

A favorite pastime of mine is genealogical research of my ancestors (after 2-3 years of study I identified over 2000 of them). In my country of origin (Belgium), local clergy noted all baptism/marriage/death events in the 17th and 18th century. That situation changed after the invasion by Napoleon: that country was then gradually forced towards a civil administration, early 19th.

In the “Ancient Régime”, as we call the pre-Napoleon church archiving nowadays, if a couple aspiring to get married had such an interrelatedness problem, then the local priest had no authority to judge this marriage on his own. He was compelled to call for a special permission (a "dispensation" in church jargon) from his hierarchy before concluding their marriage. So, he was very careful to always include a mention of prior hierarchical acceptance in his archives, after he concluded the marriage.

I do imagine that this process worked somewhat smoother by well covering some administrative expenses... ;-)

To return to my beginning post … the English expression “once removed” was unknown to me, a person interested in genealogy though I be. Thx for having made me understand this.

I wonder if similar expressions for this could exist in other languages. Not in mine, as far as I know (Flemish/Dutch).
 

Sir Eowyn

Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2018
Messages
69
Reaction score
19
Location
Vancouver, BC
Merry's parents, if you look at it, are second cousins---both great-grandchildren of the Old Took. Saradoc through Mirabella, and Esmeralda through Hildagrim. And Merry's eventual bride, Estella Bolger, well, I think they're related in four or five ways. Good stuff.
 

Thread suggestions

Top