16 June 2017

'Our king, we call him' -- The Identity of the Speaker at RK App. A 1043-44

In the section of Appendix A called The North Kingdom and the Dúnedain an anonymous speaker tells something of the return of King Elessar to the North:

There were fourteen Chieftains, before the fifteenth and last was born, Aragorn II, who became again King of both Gondor and Arnor. 'Our King, we call him; and when he comes north to his house in Annúminas restored and stays for a while by Lake Evendim, then everyone in the Shire is glad. But he does not enter this land and binds himself by the law that he has made, that none of the Big People shall pass its borders. But he rides often with many fair people to the Great Bridge, and there he welcomes his friends, and any others who wish to see him; and some ride away with him and stay in his house as long as they have a mind. Thain Peregrin has been there many times; and so has Master Samwise the Mayor. His daughter Elanor the Fair is one of the maids of Queen Evenstar.' 

(RK App A 1043-44)
Let's look at the facts of this quote and see if we can make an educated guess about the identity of the speaker here.

  • 'Our King, we call him' establishes the speaker as a hobbit, likely addressing an audience from outside the Shire.
  • 'Our King, we call him' is also quite informal in tone, suggesting that the speaker is addressing someone he or she knows.
  • The need to identify Sam as the Mayor, and Peregrin as the Thain, also indicates an external audience. Hobbits would know these facts.
  • The reference to the Brandywine Bridge as the Great Bridge also points to an external audience, since the evidence from within the Tale indicates that amongst themselves the hobbits tended to call it the Brandywine Bridge, or just the Bridge (FR Pr. 5; 1.i.24; iii.71; iv.88; v.99 twice, 100, 107 twice, 108; viii.137; ix.150; RK 6.vii.996; viii.998 twice, 999, 1000, 1001, 1003; App A 1044; App B 1,096, 1097).
  • 'Thain Peregrin has been there many times' dates this comment after S.R. 1434 (FA 13), when Pippin became the Thain, perhaps much later (thus, 'many times').
  • Since Elanor became a maid of the Queen in S.R. 1436 (FA 15), we can bring forward the terminus post quem to that year.
  • 'So has Master Samwise' shows that Sam has not yet crossed the Sea, as he did in S.R. 1482 (FA 61). This fixes the terminus ante quem.
  • The speaker speaks as one explaining to an outsider, pointing out that Sam is the Mayor, that Elanor is his daughter, and that Peregrin is the Thain.
  • Identifying Elanor as the Fair and as one of Arwen's maids seems a point of local pride, like 'Our King', but claims no kinship with her.
  • The speaker seems to be none of the hobbits mentioned in the statement. 
So who is the most likely candidate in the years S.R. 1436-1482 (FA 15-61) to be familiar with these matters and addressing a known audience outside the Shire in an informal tone? By far the most obvious choice would be Merry Brandybuck, who, as friend of the King -- and after S.R.  1432 (FA 11) himself the Master of Buckland -- must have been at the Brandywine Bridge to meet the King. Whom he is addressing is impossible to say, but we might guess, not unreasonably, that he was writing to Éowyn, to Éomer, or to them both, since they never forgot their friendship with him (RK App B. 1097 twice).


  1. Nice. I agree with the conclusion and like much of the reasoning. But i'm not sure about all. The Red Book, especially in these latter parts, is being written for posterity, meaning in the first instance future generations of hobbits in the Shire. So the identification of Sam as the mayor and the 'Our King, we call him' does not seem to me to indicate necessarily an address to a non-hobbit audience outside the Shire.

    1. Thank you, Simon. What Merry's words were meant for and what they may have been later used for are not necessarily the same thing, nor are they necessarily exclusive. The Appendix is quoting another work of some kind, and we don't know precisely what it was or by whom it was written, even if Merry seems a likely candidate.

  2. Very interesting analysis.

    I think back to Cynthia's presentation, and indeed to Dom Nardi's presentation a year or so ago to the politics of the situation. It always surprises me that "none of the big folk shall pass its borders" when the East-West Road, upon which travel dwarves, goes right through the Shire. I often wonder what point Tolkien was making by this "law", certainly preservation of the Shire society, but it seems rather drastic to me.

  3. I agree with your reasoning, Tom, and I like the idea that it was Faramir/Éowyn, or their child, who gave the letter to the Gondorian scribe, merely on the basis of Faramir's respect for lore. And I read "Big People" as applying solely to Men, as I doubt he would insist on making Dwarves go all the way around to get from the Blue Mountains to Erebor and the Iron Hills. Nor would he want to deprive the Elves of the straightest path to the Havens. After all, Sharkey didn't seem to employ either Dwarves or Elves.

    1. Kate, I think you are absolutely right about "Big People" referring only to Men. Think of Bree. It could be seen to reflect an awareness at some level that the Big People and the Little People are in some way the same people. Tolkien does say in the letters that the hobbits are an offshoot of Men. Which is an argument of no little force against the prevailing notion that hobbits have pointed ears.