On Leadership Within Middle-earth and the Benefits of the Fellowship of the Ring by Larner

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Written for the LOTR Community Non-fiction challenge.  For Tallis and Tracey Claybon with special thanks.

On Leadership within Middle-earth and the Benefits of the Fellowship of the Ring

            In doing genetic studies of human beings they have discovered that qualities that promote effective leadership are largely inheritable, which makes the practice seen throughout the world of handing down positions of leadership and rule through families, from parent to child, more understandable—even laudatory in many cases.  It is for this reason that royal families have always tended to intermarry, so as to strengthen the claim on enhanced leadership qualities and sensitivity in the heirs to various kingdoms.  It is not always true, however, that the child will fully take after its parent, particularly if the child is separated early on from the parent by death, wars, imprisonment, necessary long-term travel by the parent, and so on.  In child development, ordinarily both nature and nurture tend to exert influence on an individual’s final character, while too much interbreeding within the same lineage increases the probability of genetic defects becoming commonplace.  Note the prevalence of hemophilia among the descendants of Queen Victoria, for example; or the bouts of debilitating madness King Henry VI of England apparently inherited from his maternal grandfather, who was French. 

            In Tolkien’s world, the standard form of government among the Free Peoples is that of benevolent royalty among Elves, Dwarves, and Men.  The original kings of Elves were those who awoke first and who made the first steps toward approaching the Valar and leading their peoples to the Undying Lands, culminating with Celebrimbor and Ereinion Gil-galad in the Second Age of the Sun, and Artanis Galadriel and her husband Celeborn, whose rule in Lothlórien lasted into the Third Age.  As for those Elves that did not complete the journey to Aman—or did not bother even to start said travel—we know less about those who led or ruled among them, save for those who accepted Oropher and later his son Thranduil as their kings, the Sylvan Elves of the Great Forest of Green Leaves who accepted those of Sindar lineage as their rulers.

            Among Men, those who first led their fellows to assist the Elves in their conflict against Morgoth again became the first true kings, beginning with Bëor, his son Barahir and grandson Beren; and it was from those who were allied with the Elves through marriage, through Beren and Lúthien, Tuor and Idril, that the last great Kings of Elves and Men of the First and Second Ages of the Sun descended, through the royal houses of Elrond Peredhel of Imladris for the first and Elros Tar-Minyatur as first King of the Men of the West for the second.  This lineage culminated with the marriage of Aragorn son of Arathorn, the Lord Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, the mortal descendant of Elros, to Arwen Undómiel, the daughter of Elros’s brother Elrond and granddaughter to Galadriel and Celeborn when the mortal and immortal descendants of Eärendil the Mariner and Elwing reunited the two royal lines along with the lineage of the High King of the Noldor in Aman, bringing the end of the Eldar times as Elrond and Galadriel at last abandoned Middle Earth to enter the Undying Lands.

            Royalty among the Dwarves descended from the first seven Fathers of the Dwarves, and primarily through the lineage of Dúrin the Deathless, the first Dwarf to awaken within Middle Earth amongst the greatest Dwarves.  The Petty Dwarves also knew their own kings, but the names of these for the most part have gone unrecorded save for those who befriended and aided Finrod Felagund and those who attacked Menegroth while it was under the rule of Dior and Nimloth, Elwing’s parents, which effectively demonstrates the greatness and the terrible depths to which the lesser Dwarves could rise and fall.

            Only amongst Hobbits does the pattern appear to differ slightly, with the head of the family usually being the oldest and hopefully wisest member or married couple, whose experience should increase his, her, or their capabilities in dealing with family problems, and whose longer association with the heads of other families will hopefully help iron out difficulties or promote cooperation between one clan and another.  Again within the families this pattern of family leadership tended to descend in patriarchal or possibly matrilineal fashion for the most part, although once there were no direct heirs the family apparently would usually choose the next oldest and wisest member of the family of name and spouse who were willing take the roles of new family heads.  Longo Baggins married into the family headship of the Sackvilles when he married Camellia Sackville, joining the families through hyphenating the two family names and becoming actual family head for the Sackvilles alongside his wife when his father-in-law died or abdicated in their favor.

            This left Hobbits as confederations of families who were willing to cooperate with one another via the arbitration of their family heads, with the family heads leading in making decisions as to what to trade with which other families and exercising the major family discipline and authority within the clan.  According to what Tolkien tells us both in his letters and in “Concerning Hobbits,” usually husband and wife served together, apparently with the husband most often shouldering the greater responsibility for family leadership while he was alive, and in most cases a surviving widow abdicating family leadership to her oldest son or to the oldest daughter and spouse if there were no sons at the time of her husband’s death.  That Lalia Took, according to the Letters, refused to abdicate her role as theTook to her son Ferumbras on the death of her husband was considered rather remarkable but still acceptable, even though she was no Took by birth.  However, she was unable to take on the role of Thain, which had been granted by Aranarth’s power as heir to the last King of Arnor to Bucca of the Marish and had descended through the males of the Oldbucks eventually to the Tooks through intermarriage between the two clans, but which remained primarily a function of the male descendants of Bucca.  It was unlikely that one who was a Clayhanger by birth would have ever been countenanced as Thain, no matter how commanding her personality.  And, having been granted by their Mannish King, the title and responsibilities of the Thain took on the more Mannish pattern of being exercised in almost all cases by the male alone, not husband and wife teams as was common with the headship of a family.    (Note:  Sméagol’s grandmother had also been recognized as the matriarch of the family in her time, there on the edges of the Gladden Fields in the valley of the Anduin.)

            Tolkien tells us that originally there were three clans from whom all later Hobbits descended:  the Stoors, who lived originally along the Anduin and its tributaries, who built and used boats made of reeds, and who apparently traded with and learned from Men who also lived within the same region; the Harfoots, who lived in communities high in the eastern foothills of the Misty Mountains usually in symbiotic relationships with caverns housing Dwarves, the Hobbits providing most of the food for both peoples and the Dwarves providing raw materials and finished goods and training of Hobbit artisans; and the Fallohides, who dwelt closest to the Elves who remained in and near the valley of the Anduin, who were the tallest, fairest, most adventurous and most literate and artistic of all of the Hobbit clans.  The Master indicates that the Fallohides were often distrusted by the Stoors and Harfoots due to their untraditional ideas and adventurous nature—exceptin times of trouble or insecurity.  At that time they would look to visiting Fallohides or those of their own who had greater amounts of Fallohide blood in their veins for leadership, as the Fallohides had the greatest capacity to think outside the box and to both imagine and consider a variety of ideas as to what had occurred to bring about the current situation and what to do about it.  It was most likely those with strong Fallohide breeding that scouted out routes to the west of the Misty Mountains when whatever catastrophes occurred that led Hobbits to flee out of the eastern lands into Eriador.  They also probably led the parties of refugees over the passes or downriver around the end of the mountain range, and it is likely that Blanco and Marcho were strongly Fallohide and that they were most likely the progenitors of the Tooks and, to a lesser extent, the Oldbucks and Brandybucks.

            As the families concentrated finally into the Breelands and then into the Shire the three clans intermarried extensively, but still those who settled in the Marish and later in Buckland east of the Baranduin held the strongest Stoor strains, those who settled in the Green Hills area and in Long Cleeve in the Northfarthing held the strongest Fallohide blood, and most others were strongly Harfoot, although I doubt that any Hobbit of the Shire was fully of any one original clan.  But the Stoorish folk of Buckland and the Marish were heavily infused with Tookish Fallohide blood (and vice versa), and there was a good deal of Stoor forethought to be found in the Tooks of the Green Hills region as well as Fallohide intelligence and intuition amongst the Oldbucks and Brandybucks.

            Through Bucca’s descendants first in the Marish and later in the Tooklands the office of the Thain continued, although as interaction with the King’s descendants went dormant due to Aranarth’s people withdrawing east and north there was little but the traditions of  the Mannish King’s patronage and granted authority to give the Thain any particular standing within the Shire.  Still, Aranarth had ordered Bucca as first Thain to stand in readiness for the return of the King, to enforce the King’s laws within the Shire, and to provide armed protection both for the Hobbits of the Shire and as possible levies to Aranarth’s descendants should they be required once the King should return.  So the Thain was responsible for seeing to the training and arming of archers for the Shire’s Hobbitry at Arms in case of threats from Outside, and most likely was looked to as the one to best facilitate meetings of family heads throughout the Shire so as to promote trade and mutual cooperation and support.  Once the transfer of the position was made from the Oldbucks of the Marish and the Eastfarthing to Isumbras the First of the Tooks, at the same time that the Oldbucks crossed the Brandywine into Buckland and changed their name to Brandybuck, the Took was now also the Thain, except, as noted above, when Lalia reserved the position of the Took to herself between the death of her husband Fortumbras the Third and her own death, at which time that office also passed to their son Ferumbras.

            The power of any particular family head would depend in great part on the prominence and size of the family headed.  At the time of the quest for Mount Doom the largest families within the Shire were the Tooks and the Brandybucks, the former primarily in the Green Hills area between the Road and the Westfarthing’s borders with the Southfarthing, and the latter filling the region of Buckland between the Brandywine and the Old Forest.  The Bagginses had been very prominent in the region of Hobbiton and the Hill, but the Baggins family tree tells us that between the time Bilbo left with Gandalf and the Dwarves and when Frodo left with Merry, Pippin, and Sam that there had been progressively fewer and fewer male children born to carry on the family name, leaving only Frodo and Lotho as male descendants of marriageable age of the name descended from Balbo Baggins still remaining in the region of the Hill.  Also, it is possible that the Sackvilles might also have been decreasing in number, leading Camellia’s father to leave his office to Longo Baggins and his daughter at his own death as he may have felt that what male Sackvilles as there might remain were not suitable for the position.

            The Brandybucks represented the largest concentration of Stoor blood; the Tooks the same for the Fallohides.  It appears that the Bagginses during Bungo Baggins’s day were most likely thought to be the finest examples of the Harfoots, particularly as it is remarked within The Hobbitthat one knew without asking what a Baggins thought about almost anything; they were eminently respectable primarily because they were so predictable—although the fact the family was known to be well off also could have purchased a good deal of “respectability” for them as well.

            But Bungo Baggins did do one thing that was perhaps unpredictable—he married one of the Old Took’s three remarkable daughters, Belladonna Took.  From one perspective perhaps this is understandable—she apparently brought a sizable dowry into the marriage, and Bag End was reportedly constructed using a fair share of this dowry.  And, as noted above, wealth does translate within society into the appearance of respectability, at least.  Of course, as the daughter of the Thain and Took at the time, she came from a prominent, wealthy, and powerful family, which again added to her personal respectability.  However, the fact that she and her sisters were judged remarkableindicates a tendency to be unusual and most likely somewhat unpredictable, which might be tolerated in her on the strength of her relationship to the Thain and as a byproduct of her personal wealth and the fact she’d married so markedly respectable an individual as Bungo, but which would still most likely lead other Hobbits to treat her with some concern for any unexpected behavior or opinions she might be induced to demonstrate.

            Still, by the time Bilbo had succeeded to the position of the Baggins and the Master of Bag End and the Hill, he had molded himself into a reproduction of his father to such an extent that people tended to forget the potential Tookish side to his breeding—until, of course, the day that thirteen Dwarves came to tea at Bag End without any invitation from Bilbo, and the Hobbit found his Took side so awakened that he ended up leaving on an adventure he’d taken great pains a few days previously to decry as totally unacceptable things that tended to make one late to meals.  Then, during the duration of said adventure his ability to see to the heart of problems and potential problems, the gift he received from his mother’s lineage, came to the fore to the point that he came to be respected by all for the leadership he demonstrated.  Fallohide intuition and ability to analyze and problem solve as well as a high degree of personal integrity earned him honor on all sides, even though he was able to return to the Shire and return to the life he’d temporarily abandoned—at least until he found a worthy heir to take up not only the responsibilities expected of the Baggins and the Master of Bag End and the Hill, but also to recognize when responsibility required turning away from what was expected to embrace what must be done.

            If Bilbo demonstrated the types of leadership expected of a family head, apparently a landlord to at least those who lived along Bagshot Row, and most likely one who invested in many enterprises throughout the Shire, then demonstrated other forms of leadership on the quest for the Lonely Mountain, leadership abilities to be expected from one of both his Harfoot and his Fallohide bloodlines, Frodo proved even greater in the end.  Bilbo’s genetic background bred true from both the Harfoot and Took sides.  But Frodo was a unique hybrid of all three of the ancient lineages of the Hobbits, Harfoot, Took, and Stoor; and when he left the Shire he was accompanied by two more of similar although not precisely the same breeding in Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck, the heirs to the Thain of the Shire and the Master of Brandy Hall and Buckland.

            And—and he was accompanied by Samwise Gamgee.

            Sam is rather a cipher when we try to puzzle out his lineage.  He loves growing things, and from the age of twenty-two, eleven years before he came of age in the usage of Hobbits, he was already his own master in his chosen profession as gardener of Bag End.  One would think with his particular gift of gardening that he might primarily be of Harfoot descent.  Yet he is as ready for an adventure as anyone of Took breeding, even if he’s nowhere as appreciative of what life might be like beyond the Brandywine and the Old Forest as are his companions.  If the Brandybucks are renowned for their planning skills, the Tooks for their willingness to step out of the familiar with little or no warning, and the Bagginses for being predictable and reliable, then what is there that is remarkable about Sam?  Beside his love for gardening and flowers in particular, Sam is perhaps one of the best examples of loyalty one can find in modern literature.  He has given his loyalty to Frodo Baggins, and where Mr. Frodo goes, Sam will go, too, even if it takes him far from his home, family, and even the woman he loves.  He also is direct, and cuts through the confusions in policy others perceive to pick out the goal, toward which he will labor no matter what.  His down-to-earth nature becomes the support upon which Frodo must lean increasingly during their quest.  And he is capable of seeing hope beyond his current situation.  After escaping from Torech Ungol, Sam rations out the food, planning as he can for the journey back, once the Ring is destroyed.  Only when it becomes obvious that Frodo is physically as well as psychologically fading and is not likely to survive the destruction of the Ring does Sam accept that the two of them will most likely die on or within Mount Doom; but when he finds he is able to carry Frodo out of the Sammath Naur, once Frodo returns to consciousness Sam insists they crawl to what greater safety he can see at the moment, for his hope has rekindled, even though there appears no escape from the hill of ash on which they take refuge.  But that act of defiance of what seemed inevitable allows the two of them to be seen and carried away to safety by the Eagles and Gandalf.

            On their return from their quest, all four Hobbits take up positions of leadership within the Shire:  Merry and Pippin, now referred to as “the Captains,” lead the revolt against Lotho and Saruman’s Big Men and then mount the guard against their return in the future; Sam leads the people of the Shire in the dismantling of the infrastructure set up by the Big Men through which they dominated the Shire, tearing down the Shirriff Houses and the atrocious brick structures in which those displaced by having their homes destroyed and dug out were forced to live, and using the bricks and other materials to rebuild and refit lost homes to be more comfortable and snug, as well as replanting fields, farms, gardens, and trees destroyed wantonly on Sharkey’s orders; and Frodo spends eight months as Deputy Mayor while Will Whitfoot recovers from his ordeal in the Lockholes.  All that Merry, Pippin, and Sam do is done out in the open for anyone who wishes to see or help to join them.  Frodo’s efforts to restore the Shire to its accustomed efficiency, on the other hand, are carried out indoors, apparently mostly from the Mayor’s Office in the Council Hole in Michel Delving, with probably relatively few Hobbits being aware of what precisely he was doing to restore the integrity of Shire law and customs.

            We’ve discussed the roles of the Thain and the Master of Buckland; the office of the Mayor we’ve ignored so far.  It is the one elected office of which we are aware in the administrative life of the Shire.  The Mayor serves a term of seven years, being elected once each seven years during Lithe-days celebration at the Free Fair held in Michel Delving.  All that we are told of the Mayor’s duties are that he officiates at banquets and that he oversees the activities of the Shirriffs, of which by custom there are three for each of the four shires for a total of twelve.  Once he became Master of Bag End, Lotho, who had by some means acquired most of the working mills and inns throughout the Shire as well as a goodly amount of other properties, declared himself Chief Shirriff and took over the oversight of the existing Shirriffs, adding to their numbers to give himself what amounted to a standing army of Hobbits alongside that of the Big Men loaned by Sharkey under his direction by which he enforced his dictates on daily life of all Hobbits within the Shire.

            We are not told the precise duties of the Shirriffs before Lotho’s preemption of the service to his own ends.  We know that Robin Smallburrow, a friend to Samwise Gamgee, had been one of the traditional twelve before Lotho’s interference, and that he liked the office as it gave him good reason to travel throughout the Shire and to visit its many inns to sample their food and drink.  Only once Lotho put himself in control, no one was allowed to quit the service any longer.  They must now dwell with their fellows in the Shirriff Houses and fall out to intimidate anyone who appeared likely to raise a stink about Lotho’s increasingly invasive rule of the Shire.

            So, what were their duties prior to Lotho’s declaration of himself as the Chief?  Probably they were constables charged with helping see to it that boundary markers remained where they’d been set, saw those too intoxicated for their own good safely home after a night of heavy drinking, broke up fights, and helped round up stray animals and remind younger Hobbits not to take too much during scrumping parties.  We know that once he was Deputy Mayor, Frodo reduced the Shirriffs to their proper number and duties, which meant that most likely a goodly number of Hobbits were forced to surrender the feathers in their caps that served as badges of office and to return home, shorn of responsibilities and power they ought not to have held to begin with.

            Frodo’s appetite was most likely at least somewhat impaired by the effects of the ordeal he’d been through, and it was likely he’d find the duty of officiating at banquets to be less satisfactory than had others serving as Mayor. 

            As for other duties he might have known during the eight months he served as Will’s Deputy, here we must look on what we know of Hobbit love for official looking contracts and legal documents, each signed in red ink by seven witnesses.  The presence of such documents indicates that there were a fair number of lawyers within the Shire trained as to how to properly construct such documents and to see them signed and carried out.  There must have been a repository of some sort in which an archive of these documents was kept, and it seems reasonable that this archive would have been under the Mayor’s supervision as well.  So, we can expect that the Mayor of the Shire supervised this hypothetical web of lawyers as well as the Shirriffs, thus seeing to the integrity of Shire law as well as the general peace of the country.  So, it is likely that one of the things Frodo did as Deputy Mayor would have been to set in motion an investigation of just how Lotho managed to make himself a dictator once Frodo, Merry, and Pippin were known to be missing.

            After all, Merry and Pippin were the legal heirs to the Master of Buckland and the Marish and to the Took and Thain of the Shire.  Once they departed alongside Frodo and Sam, this would cause a good deal of anxiety as to what to do should the Master and/or the Thain die or become incapacitated during their absence.  This anxiety and confusion must have aided Lotho in making his own declaration of himself as the Chief Shirriff.  Then his people lay in wait for Will Whitfoot once the Mayor realized his own rights and responsibilities were being usurped, arresting him and imprisoning him in the public storage holes there in Michel Delving, turning this facility into the Lockholes.

            Here again it would be Frodo who would begin the investigation as to how this public property had been misappropriated and transformed into a dungeon totally at odds with Hobbit customs and sensibilities, and it would be likely that at least a few of Lotho’s closest accomplices would end up arrested and would need to be isolated for both their own safety as well as to keep them from fleeing proper justice.  So he was likely to have seen to the building of a proper jail for the worst offenders from Lotho’s administration, and to set up procedures to govern the behavior both of prisoners and guards.

             But once the Shire was approaching normal functioning once more, Frodo bowed out of public service, retreating to Bag End and no longer taking part in public functions or Shire social life.  Will Whitfoot was Mayor in his own right once more, and apparently that was what Frodo wanted—for as much as possible to be as it had been before they left on their quest.  Was his shoulder aching?  Did memories of the worst times of the journey he and Sam had known disturb his rest?  Was he merely hopeful that now that the Shire was effectively restored that it would continue to run as it always had, without his direct input on a daily basis?  Did he feel guilty that because he had waited so long to leave that the very evil he’d hoped to spare his homeland had found it anyway?  Or had his experiences so imposed a rift between himself and those he’d always known and loved that he simply knew he failed to fit in anymore?

            Most likely, of course, is that a bit of each of these was involved, along with the knowledge that he now had a decision to make—to stay or to leave Middle Earth altogether, accepting Arwen’s gift to him to take her place on the ship that bore her father West.  Once he made that decision, he would have to finish the book he’d promised to write as swiftly as possible and set in motion the procedures that would ensure that Sam and Rosie would inherit Bag End once he was gone.

            Frodo’s foresight had shown him that Sam would father many children by Rosie and that he would be Mayor for as many terms as he wished to know—as long as Sam did not choose to go on this last journey of Frodo’s at Frodo’s side.  So, he chose to hide his final destination until there was no question that Frodo would not be in any position to return to the Shire, and that Sam would not be able to plan a journey to visit when time and duties permitted.  Nor did he advise Merry and Pippin of his choice, whether to ensure they wouldn’t seek to accompany him again or to spare himself another potentially painful parting we cannot say for certain.  This, his last policy decision within the Shire, proved to be particularly selfish in its yet unselfish attempt to assure the Shire did not lose its future leaders, but is, I believe, understandable and certainly forgivable.

            So it is we see the Shire immediately benefitted greatly by the knowledge and skills gained by the Travellers during the quest.  And the same is true of the other peoples of Middle Earth.  Aragorn became the Lord Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, the High King of the Western lands, whose rule reunited Arnor and Gondor once more and whose overlordship was recognized by Éomer as Théoden’s successor as King of Rohan.  Boromir’s beloved younger brother Faramir became both Aragorn’s Steward within Gondor, but also Prince of Ithilien, further uniting Gondor and Rohan by wedding Éomer’s determined sister Éowyn.  Legolas founded a new Elvish realm within Ithilien, bordering both Gondor and what had been known as Mordor.  Gimli founded a new Dwarvish realm known as Aglorand in the depths of the glittering caverns of Helm’s Deep on the northern slopes of the White Mountains.  And as Master and Thain, the Brandybuck and the Took, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took were perfect to work alongside Samwise Gamgee as Mayor to the Shire to assure that their land best benefitted under the new rule provided from Outside the Shire long after Frodo left to find his own healing and his place alongside Gandalf as one of the Wise now residing on Tol Eressëa. 

            As well as confounding the further ambitions of a Maia long gone wrong, the Fellowship of the Ring helped fully in the healing of all of Middle Earth from the wounds left by Sauron, Saruman, and many Men, Elves, Dwarves, and even a few Hobbits who had also fallen under the Shadow left by Morgoth so long ago.

 




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