A Tolkienian Mathomium: Discussions by MikoNoNyte

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Dr. Richard Underwood explains the significance of “mathums”:

My personal response to this quote was as it had been in The Two Towers when many of Theoden’s troops failed to appear on Dunhallow.  They failed not only their king, but their social obligation. Oaths were taken and then forsworn!

We continue.  It was noted in the text that Christopher Tolkien pointed to the ancient horn given to Meriadoc by the Lady Eowyn as an example of a mathum.

 Eomer was prepared to shower Merry with gifts (mathums) because he had fulfilled “the social obligation placed upon him by entering into King Theoden’s service and by the previous bestowal of mathums of war gear. When all the other King’s men had been killed or carried away by their terrified steeds, Merry had indeed come forward to fight with Eowyn as she stood between the Nazgul and his prey, prepared to avenge Theoden’s death, or die in the attempt. Merry’s steadfastness in the fulfillment of his duty to the King had increased his honor and prestige beyond Eomer’s ability to bestow a gift worth of it.”

 Of course Eomer had to bestow the gift of the horn and Merry had to take it. But reading that scene again, with a reminder of how important service and reward was in these contexts, I had to swipe a tear out of my eye. Merry, the smallest being on the field, not only came forward, but went above and beyond what even loyalty would have commanded in facing down the Nazgul, and rightly so. It’s a bit like the biggest foe vs the smallest and our cheering the underdog for not only going at it, but winning by some miracle!  Poor Eomer, even were he King of Gondor he could not reward Merry enough.

And speaking of Gondor, I was al thinking of Faramir and Aragorn’s rewards given.

What did Faramir do to deserve the rewards of both the return of his stewardship and the grant of lands for long-standing service?  Did he do anything to earn them?

From the books we know that Faramir fought long and hard in Ithilien to preserve both it and ultimately Minas Tirith from the invading Haradrim and orcs. He faced off against human and not-so-human foes and managed to do so with little help from his Steward father (who had, indeed, failed his oath of fealty to his people if nothing else by not being prepared for this war).  Additionally Faramir, when faced with stopping Frodo, did not do so. Now one can argue and debate the merits of his actions, and whether he thought in the long run Frodo’s success would come. Aragorn probably thought so, and probably thought, “anyone else would have taken the ring”; certainly Boromir tried. So that says something to Faramir’s strength of spirit.

But did it earn him these great mathoms?

I think Faramir’s decision to obey and abide by his lord father’s orders to retake Osgiliath indeed put him under obligation, if not to Aragorn then surely the city and people.  I also think that his decision to not take the role of Ruling Steward – to accept the return of his long-awaited king – also put him in right order for great rewards.

We take for granted that he did these things because he was portrayed as a ‘good guy’ by Tolkien but even the best intensions can lead one astray. I think he showed not only great courage in the face of total oblivion, but equal courage and fealty to his oath to his father, his oath ultimately to his people, the city and by long years, to that very first king who came over from Numenor. How easy would it have been to just ignore Aragorn’s presence? How easy to deny the return (mind you, I know he wanted it, dreamed of it, but dreams and reality ya know?) of the king?

Two gifts Aragorn gave him beyond the gift of his continued life. He returned the rod of stewardship to him and thus the gift that is obliged to be given and received, like Merry’s horn. Aragorn was also a cagy fox for doing so since he could now assure himself someone who knows how to take care of his city and its inhabitants.  The second gift, that of land, reflects the long service to Aragorn’s lordship, albeit in an oblique fashion.

And one can ask oneself: would these gifts, would the stewardship and the lands have been granted, do you think, to Boromir if he had not died at Parth Galen?

Personally, frankly, based  on the ideas put forth here by Hooker and Tolkien, the answer would be ‘no’.  Because while Boromir did his level best by all, it wasn’t just for his city, or his father, it was also for himself. And while I admire Boromir as a person, as a man, I cannot see someone that centered on being a warrior for glory as someone worthy of taking care of Minas Tirith nor the rewards of a princedom of his own.   Rewarded he would have been, but I doubt it would have come close to what was received by Faramir.

Then again, that’s just my opinion.



Chapter End Notes:


Quotes and quotations from: A Tolkienian Mathomium: A Collection Of Articles On J.R.R. Tolkien And His Legendarium (The Lord Of The Rings & The Hobbit) by Mark T. Hooker

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2008), Edition: 3rd, Paperback, 292 pages

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