While I saw Pippin’s lightheartedness as a very relatable trait, I was also able to identify with Merry during certain points of the epic. Unlike my adulation of Pippin’s jovial nature and individual growth, my identification with Merry was from a negative perspective.
Merry’s time alone in Rohan was perhaps the most affective part of his story for me. His time with Théoden begins in happiness. He is honored and sits next to the king and regales him with stories (RK, V, iii, 796). When word comes that the Rohirrim must go aid Gondor, Théoden telld Merry that he cannot go with them.
‘You shall abide here, and if you will, you shall serve the Lady Éowyn, who will govern the folk in my stead’ (RK, V, iii, 803).
Merry becomes indignant because he does not wish to be left out:
‘But, but, lord,’ Merry stammered, ‘I offered you my sword. I do not want to be parted from you like this, Théoden King. And as all of my friends have gone to battle, I should be ashamed to stay behind…tie me to the back of [a horse], or let me hang on a stirrup, or something.’
This kind of useless bargaining and pleading between someone lower in position and a figure in authority reminded me very much of interactions I had had with my parent not many years before reading LotR (and perhaps some interactions even at the time of reading, if I am honest with myself). In a sense, Merry’s subordinate role in Rohan as a figure of entertainment one moment and as a burden the next mirrors a lot of the childhood experience.
The next chapter set in Rohan (RK, V, v) opens with Merry reflecting on his isolation. To make matters worse, the first interaction Merry has is with Elfhelm the Marshal who trips over him and curses him as a tree root. Merry stands up for himself, saying:
‘I am not a tree-root Sir…nor a bag, but a bruised hobbit’ (RK, V, v, 831).
Although his daring is not rewarded very kindly, as Elfhelm still calls him ‘Master Bag’ at the close of their conversation (RK, V, v, 831). Then Merry is overlooked as he ‘crept’ close enough to the conversation between Théoden and Ghân-buri-Ghân to narrate the scene for the reader (RK, V, v, 832).
The Rohirrim constantly ignore and/or disregard Merry. Perhaps this is a kind of othering. While it can, of course, be interpreted in many ways, this othering always reminded me of those times when adults would tell me to settle down, be quiet, and stop getting in the way. This really resonated with me as a child. Though I had what I would consider a happy childhood, I certainly experienced this kind of reprimand on occasion. The kind of loneliness and isolation that can accompany such an encounter feels on-par with what Merry experiences in Rohan. I could easily relate to the feeling of dejection that Merry feels.
My reflection on Merry’s part at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and the Scouring of the Shire will come later.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Onward, to battle!
What Do You Think?
How did you read Merry’s experience in these chapters?
Do you think this reading is feasible or insane?
Did I miss anything? Let me know!
2 thoughts on “LotRFI Pt.42–Merry”
Love the love for Merry – my first favorite character! I think it was because he was kind of the middle child between Frodo and Pippin, and I’m also a middle child. I remember wondering about Elfhelm’s words to Merry as well — on the one hand, he seemed rude, but, on the other hand, he certainly knew that Theoden had ordered Merry to stay behind. And I don’t think it was happenstance that Eowyn was in Elfhelm’s eotheod. I expect he knew full well who Dernhelm was and accepted Merry as her squire. I like to imagine that Elfhelm had trained her as a shieldmaiden.
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This is definitely closer to my read of this scene. Elfhelm knows Theoden has ordered that Merry be left behind, so he’s doing a very Army thing by feigning ignorance as he disobeys orders — “No sir, no hobbit, just a tree root sir.”
Maintaining minimum plausible deniability, as it were.
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