The giving of gifts

Having arrived at the end of The Return of the King and the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings, just the appendices remain before I start some overviews in my #TalkingTolkien thread. But I’m not done with the main narrative yet, not by a long chalk! Nor have I finished with themes and motifs I’ve noted, not forgetting discussions of early published commentaries that steered me in my readings over several decades.

In this discussion I want to focus on the giving of gifts, a practice that epics and sagas featured as a means of forging bonds of friendship, sanctioning alliances and displaying largesse, a custom not limited, as now, largely to high days and holidays such as Christmas, birthdays and other anniversaries – and the occasional middle-class dinner party. (I shall omit any discussion of political bribes now because consideration of that odious practice will only lead me astray into intemperate ranting… )

Tolkien, knowing that gift-giving (and gift exchange) was an important aspect not just of the literature he was familiar with but of the early societies he admired, naturally included plenty of examples in his own legendarium, some instances of which I want to examine here.

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