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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:40 pm 
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Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts as to why Tolkien had a penchant for brother-pairs who generally seem to be no more than a single character doubled: Angrod and Aegnor, Celegorm and Curufin, Elladan and Elrohir, Amrod and Amras, Eldun and Elrun, Fili and Kili? Even the Blue Wizards fit the pattern.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:47 pm 
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I have this vague recollection that Tolkien had a twin brother who died? Or was still born, or something? I might be hallucinating, but it's pretty early in the day for that. :D

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 5:45 pm 
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That's an interesting question, soli. From the standpoint of a writer, two characters who can play out their conflicts in action and dialogue are more interesting as a rule than one internally conflicted character, especially if the writer isn't interested in dwelling on a character's thoughts.

However, that certainly had nothing to do with Fili and Kili (though in that case I sometimes wonder if Tolkien wasn't simply filling out his list, as some accused Bilbo of doing when he invited exactly One Gross of hobbits to the special feast in his party tent).

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 5:54 pm 
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I think the fact that Tolkien and his best friend at school, Christopher Wiseman, nicknamed themselves "The Great Twin Brethren" could give a clue to Tolkien's penchant for brother-pairs.

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"The Great Twin Brethren" is an explicit reference to one of Macaulay's lays, "The Battle of the Lake Regillus", in which two divine horsemen ride onto a battlefield to save the Roman army from its Etruscan foes at the last minute — a scene many of whose details have striking parallels in Tolkien's account of Théoden's sudden appearance on the Pelennor Fields. That Tolkien knew the poem well enough to make that sort of joking reference to it makes it more plausible that the parallels were more than accidental.


http://www.troynovant.com/Stoddard/Garth/Tolkien-and-Great-War.html

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:16 pm 
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From the standpoint of a writer, two characters who can play out their conflicts in action and dialogue are more interesting as a rule than one internally conflicted character


And Tolkien does that; in fact he uses conscious parallelism a lot: Boromir/Faramir, Elrond/Elros, and quasi-brothers Merry/Pippin, Théoden/Denethor, Gandalf/Saruman. It's a nifty way to compare and contrast, to heve two characters similarly situated go down different paths.

But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm really thinking of brothers whose doubleness is to all appearances pointless. Elladan and Elrohir could be conjoined twins for all we know: Tolkien never mentions either one singly, ever. Same with Dior's sons, Angrod and Aegnor (barring the Athrabeth), and Amrod/Amras (until very, very late when he thought about killing one off- recognizing the superfluousness of having two). While in The Hobbit he had to fill up his list of thirteen and thus used carbon-paper: Fili/Kili, Oin/Gloin etc- why on earth did he do it in his other works?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:25 pm 
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Did Tolkien perhaps ascribe some special blessedness to a double birth? As in, having twins in itself was a sign of some kind of divine favor? (I'm asking—I don't know.)

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:28 pm 
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The motif of seven sons pops up from time to time in old literature so that might be the deal with Amrod and Amras - he decided to give Fëanor seven sons and needed to fill out the list. Some of these pairings are in essence throw away characters - what did Dior's sons do other than get lost and illustrate a tragedy? In the end, it was Elwing that was the most important of Dior's children and the story probably would have moved along without the sons, except the reader would have lost the kick in the stomach when the boys are sent into the wilderness and Maedhros or Maglor (can't remember which) tries to find them...kind of a double whammy there, the senseless death of children and yet another lost chance of redemption for a Feanorian. He might have also, on occasion, needed essentially the same person to be in two places at once (that northern plain was a bit much for one elf prince so let's just make the one elf prince into two elf princes and call it a day) or the task at hand was too great for one character as that character was imagained so he gave the job to two copies (Celegorm and Curufin and their misbehavior in Nargothrond).

It might also be he had a subconscious brother fixation that we'll never find the root of.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:34 pm 
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I simply think it was a quirk of his writing; of a piece with the parallellism you mentioned. In the minor characters it serves no narrative function but when he needs to expand upon the narrative it allows him many choices for varied development.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:50 pm 
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I would've just said that he found it has a good ring to it and left it at that.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:06 am 
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Twins are important in mythology, though. I don't have time to make a list, but they're there.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:55 am 
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The only twins in myth I can think of are from classical or other sources outside of NW Europe. Any twins in the Kalevala?

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:19 am 
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I guess I'm not thinking so much of "twins" as brothers, like Cain and Abel. Romulus and Remus. Etc.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:28 am 
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Maybe he was just sowing the field with dramatic possibilities, as it were.

He obviously planned and elaborated, but he also strikes me as an intuitive writer at times, following his back-brain down some interesting roads. Sometimes you just let your imagination stir up the ground, and see what sprouts. (Some writers I know are like that.) Sometimes not much does happen, but it's worth a try.

(I don't claim to know anything about Tolkien's manner of writing—he is far beyond me. Just naming one possibility.)

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:48 pm 
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Celegorm and Curufin do not fit this pattern. They have distinct personalities and play off one another. Curufin has his eye on a throne, while Celegorm has his eye on the girl. Curufin is married and has a son (eventually) so his interest in Lúthien is as a pawn. He is a behind-the-scenes guy, so he wants his older brother to take the throne, not himself directly. Celegorm is very interested in marrying the beautiful Lúthien, but not so keen on taking the throne of Nargothrond without his brother's instigation.

So, yes, they are a pair, and always together, but they are not just duplicates of each other. Since we know practically nothing about Anárion, I'll give you him instead ;). He is "Isildur's younger brother" and that's about all there is to him.

The 'superfluous' duos tend to be very minor characters. Had Tolkien explored their territory of the story more, they likely would have been differentiated more (as Aegnor was in the Athrabeth, and Ambarussa in the story of the ship-burning.) Had there been no Lay of Leithian, Celegorm and Curufin would have been more alike. Fili and Kili are indistinguishable, but not so Balin and Dwalin. Tolkien was all about 'unexplored vistas' so he had no qualms introducing a character in a single line. Rather than seeing them as superfluous, he felt they added depth. Would you consider Pippin's three older sisters to be 'redundant'?

Some of these twins are to give a family some lineage - Elrond has twin sons because he has a twin brother and twin uncles. It's part of his family heritage, like grey eyes. And some are to make the story more interesting. There are twin princes of Rohan who were killed in the same battle and buried together in a single mound. That is more interesting than just killing off the heir to the king. I agree with Prim - Tolkien wrote by iterations. Putting those characters on the page gave him something to come back to and work with later. Sometimes he did; sometimes he didn't. But creating the character gave him a chance to have a foil if he needed it, and allowing them to work together and be of like mind reduced the chances of things seeming too 'literary', where characters only exist if they are in some sort of CONFLICT. It is not unusual that Elladan and Elrohir would be so similar to one another. But if the story were about them, of course we would learn more about their personalities.



As for real life reasons, Tolkien did have a brother, Hilary, and they were close in age. Once they were orphaned, that brother was really the only family he had (I don't recall them spending much time visiting grandparents or aunts and uncles after that first year.) They seem to have been very close at least through their teen years. I suppose more about their relationship would be clear from the Black and White Ogre country book. IIRC, Hilary Tolkien became a farmer.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:33 pm 
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Yes, Hilary was an orchardist.

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I don't think that at the time Tolkien created his pairs it was for the purpose of leaving himself an open API, so to speak. He may have used them as a hook much later, simply because they were convenient; but why for example give Dior twin sons whose only purpose was to starve in the woods, since one could have starved in the woods just as well? And when, very late, Tolkien came up with the burned-in-the-ship story, it was essentially because one twin was surplus to requirements! Although it was 'mythologically' necessary for Fëanor to have seven sons, Tolkien knew or realized that Damrod/Diriel > Amrod/Amras was just doubling down on a vague, peripheral character. (The D/D thing was I'm pretty sure related to their having been invented in the course of writing an alliterative poem, thus the Seven are two M's, three C's and two D's.)

Whereas in those cases where brothers contrast, typically Tolkien started with one and only added the other later, when he needed him: Elrond long before Elros, Elwë long before Olwë, Faramir only after Boromir was killed off. (Note on the Feanorians: Curufin of course never had a son until T needed a father for Celebrimbor).

And Angrod and Aegnor: why? Because Dorthonian was "too big?" Hardly- Hithlum and Nargothrond were far greater realms that only needed one king.

Perhaps it's the philologist at work- Tolkien found it agreeable or natural to invent names in pairs. It certainly is very typical that these brother-pairs have similar and/or linguistically related names, and related words were what got the old Perfesser's juices flowing. Even when he changed them: Elboron/Elbereth > Eldun/Elrun etc.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:34 pm 
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Fred and George? Oops, wrong book :D

But yes, I've been wondering about those somewhat redundant brothers too... Perhaps it's a bit like real history where you might have some names and some sketchy history behind them, but not enough for a long story.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:16 pm 
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I think soli's on the right track: philology.

Norse/Old English etc. literature liked the sound of repetitions, semi-repetitions, and alliterations. So the "twin brothers" fit the bill and probably just felt "epic" to Tolkien! (Don't have to be brothers, either: think of "Jack and Jill") (In "The Sea of Trolls," by Nancy Farmer, "Jack and Jill," the nursery rhyme, is linked up with Norse mythology and epic traditions, which must be why Jack and Jill just popped into my head here.)

(another variant -- also probably having more to do with "mouth feel" than actual genealogy -- is the "Oin son of Glóin" sort of construction, where fathers and sons play the role of the "twin brothers," word-wise)


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