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Thread: Who was the blue-brooch lady?

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One of the ways in which the Professor showed his mastery in storytelling was the way he mentioned things in passing and then left them for us to imagine. There are so many of these! One of my deepest longings regards the lady mentioned by Tom Bombadil when he spreads out the jewels and treasures from the barrow for "birds, beasts, Elves or Men" to take and scatter, so the spell of the barrow-wrights will be broken forever. Tom picks out this one brooch, "set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies." Tom seems to remember her from long ago, wearing the brooch on her shoulder, very fair. Also a friend to Goldberry. There is not enough history of Arnor to satisfy me, that's for sure. So if anyone has any info on this topic, I would so very much appreciate sharing it. Or just passionate speculation would be fun, too.
How wonderful Marghana. I don't know and can only ponder. But one thing it confirms is the age of Goldberry. The Barrow Downs are the tombs of the great Numenorean Kings of Arnor During the very ancient days at the end of the Second Age. I'm guessing that the broach belonged to either the wife of an ancient king who was burries along side her husband or lord. She could even have been the wife of one one of the Nazgul of course before the wraithing process and the possession of their soul by foul Sauron.

Since all we can do is wonder, I think she was a young woman of high rank in ancient Arnor, yet enjoying enough freedom so as to wander into the lands of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry and thus make their acquaintance and cultivate a relationship of sorts.  This would be what Tom remembers.  Also, it would have been very far back, in the first period of Arnor before strife broke out among brothers and before the shadow found its way into Eriador.

Or it could be different.

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He chose for himself from the pile a brooch set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies. He looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory, shaking his head, and saying at last:

'Here is a pretty toy for Tom and his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!'

I cannot find anything specific about this brooch, but the way it "stirred some memory" in Tom and the way he describes the lady as "long ago" implies it was a long time ago, even by the reckoning of Tom and Goldberry - both of whom had been in Middle Earth pretty much from the beginning. My gut feeling is that the brooch once belonged to Melian or Luthien. It may then have been passed down Elros's line in Numenore and then returned to Middle Earth with the Faithful. The brooch may then have been buried with some Dunedain lord or lady. I just feel the way Tom wants to keep the brooch to remind him of someone, it was someone greater than a Dunedain lady. I think it is the original owner he wishes to remember.

You kind of blew me away with your theory, Valedhel.  It had never crossed my mind.  The thing is, these huge periods of time are quite beyond my sense of proportion, and it didn't occur to me that Arnor would maybe not be "long ago" to Tom Bombadil, who has been around since the first acorn and the first raindrop, according to his own account.

I'll have to give it some thought, because I confess I won't be able to very easily shake off my Dúnedain lady story-seed.  but it certainly is tempting to consider an encounter between Tom and Melian, or Tom and Luthien.  Maybe more like Melian.

"'Here is a pretty toy for Tom and his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!'"

That wording makes me believe it was just a random noblewoman of Arnor who had worn it. If it had belonged to a legendary figure of old, Tolkien would have specifically mentioned it.

There's also the fact Tom mentions that she would not be forgotten... who would ever forget Luthien or Melian?

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There's also the fact Tom mentions that she would not be forgotten... who would ever forget Luthien or Melian?

Barely anyone, apart from maybe Tom Bombadil. Who would forget they possessed the One Ring? Gandalf was certainly of the opinion that Tom very well might. He was concerned with his own world, confined by the Old Forest.

I don't think he literally meant what he said either. I don't think it was a case of keep the brooch so that we don't forget this person, but more a case of keep this brooch so that we remember her better. It was afterall seeing the brooch that stirred the memory in the first place. He still remembered them enough to recognise the brooch and remember who had worn it - they were just buried deep in his memory from so long ago.

Without getting into the debate of what Tom and Goldberry are (my own opinion is that they are both maiar), if Tom had been in Middle Earth from the beginning he would almost certainly have known Melian, either as a kindred maian spirit, or from the early days before Melian met Elwe and shrouded Doriath in her girdle. Back then the forests stretched far further and Tom's domain would have been much larger, potentially stretching into Beleriand. By the time the hobbits met him, however, many thousands of years had passed - even Melian would have passed into the depths of his memory.

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If it had belonged to a legendary figure of old, Tolkien would have specifically mentioned it,

 In one sense he has raised the point - why else even mention that Tom recognised a brooch and remembered the woman who wore it? The fact that Tolkien even bothered to write this piece, I feel he had deeper meaning. There, however, luthien was always close to his heart and often beneath the surface of what he wrote.

I agree Tolkien was a stickler for detail and often had stories beneath stories, but he also liked to throw in a few coincidences without really mentioning them. In the whole of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings I don't think he really mentioned the origin of Gandalf's sword, Glamdring. Wouldn't you think that something belonging to such a notable character as Turgon would have deserved mention? He was after all High King of the Noldor for a while. Instead it is a sword found in a troll lair. Similarly, little relevance is given to Aragorn's ring in LotR, but track its history through the Silmarillion and you find it belonged to Finrod, Barahir, and Beren before being passed down through the Faithful in Numenor. It eventually returned with the Faithful to Middle Earth. Now if a ring once belonging to Beren could follow that route through the ages, could not a brooch that once belonged to Melian or Luthien? I cannot remember where I read it, but it was suggested somewhere that the Barrow that the Hobbits became trapped in was that of the last king of Cardolan. If that is the case, the brooch was owned by someone with a royal bloodline and a legitimate reason for possessing a jewel that had been passed down in the family from afar.

Unless someone finds some description of the origin of this brooch in HoME or among Tolkien's letters, the origin will remain something of conjecture. I had a quick look but found nothing, but maybe someone who knows HoME better would have more luck (Galin?). The first time I read LotR the brooch meant nothing to me. The next time I read it, however, was after I had read the Silmarillion and I remember as soon as that brooch was mentioned I immediately thought of Melian.

It is these little details that make Tolkien's work so wonderful though. little mysteries that keep us guessing and debating. Thank you for bringing it to our attention Marghana.

Here's a thought. The brooch could also have belonged to an unfortunate lady who wandered too close to the mounds of Arnor and became lost and captured by a Barrow Wight. We don't know if others were drawn in by the inhabited corpses reanimated by the Dark Powers. Let's hope though that it simply belonged to a long buried Lady of Westerness.