🦃 Giving Thanks in Middle-earth
What Frodo, Sam, and Faramir can teach us about thankfulness 🎁 PLUS: Reader additions to last week's gift guide!
Mae govannen, friends!
No, it’s not Thursday yet! It’s the week of Thanksgiving here in the US so I’m sending this newsletter out a day early. But in a week dedicated to giving thanks, I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize once again that I’m so thankful for each one of you reading this newsletter! Whether you just signed up this week or have been a subscriber for the past year, thank you for reading and for all your support.
Many of us will go through familiar rituals as we gather around a table with family or friends this week and think of all the things we have to be thankful for. It’s hardly a celebratory moment, but these holiday meals of ours brings to mind a meal that Frodo and Sam share with Faramir and his men in Henneth Annûn, the Gondorian outpost the he and his men use as their base of operations.
After the Rangers of Ithilien capture Sam and Frodo, they bring them back to their base and set out a meal that is a veritable feast compared to the Hobbits’ travel rations: “pale yellow wine, cool and fragrant…bread and butter, and salted meats, and dried fruits, and good red cheese.”1 After second helpings, and thirds, and with the wine flowing through their bodies, Frodo and Sam “felt glad and easy of heart as they had not done since they left the land of Lórien.”
But before the hobbits dig in, they observe Faramir and his men perform a somewhat peculiar ritual.
Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence. Faramir signed to Frodo and Sam that they should do likewise.
‘So we always do,’ he said as they sat down: ‘we look towards Númenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be. Have you no such custom at meat?’
‘No,’ said Frodo, feeling strangely rustic and untutored. ‘But if we are guests, we bow to our host, and after we have eaten we rise and thank him.’
‘That we do also,’ said Faramir.
Descendants of the Númenóreans of old, Faramir and his men enact one of the closest instances we get of religious observance in the entirety of The Lord of the Rings. In a moment of remembrance, they look west towards their shared ancestral home of Númenor, even further towards the immortal island of Aman where the Valar reside, and—tantalizingly—beyond even the Blessed Realm itself into eternity (“that which is beyond Elvenhome”). No words are spoken, no prayers are offered: just silence. And yet the power and significance of the moment is not lost on Frodo, who feels “rustic and untutored” when Faramir asks if they have any similar customs.
Lacking anything more formal, he turns to gratitude, sharing with Faramir that their custom in the Shire is to thank their hosts for their hospitality. This shared gratitude unites him and Sam with the Gondorian Rangers, who similarly have a custom of giving thanks to their host.
Thankfulness and gratitude have the power to unite, to bring together. Appreciation for what we have been given and experienced can cross even very great divides, such as that between the Gondorian culture and that of the Shire-folk. This week, then, is an opportunity: an opportunity to embrace that unifying power and to move towards others instead of away, emphasizing what we share and what we have in common.
So whether this week you have large family gatherings with elaborate rituals or simple, intimate gatherings awaiting you (or even if this week is no different than any other), may we all not overlook this chance to give thanks for all we have and for that which is set before us. As Thorin says to Bilbo at the end of The Hobbit, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” May it be so.
Last week I shared a Lord of the Rings gift guide with you all. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you can do so here:
I didn’t initially plan to follow up on it this week, but so many of you contributed great suggestions in the comments here on Substack or on social media when I shared it that I had to dedicate a portion of this week’s newsletter to additions to the original gift guide!
We’ve had one gift guide, yes. But what about second gift guide?
I’ll begin with the reader suggestions and then wrap things up with a few additions of my own.
A note before we begin: did some of the books I highlighted in last week’s newsletter catch your eye but you don’t want to support the Evil Empire of bookstores? I have a shop on Bookshop.org with most all of the same titles available. The profits from every purchase go to support the local bookstore of your choice! Check it out here: Jokien with Tolkien on Bookshop
Here are the suggestions from subscribers for additional Tolkien-related gifts:
2016 Facsimile First Edition of The Hobbit (via Mikhail S)—Mikhail commented on last week’s guide that this version of The Hobbit “reproduced the 1937 edition with the classic Riddle Game chapter. This is imo the true version of the story.” That’s right, there are two versions of this chapter2 and you can get an reproduction of that first edition of The Hobbit including the original chapter!
Tolkien 2023 UK £2 Coin (via Bren J.)—this year the Royal Mint released a coin commemorating Tolkien and his life’s work. You can get your very own non-fungible Tolkien directly from the Royal Mint’s website. These would make an excellent addition to any Tolkien collection and are available at a variety of price points.
A Gift Subscription to the Lord of the Rings Online MMO (via Kay M)—Kay says LOTRO is “Such a lovely game, especially playing with family and friends, that so lovingly depicts everything Tolkien wrote and believed in, with a player community that actually feels like a community. Also, you get to punch wraiths in the face, and I am *all* about that! 😁”
Looks like you need to purchase the subscription from within the game itself, so if you wanted to make this a gift you could either give a Visa Gift Card with the amount you wanted to give them or just tell them (via a card? in person?) that you want to gift them a VIP plan and that you’ll cover the expense for whatever period of time you’re gifting them.
DROP + The Lord of the Rings Keyboards (via Eric P)—I absolutely love these keyboards from Drop (and no, I don’t think that stands for ‘Da Rings Of Power’)! For the Tolkien fan who has to spend lots of time in front of the computer and wants to make their workspace a little bit more awesome. My favorites are their Elvish, Black Speech, and Rohan keyboards:
Finally, here’s a few more items that I would have added to last week’s gift guide if I’d remembered them or known about them at the time!
2024 Shire Diary—I almost included this in the original gift guide but it was sold out at the time. This gorgeous planner is back up for pre-order now, though preorders close today (11/22), so jump on it if you’d like one as a gift!
3-D Map of Middle-earth—a map of Middle-earth that’s laser-cut with precision with actual depth and incredible detail! I can’t stop staring at it.
That’s all for this week’s Jokien with Tolkien. Farewell, friends. Go towards goodness! And again, Happy Thanksgiving!
Special shoutout and thank you to Eric P for becoming a member of the Extended Edition of Jokien with Tolkien by upgrading to a paid subscription this week!
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This and the following quotes all come from J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings Illustrated By The Author (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021), Book 4, Chapter V, “The Window on the West,” 676.