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Tolkien's Little Hero: Fatty Bolger

Paul Schweigl at Front Porch Republic

Photo by Madalyn Cox / Unsplash
Celebrating the Overlooked
I appreciate any effort to rescue the neglected noble: those little things that are good but nobody notices. It could be a person, it could be a garden. I walk a lot. Pirsig is probably right about the car, and he probably correctly praises the motorcycle with observations like this

I should very much like to buy Fatty Bolger an ale. For all people who hold down posts that are unglamorous, or fight the good fight in a small town, or generally fail to make much social progress, Fredegar (“Fatty no longer”) Bolger is a literary saint for our time.

If Fredegar is mentioned on a dozen pages of The Lord of the Rings, I would be surprised. He is among Frodo’s inner circle of friends, though not quite as inner as Merry and Pippin. He helped Frodo pack when he made the difficult decision to sell Bag End and went ahead to warm the house in Crickhollow where Frodo never truly intended to live.

Tolkien gives us few glimpses of his personality in this early stage of the epic; it is far more important to the grand narrative to learn something about the hobbits who will be a part of the Fellowship of the Ring. Fredegar’s loyalty to friends is a clear feature of his character, but this positive impression is offset somewhat by the ridiculousness of his nickname. Fatty is clearly the handle for the friend in the circle least likely to be taken seriously, and Tolkien, perhaps hinting at the superficiality of Bolger’s outlook, tells us that “even Fatty” was content after a shared meal in Crickhollow.

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Fatty Bolger, a Local Hero - Front Porch Republic
Perhaps Pippin is right, but none of the friends call Fredegar Fatty anymore, and those chaps know something about heroics.