Subject: On Tolkien's thees and thous.
Posted on: 2022-11-11 18:04:14 UTC

I've wanted to talk about this for a little while. Sued!Bilbo talking in bad pseudo-Shakespearean English has provided an excuse. ^_^ So, under the header of Things You Only Know If You Read the Appendices:

Tolkien was very specific about how he used "thee" and "thou" in LotR. In Appendix F, Part II, he notes that Westron has "familiar" and "deferential" second- and third-person pronouns—like (informal) and usted (formal) in Spanish. In the Shire, the "deferential" mode has gone out of everyday use, so what appears as English "you" in LotR typically represents the familiar/normal mode. Tolkien uses thee/thou to show that a speaker is using an older, more formal mode of Westron. But he also uses thee/thou occasionally to show, "there being no other means of doing this, a significant change from the deferential, or between men and women normal, forms to the familiar."

In the conversation between Aragorn and Éowyn when she begs him to take her with him into battle, and he tells her to stay because it's her duty and she has no errand in the South, they both use "you" all the way through it, up until the very end, when Éowyn says:

"Neither have those others that go with thee. They go only because they would not be parted from thee – because they love thee."

And thus we know just how very plain she has made herself there.

Absolute genius.


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