Birth Order and Tolkien
I just read a book by Kevin Leman called The Birth Order Book,
which examines how birth order affects personality. It's very helpful
for real life, but I also found that Tolkien did his research well.
Basically, the rules are that firstborns are mini adults, are
highly responsible and motivated, and often perfectionists and
stubborn. Second borns, if they are of the same gender, have to be the
opposite of the firstborns. Middle children are either highly docile
and peacemaking, or wild and rebellious. Babies of the family are
usually spoiled, and are also good with people.
So...it's obvious to see how that fits into Tolkien. Meriadoc, an
only child, organizes things for Frodo (another only child), and both
of them are very serious. Sam is a middle child, and tries to make
everyone happy. Pippin is the baby of his family, and is fun-loving and
Aragorn and Boromir are both firstborns, and therefore clash,
because they both feel the need to be responsible, but have different
priorities. Boromir is very duty-driven, and therefore thinks only of
Gondor. Faramir, the second-born, is the opposite of Boromir, and both
the baby and the middle child of the family. Because of that, he is
able to think outside of blind duty, and make better choices. (Another
thing the book talks about is how middle children are often ignored,
and feel neglected. ;-)
For the Rohirrim, Eomer is by birth the firstborn, but since he is
adopted by Theoden, Theodred takes that role, leaving Eomer a middle
child (of the wilder sort). Eowyn is the baby of the family, and so she
is slightly spoiled, but she is also the firstborn female, which gives
her a sense of duty.
And just for the icing on the cake, look at Galadriel and Feanor
from Silmarillion. Feanor, the firstborn, is stubborn and
perfectionistic, and also a leader. Galadriel, a middle child, and so a
follower, but also the firstborn female, and so a leader.
Anyway, I found it very interesting that it all fit. It's obviously
Tolkien's innate understanding of human nature that makes his
characters seem so real.