Birth Order and Tolkien

by MerryK

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.'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 people-friendly.

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.