July 20, 2006
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Entwives: where did they come from?

Over dinner (duck confit, spinach and mushrooms sauteed in garlic) last night, Linda and I were talking about Tolkien. (We were talking about Tolkien, too, that Valentine's Day night in Willets 2.) The question last night was a new one to me: where does the legend entwives come from?

The poem itself doesn't seem out of place. I think, together with the Bombadil rhymes, it represents a possible starting point from which, after many generations of abrasion and simplification, you might get one of the Child Ballads. It's not that far from Chaucer, on the one hand, or Tennyson, on the other.

But the story is very strange.

Where does it come from? Does it have an Aarne-Thompson number? (Has anyone written a useful book with the AT index and a guide to classification?)

My wild speculation: Fangorn is one of the places where Tolkien looks at Oxford. What distinguishes Fangorn from Bombadil? They're both immensely old, they both have turned their backs on modernism as well as modernity, they both are shepherds. But Bombadil is uninterested in those passing through his old forest; he has a duty to take care of injuries inflicted by his d good humor.