In The Fellowship of the Ring, after saving the hobbits from some nasty misadventure in the Barrow-downs (Hobbits never listen), Tom Bombadil lets a big treasure lie outside, to be freely taken by 'finders, birds, beasts. Elves or Men, and all kindly creatures' and hence break the associated curse.

He himself chooses one brooch for his wife and makes some cryptic reference to its previous owner:

He chose for himself from the pile a brooch set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies. He looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory, shaking his head, and saying at last: 'Here is a pretty toy for Tom and for his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!'

Do we known what lady he was referring to?

Her fairness leads me to believe it could be Lùthien, but I did not find any other elements to support this guess yet, and many other ancient elven ladies such as Idril could match this criteria as well.

  • 1
    She wasn't necessarily elvish either. IIRC, the hobbits got blades from the Northern Kingdoms, so my guess would be nobility there.
    – Kevin
    Jan 7, 2014 at 18:56
  • @Kevin I would like to think it was Morwen's, but the submersion of the Beleriand make it rather unlikely...
    – Eureka
    Jan 7, 2014 at 21:31
  • 4
    After some more search and considering that "the surviving Dúnedain retreated into the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest, which lay on their northern borders.", some exiled Dúnedain lady seems the more likely suspect: It would also explain how both Goldberry and Tom ("we") would have met her.
    – Eureka
    Jan 7, 2014 at 22:08
  • 1
    Could it just be a meta-physical statement? Some fair woman wore this before and by Goldberry continuing to wear it, they will remember the past and history, providing a connection to an age gone. Jan 10, 2014 at 22:08
  • 1
    Imo the whole episode with Tom Bombadil serves the purpose of reminding the reader that the world is old, and that the story the reader is reading about is just one of the stories happening in it - and that there are things that have their own lives and stories. As Gandalf puts it in The Hobbit - you are really just a little fellow, in a wide world after all. In that way, it may be that we are never really meant to know who Tom is talking about. It's part of his life and his story, and has nothing to do with the One Ring, Sauron, Mordor, the hobbits, or the reader.
    – Misha R
    Apr 22, 2018 at 18:03

5 Answers 5


The most we know is from LotR Appendix A:

It is said that the mounds of Tyrn Gorthad, as the Barrowdowns were called of old, are very ancient, and that many were built in the days of the old world of the First Age by the forefathers of the Edain, before they crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand, of which Lindon is all that now remains. Those hills were therefore revered by the Dunedain after their return; and there many of their lords and Kings were buried. (Some say that the mound in which the Ring-bearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last prince of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409.)

Since the brooch was found in the hoard within the barrow, this opens up at least 4 possibilities:

  1. It belonged to somebody from the First Age, from before the Edain crossed to Beleriand. Since there are virtually no recorded names from that time, we can't say who for certain.
  2. It belonged to a relative of the last prince of Cardolan (but note the "some say" in the given quote: it's by no means certain that the barrow was that of the last prince).
  3. It belonged to one of the other Dunedain for whom the barrows were subsequently used.
  4. It belonged to someone else; a random traveller or other person whose brooch was added to the hoard, perhaps.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any better indication in any of Tolkien's writings.

  • It certainly didn't belong to someone from the First Age, since the barrow contained weapons made by the Dunedain. It was also not used after the Witch-King summoned wights. There is no reason not to believe that it wasn't, as the "some say" would suggest, the last prince of Cardolan's wife or love. The Barrows were within the bounds of Cardolan, not the other kingdoms, and we're told that the last of people of Cardolan "held out in the Barrow-downs or took refuge in the Forest behind", meaning Bombadil would have seen her and known she was fair.
    – Shamshiel
    Apr 21, 2018 at 13:27

Some say that the mound in which the Ringbearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last prince of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409.

Source: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Appendix A

Cardolan was one of the three kingdoms that the Northern Kingdom of Arnor split into after Eärnur died.

One guesses that it was the prince's wife/mistress/concubine. I haven't found anything more definitive in the source material.

  • 1
    I don't think it was a habit in feudal societies to bury concubines with noblemen? Jan 7, 2014 at 20:15
  • 3
    @DVK - Middle-earth - especially the Numenorean colonies - is more of an ancient society, where it definitely was common. More so given the First Age history of the Barrow Downs.
    – user8719
    Jan 7, 2014 at 22:45

The brooch almost certainly belonged to the wife, or love, of the last prince of Cardolan.

This is suggested by the "some say" in Appendix A to The Lord of the Rings.

‘It is said that the mounds of Tyrn Gorthad, as the Barrowdowns were called of old, are very ancient, and that many were built in the days of the old world of the First Age by the forefathers of the Edain, before they crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand, of which Lindon is all that now remains. Those hills were therefore revered by the Dúnedain after their return; and there many of their lords and kings were buried. [Some say that the mound in which the Ring-bearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last prince of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409.]’

Aside from this statement, we know that the barrow Frodo was in was used by the Dunedain, not the Men of the First Age. It contained weapons forged explicitly for the war against the Witch-King of Angmar. Tom Bombadil tells us as much in the Fog on the Barrow-downs chapter..

For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold. They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some strange metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones. Whether by some virtue in these sheaths or because of the spell that lay on the mound, the blades seemed untouched by time, unrusted, sharp, glittering in the sun.

‘Old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people,’ he said. ‘Sharp blades are good to have, if Shire-folk go walking, east, south, or far away into dark and danger.’ Then he told them that these blades were forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse: they were foes of the Dark Lord, but they were overcome by the evil king of Carn Dûm in the land of Angmar.

‘Few now remember them,’ Tom murmured, ‘yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.’

The latter paragraph tells that Tom is thinking of the Men of Arnor: he specifically refers to Aragorn and his line.

The narrator confirms in The Battle of Pelennor Fields that it was forged by the men of Arnor, specifically for use against the Witch-King of Angmar.

So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westemesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young,- and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.

So, we know for a fact that the contents of the barrow must have been placed there between 1300, when:

c. 1300 Evil things begin to multiply again. Orcs increase in the Misty Mountains and attack the Dwarves. The Nazgûl reappear. The chief of these comes north to Angmar. The Periannath migrate westward; many settle at Bree. 1356 King Argeleb I slain in battle with Rhudaur.

and shortly after 1409, when:

It was at this time that an end came of the Dúnedain of Cardolan, and evil spirits out of Angmar and Rhudaur entered into the deserted mounds and dwelt there.

after which the Dunedain would have ceased to use the Barrows.

Further, we know that the Barrows fell within the bounds of Cardolan, not the other three kingdoms, we we would expect the Cardolans to be over-represented, especially by the time of the war with the Witch-King (when the blades were forged), since the three kingdoms were at war with each other prior to the war with Angmar.

After Eärendur, owing to dissensions among his sons their realm was divided into three: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. Arthedain was in the North-west and included the land between Brandywine and Lune, and also the land north of the Great Road as far as the Weather Hills. Rhudaur was in the North-east and lay between the Ettenmoors, the Weather Hills, and the Misty Mountains, but included also the Angle between the Hoarwell and the Loudwater. Cardolan was in the South, its bounds being the Brandywine, the Greyflood, and the Great Road.

In Arthedain the line of Isildur was maintained and endured, but the line soon perished in Cardolan and Rhudaur. There was often strife between the kingdoms, which hastened the waning of the Dúnedain. The chief matter of debate was the possession of the Weather Hills and the land westward towards Bree. Both Rhudaur and Cardolan desired to possess Amon Sûl (Weathertop), which stood on the borders of their realms; for the Tower of Amon Sûl held the chief Palantír of the North, and the other two were both in the keeping of Arthedain.

(Appendix A)

But more than that, we have to consider Bombadil's account that "fair was she" who wore it and "we will not forget her." The clear implication of Bombadil's statement was that he personally knew or saw the woman who wore the brooch. And what do we know about what the people of Cardolan were doing in the war in 1409?

A great host came out of Angmar in 1409, and crossing the river entered Cardolan and surrounded Weathertop. The Dúnedain were defeated and Arveleg was slain. The Tower of Amon Sûl was burned and razed; but the palantír was saved and carried back in retreat to Fornost, Rhudaur was occupied by evil Men subject to Angmar,21 and the Dúnedain that remained there were slain or fled west. Cardolan was ravaged. Araphor son of Arveleg was not yet full-grown, but he was valiant, and with aid from Cír-dan he repelled the enemy from Fornost and the North Downs. A remnant of the faithful among the Dúnedain of Cardolan also held out in Tyrn Gorthad (the Barrow-downs), or took refuge in the Forest behind.

So we can almost certainly say the barrow was the burial place of people of Cardolan, and that there's no reason to dispute the textual suggestion that it was the grave of the last prince of Cardolan and possibly also his wife, or lover - if she had not died prior and the brooch buried with him, as a memento he had kept with him after her death.

  • Knowing the barrow was used in the Third Age does not prove it was not used in the First Age as well.
    – Lesser son
    Feb 1, 2022 at 1:12

Though Tyrn Gotthad dates to before men went to Beleriand, men were primitive then and hadn’t associated with the elves to develope their smithcraft. When Tom Bombadil gives the four hobbits the history of the downs, he lists in sequence elves big people little people and whights. Tom is oldest, but he was local to his area. He wasn’t hanging out in Beleriand or Gondolin. Also remember that for most of the second age, before the return of the Edain, Gil-galad’s kingdom was at its peak, with its center right in that area. With the Edwin being dark, and the lady of the blue brooch being fair, I think it was made for an elven matriarch from Gil-galad’s court and because the people of Gil-galad were so close with the edain, the brooch passed to someone close to the last Cardolan prince. Who probably met a tragic end in the wars with the Witch-king. Explaining Tom’s obvious remorse.

  • I don't think we know enough about who or what Tom Bombadil is to make assertions about how local or otherwise his knowledge is.
    – Jules
    Apr 21, 2018 at 20:57

The Numenoreans were direct descendants of Elros who's line goes back to Luthien and Melian. Side thought, Luthiens reignment was shades of blue. Tom and Goldberry who were maiar, and there in the very beginning from first acorn and drop of rain. It would seem long ago for them to remember someone. This would seem to go father back in time then the kingdoms of the Dunedain and a lady more profound and important than a lady of that long decended house, whose name is not mentioned. So, this being entirely conjecture, but it was probably passed from Melian to Luthien, Luthien to Dior, Dior to Elwing. And in her haste fleeing with the slimaril into the sea to go to Eärendil, she was not wearing it. Elros and Elrond were taken captive by the remaining sons of Feanor. Elros may have grab it as a token of his lost mother on the tragedy and conflict., seeing how Maglor showed them kindness and pity. Elros later chosing mortality of the race of men, knowing he'd never see his mother again, kept it as an hierlom. That passed down through the houses of Numenor among the faithful and then journeyed back into middle earth. To eventually wind up in a barrow of the people that came back across the sea to middle earth. Also I don't think this brooch would have been lost when the dwarves sacked Menegroth because it was either being worn by Melian or Luthien, possibly retrieved by Beren at the same time of the silmaril. This seems believable seeing how Tom Bombadil quotes, "Goldberry will wear it now, and we will not forget her." That being said, Luthien is counted among the most fair of all the Eldar and the only that has been severed from her kind and whose fate is tied to that of the 2nd children of Ilúvatar, And she will never return. Therefore Tom saying, "Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry will wear it now, and we will not forget her". This statement has a more profound meaning when view with this theory in mind. Once again these are just my thoughts on the matter.

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