For Angelica’s use: The Matter of the Mirror (J.R.R Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings)

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, every year about christmas. So also this year.

In chapter two of The Lord of the Rings, we find a short note on one of Bilbo Baggins’ relations, the young Angelica. Bilbo leaves her a round convex mirror as a farewell gift, and tags it with “For Angelica’s use”, and the author adds that “She was a young Baggins, and too obviously considered her face shapely”.

Now, a couple of questions arise at once: Why in Middle-earth would Bilbo own a non-flat mirror like this? Is it clown-mirror, left-over from some carneval party, or just some other old strange mathom? One might also worry about Angelica’s reaction. As a youngster, isn’t this a bit harsh from old Bilbo to tease her for her caring about her looks?

A convex looking-glass is of course a woman’s make-up mirror, as the curved surface makes it magnifying. And Bilbo being a bachelor, obviously must have inherited this from his mother, Belladonna Took. As Belladonna was of a wealthy family, and as Bilbo had taken care of her mirror for all the years after her death, it must have been quite a heirloom, and just not another mathom. I presume a frame of victorian style silver plated engravings at least.

So giving Angelica his mother’s mirror, with a tongue-in-cheek joke, would be a kind gift from old uncle Bilbo, and it was probably warmly received by her.

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One Response to “For Angelica’s use: The Matter of the Mirror (J.R.R Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings)”

  1. Gabe says:

    Hello,

    I am just now listening to the audiobook version of the Fellowship, and noticed this comment. It just so happens that I finished second semester physics last week, and one of the major topics were concave and convex mirrors. A convex mirror will always produce an image that is reduced in size, not magnified. It is a concave mirror that will sometimes produce the magnified image. In other words, Bilbo was giving her something to make her “shapely” and perhaps vane image appear smaller, maybe as a joke- and maybe to help her. So, I am glad there is a thread about this- I thought I would be the only one to catch this line! This is great writing at its finest.

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