Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Tolkien's Usage of "Thou" and "Thee"

Author: DrummerWench
Nominator: Gandalfs apprentice
2007 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction

Story Type: Non-Fiction : Length: N/A
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: A short essay on the correct grammatical use of the archaic familiar pronoun, with examples from LOTR, Shakespeare, and the Bible.


Reviewed by: dkpalaska -- Score: 9

Like the author, I grew up believing "thou" and "thee" were formal variations. It was a bit of a shock to realize that the opposite is true. This is a subject I could have easily become confused over, but the author has generated an extremely clearly written essay that truly enlightened me. As someone with a rather intuitive approach to grammar in general, I immediately appreciated the initial section that outlined the correct terminology. Even better, DrummerWench's examples from Tolkien and subsequent explanations have thoroughly deepened my appreciation and understanding of those scenes. Despite many previous readings, I would have never caught on by myself - Tolkien's note in the appendices notwithstanding. The culling and presentation of book quotes is unbelievably thorough, and are expounded on through the author's discussion in a very readable and well-developed way. The writing is flowing and entertaining, and successfully keeps the work from becoming at all dull. This is an excellent contribution to Tolkien fanfic, and an important resource for both writers and readers.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 7

A useful essay on the proper context and use of the archaic grammatical forms "thou" and "thee" and related issues, providing relevant examples not only from LotR, but also the King James Bible and Shakespeare. Presenting this subject matter could have resulted in a dry instruction manual, but the essay is enlivened and made interesting by its clear, engaging style; and made more vivid and comprehensible by using and demonstrating incorrect and correct use on concrete examples. Provided with this knowledge, it enhances the readers's ability to detect additional layers of meaning in certain dialogues in the trilogy (notably between Aragorn & Éowyn and Gandalf & Denethor), that would either go undetected or falsely interpreted otherwise. As a foreign-language speaker, I also appreciated the brief information on the ["Quaker thee"] which I had encountered several times in books, and - wrongly - took for errors by the authors.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 6

This is an excellent primer on the usage of archaic pronouns. Like the author, I too was raised on the King James Bible; when I was in fifth grade, my favorite book was Howard Pyle's Robin Hood, which is written in beautifully archaic language. I enjoy language that is "written forsoothly". However, I am aware that I'm an exception, and many fic writers today have a dreadful misunderstanding of archaic usage. It's painful to read dialogue in which the author sprinkles the "thee"s and "thou"s indiscrimately, and randomly places "-eth" or "-est" onto the end of every other word. I have even seen a travesty where both endings were placed on the same verb. "Leavethest thee"? They should each and every one be pointed in the direction of this essay.

Reviewed by: Gandalfs apprentice -- Score: 4

DrummerWench has done a great service not only to all writers and readers of Tolkien fanfiction, but to the poor, abused language, which is apparently no longer taught in schools. Pardon me if I get testy, but it's only to underscore how much I appreciate this essay. The author provides great examples of why her point is crucial--if you don't understand it, you miss a great deal of nuance in the Lord of the Rings, like Denethor's scorn for Gandalf, and Eowyn's attempt to cozy up to Aragorn. Thank you for your careful research!

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 4

Outstanding essay addressing an often misunderstood topic. Very clearly written, with good organization and links. I found the essay quite helpful in unraveling the mysteries of the Thee/Thou speech patterns occasionally employed in LOTR and in some fanfiction pieces (including my own). Thank you, Drummer Wench, for taking on this subject so germane to Tolkien fanfiction.