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Hobbit harp

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Although there is no evidence that harp playing was common among Hobbits in Bilbo’s and Frodo’s time, the instrument was certainly known to them, and must have been quite popular at one time. The Mathom House at Micheldelving in the Shire still keeps a few old harps. Hobbit harps are very similar in size and shape to the harps of Rohan – a fact that was noted by Meriadoc Brandybuck in his treatise on “Old Words and Names in the Shire”, and cited as further proof for the relationship that must once have existed between the forebears of the Rohirrim and the Shirefolk. Hobbits, however, preferred a rather plumper, somewhat rounded soundbox, which is usually carved out of a solid block of wood. Their harps are often painted with brighly coloured ornaments, such as fruit and flowers. Some harps have carved heads – the carvings are simple, and often represent domestic animals or other rural motives. Hobbit harps are usually strung with dried animal gut, which, together with their plumper soundbox, gives them a somewhat fuller and more mellow sound than the Rohan harps.

At the beginning of the Fourth Age, harp playing again became popular among hobbits –it is said in the Red Book of Westmarch that Frodo Ringbearer sometimes played a small harp given to him by Master Elrond, when the dark mood was upon him, before he went to the Grey Havens. Samwise’s daughter Elanor became a very skillful player, having been taught by the Lady Arwen herself. It is in the Westmarch that to this day most harp players can be found, particularly in the family of the Fairbairns of the Towers, and their relatives.

Listen to music played on this harp

Byrd one brere
from cd Rent a Nightingale
a song of the Rohirrim, that was also known in the Shire
Sumer is icumen in
from cd Rent a Nightingale - with Gaby Bultmann, recorder
- Hobbit music at its best
Amour dont sui espris
from cd 700 years of pop
a more elaborate song, taught by the Lady Arwen to Elanor Gamgee
Procurans odium
from cd Love, Lament & Lullaby - with Pepe Becker, soprano
A later, hobbitified version of that song

Find out more about Hobbit harps


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last updated: 18 March, 2004