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Lord Of The Rings: How Are Frodo, Pippin, And Merry Actually Related?

Hobbit culture may be simple and rustic, but the Shire inhabitants are interested in more than food and pipeweed. In the opening pages of "The Fellowship of the Ring," Tolkien points out that Hobbits have a passion for family history, too. In "The Two Towers," Gandalf even warns Théoden against expressing casual interest in the subject, pointing out that Hobbits will happily discuss "the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, if you encourage them with undue patience."

Some of these half-pint familial connections are easy to spot. For instance, most Middle-earth fans know that Frodo and Bilbo are related — although it often comes as a surprise to find that "Uncle Bilbo" is merely a nickname for the old Hobbit. (He's actually Frodo's first cousin once removed.) There's more family fun behind "The Lord of the Rings" Hobbitry-in-arms than just the Baggins connection, too.

Frodo is also related to Pippin and Merry. Savvy movie fans can easily recall the moment in "The Fellowship of the Ring" when Pippin (Billy Boyd) begins telling everyone about his connection to Frodo (Elijah Wood). The genealogical dialogue abruptly ends when Frodo slips, and the One Ring lands on his finger.

Pippin isn't referencing new information written for Peter Jackson's trilogy. The line is a callback to deep, complex, and incredibly convoluted genealogical data that Tolkien etched into his books of lore over half a century ago. The question is, with so many family connections in the Shire, how exactly are Frodo and Pippin — and Merry, for that matter — related? Short answer: They're cousins. But trust us, it's more complicated than that.

How is Frodo related to Merry?

Meriadoc Brandybuck (aka Merry) is referred to as Frodo's friend when he first shows up in J.R.R. Tolkien's writings. However, Frodo himself is more than half Brandybuck by blood, and both hail from the same larger family tree, making the two fellows close relatives. Most of Frodo's Brandybuck blood comes from his mother, Primula Brandybuck. Primula is the daughter of Old Master Gorbodoc, who functions as the de facto ruler of his family's geographic region of the Shire (called "Buckland").

The quickest and easiest way to trace the relationship between Frodo and Merry is via the appendices of "The Return of the King." In those hallowed extra materials, Tolkien provides visual family tree breakdowns for the Baggins, Brandybuck, Took, and Gamgee families. And we're not talking about a generation or two here. Each one stretches back generations, tracing hundreds of years of Hobbit history in the process.

Frodo shows up in three of the four genealogies, including the Brandybuck one, where he's listed on the opposite side of the tree from Merry. The principal connection between the two? Merry's grandfather, who goes by the splendiferous name of Rorimac "Goldfather," is the brother of Frodo's mom, Primula.

Thus, we can connect via the quagmire that is family ancestry categorizations that the closest family connection between Merry and Frodo is that they are first cousins once removed, Frodo on his mother's side and Merry on his father's side. As an added bonus, Merry is also related to Bilbo. Their closest connection is that the two are first cousins twice removed.

How is Frodo related to Pippin?

Now for the slightly more complicated connection between Frodo and his relative Peregrin Took (aka Pippin). Once again, Frodo's connection to Merry comes through his mother, Primula, via his grandmother, Mirabella Took. Mirabella has 11 siblings, one of whom is her brother Hildigrim. Hildigrim's great-grandson is Peregrin. So, tracing the two Hobbit heroes, this time across the Took family tree, we find that Frodo and Pippin are second cousins once removed, Frodo on his mother's side and Pippin on his father's side.

But wait. It gets better. The Took family tree is arguably the most famous Hobbit family clan of them all, and it has connections to Bilbo, Merry, and even Sam (who is generally left out of the larger family connection conversation). All three even show up on the arboreal Took family map.

Pippin is Bilbo's first cousin twice removed. He's also Merry's first cousin. And the connection to Master Samwise? The two Hobbits' children get married. That's right. After "The Lord of the Rings" ends, Sam's daughter Goldilocks gets hitched to Pippin's son Faramir.

The best part about all of this is that these are just the primary ways that Frodo, Pippin, Merry, and Bilbo are related. There are other ways to trace their kinship across their frankly overwhelming family trees. Everywhere you look, Hobbits are crisscrossing their family ties. Fortunately, the marital connections are always multiple degrees of cousins apart, which keeps things above board. But that doesn't change the fact that it's one of the most chaotic and confusing concepts to grasp in all of Middle-earth. The fact that one man came up with all of it on his own is a feat on par with Frodo's quest.