On Rosie Cotton

So, a couple weeks ago now, I was invited to be on the Legendarium podcast, and my hosts asked me who my favorite character was. And because I delight in being weird and unexpected, I answered…

Rosie Cotton.

Really, my favorite character moves around a lot as I experience particular appreciation for different parts of the book. But Rosie Cotton is a recent favorite, born of a more extended reflection on Tolkien and female characters which I don’t have time to write up today.

So Rosie Cotton only appears in the last book, first by mention and then in person, and she only gets 3 lines in the whole epic. Yet they are fascinating lines which I think show a far more complicated character that is normally credited. She’s like a female version of Sam, an unusual and unexpected mix of plain hobbit sense and an un-Shirely mysticism.

“Hullo, Sam!’ said Rosie. “Where’ve you been? They said you were dead; but I’ve been expecting you since the spring. You haven’t hurried, have you?”

When Bilbo goes off on his journey, he is gone for a year and is presumed dead. Sam is gone for a year, he and his companions are equally presumed to be dead. But Rosie not only firmly believes he is still alive, she has been expecting him to return from the moment his task was completed… even though there was no way for her to know when that was, she does. She’s even a little piqued that he didn’t hurry straight home when he was obviously done.

This line is spoken in plain hobbit talk, which disguises it. But it’s… creepy. It’s not exactly poetry, but it’s definitely not prose. Prose is everyone else assuming Sam & Co. are dead.

Her second line is completely hobbit in sentiment. She chides Sam for leaving Mr. Frodo “as soon as things look dangerous”. Certainly things are dangerous in the Shire right now, probably more dangerous than most/all the hobbits could have ever imagined. But it’s very hobbity to assume that, because this is the most dangerous thing that she has experienced or can imagine, this is the most dangerous thing Sam and Frodo faced on their journey… this is standard Shire insular smugness.

And her third line is just a perfect mix of everything in the first two. Simple in speech, complicated and a little eerie in sentiment, and oh so feminine:

“I think you look fine, Sam,” she said. “Go on now! But take care of yourself, and come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians!”

She is completely confident that Sam will set everything right. Her chief concern here is first, to reassure him that she’s not really mad at him, and second that he not take his time about coming back. Again. But even though she obviously considers the current situation in the Shire dire and dangerous, she is completely confident that he will set it right. She’s not even worried.

This combination of Rosie’s womanly perfect confidence in her mate, and her eerie prophetic knowledge make her both a counterpoint to Sam’s character and a fully fledged complex character in her own right, all in three spoken lines.
So that’s why Rosie Cotton is my current favorite character. Her line “I’ve been expecting you since the spring” is one of a half dozen in the whole LotR which give me goose bumps every time.

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2 Responses to On Rosie Cotton

  1. melaniebett says:

    Oh I do hope at some point you find time for the extended reflection on Tolkien and female characters. I’ve always been partial to Rosie, but I confess I hadn’t noticed the import of “I’ve been expecting you since the spring.”

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