Few of Tolkien’s heroes can be said to have “daddy issues” – certainly not to the overwhelming extent the trope comes up in later books and films. Faramir (and arguably Sam) are the only ones who explicitly struggle for their fathers’ good opinion, while Peter Jackson’s Aragorn worries incessantly about making the mistakes of his forebears. A multitude of characters suffer from dead or absent fathers , such that it sometimes becomes easier to count how many protagonists do not lost their fathers at a young age. Biographical critics take note – though you may not go as far as Raymond Edwards in asserting that “The Fall of Arthur” actually half-refers to Arthur Tolkien’s untimely death, it is certainly true that mothers take a much more active role in the upbringing of Arda’s heroes.
But who among the neglectful, critical or pyromanical father figures can be said to be The Absolute Worst?
I wonder what lessons Elrond learned from Thingol’s example when setting his own conditions for Aragorn and Arwen? “Don’t set impossible conditions, just really, really difficult ones”, perhaps? In any case, Elrond does alright by his children, none of whom turn out particularly murderous.
Bad daddy rating: 0/10 flaming sons.
Eärendil spent years journeying on the sea looking for his own parents, while his young family waited for his return, but in fairness, he did then bring light and hope to the entire world. I think we can cut him some slack for not being around to watch his children grow up.
Bad daddy rating 1/10
It is appropriate, given that the last High King of the Noldor’s name simply means “Scion of Kings”, that there is no shortage of royals apparently desperate to escape parental responsibility. Fingon, Orodreth, Finrod Felagund and an anonymous son of Fëanor were all fingered by Tolkien as possible candidates at one time or another. Who knows, perhaps with more stable parenting, he wouldn’t have gone and got himself killed on the slopes of Mount Doom?
Bad daddy rating: 3/10 for abandonment.
“Nowt but a ninnyhammer”, likely to “come to a bad end” and “When ever you open your big mouth you put your foot in it”; we never hear of the Gaffer having a kind word for his son. And it certainly impacts on Sam’s self-confidence, for whenever he makes a mistake, he thinks of his father’s doubts and “hard names”. But as demanding, strict and small-minded the Gaffer may be, he is clearly also an enormous positive influence on Sam. His folk wisdom is a large part of Sam’s moral compass, to say nothing of his “plain hobbit-sense”.
Bad daddy rating: 4/10 flaming sons
“I married a woman of a different race who is countless years older and wiser than me, but that was different!”; “As soon as Beren dies than we can all go back to becoming one happy family!”; “If I shut you in a treehouse than you will never be able to meet unsanctioned boys!”, Thingol does not come off well in the ‘sane and balanced father’ stakes. To his credit, he learns from his mistakes and not only accepts Beren as one of the family, but later raises Turin as his own son – an uphill struggle if ever there was one – declaring “I took Húrin’s son as my son, and so he shall remain, unless Húrin himself should return out of the shadows to claim his own”.
Bad daddy rating: 6/10
It isn’t easy being a father of seven. Though it does mean, whatever feuds you start with the rest of your family, you have seven people guaranteed to be on your side, even to the extent of swearing an oath damning their souls to eternal darkness. With the exception of said damnation, however, Feanor doesn’t seem to have been a bad father – I mean, he only burned his youngest son to death unintentionally, after all
Bad daddy rating: 8/10 flaming sons.
You can’t stoop much lower than explicitly telling your son you wish he was dead, but Denethor succeeds in finding new depths deciding that the best expression of his love for Faramir is to set him on fire. Even a stalwart Steward-defender such as myself can’t really find much to say for his parenting skills.
Bad daddy rating: 10/10 flaming sons.
“I killed my wife, but I was aiming at my son” is not an excuse, Eol. Nor is anti-colonialist rhetoric a valid reason to threaten to imprison your child if he wants to meet his relatives. When you don’t even name your son until he is twelve years old, frankly, alarm bells should start ringing.
In the over-possessive love stakes, feeling your child belongs to you and you have a right to kill him is, I think, our winner!
10/10 flaming (or posionned javelinned) sons.