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Farmer Tolman Cotton

Meaning: Cotton 'cottage town'

Other Names:
Farmer Cotton
old Tom Cotton


Race/Species: Hobbit

III 2941 - IV 19
(SR 1341 - 1440)

father: Holman (Long Hom) Cotton

Wilcome (Will) Cotton

Lily Brown

Tolman (Young Tom)
Rose (Rosie)
Wilcome (Jolly)
Bowman (Nick)
Carl (Nibs)


Tolman Cotton, son of Holman Cotton, husband of Lily Brown, and father of Tolman, Rose, Wilcome, Bowman, and Carl, and later father-in-law of Samwise Gamgee, was a farmer of Bywater who used his influence to help in the resistance during the Scouring of the Shire:
'I've an idea,' said Sam. 'Let's go to old Tom Cotton's down South Lane! He always was a stout fellow. And he has a lot of lads that were all friends of mine.'

'No!' said Merry.... 'No, we have got to do something at once.'

'Do what?' said Pippin.

'Raise the Shire!' said Merry....

'Sam, you can make a dash for Cotton's farm, if you like. He's the chief person round here, and the sturdiest.... I am going to blow the horn of Rohan, and give them all some music they have never heard before.'

They rode back to the middle of the village. There Sam turned aside and galloped off down the lane that led south to Cotton's....

Behind him Sam heard a hubbub of voices and a great din and slamming of doors. In front of him lights sprang out in the gloaming; dogs barked; feet came running. Before he got to the lane's end there was Farmer Cotton with three of his lads, Young Tom, Jolly, and Nick, hurrying towards him. They had axes in their hands, and barred the way.

'Nay! It's not one of them ruffians,' Sam heard the farmer say. 'It's a hobbit by the size of it, but all dressed up queer. Hey!' he cried. 'Who are you, and what's all this to-do?'

'It's Sam, Sam Gamgee. I've come back.'

Farmer Cotton came up close and stared at him in the twilight. 'Well!' he exclaimed. 'The voice is right, and your face is no worse than it was, Sam. But I should a' passed you in the street in that gear. You've been in foreign parts, seemingly. We feared you were dead.'

'That I ain't!' said Sam. 'Nor Mr. Frodo. He's here and his friends. And that's the to-do. They're raising the Shire. We're going to clear out these ruffians, and their Chief too. We're starting now.'

'Good, good!' cried Farmer Cotton. 'So it's begun at last! I've been itching for trouble all this year, but folks wouldn't help. And I've had the wife and Rosie to think of. These ruffians don't stick at nothing. But come on now, lads! Bywater is up! We must be in it!'

'What about Mrs. Cotton and Rosie?' said Sam. 'It isn't safe yet for them to be left all alone.'

'My Nibs is with them. But you can go and help him, if you have a mind,' said Farmer Cotton with a grin. Then he and his sons ran off towards the village.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

Sam found Frodo and his friends by the fire talking to old Tom Cotton, while an admiring crowd of Bywater folk stood round and stared.

'Well, what's the next move?' said Farmer Cotton.

'I can't say,' said Frodo, 'until I know more. How many of these ruffians are there?'

'That's hard to tell,' said Cotton. 'They moves about and comes and goes. There's sometimes fifty of them in their sheds up Hobbiton way; but they go out from there roving round, thieving or "gathering" as they call it. Still there's seldom less than a score round the Boss, as they names him. He's at Bag End, or was; but he don't go outside the rounds now. No one's seen him at all, in fact, for a week or two; but the Men don't let no one go near.'

'Hobbiton's not their only place, is it?' said Pippin.

'No, more's the pity,' said Cotton. 'There's a good few down south in Longbottom and by Sarn Ford, I hear; and some more lurking in the Woody End; and they've sheds at Waymeet. And then there's the Lockholes, as they call 'em: the old storage-tunnels at Michel Delving that they've made into prisons for those as stand up to them. Still I reckon there's not above three hundred of them in the Shire all told, and maybe less. We can master them, if we stick together.'

'Have they got any weapons?' asked Merry.

'Whips, knives, and clubs, enough for their dirty work: that's all they've showed so far,' said Cotton. 'But I dare say they've got other gear, if it comes to fighting. Some have bows, anyway. They've shot one or two of our folk.'

'There you are, Frodo!' said Merry. 'I knew we should have to fight. Well, they started the killing.'

'Not exactly,' said Cotton. 'Leastways not the shooting. Tooks started that. You see your dad Mr. Peregrin, he's never had no truck with this Lotho, not from the beginning: said that if anyone was going to play the chief at this time of day, it would be the right Thain of the Shire and no upstart. And when Lotho sent his Men they got no change out of him. Tooks are lucky, they've got those deep holes in the Green Hills, the Great Smials and all, and the ruffians can't come at 'em; and they won't let the ruffians come on their land. If they do, Tooks hunt 'em. Tooks shot three for prowling and robbing. After that the ruffians turned nastier. And they keep a pretty close watch on Tookland. No one gets in nor out of it now.'

'Good for the Tooks!' cried Pippin.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

Just then some hobbits, who had been sent out towards Hobbiton, came running in. 'They're coming!' they said. 'A score or more. But two have gone off west across country.'

'To Waymeet, that'll be,' said Cotton, 'to fetch more of the gang. Well, it's fifteen mile each way. We needn't trouble about them just yet.'

Merry hurried off to give orders. Farmer Cotton cleared the street, sending everyone indoors, except the older hobbits who had weapons of some sort. They had not long to wait....

Then [the ruffians] marched along the street shouting: 'Put those lights out! Get indoors and stay there! Or we'll take fifty of you to the Lockholes for a year.'....

When the Men reached the fire there was Farmer Cotton standing all alone warming his hands.

'Who are you, and what d'you think you're doing?' said the ruffian-leader.

Farmer Cotton looked at him slowly. 'I was just going to ask you that,' he said. 'This isn't your country, and you're not wanted.'

'Well, you're wanted anyhow,' said the leader. 'We want you. Take him lads! Lockholes for him, and give him something to keep him quiet!'

The Men took one step forward and stopped short. There rose a roar of voices all round them, and suddenly they were aware that Farmer Cotton was not all alone.... In the dark on the edge of the firelight stood a ring of hobbits... all holding some weapon.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

'Seems almost too easy after all, don't it?' said Cotton. 'I said we could master them. But we needed a call. You came back in the nick o' time, Mr. Merry.'

'There's more to be done still,' said Merry. 'If you're right in your reckoning, we haven't dealt with a tithe of them yet. But it's dark now. I think the next stroke must wait until morning. Then we must call on the Chief.'

'Why not now?' said Sam. 'It's not much more than six o'clock. And I want to see my gaffer. D'you know what's come of him, Mr. Cotton?'

'He's not too well, and not too bad, Sam,' said the farmer. 'They dug up Bagshot Row, and that was a sad blow to him. He's in one of them new houses that the Chief's Men used to build while they still did any work other than burning and thieving: not above a mile from the end of Bywater. But he comes around to me, when he gets a chance, and I see he's better fed than some of the poor bodies. All against The Rules, of course. I'd have had him with me, but that wasn't allowed.'

'Thank'ee indeed, Mr. Cotton, and I'll never forget it,' said Sam. 'But I want to see him. That Boss and that Sharkey, as they spoke of, they might do a mischief up there before the morning.'

'All right, Sam,' said Cotton. 'Choose a lad or two, and go and fetch him to my house. You'll not have need to go near the old Hobbiton village over Water. My Jolly here will show you.'

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

So ended the Battle of Bywater, 1419, the last battle fought in the Shire... [It] has a chapter to itself in the Red Book, and the names of all those who took part were made into a Roll.... The very considerable rise in the fame and fortune of the Cottons dates from this time....

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8, The Scouring of the Shire

Cotton, in fact, represents Hlothran a fairly common village-name in the Shire, derived from hloth- 'a two-roomed dwelling or hole', and ran(u) a small group of such dwellings on a hillside. As a surname it may be an alteration of hlothram(a) 'cottager'. Hlothram, which I have rendered Cotman, was the name of Farmer Cotton's grandfather.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: On Translation

Cotton. This is a place-name in origin (as are many modern surnames), from cot, a cottage or humble dwelling, and -ton, the usual shortening of 'town' in place-names (Old English tūn 'village'). It should be translated in these terms.

It is a common English surname and has, of course, in origin no connection with cotton the textile material, though it is naturally associated with it at the present day. Hobbits are represented as using tobacco, and this is made more or less credible by the suggestion that the plant was brought over the Sea by the Men of Westernesse (I 18); but it is not intended that cotton should be supposed to be known or used at that time. Since it is highly improbable that in any other language a normal and frequent village name should in any way resemble the equivalent of cotton (the material), this resemblance in the original text may be passed over. It has no importance for the narrative.

"Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
From A Tolkien Compass, compiled by Jared Lobdell
Chicago: Open Court Pub Co, June 1975

Elena Tiriel 20Aug06, 6Oct08, 15Aug10

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