Tolkien Gateway

Heathertoes Family

Heathertoes was one of the strange botanical names preferred by the people of Bree.

[edit] Etymology

While heather is an element that appears in English real-life surnames, Heathertoes has no parallel in English.

Tolkien suggested that the name refers to a joke of the Big Folk for the Little Folk, who walked bootless and collected heather, twigs and leaves between their toes.[1] The name "Pickthorn" could be explained as a similar joke, meaning that barefoot Hobbits would be constantly picking thorns out of their feet. But "little Tom Pickthorn from over the Hill" is also described in "Homeward Bound" as a Man who was killed fighting ruffians.

[edit] Men or Hobbits?

The above etymology implies that "Heathertoes" was a name given to Hobbits by Men. However in the narrative the name is listed among those used by the Men,[2] and Mat Heathertoes, who is named as one of the casualties of Bree during fighting there, is listed among Men rather than Hobbits.[3]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 759
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Homeward Bound"