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Raised in Hobbiton; later removed to the Shire's Northfarthing
Halfred is pronounced 'ha'lfred'
Uncertain; perhaps 'half-counsel'2


About this entry:

  • Updated 23 January 2019
  • This entry is complete

Halfred Gamgee

One of Sam’s elder brothers

The second of the six children of Hamfast 'Gaffer' Gamgee and Bell Goodchild, Halfred was one of Samwise Gamgee's elder brothers. Born in the Shire year 1369 (or III 2969), Halfred was thus eleven years Sam's senior (the eldest brother, Hamson, was four years older than Halfred).

Halfred would have been raised in Hobbiton, but beyond that we know little of his life beyond a brief comment that he left his childhood home and removed to the Shire's Northfarthing,2 though we are not told precisely where he settled within that farthing. Halfred was just a year younger than Frodo Baggins, and thus almost certainly saw the takeover of the Shire by Sharkey, and Sharkey's subsequent defeat. If he played any part in the events of those years, however, his deeds were not recorded.



'Halfred' has clear similarities to the real name 'Alfred', which comes from Old English Ælfræd, 'Elf counsel'. We might therefore imagine that Halfred's name derived from an Old English form like Healfræd, 'half counsel'. That would not only match the linguistic roots behind the name of Halfred's brother Samwise, but also be very close in meaning to Samwise's name ('half-wise').

Whatever the name's etymology, it should be noted that 'Halfred' was a relatively common name within the extended Gamgee family. We know of two other Hobbits in Halfred's genealogy who shared the name: an uncle Halfred of Overhill and a more distant Halfred Greenhand. Most likely, then, Halfred Gamgee's name was a tradition within his family, or taken from one or both of these relations.


In The Fellowship of the Ring I 2, The Shadow of the Past, Sam Gamgee speaks about his 'cousin Hal', saying that he '...goes up to the Northfarthing for the hunting'. It might be tempting to make the connection between 'Hal' and the Northfarthing and imagine that 'cousin Hal' is just Sam's idiosyncratic way of speaking about his brother Halfred. This does not seem to be correct: Sam is almost certainly talking here about Halfast, the son of his uncle Halfred of Overhill and thus literally his cousin. Sam's brother Halfred may have been named for this uncle, but the fact that he shared a connection to the Northfarthing with his cousin Halfast seems to be no more than coincidence.

See also...

Gamgee Family


About this entry:

  • Updated 23 January 2019
  • This entry is complete

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