Genealogy in Fiction and Fantasy

Author: Mark W. Swarthout
Published on: October 21, 2002

Genealogists tend to be a fairly serious bunch. We talk about genealogy and the history associated with it, but for Halloween, I thought we'd take a lighter note.

Genealogy is used as a background in many fiction and fantasy stories and books. Here are a couple that I have enjoyed where the fun of family trees is part of the story.

The Gammage Cup, by Carol Kendall

This runner up for the Caldicott Award is about the land of the Minnipins. Totally isolated from the rest of the world, one of their members made a balloon and visited the outside world. Returning with many souvenirs and much information, he was badly hurt on landing and was unable to match his notes with the many papers and objects he brought back. As a consequence, the Family Tree was naturally associated with the painting that showed a tree and the paper full of boxes and lines was a 'picture.' This is really an interesting viewpoint of the diagrams we tend to create!

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

The world of Middle Earth, as created by Tolkien, has become one of the most important works of fantasy in history. Part of the charm is the intense sense of history included in the stories, a key part which is the large number of family trees that are included. Tolkien obviously felt that they were important enough to the establishment of his world that he include pages of family tree diagrams in the Appendix of this huge volume.

Aragorn, one of the heroes of The Fellowship, is a descendant of kings. The entire lineage of the kings is included to show that he really was the person that they thought he was. Not only that, you can follow the tree to discover that his true love is a distant cousin, and that elf blood runs in his veins!


Hobbits are fascinated with genealogy and keep detailed family trees. As Tolkien says in the Preface to The Lord of the Rings:

All Hobbits were, in any case, clannish and reckoned up their relationships with great care. They drew long and elaborate family-trees with innumerable branches. In dealing with Hobbits it is important to remember who is related to whom, and in what degree. It would be impossible in this book to set out a family-tree that included even the more important members of the more important families at the time which these tales tell of. The genealogical trees at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch are a small book in themselves, and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull. Hobbits delighted in such things, if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.

There are three or four pages of information of hobbit families included in the Appendix. The interesting part is that if you where to take the time to enter the entire package into a family tree program, you would discover that they are all related to each other! As a Tolkien fanatic for over 25 years, I have actually taken the time to enter the info!

The Kings of the Mark (or Rohan); Eriador, Arnor, And The Heirs Of Isildur; Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion are provided with timelines and detailed histories. Many of us wish we had this kind of information on our families!

Drop me a line and let me know what stories you have found with family trees as an important factor in the plot line!

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Updated on 10/25/2005