Ghân-buri-Ghân is a character in the novel The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King written by J.R.R. Tolkien. As characters go he is quite minor, and yet plays a crucial role in the action as portrayed.

In the fictional world of Middle-Earth, Ghân-buri-Ghân hails from a region called Drúadan Forest. This forest is inhabited by a group of peoples calling themselves the wild men. Ghân-buri-Ghân is the leader of this group. No information is given on the politics of this group so we do not know if his position is an elected one or an inherited one.

The forest is located in East Anórien about Eilenach Beacon (a small hill). This is between the realm of Gondor and Rohan. The host of the Rohirrim must pass through this place on their way to aid Gondor in the Battle of Pelennor Fields. En route, Ghân-buri-Ghân provides information about the location of the enemy, advice on the best route to take and martial assistance in the form of people willing to track and hunt the enemy in and along the borders of the Forest of Drúadan.

One of the main characters of the novel, Meriadoc Brandybuck, narrates his encounter with Ghân-buri-Ghân. First we are provided with the description of the wild men as told to Merry by another character, Elfhelm.

They still haunt Drúadan Forest, it is said. Remnants of an older time they be, living few and secretly, wild and wary as the beasts. They go not to war with Gondor or the Mark; but now they are troubled by the darkness and the coming of the orcs; they fear lest the Dark Years be returning, as seems likely enough. Let us be thankful that they are not hunting us, for they use poisoned arrows, it is said, and they are woodcrafty beyond compare.

Merry goes on to describe the scene he sees:

There sat Théoden and Éomer, and before them on the ground sat a strange squat shape of a man, gnarled as an old stone, and the hairs of his scanty beard straggled on his lumpy chin like dry moss. He was short-legged and fat-armed. Thick and stumpy and clad only with grass around his waist.

He is reminded of ancient statues that he had seen at Dunharrow, called Pukel men. It is clear at this point that the wild men represent some time of Middle-Earth from well before the Third Age. I've not read much of the supplementary material that goes with the Lord of the Rings so I will speculate no further.

After the main action of the novel has taken place, Aragorn II Elessar, the newly crowned king of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor, declares that the Forest of Drúadan shall belong to the wild men and that they shall have dominion over it (this seems like a somewhat empty policy as it is quite clear that this is in fact the actual state of affairs, however the wild men seem quite happy with the pronouncement).

What interests me about this character is the depiction given by Tolkien. Clearly this group represents an anthropological curiosity in the make up of Middle-Earth. Their mode of speach is very simple, almost childlike. It seems to almost, but perhaps not quite, speak of a sense of cultural superiority on the part of Tolkien. These tribal individuals are not invested with the nobility of many of Tolkien's favorite characters. It seems in a way to mirror the social attitudes that I would expect may have existed in the English literati about native cultures at the time of writing of the novel (IMHO).

I like this character, mainly because he is so different. As a side note, Maori actor Wi Kuki Kaa was initially cast to play Ghân-buri-Ghân in Peter Jackson's film adaptation of ROTK, but for reasons unknown this segment of the story was completely cut from the final product (both theatrical and extended), and Mr Kaa doesn't appear at all in the credits, so his role was either filmed then cut, or cut from the script before filming and never shot.

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