"It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up; for which the custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new; there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents and kept those that he received."
- The Fellowship of the Ring pg 65; Art at left: "A Tolkien Mathomium" by James Dunning.
Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien is to blame for those regifted presents among coworkers come Secret Santa Season. A mathom to a hobbit is something for which one really has no use, or for which the use has been forgotton, but is passed along (if parted with at all) rather than tossed out. A mathom-house like the one the hobbits maintain at Michel Delving is really just a cabinet of curiosities by another name. It is a fine line between a meaningful heirloom and a mathom, and the difference between the two is the story that goes with the item. Here, then, is the 8th "Mathom Edition" of Cabinet of Curiosities, the blog carnival that dares you gift us with the stories behind your own mathoms.
"It is a beautiful piece in very bad condition, a Connecticut weapon made probably in the late 1700's It was given a special place in my collection. On the top of barrel there is a German silver inlay and this is inscribed with J.LORD, this is why the dealer in Tribes Hill new I would want it."
Over in the forums at Straight Razor Place, the smooth skinned devotees of wet shaving are geeking over their ancestral shaving gear. Though one commenter notes "Hehe, I can't help thinking that most of my family would consider such an item no different than an old toothbrush rather than an heirloom." Good thing other folks do. I have a couple of my grandfather's, but they are definitely just for looking at.
"My Halmoni (Grandmother) gave this bottle of ginseng liquor as a gift long ago when my parents were newlyweds. My dad always had plans to open this bottle and have a drink when he retired from the Army. My dad didn't have the heart, I guess, to open the bottle since it had been with us from the start. Dad gave the ginseng liquor to K when we were newlyweds. K had the intention of opening the bottle when he graduated from college. The big day came and went and the bottle still remained intact without a drop missing. K, too, didn't have the heart to open the bottle. Unintentionally, this gift had been turned into a heirloom."
Vintage Lane Stitches shows off some heirloom needlework and observes; "Imagine making and sewing lots of these, by hand, with feather stitch onto a big piece of material to make a bed spread, this big.Lots of patience required I think. My husbands Nan made this quite a few years ago using some of the material out of his mum's and aunties old dresses." Gorgeous stuff and wonderful memories.
"The lilliputian rooms stand out in the city of big shoulder, not only for their size but because they only depict domestic, traditionally feminine spaces, namely kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms, and are filled with cues of the woman’s place in these societies. Most rooms feature a pace for sewing, writing letter, or cooking; almost all contain furniture for receiving groups of people, as well as children’s toys scattered about, but none contains any tools which may have been associated with manual labor, industry and the male place. The Thorne rooms stand as a micro-monuments to domesticity, a striking counterpoint to Chicago’s contribution to our modern monumental vocabulary: the skyscraper, towering emblem of commerce and industry and anything but domestic or feminine in form or function."
"No one living in Headington notices it much any more, but it caused a tremendous stir both locally and nationally on the day it appeared. It had been winched up by a crane overnight, and although the police were aware of what was going on they were powerless to do anything, as there is no law to prevent a man from putting a shark on his own roof."
Praises be. I'm going to remember that when I decide to do some home improvements. Go here to see how the shark has eluded the best efforts of the municipal planning board to have it removed since 1986.
Damn Data / Cabinet of Wonders rolled out another installment in its marvelous Compendium of Curiosities series on May 20th. Doctor Doolittle would be proud of this edition, and it even has the classic YouTube drama in which a pride of lions, some crocodiles, and a herd of Cape buffalo mix it up at a Kruger waterhole. Not to be missed, especially the surprise ending.
But if you do have a hankering to go somewhere curious and exotic, AdmirableIndia recommends Chennakesava temple at Belur, Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid and Castle Rock Homestay, Chikmagalur.
So, if you've got, say, a shiny gold ring you can't bear to part with, it may be a mathom. Or it may be The One. Either way, we want to know about it.
Cabinet of Curiosities will be on summer holiday until September. If you would like to host a future edition, by all means be our guest. And if your eye falls on a bargain, pick it up. of such things are mathoms made.