Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck, called The Magnificent, was a Hobbit, the son of Saradoc Brandybuck. Merry (as he was often called), was the heir of the Brandybucks to Brandy Hall, and, after his participation to the War of the Ring, eventually became the Master there.
Meriadoc was the son of Saradoc and Esmeralda. Claiming descent from Gorhendad Oldbuck, he also had Tookish blood through his mother, and also his father's grandmother, Mirabella Took. He was also first cousins with Peregrin Took.
Around T.A. 3000 Merry witnessed a strange scene: he saw Bilbo Baggins becoming invisible in order to avoid a meeting with the Sackville-Bagginses. Startled, he got through the hedge and walked along the field inside, and watched as Bilbo reappeared, and put a glint of gold in his pocket. This made teenage Meriadoc very curious and he even looked into Bilbo's private diary.
Merry kept this knowledge private but was always suspicious. He was present with his family at Bilbo's Farewell Party and since Bilbo's disappearance, he believed that Frodo would soon follow. He shared his secrets with a group of Frodo's friends (namely Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin Took, Fredegar Bolger) the 'Conspirators'. Especially after April T.A. 3018 he noticed how Frodo was saying 'farewell' to his favorite places, selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses, and secretive talks with Gandalf. All along, Sam Gamgee had been their 'chief investigator'. He heard Gandalf's instructions to Frodo for his departure, and warned his friends about it.
The Conspirators, sought to protect Frodo (and the Ring) without his knowledge. When Frodo sold Bag End to move to Crickhollow, Merry and Fredegar were told to wait for him and make preparations for his arrival. However, knowing that Frodo would begin a secret journey, also arranged for provisions and ponies, planning to accompany him. On the appointed day, Merry went to Bucklebury Ferry and waited for Frodo, Sam and Pippin, who arrived a couple days later on Farmer Maggot's wagon.
After dinner in Crickhollow, Frodo prepared to reveal to his friends that he was going to have to leave Crickhollow and go to Rivendell. It was then that the conspirators revealed themselves to Frodo and demanded to be taken along when he left. Because of their preparations, they were able to start right away.
Journey with Frodo
“You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”
― Merry, A Conspiracy Unmasked
During the following trip to Rivendell, Merry seemed to have a greater knowledge of the Old Forest than any of the other Hobbits. However, when they encountered Old Man Willow Merry (and Pippin) were both captured and had to be rescued by Tom Bombadil. Merry and Pippin were captured again (along with Sam and Frodo) by a Barrow-wight upon the Barrow-downs, but Tom again came to their rescue. Before leaving, he told them to keep the Daggers of Westernesse found in the Barrow Downs, and he advised them to spend the night at the Prancing Pony Inn, inside Bree.
Upon reaching the inn, Merry was out for a walk and saw a Black Rider. He tried to follow it, but it disappeared. Merry was then overtaken by the Black Breath and fainted. But before any harm could come to him, Nob came to his aid; he returned to the Prancing Pony and warned his companions who were talking with Strider. During the trip through the wild with Strider, he often saw the most deeply into the others. After Frodo was wounded on Weathertop, he became the one who consulted most with Strider, and in a way became the spokesman for the Hobbits.
After reaching Rivendell, he, with Pippin, insisted on not being left behind on the Quest of the Ring. Therefore they were chosen as the eighth and ninth members of the Fellowship of the Ring.
At the gate of Moria, Gandalf commended Merry for being 'of all people' on the right track with the riddle (though this was accidental). His impetuosity in Moria was such that he nearly fell into an ancient well while running ahead with Pippin. When they reached Lothlórien, he was allowed to sleep in a telain with Frodo, Sam, Pippin and a few elven guards. He, as with the rest of the Company, walked blindfolded into the Woods of Lórien in a show of support for Gimli, who had to be blindfolded due to being a dwarf.
At the Breaking of the Fellowship, Merry and Pippin ran straight into a company of Orcs while they were looking for Frodo. Boromir attempted to rescue them, but many Uruk-hai arrived, and they shot him with arrows. Captured with Pippin by Uruk-hai, the two were separated from the rest of the Fellowship. Merry aided Pippin in an attempt to deceive Grishnákh into thinking that they had the One Ring, and he could have it. Because of this, they escaped into Fangorn Forest during the attack by Éomer and his Outriders. There they met Treebeard.
Thus they became the first mortals for many centuries to encounter the Ents of Fangorn. They drank of the Ent-draught which caused Merry and Pippin to become the tallest hobbits in history. Also, they were present at the Entmoot, and the resulting destruction of Isengard, after which Treebeard appointed them door-wardens of Orthanc. It was while they were enjoying Saruman's pipe-weed, that they were reunited with some of their former companions, who arrived after the Battle of the Hornburg.
Esquire of Théoden
While Pippin and Gandalf headed away to Minas Tirith, Merry stayed with Aragorn and the Rohirrim, developing a close friendship with King Théoden. Out of love for him, Merry offered the King his service, which Théoden warmly accepted. 'As a father you shall be to me', Merry said at that time, and Théoden responded 'For a little while'.
As Théoden's esquire, Merry returned with him to Edoras and was forbidden - firmly but gently - by the King to ride with them to the aid of Minas Tirith because he could not ride the mighty horses of the Rohirrim so fast and so far. Merry was disappointed until a young rider named Dernhelm offered to bear him on his horse. In this manner he rode to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, having a secret understanding with Elfhelm and several others of the Rohirrim.
During the charge and the commencement of the battle he was almost useless, hiding behind Dernhelm and shaking with fright and nausea. However, Dernhelm's steed, Windfola, threw them both upon the coming of the Witch-king. Affected by the Black Breath, Merry lay almost senseless on the ground, hearing the voice of Dernhelm standing over the body of Théoden -- who had been mortally wounded by the Witch-king -- defying the Nazgûl. He was startled as he opened his eyes to find that Dernhelm was really Éowyn, the King's niece. After Éowyn was thrown down, perhaps mortally wounded, Merry rose to attack the Witch-king in order to protect her. He stabbed the Witch-king through the calf with the Barrow-blade he still bore, thus breaking the spell of invulnerability surrounding the Wraith. He fainted as Éowyn finished off the Witch-king with a thrust into the head.
Almost killed by the Black Breath, he and Éowyn were revived by Aragorn in the Houses of Healing. Because of his condition he was unable to take part in the Battle of the Morannon, but afterwards attended the burial of Théoden, at which he wept greatly. Upon his departure for the Shire, he was given a special horn by Éomer and Éowyn as a parting gift.
Upon the return to the Shire, he was, with Pippin, the primary leader of the uprising against Sharkey and his Ruffians.
After the War
At some time he stayed with Pippin at Crickhollow and he married the sister of his friend Fredegar, Estella.
He was afterwards known as Meriadoc the Magnificent, and became Master of Buckland after his father. He wrote several scholarly works which were part of the Red Book: Herblore of the Shire, The Reckoning of Years and Old Words and Names in the Shire. In Fo.A. 13 he was made with Pippin and Sam Counsellor of the North-kingdom.
At Fo.A. 63 with his friend they resigned from their offices and came down to Rohan (presumably after the death of his wife) at the request of King Éomer, where he was known as Master Holbytla and Holdwine of the Shire.
After the King died, he travelled to Gondor with Pippin, where he was known as Master Perian. They both died several years later, and were laid in Rath Dínen. It was said that they upon King Elessar's death, their bodies were placed beside his.
He was a good friend of Frodo Baggins, who eventually became the Ring-bearer, and Peregrin Took, a young relative. He was one of the few (if any) who saw Bilbo Baggins, Frodo's uncle, actually use the One Ring. He also managed to read, at least in part, Bilbo's book: There and Back Again, where he learned about the Ring.
He can easily be recognized as a very sharp Hobbit, and his tone throughout The Lord of the Rings depicts him as practical, loyal, resourceful, and the best able to cope with the sudden happenings that drew him out of his peaceful home. He was also praised by Aragorn II as having a 'stout heart'. He was apparently much trusted by Frodo, who sent him along with Fatty Bolger to Crickhollow to prepare his newly-bought home.
Other Versions of the Legendarium
In the pre-publication manuscript of The Lord of the Rings, Merry's name was originally 'Marmaduke Brandybuck'.
Meriadoc (also spelled Meriadek) was the legendary leader of a group of Welsh mercenaries who settled Armorica (modern Brittany) in the fourth century and founded the house of Rohan. Tolkien himself comments on the Celtic cast of this and other Buckland and Bree names that end in –ac, -ic, -oc.
The name Meriadoc means 'Great Lord' in Welsh (from mawr='great' and udd='lord').