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Middle-Earth-related ramblings

Since sometime last year, I've been very into the Hobbit fandom. I mean, I've always loved Tolkien, and when I first read LotR in early 2005 (I read The Hobbit back in 2003) I read a lot of fanfics, but I hadn't read any Tolkien fics in years. I watched the Hobbit movies and loved them but didn't really get into the fandom. That changed last year when someone sent me a link to a Thorin/Bilbo fanfic and I fell in love with the pairing. Since then I've been avidly reading lots of fanfic on AO3 and the Kink Meme and following some fans on Tumblr and generally going crazy (and denying the deaths in the canon ending - LALALA EVERYONE LIVES HAPPILY EVER AFTER).

In general, I love it. The quality of fanfic in this fandom, or at least for this pairing, tends to be pretty high overall, and there have been some fabulous AUs and continuations out there. There are also masterpieces like the Coats & Customs series, which basically fixes everything that ever vaguely bugged me about Tolkien and epic fantasy in general - not enough female characters, no queer characters, no characters of colour, unsatisfactory resolution for the orcs, the Elves fading - and this series, and these two fics broke my damn heart. There are also a lot of fantastic and very creative AUs with impressive worldbuilding. Basically I could rec fics until the cows come home, or you could just check out my Bookmarks page if you're interested.

However, there are a couple of things I've noticed in fics that I just have to rant about. (These are mostly due to the fact that I am a history nerd and overthink details like trade and farming resources and the history of fashion in Middle-Earth and I feel the need to ramble about them, and not actually criticisms.)


Where on Arda do they get chocolate from? I can deal with them getting tea and sugar, because presumably they trade with Umbar or Harad or wherever and maybe there are tea plantations somewhere south of the Iron Hills or in the southwest region of Eriador, I don't know. But I can close my eyes and handwave it away. Tolkien wanted a sort of idyllic rural late medieval English feel for the Shire, so I can even handwave foods like potatoes even though they shouldn't have potatoes; we got them from the Andes four centuries ago. But Tolkien has Sam and his Gaffer wax rhapsodic about potatoes, so hey, maybe Yavanna likes potatoes and made sure the Shire could grow them. XD And the movies show Elves and Gondorians wearing silks and silk brocade; I have no idea where they got silk from without a Silk Route, but it looks fantastic and fits the aesthetic, and generally I suspend a lot of disbelief about the way technological advancements in farming and architecture and plumbing and fashion work. But somehow I can't do that for chocolate. You need cocoa beans. Historically, we got them from the Americas. Where would Middle-Earth get chocolate from? Valinor? Umbar?

Pictured: Umbar art.

I am quite willing to accept that some distant land had cocoa beans and traded them with the kingdoms we know for dwarven metalworks or whatever, and that chocolate was invented, but in that case it would be a luxury item. I cannot imagine random hobbits having mugs of hot chocolate during winter, or Elves experimenting with chocolate during sex. :P Unless the Valar gave the Numenoreans cocoa beans and they brought a few plants to Arda and there are cocoa tree plantations far south of Gondor or something. Maybe an Elf named Cadburiel thought of adding milk and sugar. :D

This website features a lot of medieval recipes, so if anyone wants inspiration for desserts that don't involve chocolate, it's a good resource.

There are a LOT of Rule 63 fics featuring a female Bilbo. And I am very fond of a lot of them. I like genderswap fics that explore how things would have changed, how the character would change, how the way others regard them change if they were a different gender. And in some of them, because things change, Bilba/Belba/Belladonna/Bramble/whatever Baggins has a little more time to pack because she was given a bit more time/warning and made her choice earlier, or something. And then she packs two extra travel dresses and one 'nice' dress just in case an occasion calls for it, and I just stare at the screen in confusion.

We aren't given much information in the books, so this is based on the movies. A hobbit woman does not wear a one-piece 'dress' like a kirtle. First they wear a puffy blouse or chemise. I don't know how long that is, but it could be anything from hip-length to knee-length. Then they wear two skirts; the underskirt, or possibly petticoat, and an overskirt that's possibly an inch or so shorter so you can see both the colours. Most of them wore an apron on top as well, although for the purposes of such fics we can probably ignore that. And over the blouse/chemise they wear a fitted bodice. (I refuse to believe they had boned corsets, given the simpler clothing everyone else wears, so they're probably just made of shaped pieces.) The skirts are quite voluminous and it's a pleasant effect, but that's a lot of fabric.

This is an excellent resource if you need to look up the clothing of any of the Middle-Earth races for writing or costuming purposes.

This is Bilbo's backpack.

I own a kirtle. It takes up a fair bit of space when I pack it. While hobbit dresses may be easier to pack due to being in separate pieces (and they're probably made of wool or linen and therefore lie flatter when folded than stiff cotton does), if fem!Bilbo had time to pack properly I fail to see why she would cram two or three outfits into that bag on top of necessities like food, water, money, toiletries like a comb and soap and underthings, an oilskin, rags to deal with her periods etc. Packing an extra chemise and skirt is smart, so she can wear that while washing the first outfit and so on, but that's not Hermione's beaded bag and packing two or three outfits seems odd to me.

I'm not even going to bother talking about geography because the movies, especially the second Hobbit movie, mess that up and make it seem like everything happens one day after the other. :P Though I do have to say that after all the pre-DoS fanfic where they spend several days at Beorn's Wooden Love Shack TM house, resting from their injuries and eating lots and finally getting together and having lots of sex with creative use of honey and clotted cream, I was a bit disoriented in the theatre when none of that happened. XD

That said, despite my rants, I generally read and enjoy the fic anyway, and most Hobbit fanfic is fantastic. <3 And the fandom is lovely. I love how everyone is in collective denial of the ending and writes fics about the Durins surviving the Battle of Five Armies and persuading Bilbo to stay in Erebor, and after the last movie comes out this year and reduces me to a sobbing mess in the cinema, I will definitely be in need of fix-it fic. XD

Crossposted from Dreamwidth: http://sivaroobini.dreamwidth.org/86159.html.

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