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Discussing: OMY Ch. 22 - Plots

OMY Ch. 22 - Plots

Warnings: None

In which the travelers set out for home, a weasel is found at the Badger, words are said, meanings are tangled, Frodo is shocked (as usual), and we finally meet the Widow Grubb.



Re: OMY Ch. 22 - Plots

The Widow Grubb:
I would like her better if she would not remind me that much of Gilda. I think there are lots of parallels:
Their positions in life: both are intelligent old women and ruling matriarchs of big families. So it is not against logic that both developed a I-know-what's-best-for-you-attitude towards everyone within reach. That's okay, but there are too many other likenesses:
Both are not only old, but disabled.
Both need not only a cane, but use as a kind of weapon, in a similar half mocking way.
Both have a flirting relationship with Bilbo and call him similar nicknames: "beggar/thief".
Gilda is much more charming, well mannered, better educated and extremely smart, but Maud is clearly taken from the same mold.
I would prefer if Gilda would remain only cane-rapping old woman in the story. >D



Re: OMY Ch. 22 - Plots

Your story "Legacy" was linked on the fancake recommendation community on DreamWidth. Having read that, I went on and read this one too. That's why you're getting this comment so long after the fact!

One thing that really jumped out at me throughout the story is the reality with which you've caught the dynamics of small towns. On the one hand, you have the "hobbits are hobbits and they stick together" meme; on the other, you have the casual Othering of "those folks who live Way Over There, and you know how they are". You've got the gossip-and-long-memory dynamic, whereby (1) nobody ever gets to live anything down, and (2) people speculate and draw completely inaccurate conclusions about other people, which then become "common knowledge" and stick to the target in the teeth of any and all actual evidence to the contrary. For example, nobody at Brandy Hall is ever going to believe that Bilbo didn't beat Frodo -- even if Frodo says otherwise, he's assumed to be lying! And yet Dalin, an outsider with only his own eyes to judge from, can see that Bilbo would never do such a thing -- it's completely out of character for him. You've got the way everything works on a web of family relationships, and "who is related to who and in what degree" is one of the most important questions in any discussion. (Of course, when your gene pool is that small, relationships also become important because of inbreeding issues!)

I really like the way you show the influence of the Ring on Bilbo. That little voice in the back of his head, always urging him to violence, and getting worse when he fingers the Ring in his pocket... and the scene in the hallway where Frodo sees Bilbo as looming large, shadowed and frightening because he's gripping the Ring, is a very nice touch.

The reason I'm posting this comment on this particular chapter is that this is where it really hit home to me that the only reason Bilbo is the hero of the story is the nature of his character. Him calling Esmie "Attercop" becomes ironic when it's obvious that Bilbo is actually the spider at the center of the web, using his family connections and personal charisma to manipulate other people into doing what he wants. As it happens, he's using his powers for good, taking the long view and thwarting those who would sell the welfare of the Shire for their own personal enrichment -- but he could just as easily have been one of those people, and would still have had the family connections and charisma at his disposal. This is, at root, the flaw in the "ruling monarch" form of government, and the reason why Kings must be restrained by rule of law. Who is to  gainsay Bilbo should one of his decisions ever be unwise? Theoretically, I suppose the Master and the Thain might stand together against him -- but that in turn requires that they both be good men and true... and the way you've structured the story shows that this may not be so much the case in the next generation.

All of which is to say that I think this story is outstanding as much for its background and political discussion as for your portrayals of Bilbo and Frodo, and that reading it gave me a lot to think about on the meta level.



Re: OMY Ch. 22 - Plots

Hi stardreamer,

I always enjoy comments, no matter when they arrive. Cool!

I come from a political theory and social sciences background, so it's important to me in my fanfic to get the social and political texture right. How does a society remain coherent and civil in the absence of the formal and impersonal institutions that we moderns rely on without a second thought? There are laws, and so presumably some kind of court system, there are elected officials, though they sound more like plebiscitary selections than political elections, there are notable families but not really an aristocracy, there is broad equality but no sense of it being a democracy, and so forth. The family/clan and the personal relations therein take precedence over all other modes of interaction. It is both inclusive and highly disciplinary (thank you, Foucault).

Showing how the Ring affects Bilbo was challenging. I tried to show how it was starting to warp him psychologically, not merely extending his life, and use the tension there to illuminate how Bilbo could resist the malign influence more successfully than any other being upon whom it had an effect. My other conceit in the Shire stories is that the Ring's influence goes beyond Bilbo. It's always seeking to corrupt whatever comes near it, and Hobbits who do not have Bilbo's integrity are all too easily suborned.

Yes, Bilbo is an intensely involved (I would say political) person in the Shire, though I resist calling him manipulative - I would say he is more persuasive, than manipulative. Manipulation implies (to me) an intent to use others as means to a personal end, with selfish disregard for their integrity, while persuasion presumes that the other is an end in his/herself, and so must be treated as such, which means negotiation rather than tricks or intimidation. Even so, yes, Bilbo can and does manipulate others' desires to get what he wants. He dislikes doing so, but he will. In most cases, he stoops to outright manipulation only when he is trying to prevent harm to others too weak to defend themselves. Had he kept the Ring, I fear he would have become a very despicable tyrant in the Shire. The problem of (divine) kingship is always a concern in my stories and one of the central themes in HotK, so I'm tickled you picked up on it.

I am glad you liked OMY and Legacy. That is the best thing an author can possibly hear!




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