[identity profile] abby-normal.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ship_manifesto
Title: In Support Of Cousinly Love
Author: [livejournal.com profile] abby_normal (aka Aratlithiel/Daffodil Bolger)
Pairing: Frodo/Merry
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Spoilers: None that I can think of

The funny thing about what I am going to attempt here is that I realise perfectly well that I will be, in essence, preaching to the choir. The only people who will even venture into this will be those who don't already have their minds narrowed and set; those who won't actually get angry about what I'm going to say. And yes, when you point out the logic in this relationship, as opposed to the lack thereof in others, fans of other pairings really do get angry. I mean actually seriously angry. In fact, I fully expect to get unfriended by a few over it, if any of those who would get angry bother to click on the post to begin with. But here goes anyway.

Years ago, when I read LOTR for the first several dozen times, I was struck by the relationship between Frodo and Merry and, to a lesser degree, that between Frodo and Pippin. Like these guys, I come from a very large family with more cousins than can fit comfortably in any indoor area for any length of time. While I love all of them, there are only one or two I was/am very close to and only one I would drop whatever might happen to be going on in my life for. That’s a very deep love, one that is not and cannot be taken lightly, one that goes beyond familial considerations and even beyond friendship – neither of those are adequate descriptions of the kind of relationship I’m talking about. It’s both and neither: it’s someone knowing your history and you knowing theirs; it’s the shorthand of conversation when you make mention of a family member’s idiosyncrasies and another knows exactly what you’re talking about and can fume or laugh along with you, finish your sentences, share an inside joke and laugh for an hour over something no one else in the world would get, even after a six-hour history and explanation; it’s the invaluable bonus of never having to go through that explanation. It’s the extraordinary comfort of having someone know you – who you are, how you think, what your values are… that if you died tomorrow, this person would be able to describe to the world exactly the kind of person you were, make you live for a few moments behind someone else’s eyes and all through their love for you and their knowledge of you. They know your strengths, your weaknesses, your successes and your failings and you know what sort of reaction to expect from them when confronted with each of these things. And you give all of that back to them without thought -- without even really realising you're doing it -- because it’s become a part of who you are.

So, when I read LOTR and took note of the fact that Merry twigged to the secret of the Ring, knew how Bilbo had pulled his disappearing-act at the Party and then proceeded to watch Frodo for seventeen years and all so that Frodo would not disappear on him as Bilbo had on Frodo, I saw something in that relationship that I think is obvious and all too frequently ignored: Merry, contrary to what many who write him seem to think, is a grownup. His family runs Buckland and, if one has a brain and the ability to extrapolate, one must assume that Merry had many adult responsibilities – both to his family and to his homeland – that were not easy to leave behind, especially for someone who so obviously valued his family and his home. This is a rural, farming community where manual labour is expected, where growing up fast is the only kind there is and where the fortunes of the community depend entirely upon its individual citizens. This is not some happy-go-lucky useless country bumpkin, who thinks, ‘Yippee! Adventure!’ and toddles after Frodo in hopes of dragon’s gold. No. This is a person who carefully watches his cousin for years (seventeen!), keeping an eye out for signs that he might be thinking of going off into danger alone.

And here’s the thing that so many miss: when those signs appeared, Merry recognised them. This is not someone who has a light relationship with his cousin, this is someone who knows Frodo, knows him intimately and can spot the signs that Frodo will be off and interpret them correctly. And Frodo is not an easy person to know! This is not a casual, cousinly relationship – it is deep, loving and intimate. (And when I say ‘intimate’ I am not speaking about slash, so minds out of the gutter for a minute – we’ll probably dip into there eventually. In fact, I know we will.)

Now, the Frodo-Sam relationship is different and Sam knows Frodo, too, but – in my own opinion – not in the same ways and not as well (at least pre-Quest). Sam knows what Frodo needs but not always what he wants; Sam knows when something is wrong but not always what. Sam had to be told by Merry to keep an eye on Frodo. Now, you can extrapolate on that all you want and many have and quite well but the fact remains that Sam did not begin spying on Frodo until Merry asked him to. Did Sam know something was going on before that? Did he have his own suspicions and was maybe already spying before Merry came along and put him to work? Who knows? But the fact is that, in canon, Merry is the impetus behind The Conspiracy and, had it not been for him, Sam might never have been caught spying in the first place and then who knows who would have ended up going along with Frodo? If anyone.

Yet, if an author wants to write Frodo/Merry as anything but a temporary pairing and one in which real love is shared between the two of them, that author must work extra hard to 'prove' the relationship. And even then, most readers will see what they want to see anyway. Personally, the feedback I receive on my Frodo/Merry fic is about half and half: one half of the people who write me about it are pleased with the way the relationship and story evolves and the other half want to know when Frodo is finally going to dump Merry for Sam. What this latter half fail to see is that, in my own personal opinion, if one considers the canon of LOTR as their basis for any pairing, Frodo/Merry is actually the more logical choice.

Here's why:

If you are going to assume any slash relationship within the confines of the text in the first place, the Frodo/Merry relationship is actually the first and most logical choice. (Yes, I know I just said that but it bears repeating):

(1) There is a close relationship that canon itself establishes; not only is Merry included in the list of Frodo's 'special friends' (along with Pippin, Fatty and Folco), but there is an easiness in that relationship, a familiarity between them that speaks to a level of comfort that only long-knowledge can bring. They joke and tease one moment and turn serious the next; Frodo, Merry and Pippin speak to each other with an ease with which they speak to no one else.

(2) There is a very evident love between them exemplified by -- among other things -- Merry's willingness to leave his home and his safety behind in order to try and keep Frodo from danger; Merry knows everything about the Ring that Frodo and Sam do, has not been 'assigned' this task by Gandalf and yet does everything within his power to make sure Frodo doesn't leave without him.

(3) There is a closeness between the two as demonstrated by the fact that it is Merry who stays with Frodo when Bilbo disappears; Frodo knew Bilbo was leaving and, we have to assume, knew what to expect from the rest of the Shire when he did (at least he seemed to). Yet, of all of those who might be better able to help him with the aftermath, he chose Merry -- still a tweenager -- to stay with him and help him through it. He would have to have had a lot of confidence in Merry's abilities to be of assistance and a lot of faith in their relationship to trust him to witness this very trying time.

(4) There is an intimacy verified by the fact that Merry recognises that Frodo will be leaving the Shire; knowing someone might have a predisposition to high-tail it is quite different from having the ability to see the signs that the time is close. Frodo did everything he could to hide the fact that he was leaving and yet could not hide it from Merry. Don't forget: Merry saw the signs before Sam overheard Gandalf's tale about the Ring. Sam wouldn't have even been there, had Merry not asked him to be.

(5) There is yet more love evidenced by Frodo's unwillingness to include his cousins in his plans to leave in the first place; yes, you could certainly argue that Frodo would have gone alone, had Sam not been eavesdropping and then been more or less ordered by Gandalf to go with him, but when given the advice to take along others, he still chose to do what he could to leave his cousins out of it.

By contrast, there is very little 'evidence' of an intimate relationship between Frodo and Sam pre-Quest. One only needs to read the first few chapters of LOTR to see that the relationship is no more than a friendly master/servant one at that time. (The movies are quite a different story but the most rabid Frodo/Sam OTPers also happen to be those who purport to despise the movies and revere canon, so let's work with this for now.) If it is a relationship of a more intimate nature, it doesn't appear to be a very healthy one. Sam is so deferential to Frodo and Frodo so authoritarian with Sam that, if they are being intimate with each other at this point, neither of these characters are ones who deserve the love and reverence of their fanbase… because, you know -- ew. Certainly there are ways in which both behaviours could be explained by climbing into the character's heads and giving the reader a different spin on what's going on in there and why the behaviours make sense in the context of an intimate, sexual relationship. But by and large, authors don't tend to bother. They simply assume that relationship, ignore the aspects of canon that would argue against it and expect the reader to assume all of that with them. Which, don't get me wrong, is fine; I have just as much suspension-of-disbelief as anyone else -- probably more -- and am mostly happy to go along for the ride, whether I believe the precepts or not. Frodo/Sam is a fun pairing and I have, in fact, written it a time or two myself and have read it countless times. It's only when the 'Frodo/Sam is THE OTP' is preached at me that my teeth tend to grind.

Truthfully, I don’t have an OTP. Frodo/Merry is my favourite pairing but I’m not closed-minded enough that any other pairing squicks me. Actually, that’s not true – Frodo/Any Chick is my favourite pairing but we all know how much het is about, so I make do. But back to my point (and I’m pretty sure I have one but let’s wait ‘til we get to the end and see).

Anyway, yes – I can see and believe a Frodo/Sam relationship once the Quest gets underway but I can more reasonably see Frodo/Merry before then. Now, that’s not to say that I find all pre-Quest Frodo/Sam unbelievable because I don’t, especially in movie-verse. There are hundreds of those kinds of fics and I absolutely read and enjoy them – I’ve written them. But I’m finding I’m enjoying them less and less now and for entirely different reasons.

When thinking about what I wanted to say here, I came to the conclusion that, in order to demonstrate the logic of this particular pairing, one must also 'ding' the logic of other pairings. As with most new 'theories', one must poke holes in the old in order to get others to consider the logic of the new.

In hobbit fandom, you have two basic pairings that have become 'The Pairings' and any other pairing besides those two are more or less considered 'fringe pairings'; that is: pairings that others sort of play with when they need a plot device or conflict in order to further or enhance the logic of their own.

Those pairings in the hobbit fandom are Frodo/Sam and/or Merry/Pippin. It's become quite ingrained fanon to consider one or both of these 'couples' as an OTP and an author really doesn't have to demonstrate the logic of either pairing in order to use them in a story. They have become so accepted within the fandom that any other pairing involving one or more of these characters is one that must be either used as a way to get one of the OTPs together (ex.: Sam sees Merry with Frodo and gets jealous, therefore coming to realise that he has loved Frodo all along and now must fight for him), or as a sort of 'consolation prize' (ex.: Frodo thinks he'll never have Sam, so he uses Merry as a sort of 'comfort' in between pining episodes for his One True Love). If anyone does read a Frodo/Merry story, it's usually just to see what new way Frodo has come up with to dump Merry for Sam and leave Merry heartbroken so that Pippin has to pick up the pieces, or to see how Merry is suffering through the ordeal of waiting for Pippin to be old enough to tup and Frodo relieving Merry's sexual frustrations as a favour to him because that's just the kind of generous soul Frodo is.

*rolls eyes*

When one writes anything besides Frodo/Sam or Merry/Pippin, one must be prepared for the feeling of 'swimming upstream'. You must approach the relationship as though you are attempting to prove a difficult theorem -- you must have all of your proofs ready, double-check your logic and do the math several times over before you present your sum. And even then, you will still have to explain the logic of the problem over and over again to the fundamentalists, who will accuse you of either playing fast and loose with the basics of math or of wearing a tin hat. And the funniest (and most frustrating) part of all of that is: those who will be looking askance or making accusations are those who seem not to have the first clue about who any of these characters really are and those who are so immersed in fanon characterisations that they've completely forgotten or overlooked what makes these characters who and what they are to begin with.

Fanon!Frodo is rather a willowy character, who -- honestly -- I couldn't imagine gathering the courage to step out of Bag End, let alone the Shire. He is someone who has never worked a day in his life, who spends his days reading and/or translating Elvish texts, who seems to have no responsibilities whatsoever to his tenants or holdings besides confronting Lotho every once in a while. Oh, and pining for Sam. Because, you know -- Frodo was a virgin before Sam. (You think I'm kidding but seriously -- many consider any depiction of Frodo as having had sex with anyone other than Sam both unbelievable and sacrilegiously AU.)

Fanon!Sam is your all-around 'Abuse me, please, and I'll love you even more for it' sort of guy. He is smarter than Frodo, stronger than Frodo and, more often than not, someone who probably would have traipsed up the Mountain and tossed the Ring into the Fire without a qualm or second-thought. He is also someone who will put up with all of the abuse Fanon!Frodo heaps on him (and Fanon!Frodo is very good at the abuse thing) with a serene smile and tolerant, loving attitude. And he taught Frodo what that funny dangly thing between his legs is for. No, really. And he's always the Top.

Fanon!Merry and Fanon!Pippin are actually pretty much interchangeable. Neither of them seems to have any sort of responsibilities and neither of them seems to have made the decision to join Frodo on his Adventure with anything other than a vague idea of what it all meant. And they are each both so involved with the other to the exclusion of Frodo himself that one wonders why they bothered to even pay attention to the fact that he was leaving because neither made the decision to accompany him out of any apparent love for him or concern for his safety or that of their homes. And they sneak off into the bushes together an inordinate amount of times, even when the cousin they are supposed to love is suffering through the Morgul wound. Yeesh.

I won't bore you with why all of those characterisations are off-base to someone who has read the books. If you even ventured into this particular diatribe, I have to assume that you have both an open-mind and a familiarity with the characters.

For myself, coming from a thirty-plus-year book background and a very great love for the text and original characters, none of these characterisations work very well for me. I can enjoy them for a limited period of time -- mostly it's enough to get me through the fic -- but rarely do any of them have any lingering impact, except when the characterisations are so off that I make a point of subsequently avoiding the author. But the funny thing is, the authors who write these characterisations and the readers who prefer them, are the very same who will argue long and loud that they know canon and are only writing/reading what they've extrapolated from it. And who consider anything but Frodo/Sam and/or Merry/Pippin AU and who make uneducated cracks about 'Tin-hattery' when confronted with something that might threaten their own narrow views on what is or is not canon.

Having been witness to a lot of this and on the receiving-end of some of it, I feel the need to make the following very clear: I did not come by my love for Frodo/Merry because Dom and Elijah turn me on (though, okay, I kinda think Dom’s a little hot), I did not come by my love for Frodo/Merry because I read something into canon that is not there (there isn’t and I didn’t), I did not come by my love for Frodo/Merry because it’s THE popular pairing and I wanted in on the action (it so obviously isn’t and there really is none) and I did not come by my love for Frodo/Merry because someone wrote essay upon essay about how it was what Tolkien really meant (because omg, there really are people who think they channel Tolkien and he tells them that Frodo and Sam bonked all the way to Mordor).

I came by my love for Frodo/Merry because, as most of you probably came by your love for your own chosen pairings, there was something within that relationship that ‘spoke’ to me, something about it I understood and recognised. I have more reasons to write Frodo/Merry than I have reasons not to and that’s pretty compelling for any author. No, I don’t see evidence of any slash relationship between them in canon but I do see evidence of a very deep and intimate relationship that I think is all too often made light of or even ignored. And for me, building on what is there is rewarding and a natural extension of the love I see between them.

I love Frodo/Sam – I really do. I know I’ve been beating on it a little bit but I don’t mean to beat on the pairing itself but rather a lot of the assumptions and biases that come along with it and which exclude the possibility of any other pairing. I read quite a lot of Frodo/Sam and when it’s done right, I really enjoy it. (And my own personal opinions of ‘done right’ is a rather lengthy essay unto itself and pretty ranty on a nameless very popular Frodo/Sam fic, which would get me into all kinds of trouble, I have no doubt, so we’re all better off if no one asks.) I think that the Frodo and Sam dynamic is a beautiful love story all by itself, with or without slash, and a very rich mine for a lot of the emotion Tolkien left out of canon.

But it is not THE One True Pairing. It is not even the most logical pairing, it is not the most obvious pairing and it is not the only pairing possible. I will not exclude the possibility that a Frodo/Sam relationship could develop throughout the course of the story but if there is a relationship that has been more or less 'handed' to the slash author by Tolkien, it's the Frodo/Merry relationship.

The Frodo and Merry relationship is itself a great love story, whether you appreciate slash or not. And it's a love that is right in front of the reader if he/she would but see it. It does not need to be 'explained' by fanfic and the fanfic author does not have to ask the reader to make assumptions because it's all right there in canon. If there is an established slash relationship within the text (and yes, I am fully aware there is not) then it is the Frodo/Merry one. One does not need to invent or explain this relationship because Tolkien has already done so. One just needs to be willing to see it.

One of the things [livejournal.com profile] ship_manifesto asks for when you commit to submitting an essay here is recommendations. There are few for this pairing. Actually, there are many fics but very few that don't have Merry taking Sam's 'sloppy seconds', as one friend calls it, or Merry just doing Frodo until Pippin is old enough. Therefore, there are few that I can recommend for anyone who might look for the same things I do. So, the following might seem a bit lean but it's all I've managed to find:

Nexus by Willow-wode
(Rated Adult. What a wonderful, loving relationship this depicts. A mutual loving relationship and one between two characters who know and understand each other, who love each other equally. Author Summary: Merry is young, impulsive, and thoroughly done with waiting.)

And the short companion piece that goes with it:

Mirrors, also by Willow-wode
(Rated Adult. It's truly amazing, the things this author manages to say in so few well-chosen words. Author's Summary: Merry has always liked mirrors; Frodo has not.)

Where An Argument Leads You by Dana
(Rated NC-17. I love it when Dana does Frodo/Merry because she usually does it for me and though she hates leaving Pippin out of things, she always gives me at least a small snap-shot of these two alone and with no one else but them in the room -- and I mean that in more ways than the physical. Author's Summary: They haven't been arguing. Really.)

Forever Frodo by Trianne
(Rated NC-17. One of the few post-Quest Frodo/Merry stories you will find. I like it because it's a story that lures you in with a light-hearted feel and then whacks you when you're least expecting it. Author Summary: Merry delights in the lasting effects of the Ent draught...)

Wow, that's even a skimpier list than I'd thought. My apologies but there are very few who write this pairing as a pairing in and of itself and not a 'stop-over' on its way to one of THE OTPs. I suppose that's why I write so much of it myself. Now I'm all depressed.
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Date: 2005-12-27 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amanuensis1.livejournal.com
I have a great fondness for thinkers who can explain their reasoning so well. I came to this essay from no camp on the issue, neither "of course" or "no way" and wanted you to know I thought it was a great read.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mother2012.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-03 09:16 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2005-12-27 04:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labingi.livejournal.com
Very cool! I think your analysis of the relationship between Frodo and Merry is right on. (I personally, don't feel inclined to slash any of them, but from a more platonic perspective, I'm with you all the way.)

I agree that pre-Quest Merry and Frodo are closer than Frodo and Sam. Merry seems to have been Frodo's best friend up to that time. They grew up in the same household until Merry was seven and Frodo twenty-one and up to that time, were probably raised more or less as brothers. They are both only children (unusual in the Shire), which might also have brought them closer to each other. I also think their personalities are similar: both tend somewhat toward studiousness and introversion, again, rather unusual in the Shire.

The Quest, it seems to me, involves Frodo's pulling away from Merry toward Sam, and Merry's pulling away from Frodo toward Pippin. By the time they all get home, Frodo and Sam are closer, and Merry and Pippin are closer. While the relationships that develop between Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin are beautiful, I think there is a sub-textual sadness in the loss of primary closeness between Frodo and Merry. It's very realistic too: life really does pull us away from certain people and towards others in just that subtle way.

Date: 2005-12-27 09:48 am (UTC)
qem_chibati: Coloured picture of Killua from hunter x hunter, with the symbol of Qem in the corner. (A cat made from Q, E, M) (Default)
From: [personal profile] qem_chibati
Very interesting essay, I enjoyed seeing your thoughts and logic - it made a refreshing change from some of the rabid "canon" sort of thoughts.

I hope that this essay helps encourage more Frodo/Merry, for the sake of Frodo/Merry ^_^

Date: 2005-12-27 11:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] syredronning.livejournal.com
I'm usually not into hobbit slash, but I read your essay because this pairing made me curious. Very nice reasoning, and thanks a lot for the recs - read and enjoyed them all, with "Nexus" and "Forever Frodo" being my favorites :)))

On a side note: I'm amused about the parallels to my own favorite couple in Startrek - with Kirk/Spock and also Spock/McCoy being the big couples, my beloved Kirk/McCoy pairing usually ends up being pre-K/S or post-K/S and rarely is allowed to stand on its own. So I feel your pain. But keep on working, maybe even make a website with examples, links, pictures...anything you can find. People can be drawn to the dark side of non-OTPs unusual pairings once you show the logic :)))))

Date: 2005-12-28 04:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brightbear.livejournal.com
I've never really read any of the Hobbit pairings but I like to read all the essays of fandoms I'm familiar with just to see how others interpret the characters. In more than one case, I've been converted or at least come to appreciate the possibilities of different relationships.

I'm not sure that I'll ever be a true Frodo/Merry shipper but now that you've pointed out how close they were pre-Quest, I'm curious. I'll be checking out your recs when I have the time.

Date: 2005-12-28 05:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harajukufuuri.livejournal.com
Good essay! (Now if I only knew how to do the sparkly text things I see all over the internets nowadays.)

I came unto this as somewhat of a Frodo/Sam shipper, because the movies left a stronger impression on me than the books. (Tolkien's prose and I don't get along - I've only been through LOTR twice, and once was six years ago and the other a speed reading over two days in anticipation of LOTR:ROTK.) It's hard for me to fight the images of movieverse Merry/Pippin and Frodo/Sam, considering these two pairings were given so much more love than any other within the group of four. Case in point - in Rohan, where Pippin is made to ride off with Gandalf, and he and Merry part? And almost all of Frodo and Sam's journey in ROTK can be taken as Frodo/Sam, and that last scene between them at Frodo's departure smacked of UST. (Good chemistry, perhaps?)

After reading this, however, I want to go find my books and read them again, ASAP. I had the vaguest idea that a lot of important bits of what happened in the Shire were left out of FOTR when I watched it, and something didn't feel right when I watched it, but now I'm able to pin it down - the hobbits in movieverse are quite different from those in the book, and IMHO Merry suffered the most for it. (...or maybe Legolas, or Gimli, considering how the former became GAY GAY GAAAAAAAY generic elf and the latter had all his truimph stolen from him by his blonde elf BFF!) Merry and Pippin in movieverse didn't strike me as very different, but thinking about it, it was only Pippin in the books that was especially playful.

..That was long. My rambly two cents! :)

Date: 2005-12-28 05:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harajukufuuri.livejournal.com
eep last scene in Shire when Frodo leaves? Not UST; I was thinking of some other pairing in a comment reply on another tab (Firefox promotes a short attention span!) and carelessly typed that in. That was, rather, a deep and tender love, at least to me.

Hope I do not leave a bad impression as an unbelievably horny gushing teen fangirl!

Date: 2006-01-02 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mews1945.livejournal.com
I've never been one to have an "OTP" since I like Frodo with almost anyone, though slash is my preference. I've always loved stories that pair Frodo and Merry, and reading your essay gave me some insight into my feelings that I hadn't really considered. I also love Frodo/Sam and Frodo/Pippin, although I prefer movie canon when it comes to the last two pairings, because the hobbits all seem closer in age there, and I much prefer my pairings to be equal, although I often do like to see Frodo as the older, more experienced of the couple. I like him strong, stubborn and opinionated. This is a fascinating essay, and I'm glad [livejournal.com profile] willow_wode recced it.
(deleted comment)

Date: 2006-01-02 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elderberrywine.livejournal.com
Many thanks to Willow Wode because I know I never would have otherwise seen this, and I just have to tell you:

You. Are. Absolutely. Right.

It is clearly Merry who keeps an eye on Frodo pre-Quest, after Bilbo's departure, even though he doesn't live in the immediate vicinity, and one has to imagine, has his hands full learning to take over the affairs of Buckland. If there had been any sign of upcoming departure, it would have had to have been picked up by Merry, since Sam never would have dreamed of approaching Merry with any information of the sort.

And it is also inarguable that Frodo and Sam don't actually know each other very well, prior to the quest, which is rather surprising, since they've seen each other on more or less a daily basis for nearly thirty years. Yet Frodo finds Sam's fondness for songs, and even elves, to be a new side of Sam. Sam is obviously devoted to Frodo, but apparently they have not had many conversations on topics other than Bag End's gardens. I would suspect that Bilbo would have been a link between the two of them, when he was there (since he taught Sam his letters), but perhaps there has not been as much contact since his departure.

In fact, I have no doubt that Frodo/Merry is the only possibly plausible pre-quest slash that does not violate canon. Pre-, and even for the most part, during-quest F/S is wildly AU, even though it is by far and away the most prolific type of LOTR hobbit-related slash. Sure doesn't make it right, at least canon-wise, though.

So go you, and don't ever be depressed! You write it wonderfully well and it rings so true. Personally, I don't think Tolkien really ever had slash in mind at all, but I can so see him harrumphing, and muttering something about lads being lads, and that sort of thing at the thought of Frodo/Merry, but being appalled at the thought of Frodo/Sam (OK, at least pre-quest F/S).

And yeah, I know what I write, but it's always been IMHO wildly AU *g*

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] elderberrywine.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-03 07:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-02 11:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] primula-baggins.livejournal.com
Could you tell me what chapters in LOTR would best illustrate your points about Merry and Frodo's pre-quest relationship?

I came here via Willow Wode too! I enjoyed your essay.

Date: 2006-01-03 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] plaidpjs.livejournal.com
I'm also her via the rec of [livejournal.com profile] willow_wode, and I want to thank you for posting such an interesting and well thought out essay.

I've no particular fondness for any specific pairing (yes, another Frodo “girl”), but have certainly gained some much welcome insight into the nature of the relationship of Frodo and Merry.

For one, I’ve always thought of Merry as being more of a sharp village “businessman” rather then comic fodder he is often represented as. Not that I didn’t enjoy the comic relief of the character in the film, but it seems to have permeated most fan fiction to the point where the character can become almost cartoon-like and his original intensity is all but forgotten. For that matter, your statement noting “Fonon!Merry and Fanon!Pippin are actually pretty much interchangeable” was particularly astute.

Far too often all of the hobbits are written with an almost infantile immaturity that is so incredibly inconsistent with the adults in the original work, and as a result the fanfiction is so often a disappointment.

I hope you don’t mind if I friend your journal, as I’d very much look forward to reading more of your insights as well as your stories.

Date: 2006-01-03 02:37 am (UTC)
ext_28878: (camels)
From: [identity profile] claudia603.livejournal.com
I got here via a link (hmmm...not a member of this community).

I personally don't think Frodo/Sam works for me unless it's on quest or post-quest (I've read some prequest that work, but they are few and far between). Frodo/Merry is really the only logical hobbit pairing that I can see...but I'm pretty open to any of them if someone will make me believe, lol. But of course I AM an interspecies girl all and all and am far happier when Frodo is happily boffing a man or two! :-)

Frodo/Merry is slim pickin's indeed. I believe I wrote a Frodo/Merry once ... it's not very explicit, so I'm not really reccing it, just pointing out that yet another exists, lol, and it's postquest and sort of canon (which means Frodo gets on the ship d'oh!)-- but no Sam-seconds (I think...) It was for the Silver Screen [livejournal.com profile] hobbit_smut challenge.

Date: 2006-01-03 02:42 am (UTC)
dreamflower: gandalf at bag end (Default)
From: [personal profile] dreamflower
You know, I'm not one for slash generally, and I'm not one especially for Frodo with any of the younger hobbits in a slashy relationship (the age gap is hard for me to overcome), but most of the points you make in the earlier part of the essay, about Merry's closeness to Frodo, I agree with thoroughly, in my gen sort of way.

I've always felt that pre-Quest Merry was much closer to Frodo than any of the others; I see (in my non-slashy way) it as the relationship of brothers more than cousins. After all, Frodo lived under the same roof as Merry from Merry's birth through his early childhood. That Sam loved Frodo as a friend and mentor I do not doubt, and that Frodo was very fond of him also, but the proprieties were in the way of them actually having a close relationship. And in the relationship with Pippin, I see Merry as the linchpin--without Merry in the middle, what reason would Frodo have to be friends with a child so very much younger? Merry is really the glue that holds not only the Conspiracy together, but the four hobbits as friends, as well. Actually, I think Merry probably was friends with Sam pre-Quest (I think there is some canon evidence for that as well)which would have been the reason for approaching him with the Conspiracy in the first place.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, except for the slashy part, I agree with you. LOL!

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From: [personal profile] dreamflower - Date: 2006-01-03 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [personal profile] dreamflower - Date: 2006-01-03 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-03 10:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghyste.livejournal.com
I’m here following a link from [livejournal.com profile] eleanorgardner. An excellent essay and I agree with it, bar some of the slightly sweeping assumptions about the behaviour of F/S or M/P ’shippers where I will assume you are picking on the extremes of behaviour to make a point.

However, as you acknowledge yourself when you say, “I came by my love for Frodo/Merry because, as most of you probably came by your love for your own chosen pairings, there was something within that relationship that ‘spoke’ to me, something about it I understood and recognised”, logic and canon have little to do with people’s fanon affections. Take me for example: As far as canon is concerned I firmly believe that Frodo was rendered incapable of romantic attachment at the age of 21, that there is no evidence of a close friendship between Sam and Frodo pre-quest and that if any of the Hobbits is a closet case it is undoubtedly Merry. Yet in defiance of all logic the relationship that speaks to me is F/S. Go figure!

The Frodo/Merry relationship has certainly suffered from its association with the Tinhats. In my early, and unattached, days in the post-film fandom I sometimes found myself avoiding F/M stories despite my affection for canon!Merry because I couldn’t be quite sure whether the author was using the story to endorse the Domlijah manifesto ("See – their love is eternal. Even JRRT knew".) However, there are other things that put people off of a particular pairing and the main thing that prevents me from reading F/M (however well written and canon compliant it may be) is neither my fondness for F/S nor the Tinhat associations, but the fact that there is absolutely no chance of a happy ending. With F/S there is always the hope that they will find each other for a short while beyond the sea, but all that is left for F/M is a marriage of convenience for Merry and an eternity alone for Frodo. I don’t deal well with angst, so I avoid the stories that can promise me nothing else.

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From: [identity profile] ghyste.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-03 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-03 01:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elenya54.livejournal.com
Lovely essay. No defence necessary as far as I'm concerned, but a delightful read anyway. I'm always happy to put aside my disbelief in F/S pre quest in the pursuit of a good story, but in the past I've written about exactly why I don't think there was any relationship between Frodo and Sam prequest (including Frodo's steep learning curve about Sam *during* the quest). If my personal preference is taken into account - the way the story "speaks" to me - it's that Frodo and Merry had a very close cousinly friendship that was not sexual, but if pressed, all I can say is that the idea of the quest being undertaken by a virgin appeals to my romantic soul. :D Again, I'm always happy to put that personal preference aside to read a well written F/M story. If we're talking recs, then an important one is missing:


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From: [identity profile] elenya54.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-03 06:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [identity profile] elenya54.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-03 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-03 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baranduin.livejournal.com
Fabulous essay!

If I were ever to turn to hobbits-only pairings (in other words, if hell ever freezes over), it would be to Frodo/Merry and it would have to be from a book perspective. To my way of thinking, Merry is Frodo's equal in intelligence and sensibilities, which is really very silly of me to say because that implies I look to logic for my pairings :-)

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From: [identity profile] baranduin.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-04 09:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-03 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estelanui.livejournal.com

I’m here via the links of Willow Wode and Elanorgardner. It’s really an interesting essay with well reasoned motivations of your point of view. I agree basically with all of them, especially with the observations concerning canon.

I would like to express two opinions about hobbit pairing and OTP. The first one is a bit obvious and wants to underline how deeply the movies have affected the fanfiction idea of the hobbits. I think that the threes films have given a fairly accurate picture of the hobbit nature along with their way of living; but at the same time have shown us a Ringbearer, two cousins, a gardener and also Bilbo that are not the identical characters of the book. While in the movies the main hobbit characters are not an inaccurate or unfaithful translation, they traits are not the original ones. I don’t blame the movies for that because I’m fond of whole PJ’s adaptation and I can forget objectionable parts. As a reader when I begin a story I try to get the particular ‘traslation’ of the author in order to have an orientation in his/her pairing universe.

The second opinion is about the OTP idea. Does THE OTP exist? When I think to an x/y pairing, the “/” in the middle can mean relationship, friendship, love or slash.
Few months ago I thought my preferred OTP was F/S; now I like a particular pairing with well precise characteristics, and it can be F/S or F/M, seldom F/P. (Ok,ok…Frodo have to be in it! :-)) I will try to explain why.
Let we think to a F/S pairing: what Frodo and what Sam? book!Frodo, movie!Frodo, bossy!Frodo, virgin!… oblivious!… inept!… selfish!… shrinking-violet!Frodo? And book!Sam, movie!…shy!… know-all!… naïve!… bossy!… percective!Sam?
And also book!Merry, funny!… grown-up!… childish!… responsible!Merry? And adorable eclectic Pippin?
These different characters are all present in hobbit fanfiction stories and combined give a wide range of pairings. This is not a sort of ‘indeterminacy principle’. Among different pairings I heartily lake one or two of them and I read others that seems convincing to me, but I don’t believe in THE universal OTP any more.
I was speaking only of my opinions that are highly partial, may be unfair, but that not contain at all judgments regarding the author or reader tastes. It’s always a welcomed challenge for me to meet with different point of view

Abby_Normal don’t feel depressed for the short F/M fic list because this is only the beginning. :-)

Date: 2006-01-04 02:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] poppybrandybuck.livejournal.com
Here via [livejournal.com profile] elanorgardner. Thank you for putting so clearly into words what I've always felt but never really analyzed about the closeness of the Frodo/Merry relationship. You also make some important points about Merry's characterization, namely, Merry, contrary to what many who write him seem to think, is a grownup.

F/M is one of my very favorite pairings and I wish there was more of it being written. Is there a F/M community around, perchance? If not, well... I'd be up for a F/M writing challenge, if one were to be presented...

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From: [identity profile] poppybrandybuck.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-05 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [identity profile] poppybrandybuck.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-09 01:26 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-04 04:58 am (UTC)
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophinisba
I'm glad you wrote this and that [livejournal.com profile] willow_wode and [livejournal.com profile] elanorgardner linked to it because I learned quite a bit reading it last night and seeing the comments and discussions when I came back to it tonight. You make a lot of good points about the logic of the pairing, especially pre-Quest, and the evidence in canon for a real intimate and loving relationship between these two characters. This essay and the conversations here will influence the way I read the books in the future and the way I read and (occasionally) write these characters.

I didn't read the books until after the first movie came out so I never really got a chance to savor book characterizations before my ideas got shaped by the movies. And not too long after that I started reading fanfic by authors who, like yourself, had a really long history with the books and had thought long and hard about these characters and relationships. This has meant that most of my understanding of Merry and his relationship with Frodo comes from what I've read in fanfic and not from what I myself picked up from reading the books.

The thing is, my fanon!Merry, the one I learned to love primarily through fanfic and comments on fanfic, is really remarkably similar to canon!Merry as you describe him. He's mature and intelligent and understands Frodo very well. He's loved Frodo all his life and is quite... well, the adverb that always comes to my mind is fiercely -- he's quite fiercely in love with him, fiercely protective of him, in some slash fics fiercely possessive. As a reader I eat this stuff up. Lately I prefer reading Frodo/Merry to Frodo/Sam. Partly just so I can see a plot I haven't seen twenty times before, but also because I love this particular relationship for the intensity, the long history of love between cousins, the angst.

I must say I've read very little fic where Merry and Pippin are childlike and indistinguishable. I hear people complaining about it all the time, but I very seldom actually see it, (just as I never feel the fabled pedophile vibe in interspecies fic, but that's a whole 'nother issue), and it seems to me that your essay could stand to put down F/S and M/P fans and authors, and fandom in general, a little less. Maybe I'm a naive newbie but I credit other fans, including F/S authors, for giving me a good understanding of these characters.

When I started reading fanfic a little over a year ago I came with the desire to read F/S, having been deeply moved by that relationship as it was shown in the movies and during the Quest in the books. I read a lot of F/S during the time I was lurking but hooked up with the interspecies crowd around the time I "came out", so I've have never really had much contact with F/S authors. I've had no experience at all with the rabid F/S shippers of whom you speak and wonder if their intolerance is really as widespread as you make it out to be.

To be honest, I was a bit put off by the tone of parts of your essay, including the first paragraph when you lament that you are preaching to the choir, that is, that those who disagree with you will not bother to read what you have to say or to think through your arguments. I guess you've had bad experiences in the past and I'm sorry for that and feel lucky to have had only good ones... but I don't see the need to start out by saying that other people will hate you for telling the truth. I personally happen to agree with most of the content of your essay, but the oppositional attitude actually made me not want to read it at first. I think your points could have been made with less in the way of caricature of people who see things differently. In particular the way you roll your eyes at the way most people write Frodo/Merry to me does not seem very helpful.

To sum up: Very interesting and informative essay. Please cheer up! (And please don't be angry with me. I don't mean to offend, really. And sorry that this is so long -- I got a little carried away.) Thank you for writing and sharing!

Re: Part 2

From: [personal profile] sophinisba - Date: 2006-01-05 01:19 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-05 05:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] strangerian.livejournal.com
You're right, of course, but you're even *more* right than I thought. Just going by the outlines of Shire society, Frodo would be more likely to have close friendships (with or without sex) with his cousins, than with his gardener. And Merry is the friend who supports Frodo when Bilbo disappears -- at 19, significantly immature by hobbit standards! -- which speaks well both for their bond as cousins and for Merry's abilities and responsibility. The significance of Merry being able to suss out what the Ring means and what it means to Frodo, in terms of the closeness of their friendship, never quite penetrated before you pointed it out.

Now, of course, it's obvious.

Well, um, unless Merry has a long-standing reverence for *Bilbo* and thinks that following Frodo outside the Shire might bring him again to the beloved greatuncle-storyteller-companion in roguery that Bilbo could likely have been to him. But anyway.

The other point I liked especially is your note about Merry being an adult when he goes out on the Quest, almost certainly with important responsibilities in Buckland. What the heir to Brandy Hall must have been doing day-to-day for the past few years is very seldom shown in fanfic, but it grounds the Shire in seeming reality when it is shown or even suggested much more quickly than Frodo's eccentric life can. Oddly (or not) there are some hints of grown-up, politically astute thinking for Merry in the movies, which I'm always glad to see.

Date: 2006-01-05 07:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] renka54.livejournal.com
Oh, bless you! I found this essay courtesy of Willow-wode, and just read with my jaw on the floor. I thought I was the only one who felt this way! I've believed in Frodo/Merry since I first read the books way back in 1968, and I still see it every time I read them. Thank you for such an intelligent, articulate essay. I'm saving this to read again.

Where do you post your stories? I would dearly love to read anything you have written.

Date: 2006-01-11 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] someplacetobe.livejournal.com
I came across this community through a Star Wars Obidala LJ community, and I was pleased to see this essay.

Because, it seemed that, finally, someone else saw in the relationship between Merry and Frodo that I saw some years ago, when I first read LotR; not referring to the 'slash' sense of the relationship, but that intimacy between them and the love.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] someplacetobe.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-01-11 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-01-24 05:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] suzanami.livejournal.com
Not into them as a pairing at all, but I love their friendship and wish more people would notice it outside of shipping... Thus, this post makes me v. happy. ^______^

Date: 2006-05-18 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lame-pegasus.livejournal.com
Funny enough I totally agree with you about the OTP's - and while ignoring them with a weak disgust, I probably created my own, and no, I won't write an essay about it. Promised. *grins* And yes, I do think that you have some very good points here, concerning the relationship between the two cousins - Merry loves Frodo deeply, and one of my favorite lines Tolkien wrote for him is this one:

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 alonem and go off without a word.

He seems very mature and in a way wise to me; I know how much I learned to love Merry when I came up with Breath of Winter (which is written from his POV and was my first attempt to write Merry in earnest after Winter Fire). IMHO the're is no "pairing" though (but I guess you knew from the beginning that I would say that) but deep love, grown throughout the years and manifested during the quest...

I came by my love for Frodo/Merry because, as most of you probably came by your love for your own chosen pairings, there was something within that relationship that ‘spoke’ to me, something about it I understood and recognised.

And this is something I really understand and appreciate... plus the refreshing fact that you don't wave a banner for the OTP you've just discovered. I was slightly afraid to see something like this here when I followed the link in [livejournal.com profile] elanorgardner's glowing rec, but I should know you good enough by now to know better. *smiles*

Date: 2007-05-18 06:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pcdarkrose.livejournal.com
This essay was absolutely brilliant. You hit several notes that really made me think.

Thank you.
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