Costuming From Tolkien

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[page 25] Costuming From Tolkien felice rolfe Somehow, when I start working up a costume for one of these Worldshaking Fannish Events which is known as a science fiction convention, my mind goes immediately to Tolkien, and stays there. Many's the time that I've hunted through the volumes (all several of them), getting behinder in my costume construction schedule and swearing because, with all the indexing and studying and marveling about Tolkien's works, no one has ever compiled a summary of what his characters _look_ like. (_The Lord of the Rings_ is a vividly visual book; it would have to be to get through to me, because as Greg can tell you I'm not visually oriented.) After doing my homework for this article, I believe I can tell you why. Tolkien doesn't give a whole lot of description, that's why. Nevertheless, there's plenty of material for prize-winning costumes; and I'll attempt to put it down in somewhat less than four volumes. That, gentle reader, is the Statement of Purpose (not to mention justification) that is supposed to lead off an article. Now I owe you -- and Greg -- an apology. When this article first occurred to me, I intended to simply list the descriptions of the various Tolkien character @characters@ in order of appearance, starting with _The Hobbit_-- and including page numbers just in case you didn't believe me. Then as I did the reading for it, other possibilities began to occur to me; and finally a really definitive article took shape in my mind...So here it is, months later. The "definitive article" is still unwritten (and unlikely ever to be written), ENTMOOT is late, and Greg has gone from waiting patiently to waiting impatiently. So it's back to the original plan, gang. I would like to suggest as a possible future topic the descriptions of the objects in the Ring books, such as the necklace of Girion lord of Dale, or the horn of Boromir. There's more and more 3-D work being entered in the Art Show, and a compendium of these possible objets d'arte might well be useful to artists and craftsmen. [page 26] Let's start with a very basic question: What do hobbits look like? "They are...small people, smaller than dwarves (and they have no beards)...They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs." Now that's not much help in costuming, so I'll skip about a bit here. At his birthday party, Bilbo is described as wearing an embroidered silk waistcoat with gold buttons. From this we can deduce an outfit much like that of the English country gentleman of the early-to- middle 1800's, don't you think? Come to think of it, I prefer the description of hobbits given in _The Fellowship of the Rings @Ring@_ to that of _The Hobbit_, which was just quoted. It is: "For they are a little people, smaller than Dwarves: less stout and stocky, that is, even when they are not actually much shorter." (And that gives us a line on the Dwarves too.) "Their height is variable, ranging between two and four feet of our measure...Bandobras Took (Bullroarer)...was four foot five and able to ride a horse." (Pippin and Merry, you'll recall, passed the Bullroarer after they'd drunk the Ent-draught.) There were more than one kind of hobbit, of course. "The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides. The Stoors were broader, heavier in build; their feet and hands were larger, and they preferred flat lands and riversides. The Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer than the others; they were lovers of trees and of woodlands." So if you're blondish and have elven leanings, you may be a Fallohide. And don't forget the golden-haired hobbit bairns who were born after the War of the Ring. Back to the natural order of things, the Dwarves are better described in _The Hobbit_ than anywhere else, and for a wonder, the descriptions will be helpful for costuming. We have: Dwalin: "a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under his dark-green hood." Balin: "a very old-looking dwarf on the step with a white beard and a scarlet hood." Kili and Fili: "two more dwarves, both with blue hoods, silver belts, and yellow beards; and each of them carried a bag of tools and a spade." Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin and Gloin, with: "two purple hoods, a grey hood, a brown hood, and a white hood were banging on the pegs, and off they marched with their broad hands stuck in their gold and silver belts to join the others." Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and especially Thorin: "two yellow hoods and a pale green one; and also a sky-blue one with a long silver tassel." (Bombur was the fat one, remember?) Gloin reappears in Vol. I of LotR as "a dwarf of important appearance, richly dressed. His beard, very long and forked, was white, nearly as white as the snow-white cloth of his garments. He wore a silver belt, and round his neck hung a chain of silver and diamonds." Then there is Gandalf. He ·appears first in _The Hobbit_ as "a little old man with a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots...long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat." (Seventy years later, at Bilbo's birthday party, he ladn't changed a bit.) While we're still watching the dwarves ather @gather@ at the door of the burglar (that's where we are, you know), we mustn't forget -as I nearly did - the instruments they [page 27] brought along. "Kili and Fili rushed for their bags and brought back little fiddles; Dori, Nor @Nori@, and Ori brought out flutes from somewhere inside their coats; Bombur produced a drum" (He would) "from the hall; Bifur and Bofur went out too, and came back with clarinets that they had left among the walking sticks. Dwalin and Balin...came back with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin's harp wrapped in a green cloth." During the conference about Smaug's treasure -- have you ever noticed what a singularly appropriate name that is for a smoke-breathing dragon? -- Gandalf gave Thorin a key with a long barrel and intricate wards, made of silver. Thorin hung it around his neck on a fine chain, under his jacket. A detail -- but details win authenticity prizes, sometimes. Starting out on the Adventure, I suppose they all looked much the same -- except for Bilbo, who was"wearing @was wearing@ a dark-green hood (a little weather-stained) and a dark green cloak borrowed from Dwalin. They were too large for him, and he looked rather comic." (I take this to mean that the hood wasn't attached to the cloak. They came both ways in medieval times.) And Gandalf, the showoff, was "very splendid on a white horse." But then you can't get horses into a convention hall, anyway... One of the problems with costuming from the Rings books is that you not only have to choose a character, but also a time or occasion. Bilbo starting out looked quite different from Bilbo climbing out of the river with a cold in his nose; and that Bilbo is quite different again from Bilbo in his mithril coat under the Mountain. Now the adventure is well started; we have come to the Last Homely House. Elrond, the master of the house, "was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer." See what I mean about Tolkien's descriptions? In Vol. I we get a bit more help: "His hair was dark as the shadows of twilight, and upon it was set a circlet of silver; his eyes were grey as a clear evening, and in them was a light like the light of stars." Enter the villain - Gollum. "Dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes"...large feet...long fingers...only six teeth...once a hobbit-like creature, I believe, but lean and withered and furtive now. Gollum would be a challenge indeed. Beorn: "a. huge man with a thick black beard and hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles. He was clothed in a tunic of wool down to his knees, and was leaning on a large axe." Although Beorn is supposed to be a shape-changer, we never _quite_ see him in his bear shape. ...The Elves of Mirkwood, dressed in green and brown, with their "woodland king with a crown of leaves upon his golden hair...some were harping and many were singing. Their gleaming hair was twined with flowers; green and white gems glinted on their collars and their belts; end their faces and their songs were filled with mirth." In his cavern home, the Elvenking wore a crown of berries and red leaves, and held a carven staff of oak. [page 28] Not many of you will try to costume as Smaug -- but I can't help describing him to you in all his glory. Smaug is a favorite of mine (and of the good Professor's, I suspect). "There he lay, a vast red-gold dragon, fast asleep; a thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail...lay countless piles of precious things...with wings folded like an immeasurable bat, turned partly on one side,...his long pale belly crusted with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed." "Up he soared blazing into the air and settled on the mountain-top in a spout of green and scarlet flame." Nearly to the end of _The Hobbit_, Throrin gives to Bilbo the mithril coat which later saves Frodo's life in the Mines of Moria. It was "a small coat of mail, wrought for some young elf-prince long ago. It was of silvered steel and ornamented with pearls, and with it went a belt of pearls and crystals. A light helm of figured leather, strengthened beneath with hoops of steel, and studded about the brim with white gems, was set upon the hobbit's head." And we get another glimpse of the dwarves -- Durin's warriors -- almost the last descriptive passage about them in the saga. "Each one of his folk was clad in a hauberk of steel mail that hung to his knees, and his legs were covered with hose of a fine and flexible metal battle they wielded heavy two-handed mattocks; but each of them had also a short broad sword at his side and a roundshield slung at his back. Their beards were forked and plaited and thrust into their belts. Their caps were of iron and they were shod with iron, and their faces were grim." I have come nearly to the end of my allotted space, and have only just looked through _The Hobbit_. The rest will have to wait for another installment, if Greg will be so kind as to give me the room. Before I sign off, though, I'd like to say a few words about costuming in general. Some purists will tell you that only maidens wore their hair free-flowing in medieval times; wives and mothers (generally a synonymous term) covered their hair. But Tolkien speaks of "Galadriel tall and her hair was a circlet of flowers". In general, Tolkien's characters have long and flowing hair (the men's, too, though more short than that of the women, I suppose); and it was not confined, with the exception of Eowyn when she rode to war. I am told I have too feminine a taste in fabrics. That's natural -- but I'm not convinced it's true. I'd make most Tolkien costumes in velvet, brocade, cloth of gold -- whatever was available in exotic fabrics -- except, of course, in the case of the hobbits, Strider, or for that matter any of the Nine Walkers while on their journey. Men wore soft or metallic-threaded fabrics in bright colors in the Middle Ages, quite as much as women did; and to me the period of the book is analogous in many, many ways to the Middle Ages. Below are a few hood patterns which might be of some help to you. Have fun! -Felice Rolfe

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