Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hobbits and Wonderland

So - what's the connection? Both fractures of someone's imagination? Sure, but there are others... I didn't expect to find Wonderland when I started thinking about hobbits.

When I was in craft school, I wanted to have an exhibition of hobbitian clothes. I was inspired by a wonderful watercolor of a girl in Muhu costume. She was short and stubby and was wearing these amazing stockings, that showed under her skirt...
Tolkien says
"I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of 'fairy' rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf)." 
- velvet breeches, waistcoat, brass buttons... very folk dressy.
These velvet breeches are what I imagine when I think about hobbit costume, and they are from late 18th, early 19th century. The time when the idea of national costumes and folk dresses was being created... So we are not talking about Victorian costumes for hobbits, but Georgian...

So I have been thinking about this for 20 years. I have sketches, ideas and notes, but not a stitch to show. Anyway, I was thinking about the dolls to wear these, like in Victorian and Albert museum... You know, the white mannequins with just a dash of color on their faces... but I'd prefer faceless cloth mannequins. I have been thinking on how to make them myself, and that has kind of been the problem here.
So I started thinking about easier alternatives, like papier mache dolls. (Easier for me). And then I thought about that perhaps there already is mannequins available, so that I don't need to make them myself!
A hobbit is about a meter high. That's about the size of a five years old child. Now, the dfference of a child and a hobbit is naturally that adults are shaped a bit differently from children. Quite a lot, actually... Naturally, the child mannequins could be padded, but... the shape is still not quite right. Too much padding needed...
So I started thinking about little people, and especially the "proportionate dwarfs"... You know, when I was growing up and I first learned about dwarfism, the term "midget" was the appropriate term to use of proportionate dwarfs. I wonder if they make mannequins for miniature people? Wouldn't know.

But that lead me to googling "proportionate dwarfs", and one of the results was "The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb"
This book is about Lavinia Warren, who was a miniature person, a proportionate dwarf. She had a rather interesting life, she and her sister, Minnie (Huldah).
This is the wedding picture - In the middle the happy couple; 
Charles Sherwood Stratton (General Tom Thumb) and 
Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump (Vinnieh); 
Vinnieh's maid and little sister Huldah Pierce Warren Bump (Minnieh) 
(to be mrs Edmund Newell, who was better known as General Grant Jr. or Major Edward Newell) 
and Tom's best man George Washington Morrison Nutt (Commodore Nutt). 

I was interested, so I looked for more information, and at among the reviews I found this:
"I thought it unrealistic that Lavinia, a full grown woman, was portrayed as having only fear when it came to the physical side of life. The lifelong horror that grips Lavinia whenever she imagines a man might touch her is hard to explain based on one offhand comment of her mother's she overheard as a child. We tend to outgrow childhood and we tend to rebel against the strictures of our parents, yes? Why is her marriage so empty? Her supposed love of PT Barnum is as unfounded in fact as the author's treatment of Alice Liddell in "Alice I Have Been." I know, this is fiction, and in fiction a writer can take liberties. But I found it odd that in a book about a child (Alice), a six year-old was portrayed as having a grown woman's understanding of her own erotic power, and the desire to use it to capture a grown man's sexual attention. In this book, an adult woman (Lavinia) is portrayed as a frightened child who prefers not even to imagine such a thing. I think this was a strange choice on the part of the author, though not as strange as her choices in the "Alice" book."
-- Just Karen (
I have to say that I don't find the idea of a Victorian woman having "only fear" when thinking about sex. Our attitudes are the children of all kinds of things, and something one happens to overhear has significant importance in shaping of our attitudes and opinions. I was afraid of sex, because I had read and heard over and over again, from every possible source, that first time hurts. It doesn't - if you do it right. Now, I was born 1969, grew up in the "sexually liberated" 70's and 80's, there was plenty of sensible, correct and... what's the word? Anyway, plenty of sex quides and erotic novels around that gave me the idea that sex is something enjoyable and nice... this was not the case with Lavinia. She was surrounded with "close your eyes, and do your duty, it will pass quickly" and "you are not supposed to ENJOY ANYTHING ESPECIALLY NOT SEX!!!" messages and, frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of Victorian women considered sex as nothing but a duty, and not a very nice duty at that... I mean... we have "better than sex" cake. CAKE! We have jokes about people's sex life and the lack of it. Women trying to bribe their husbands and boyfriends to do things like taking the garbage out with sexual favors. Women faking orgasms. Good sex being something rare and amazing... and WE live in a time where sex is not considered generally dirty, disgusting and sinful.
On top of that, she was the size of a three years old child. As far as I understand, most adults find the idea of someone having sex with a three years old girl horrifying, and not only because of the mental damage, but also because of the physical damage. I find the fear quite reasonable.
Also... there's a lot of people in the world who live in celibacy. Some have chosen it themselves, some have not. Some accept self-satisfaction as part of celibacy, some don't. They are mostly all right and don't much miss sex. People don't NEED sex. We need intimacy, touch, hugs and kisses, pat on the shoulder, someone holding us tight when the storm passes, we need holding hands and  gentle strokes over cheeks...
Now, I have to say that I haven't read the book, so I don't know if Vinnie was described to get terrified if her husband tried to hug or kiss her, but even that would be understandable in time when those things were considered being "almost sex". It's still not unrealistic, I think. There are people who are so afraid of food they rather die of hunger than eat, and they have no rational explanation to their fear either.

About six years olds with desire to capture a grown man's sexual attraction - ew. That's why I couldn't read the Time Traveler's Wife either. Poor Henry. Brr. But - now again I have my own interpretations, that do make sense for me. It's not unusual for children to feel flattered, delighted and happy about attention, and see past who it comes from. It's not unusual for children to imagine their lives when they are adults and say things like "when I grow up, I'll marry ---" without any implication of having sexual fantasies about the person in question. Marriage is something you do when you become adult, and it's like mommy and daddy (usually) and it involves love and children. Some kids even know how children are made. Kids are not stupid. None of this has anything to do with having erotic feelings about adults, pedophilia and lolita phenomenon and all that stuff... I haven't read this book either, so I cannot say my opinion on what Melanie Benjamin tried to say, but - as a lot of people have read Time Traveler's Wife and NOT caught the "child with desire to capture a grown man's sexual attraction", there's always the possibility that it doesn't really exist here either.

Nevertheless, here's two more interesting people:
Lavinia Warren and Alice Liddell

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