Respectable – Bilbo POV
In which Bilbo reflects on his female kin, asks about a rascal, and reacts to what no one wishes to say.
When I began writing Legacy in 2002, hobbit fanfic was not considered very serious. Dramatic stories belonged to elves and Edain, echoing the structure of the Professor’s own works, with the mythopoetic sweep of The Silmarillion and HoMe, the saga of LotR, and the slightness of The Hobbit. Hobbits were for humor, children’s stories, or sweet, uplifting stories. Or really bad erotica that came perilously close to child pornography.
I took one look at this and said it will not do.
At the time I set out to write this story, hobbit fanfic was in bad shape. The two biggest failings were lack of mature drama and an overabundance of Bilbo and/or Frodo being in “gay” relationships. Sometimes with each other. (Excuse me while I go use some brain bleach after that thought… back now.) While the erotica was mostly just the poorly written soft-core porn that dominates so much fanfiction out there, the bigger problem was the absence of stories that treated hobbits and the Shire as dramatic, nuanced, and engaging.
So, I sat for a week and thought about how to do this and came to conclusion that the key was crafting Bilbo as someone in possession of thoughtful desires. He lives in tension with his society, loving the Shire more than anywhere else, but also understanding its shortcomings. The tension is captured in the concept of “respectable” – he is someone who commands respect and who respects others, but who is not entirely respectable because of the way he resists (disrespects) the mores and conventions of his society. Bilbo is not a rebel, but he is a risk taker.
Even more, Bilbo is an ethical being, and this, too, puts him at odds with those who would merely appear respectable. Minding your manners is not the same as doing what is right, and being predictable – something Bilbo tried to do before racing out the door without even a handkerchief to go help thieve back a dragon’s hoard – may get in the way of being humane and decent. This ethical core is what allows Bilbo to spare Gollum’s life, feel guilty about stealing food from the Wood Elves, and make him want to avert a war. It is also what allows him to resist the more concentrated object of evil in all of Middle-earth, the One Ring.
And so, 15 years ago, I began this chapter.