Harvest – Bilbo POV
In which rites are performed, lessons are learned, and Bilbo sees Frodo in a new light.
On the whole, I think Bilbo would prefer to be facing Smaug right about now.
Major spoilers and frank talk about sexual abuse of minors after the cut.
One of the downfalls of fanfic is its unrealistic presentation of sexuality. Much is thinly veiled wish fulfillment, where the author wants to be getting it on with the other character (or projects her/himself into multiple characters), and it is personal pornography. On the one hand, I think that’s a perfectly valid thing to write. On the other, it’s usually badly written and often factually incorrect. The best response is to sigh and skip to the next scene, assuming there is a next scene. It’s just the usual way sex is presented in fanfic.
This scene, when it was first published, hit the fandom hard. It was third person. It was not romantic. It was not het. It was possibly non-consensual and it involved at least one minor. The ages of the others is unknown at that point. There’s not explicit sex in the scene, and that was deliberate. It’s not the sex, it’s the society, that is the focus. It presents one of the ways children and adolescents are used, have always been used, to provide sexual satisfaction to others.
We now see Frodo’s “naughty” behavior on display. Is it? Why is he being singled out in this way? Adults around him have an idea of what is happening – Sara, Esmie and Rory most obviously – so why is there no intervention? Frodo is ascribed an agency that doesn’t seem in keeping with what Bilbo observes. This also is a social aspect of abuse of minors – I couldn’t resist temptation! She’s a regular Lolita! – which we all know is false, yet too many cling to to avoid making other, more powerful actors take responsibility for their molestation.
A narrative challenge in writing this story is the lack of language to describe what is happening. The clinical terminology we are used to doesn’t exist. The very word “sex” is not available. Behavior is natural or unnatural, desires can’t be explained with reference to Freudian concepts, there is no discourse of power and resistance.
So Bilbo is left with only shocking knowledge of something he doesn’t want to understand and no good idea of what to do next.