I remember well when published MPQP Part 8, The Fat Man’s Tale. This particular "news and views" commentary got more feedback than ANY other one I had ever published, including the incest one.
In this section of MPQP, which Pengolod and the Little King have a confrontation, and the question of the story’s title finally gets asked. There's another shout-out to my HoME-ies with Pengolod’s reminisces focusing on Dírhaval, the mortal author of the Narn I Hîn Húrin. I’m exploring something else in this particular part as well. I know those pretty elves sure are pretty, along with those dashing Rangers, I know we read fanfic for escapism, but –
- it has occurred to me that it would be a hard row to hoe, being fat in Middle-Earth.
Tolkien’s fat male characters, with hobbits alone as exceptions, are either villains or buffoons. We’ve got:
(I can just imagine one of Folca’s broad-belted ancestors, after one too many Númenorean snubs, saying; right! Screw you! If I’m fat and ugly, Sauron will help me feast on your chattels!)
Yes, there are fat hobbits, and they are all good – it’s a thin hobbit, Gollum, who is the most villainous of their kind – but heroism seems to lead to weight loss for all of them. We have Fatty Bolger, who goes from a quivering jelly chased by Black Riders to resistance leader and is, by the end of the Scouring of the Shire “Fatty no more.” Bilbo and Frodo both lose weight by the time they get to Rivendell – Frodo, after enduring the Black Riders and running across a looking-glass in Rivendell, is pleased to be trimmer. (If I don’t mention this one someone is going to point this out to me, so: Tolkien’s hobbit poem Perry-the-Winkle has hobbit fatness as happy ending. “Perry-the-Winkle grew so fat/Through the eating of cramsome bread,/That his weskit bust, and never a hat/Would sit upon his head...” Perry’s increasing size has a purpose in this absurd, inverting poem. It has the result of making his foe-turned-friend, the baker Troll, more diminutive and “tamed.” Now back to the scheduled rant…)
With all of this, fat women are never mentioned, not even as chubby lovable minor hobbits. This invisibility may be a relief after the way the fat guys get treated, though Tolkien invariably identifies beautiful women as being slender, like young saplings, light as linden-tree – so slim and elegant that he even withdraws from fleshy metaphors to describe them.
By now I shouldn’t even have to say that Tolkien finds fat unlovely, and any reader knows what he does find lovely; Elves. He explored the tribulations of beauty fairly well through several characters – yes, such tribulations do exist. Eöwyn, Lúthien, and Idril were all underestimated, lusted after, and having to rebel against others’ control, due to their looks alone. Interestingly, Tolkien leaves his male elves free of these problems, even when they are in non-Elvish environments where their beauty is remarked upon, as with Legolas in Minas Tirith. After seeing the havoc wreaked among LOTR film watchers, male and female alike, by an actor playing Legolas and his film-enhanced androgynous elvish looks, I have taken another tack with the protagonist of MPQP and his own androgynous elvish looks.