News and Views: A Year of Ansereg
Originally Posted April 16th, 2003
The Ansereg website had been online for thirteen months come April. Where does the time go? For the site anniversary, there was a new ansereg story, a tale featuring Elrond in his youth, called Thrice for Honour. Maedhros at last! The prologue to Thrice for Honor, the story Starlight, can be read on its own or read in the context of the longer slash story. Thus it is linked to both the Genfics and BDSM Slash sections. Confusing, yes?
The seed of the story Thrice for Honour came from correspondence with an engaged reader, Elflover, who particularly enjoyed my earlier story Birch and Thorn and was curious about ansereg. I've said before and I'll say again that I greatly enjoy correspondence with readers, and this isn't the first time I've had a story inspired by such discussions. Both my beta readers, Aayesha and Suzana, regularly spark new ideas off me.
readers have let me know they find my idea of ansereg,
a way to place consensual BDSM among Tolkien's elves, enchanting. Others state
soundly that they don't see it as the same as sadomasochism at all, some
people are like, "Well…I don't usually read this sort of thing, but it's
okay for an AU." I understand that a few people find the idea preposterous,
unseelie lese-majeste to Tolkien.
did something fairly amazing with Middle-Earth; he created a world without
Carnival; without festivals of permissive release to allow people to cope with a
system of beliefs that was normally restrictive. This is part of what makes
Middle-Earth NOT an analogue of medieval Europe, since that time and place was
embroidered with Carnival as a contrast to Catholicism. The closest we get to
Carnival in Tolkien is with occasional hobbit imagery, but his Elves and Men
have stately feasts and song as their revels. And they live their lives bound by
honor and rules.
many fanfiction writers, I wanted to bring a probable sexuality (and a few other
things) into Tolkien's very straitlaced fantasy world. Other fanfiction
authors have created glimpses of what might have been Carnivalesque, permissive
moments in Middle-Earth: glimpses of the camp followers of Minas Tirith, of
hobbit Yule festivals, and of elvish rites of love and initiation. You can visit
Melethryn for a whole bunch of elf slash that creates hypothetical
situations for Middle-Earth nonmarital sex or homosexuality. And as for me…
AU concept of ansereg is an analogue of consensual sadomasochism. But it differs
from the sadomasochism we have in our world today. It's a little better. It
has a few things in common with other sexual or sadomasochistic fantasy worlds;
consistently attractive partners, the idea of spaces provided for BDSM, of some
social approval, a place within a society for it. And, like many of the moral
areas in Tolkien's Middle-Earth, it is bound by honor and rules.
the idea of ansereg works for readers, it's because it's a possible flip
side to the structured, constrained sexuality Tolkien gave his Elves in his
essay Laws and Customs Amongst the Eldar, or to the sexual silence we see
in LOTR. In Thrice for Honour, ansereg functions as a social
safety valve of sorts, especially in times of war. It provides different things;
catharsis, same-sex bonding, mentoring, safe adventure, distraction from
unhappiness, achievable goals in the face of impossible ones. And it provides
one of the important goals of Carnival as a way to confront the grotesque, to
cease being so perfect for a time.
One last thing. There is one major area of "fanon," or fan beliefs about Elves, that I consistently go against. I feel ludicrous even mentioning it, but there have been a few reader comments. 99% of fanfiction writers who have an elf taking their clothes off in a story picture Tolkien's elves as having…no pubic hair. Whereas I write them consistently with light pubic hair. That's just how I picture them. In humans, pubic hair is there for several reasons, to protect the family jewels and to trap delicious pheromones where they count. Thus, I think Elves have some pubes. This difference comes to the fore in my Elrond stories, where I step away from fanon even more to depict Elrond with significant body hair as part of his human heritage.
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