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Miss Dora Baggins' Book of Manners  by Dreamflower

 

MISS DORA BAGGINS’ BOOK OF MANNERS:

OR THE SHIRE HOBBIT'S GUIDE TO PROPER BEHAVIOUR FOR EVERY OCCASION 

FOREWORD:

It is the duty of every Hobbit to endeavour to present a good example of Proper Behaviour. A Hobbit of the Shire should always keep in mind the Principles of Respectability, which are to be Kind, Hospitable and Predictable. Propriety demands no less.

In the hopes of offering Guidance to the Young, and to offer solutions to various Social Problems that may arise, I have decided to make my own small Contribution to Society by penning this volume of Advice.

The first and foremost Principles of Respectability is Kindness. Without Kindness, all other efforts to show good breeding and status are useless. With Kindness, even a Hobbit whose family is from the bottom of the Roll, may hold his or her head up with pride. And even a family whose otherwise stellar position has been tainted by Adventure, may recover its Respectability, if Kindness is the Guide. Do not be misled into thinking that Kindness is the same as Generosity. While they often go hand in hand, with Generosity springing from a well of kind feeling towards one’s fellow Hobbits, in some cases there are those who are anything but Kind, and who use Generosity in an effort to mask their true nature. It well behooves the average Hobbit to learn the difference. This can truly be told in times of Trouble, when True Kindness will come to the fore, while the False will retreat, or even take Advantage!

The second Principle of Respectability is Hospitality. A Hobbit’s first duty is to the well-being of his or her Guests. A good host or hostess knows this. One must make a Guest feel Welcome, with a hearty greeting and an offer of refreshment. In those cases when a Guest is Unexpected, then one must do one’s best to provide, even though one may have to do without oneself. On rare occasions a Guest may be Unwelcome, either through having come at an inconvenient time, or merely through being unpleasant or uncongenial company. This makes no difference. Duty is Duty. Only if a Guest is rude upon the doorstep may one feel justified in denying him or her entrance to the Home, and to do so even then can leave one open to accusations of Rudeness oneself.

The third Principle of Respectability is Predictability. A Hobbit should always try his or her best to remain Predictable. To do the Unexpected smacks of Adventure, something all Hobbits should avoid when in any way possible. While it is quite true that the families of some of the Great Houses have been known to be touched by Adventure, this does not in any way make such an undertaking Respectable! Any Hobbit who does such a thing risks irreparable damage to his or her Reputation. A Reputation is an important thing, never to be risked lightly or impulsively. Hobbits who have indulged themselves in Adventure have spent the rest of their lives attempting to recover their lost Reputation, and are never wholly successful, as Talk will follow them to the end of their days and beyond.

In Shire Society there are many Occasions upon which one or more of these Principles may be called upon. To learn just what the appropriate Kind, Hospitable or Predictable response is in each situation can be confusing and trying. It is my hope that my Advice will be of some assistance in choosing the Correct and Proper course of Action in each such situation.

I shall endeavour to give my best Advice concerning the following matters:

UPON THE REARING OF CHILDREN

MEALTIMES AND MANNERS

RECEIVING GUESTS

BEING A GUEST

THE GIVING OF GIFTS

BIRTHDAYS

WEDDINGS

FUNERALS  

THE WRITING OF LETTERS

WHEN MISTAKES ARE MADE

IN TIMES OF TROUBLE

CHAPTER TWO: UPON THE REARING OF CHILDREN, PART ONE--INFANCY TO FAUNTHOOD

It needs to be said that the rearing of children is mostly a matter of good common Hobbit-sense; unfortunately, such Hobbit-sense is not nearly so common as it ought to be, and in some Families may even be said to be in short supply!

Children are Blessings and Treasures, as any fond parent knows. They are also far more durable than some new young parents think. Many young Mothers are hesitant to allow the Fathers to hold their children, or the Fathers are reluctant to do so, as they somehow fear they might break the babe. This is highly unlikely. As long as the head is supported, and the child is not Dropped upon its head, it cannot but be a Good Thing for a Father to hold and cuddle his child. And the Mother is likely to find that her own life will be much smoother and more comfortable if she shares the child with its Father.

This means, of course, that he should also be willing to share the less pleasant tasks associated with babies. I shall not go into Unpleasant Detail, but Fathers should also do their share of cleaning the messes their offspring make!

It is usual for a first child to share the bed of its Parents until it nears faunthood. A child needs the closeness and cuddling that such will bring. However, it is better for younger children to share the beds of their older siblings once they are weaned. This contributes to proper Family Feeling among the brothers and sisters, and helps to avoid unseemly fighting and bickering when they are older. (Not that such will ever be completely avoided. For arguments among siblings are an inevitable part of Life. Nevertheless, such disagreements will be far less annoying if the children are truly fond of one another.)

In spite of this, a babe should also have a cradle or crib, for naps during the day, and for those nights when the parents may wish a bit of Privacy. I will say no more of that Subject.

In some of the Great Families, it is not uncommon to have a Nursemaid. While there are good reasons for this--for after all the duties of the Head of a Family and his wife may make constant attendance on their child difficult--it is not to be considered a substitute for the Proper Affection a parent should show the child. A Nursemaid’s duties should never usurp the duties of the Mother and Father. And for families who are lower upon the Roll, or for parents whose position is less lofty among the Great Families, it is sheer Presumption and Ostentation to engage a Nursemaid. For those Occasions when a parent must for some reason be unable to attend their own child, remember: that is what Aunts, Uncles and Cousins are for. In return a parent who receives such favors should be willing in return to attend their own Nieces, Nephews and Cousins.

When a child is a month old, it is a common practice to have a Naming Day. While gifts may be brought by the Guests, the main purpose of the Naming Day is to introduce the child to the other members of the Family, and to enter the child’s name into the Family Book. This is properly done by the Head of the Family and in his (or in the case of a Widow, her) presence. However, if the parents and child live at an inconvenient distance from the Ancestral Home, then the occasion may be bypassed, and the Head may very properly enter the name in the Book without their presence.

Still, if at all possible, a Naming Day is an Occasion not to be avoided. It will be the first of many times that a child will be among all the various and extended members of the Family. One cannot begin too early the task of acquainting a child with his or her Family Tree, and his or her Proper Place in that same Family Tree.

The next Occasion of a child’s Life is his or her third Birthday, when he or she becomes a Faunt. While a child may be walking and talking a bit before that time, this is the Occasion when those Accomplishments are Acknowledged.

This is a very special event in a child’s Life, though he or she is unlikely to remember it unless older relatives make a point of reminding the child of what happened on that day.

During a child’s infancy, and up until faunthood, gifts Received by the child are given directly to the parent on the day before his or her Birthday, and, as the child does not become a faunt until the actual Birthday, this Occasion is no different.

The most important thing which occurs upon the child’s Birthday, of course, is the giving of the First Gifts. During a child’s faunthood, the Gifts are given only to the parents. The usual way of it is for an older Sibling, Cousin, Aunt or Uncle, to take the child out early in the morning immediately after first breakfast for the gathering of the Gift. Normally this will be wild flowers, picked by the child. However, it is not unknown for the child to decide that an attractive stone, or oddly shaped stick or some other item, is a more appropriate present. This impulse should not be denied, though if the child wishes to give something truly loathsome or noxious, he or she can be distracted and steered to a more attractive alternative. Toads or insects are inappropriate, and while an older Brother might find the prospect of his younger Sibling presenting such a thing to the parents a source of Humor, he should resist the Temptation. He is unlikely to care for the outcome, for the faunt will not be the one to bear the blame.

After the gathering of the Gift, the child will then return home and give the Present to the parents at second breakfast. It is wise for the parents to make much of this Gift, and to praise the child lavishly. Thus he or she will learn early that it is better to Give than to Receive. It is usual for the Mother to keep some of the blooms, and press them, and preserve them in a Keepsake Book or Box. In later years, she can show them to the child and recount how happy the Gift made her, and how proud she was of her child.

A child’s faunthood lasts for two years, from age Three to age Five. It is during this time that the Rudiments of Good Manners must be taught. While it is thought amusing for children to sometimes speak Unpleasant Truths which adults do not, for politeness’ sake utter, this is a habit which should not be indulged. For remember that the first Principal of Respectability is Kindness, and pointing out the shortcomings of others is Unkind. A child is unlikely to realize this unless taught.

This does not mean the child should be taught to lie. He or she should however, learn to save questions about others of a Personal Nature for when he or she may ask the Parent privately. And they should also be taught to keep unkind thoughts to themselves. . Some children do not realize this, even with careful teaching, and will blurt out the first thing to come into their minds. In these cases, distraction is probably the best course, for both the child and the Person whom the child has offended

These are also the years when a child should begin to learn the importance of Respecting Food. A child is by its very nature hungry, and Hobbit children are seldom picky, as I have heard rumor of the Children of Other Races. If they have a true dislike of a food, then they should not be forced to eat it, once they have at least tried it. This is unlikely--even if they heartily dislike it prepared in one form, they may like it prepared another way. But they should learn that Food Is Not a Toy, and that it is to be eaten at regular mealtimes. They also need to learn to Share and not to Snatch. It is as well, if one has several children, for the parents to serve each child’s plate--this insures that each child gets a Fair Share, and that none must do without. It is normal at this age for a child to eat three helpings at a meal, but if the weather is too warm or a child is too tired, then they may stop at only two, or even one. If a child pleads no Hunger at all, then it is time to call a Healer.

Faunts are very prone to Unpredictability. As they are just learning to speak and to walk, they take full advantage of any moment of distraction to dart off or to get into things which they should not. At this age, they still do not understand this is Wrong, nor why. Explanations are useless. They need to be firmly stopped from any such activity with a firm “No!” and then distracted from doing it again. Food is an excellent distraction, as are toys and music.

Faunts are just beginning to learn how to dress themselves. For some Unfathomable Reason, they learn how to undress themselves more quickly. This can be a problem. It is most embarrassing to a parent to have a child remove his or her garments in public. This needs to be firmly discouraged.

Faunts are also learning to control certain Bodily Functions. One side effect of this learning is a tendency to boast of this dubious Accomplishment. Parents should not overpraise this, or once more, embarrassing and Unpredictable events may occur. It is best to get this stage of training over with as quickly as possible. There are a number of tried and true methods, and a young and inexperienced Mother would do well to seek the advice of her own Mother or Aunts for the best methods used in her family.

As the child nears the end of his or her Faunthood, he or she should be speaking properly and eating meals without mishap. He or she should also have learned to say “Please”, “Thank you” and “At your service”.

The child should be ready, by the eve of the Fifth Birthday, to leave this stage of Life behind and enter Childhood.

Questions which are often asked about infancy and faunthood:

What if the Mother does not survive the birth of her babe?

In this terribly Unfortunate Circumstance, it is best to find an Aunt or female Cousin who has recently given birth, and ask her to share her Bounty. In this case the child who must share his or her Mother would be the other child’s milk-brother or milk-sister, a circumstance which can lead to very close Family Ties. Only if there is no available Blood Relative to take on this sad duty should an outsider be engaged.

What if the child is born with a Problem?

This too, is a sad Circumstance. Oftentimes the poor wee thing does not survive his or her first few months. However, sometimes the child does survive, and such children can often prove singular blessings, as they often seem to be even more affectionate and sweet-natured than other Children.

In such Event, it behooves the rest of the Family to rally around and help to take care of the distraught parents.

How does one deal with the jealousy of an older sibling when the younger child is born?

This is Normal. However, it is to be discouraged. Fortunately such a stage does not often last long. Such jealousy may be discouraged in two ways-- the parents should give much attention to the older child so that he or she will not feel the new baby has Usurped his or her place in the Family, and also encourage the older child to take care of and feel protective toward the younger. These feelings of protectiveness, luckily, come naturally to most children, and once the babe is old enough to cuddle with them and sleep with them the jealousy soon disappears.

How does one teach one’s child to Talk?

By talking to him or her, of course. It will sort itself out naturally, and usually when the child wants something enough the first word will emerge, most frequently “Mama” or “Da”.

Why do faunts say “No!” so often?

This simply seems to be the Nature of a child at this age. They are learning to do things for themselves, and they have not yet learned Obedience, and so they frequently test their parents’ Patience with these vociferous denials.

What is the best way to deal with a temper tantrum?

Hobbit children are not prone to these for the most part. If a child is normally biddable and good-natured, and then suddenly has a fit of screaming and crying because he or she has been denied something, it is well to seek the reason: he or she may be over-tired or fearful for some reason. In such cases a nap may be in order, or the source of the fear removed.

However a child who makes a habit of these displays is in serious danger of becoming spoiled. On no account should you give in to such a child, and the best way to deal with such behavior is to put the child in a corner and ignore as best you can, the Bad Behavior. Sooner or later it will come to an end.

IN CONCLUSION:

The new parent should not fear their babe. By following the above Advice, and the Advice of Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and older Cousins, raising a new baby can be a Delightful Experience.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE: UPON THE REARING OF CHILDREN, PART TWO--THE CHILDHOOD AND TEEN YEARS*

The next Milestone of a child’s life is his or her Fifth Birthday. This the time that a child leaves faunthood behind, and like the Third Birthday is special.

The day before the child’s birthday it is customary for him or her to Receive gifts. These presents, five in number, are from the Parents and four other Relations: usually the Grandparents and possibly older Siblings, or Aunts, Uncles or Cousins who have a particularly close relationship with the child. They are usually presented after first breakfast.

During the remaining course of the day *prior* to The Day, they may also receive other gifts from any who care to give them. But a wise Parent will discourage too many gifts for the young byrding: he or she is likely to become Overexcited, and miss the true point of the Birthday, which is the Giving of the Gifts.

It should be emphasized to the small byrding that he or she will now be bestowing Presents like a “big lad” or “big lass”, a lure that will fill the childish heart with pride and glee. At some point, these Gifts must be chosen.

For children in small families, this is no burden. He or she may gather flowers, draw a picture, or find some small item of his or her own to pass on. For those children who live in their Ancestral Home among the Great Families, however, or who have a large number of Doting Relations planning to attend the Party, the best choice is for the Mother to take the byrding to the family Mathom Room. There they may select appropriate gifts. A child’s reasoning may not always be Obvious when they chose an item for someone; however, originality is to be Encouraged, as it shows they are making an Effort to think of the Recipient.

Do not distress the child with having to make Too Many Choices, however. Let him or her choose a few gifts for the Immediate Family, and then Guest List in hand, Mother may choose the rest. It is not uncommon in some families for the Mother to purchase a New present for the child to give the Father, and for the Father to do the same for the Mother. This indulgence, however should be limited to the byrding’s Fifth Birthday only. And allowing a child to give all New Presents which were neither made nor gathered is in Very Poor Taste, and is simply Showing Off for the Parent’s own sake. Do not make the mistake of thinking that others will not Notice if one is Using one’s child to Impress. It has in fact, the Opposite Effect, and people think Very Poorly of such efforts.

Again, unless one is living in the Ancestral Home, it is also in Poor Taste to throw an elaborate Party for a child--even on the Fifth Birthday. It is likely to give the byrding a false impression of his or her own Importance in the World, as well as result in the child being overtired and overexcited. However, for those who dwell in such Family Smials, it is difficult indeed, to exclude any Members of the Family, and so Allowances must be made.

Children between the Ages of Five and Twelve are especially delightful. They are usually biddable and obedient, and want very much the approval of their Mother, Father, Grandparents and other Close Relations. It is at this Age as well, that one may see the manifestation of Deep Friendships that will last throughout a Lifetime. There is nothing so Sweet and Dear as to see young children gamboling in play together, or walking about Hand in Hand, exploring the delights of Nature. The Affectionate Disposition of a young child is a pleasure to behold.

At this age, it is especially Important for siblings to share a bed. The comfort of snuggling close, and the sense of Safety it engenders is Very Important. I am aware that some consider this notion Old-Fashioned, and that many Hobbits of Means provide separate rooms and beds for their children. I think this unwise. It is the Normal State of things for children to want this cuddling--and many Parents find that separate rooms make no Difference to a younger child, who when faced with the Dark, or with a frightening Nightmare will automatically seek out the bed of an older sibling.

This is also a Good Thing for the older child. Big Brother or Big Sister will learn to be Affectionate and Protective.

Lest any doubt my assertion that this is the Natural State of Things for Hobbit Children, I offer the following Observation:

Upon a visit to the Great Smials a number of years ago, I became aware that also visiting were four children were there who were ordinarily Accustomed to Sleeping Alone. They were Cousins who lived far apart, and saw One Another only on visits. Three of them were only children, who at Home slept alone, and the fourth was a lad, the youngest of his family, whose older Sisters were deemed Too Old for him to share their bed. All had been assigned Guest Beds, for in the Great Smials the habit of Children sleeping Alone was much encouraged.

Nonetheless, while chatting with the Children’s Parents in one of the Sitting Rooms in the Guest Quarters, the Mother of the youngest arose to check on her son. She was not Alarmed when she found him not in his own bed, but instead, immediately checked the bed of the Eldest Cousin. She smiled and summoned those of us who had been in the Sitting Room to come and peek into the darkened Room.

All four of the Cousins were asleep together, and the two Youngest were in the center, and the two Older Cousins had protectively embraced them. It was a sweet sight to see them so, and moved me very much.

As we left, the Mother of the youngest told me that it was the habit of these Cousins to seek one another at night whenever they visited, as though it were to be taken for granted.

This brings up the plight of the Only Child. He or she cannot, of course, remain in the Parental Bed forever. But the Parents should be very Understanding of their child when they deem him or her old Enough to leave it. It can be a frightening and Trying time for both Parents and Child, but with Patience it can be accomplished. However, Parents should also be willing to make exception when a child is ill or has Night Terrors.

It is a very good Idea, as soon as Faunthood has passed, to begin introducing the Child to the Delightful Mysteries of the Kitchen. At age five he or she may begin to do such tasks as helping to stir batters, fill the sugar bowl, fetch ingredients for Mother or Cook, wipe the table or lay the dishes. At this point, the Child should begin to learn how to be safe near the Hearth and Stove, and to be careful of Knives. They should not yet be allowed to use such things until the Adult is certain of their Understanding. By eight, it is possible that with close supervision, he or she may begin to use a Knife to Cut Bread or slice Vegetables. However, it is unwise to allow a child younger than eleven to use the Cookfire. Even when they have begun to do so, be sure that they are closely Watched, and do not attempt to remove from the Stove something that may be too heavy to handle. And it goes without saying that Children under sixteen should never be Alone in the Kitchen. Aside from the Many Dangers to be found there, there are also a large number of Temptations. Even children older than this are not to be Trusted alone in the Larder! Still, when Necessary, a child of eighteen should easily be able to Prepare a simple Family Meal on his or her own.

Sometime between the ages of five and seven, it is time for Mother or Father to begin the teaching of Reading, Writing and doing Sums. Of course the Parent will have to teach the Eldest child. If there is at least a gap of four years between the Eldest and the next child, then that duty can be passed to him or her, as this is a good responsibility and also reinforces the lessons he or she has already learned. However, if the children are too close in age, such a Duty may not be productive. And at any rate, the older child should be at least eleven before undertaking such work. Much younger than that, and the Lessons are more likely to turn into Play, without any Real Learning taking place. And even if Big Brother or Sister is teaching the Lessons, it is still wise for Mother or Father to take a hand from time to time, and to Test whether the younger child is learning all that he or she needs to learn.

(I am, of course, quite aware that Unfortunately there are a number of Hobbits of the Poorer Sort who do not have their Letters. However, as they will not be Reading these words, I do not feel there is much to Say to them on this Subject!)

As I said before, Children during the early years of childhood are biddable and affectionate. Nevertheless they are not perfect, and Misbehaviors will arise.

An Important thing is to teach a Child to disport him or her self in a Seemly Fashion when in public. As faunts, they should already have learned the Rudiments of Courtesy, and now they need to be taught true Manners.

It is already expected that they will say “Please” and “Thank you”. “At your Service” may be lisped by the youngest faunt when introduced. But now they should learn the niceties of Introductions: to say their full name, to bow or curtsey, and to say “At your Service and your Family’s”. In addition, they should learn the proper way of introducing others.

This means they must begin to learn the Family Genealogy. For of course, the first thing that anyone wants to know when introduced to a new Acquaintance is to Whom that Acquaintance is Related.

By the time a child is nine, or ten at the latest, they should be easily able to Introduce a Cousin of whatever Degree. For example:

“Master Longfoot, may I present to you Pogo Sandhole, my first cousin once removed upon my Mother’s side, and my third cousin upon my Father’s side.”

After “Pogo” has acknowledged the Introduction, then the Introducer should properly say:

“Pogo, this is Master Tobold Longfoot, who is the uncle on his father’s side, of our friend Bingo Longfoot.”

Such niceties are not too difficult for children to learn. It is good for Adults, when they Encounter a child who successfully accomplishes this Nicety, to praise him or her on having Good Manners and being Polite. And nothing encourages Parents so much as a compliment on the Good Behavior of their Offspring.

Table manners are another area in which children will need to learn more than the simple Rudiments. As I plan to cover this Most Important subject in more depth in a later chapter, I shall say little here, except that where Children are concerned Appetite can often overcome even a Shy and Diffident Nature. Squabbles over who gets the last sweet on the plate, or attempts to get more than one’s Fair Share are perfectly Natural. As mentioned in the last chapter, a Parent serving the plates can solve some of this. But it will not be of assistance when the Family is eating in public, or are Guests in someone else’s Home. Such offenses must be dealt with firmly and immediately, and the most effective Discipline is to send the child Away from the Table. Missing the rest of the meal will be a Severe Warning, and will have immediate results. And while it is harsh, it is nevertheless Appropriate to punish a child who does not show proper respect for his or her Food to withhold it. But, I must stress, only the remainder of that particular meal should be missed.

Furthermore, the withholding of Food should never be used to Punish for Any Other Offense that is not directly related to Food. A child who breaks a vase, or gives his or her parent Cheek should Never be punished by doing without Food. Instead a time of Reflection in an isolated room for older children, or in a Corner for the younger ones, is far more effective.

There is, of course, the question of Thrashing a Child. I acknowledge that it is Every Parent’s Right to use such Discipline as they see fit, but from my long observation, it seems to me that Thrashing is of very little Use, and its only Result is to make the child fearful of the Parent.

For a few children, such Punishment may work, yet I deem that some other way might have been found equally effective. For particularly recalcitrant children, the Parent may find him or her self obliged to Thrash the child more severely than they wish. This results in the Parent anguishing over having hurt the child, and the child, while suffering the physical effects of the punishment, may feel a sort of secret Victory over having goaded his or her Parent into such Drastic Action.

The only thing to be said for Thrashing is that it is Soon Over. Some children actually prefer it for that reason alone. I have myself heard more than one lad, enduring a punishment of several days without seeing his friends, or doing some onerous job of work, say that he wished he had been Thrashed instead.

That alone should be enough to make any Parent Wary of using such punishment.

For the most part, a Punishment should Fit the Offense. As has been stated before, isolation is an excellent Punishment. Another is to give the child a set of particularly Unpleasant Duties. Whatever Punishment a Parent chooses should not be beyond the child’s abilities to carry out.

While the Parent is the foremost Elder in his or her child’s life, it must not be forgotten that on occasion Others with a claim to interest in the child’s Well-Being may need to administer Discipline. If a Grandparent, Aunt, Uncle or Senior Cousin notices a child misbehaving it is his or her Duty to Act, and the Parent should support their Actions. If the Parent deems the punishment unduly harsh, or feels that there is some mitigating factor in their child’s behavior, then they should take their Concern to the other Adult in Private. By no means should the Child see signs of dissent among the important Adults in his or her life. And the Parent who will never admit that their darling would do such a thing is only doing the child harm.

A child will never learn the importance of Family if Respect is not shown *to* all its members *by* all its members. Remember that Family is Foremost.

By the age of twelve, children should be considered old enough to play among one another Unsupervised by Adults. Older friends and cousins are enough supervision for jaunts afield, and for play close to Home, they should not need to be watched every moment.

A word here should be said to those who may find themselves Observing a child who is Not Their Own misbehaving. If one is not a Family Member, then one’s best Course of Action is to seize the child and march him or her Home and return the offender to his or her Parents. For this purpose an ear or the back of the collar is an effective means of assuring that the miscreant accompanies one. Thrashing or otherwise punishing a child Not of One’s Own Family could have Unpleasant repercussions.

In spite of certain Challenges, this is, I feel the most delightful Stage of Childhood. Gone are the days of constant Vigilance and worry, the days of carrying and cleaning Messes, yet the Child’s First Thoughts are still of his or her Mother and Father. He or she has not yet reached the stage when the Temptations to Mischief and Adventure begin to make themselves Felt.

However, such a stage cannot last Forever. As the child approaches the age of thirteen, they wish to be much with their Friends. The Company of Mother and Father will be far less Congenial.

This is, for some reason, far more pronounced in lads than in lasses. Lads of this age tend to be Much Together, and to shun the company of lasses, even sisters or cousins with whom they have previously played together amiably.

And lads are far more prone to Mischief. As Children enter their Teens, their Appetite increases. Children who had previously been content with three servings at Mealtimes will be wanting four or more, and will often be hungry between Meals. Lasses often have legitimate opportunities to Assuage such hunger--they will often have Duties in the Kitchen or Garden which gives them the right to Nibble on Food that is not needed for a Proper Meal.

Lads, however, seem to like a Challenge. From their teens through their tweens, they are not to be Trusted when it comes to the Larder or Garden. A wise Parent plans for this, and lays in as much Extra Provender as the Family can reasonably Afford. It is also wise to teach the child to Forage. The knowledge of where to find wholesome wild Mushrooms, or nuts and berries or other fruits can help to still the rumbling stomach, and in Times of Want, can prove invaluable, as those whose Memory reaches back to the Fell Winter can attest. For families who live in the countryside, teaching lads to set a snare is useful. Stones are always ready to hand, and squirrel or coney is always a welcome addition to the family cookpot. And lasses as well as lads can learn to Fish. Angling is an ancient and Noble Sport, as well as providing a nice Trout or Perch for supper.

At about age sixteen a Child is ready for a change in his or her education. For the children of the Lesser Families, this may mean beginning to consider an Apprenticeship, or to begin Training for the Family Business. In the Great Families, it is time for seeking out the Family Tutor, and setting the child more challenging and difficult Lessons.

A child’s Duties should also increase. Idle hands soon work Mischief, and so the busier a child is kept the better. Setting him or her to watching after younger Siblings or Cousins is often an ideal Responsibility. The knowledge that the younger ones are Depending on him or her makes a difference. It steadies a child to have to set a Good Example, and even if their Natural Affection and Protectiveness does not serve as a deterrent, the knowledge that Little Brother or Sister is a witness often will. However, keep an eye out for signs that the Example being set is, indeed, a Good one, and that the younger child is not being led into Mischief as well. Children who suddenly stop talking and laughing when an Adult enters the room are almost always Up to Something.

By the time a child approaches the tweens, at about eighteen or nineteen, they should have a Thorough Knowledge of the Family History and Genealogy, and a firm grasp of the niceties of Manners. A child of this age should be able to receive a Guest at the Door properly, and to serve a Meal which he or she has made. A Parent should also be able to entrust the child of this age with Errands, such as going to the shops on his or her own--with a List, and the proper Amount of Coin. Do not, however make the mistake of overburdening the child--he or she can only carry so much after all.

Questions often asked about the childhood and teen years:

What if the child does not seem to wish to leave faunthood behind?

Some children are Fearful and Shy of facing the challenges of growing older. Be gentle and coaxing, and lure them with the Privileges that will accompany the new Duties--for example, being able to stay up later at bedtime, or being able to help in the Kitchen. These will appeal to the child and help draw him or her out.

What if the child is subject to teasing by others?

All children enjoy a certain amount of Banter and Teasing. But it should be of a fond and gentle sort, and should not always be aimed at the same child. If you suspect your child is being Picked On, it is a good idea to monitor his or her Companions. If necessary a word to the offending Child’s Parents may be in order.

That said, it is sometimes best to let the children sort it out among themselves.

Occasionally some children are actually Bullies, who enjoy making other smaller and younger children Miserable. These children are rare, and it is a Sad Fact that frequently their parents Spoil them, and refuse to believe Ill of them. The only solution is to avoid them whenever possible, and forbid your child to play with them.

What if a child does not like Lessons?

Most children do not like Lessons. It is difficult for a child to be cooped up indoors and studying Books when all is lovely Outdoors. Keep Lessons short in duration--no more than three hours a few times a week at most.

It is only the rare child who truly loves Lessons; that child may actually need to be Pried away from his or her Books and sent Outdoors for fresh air and exercise.

What if a child shows an interest in Adventure?

A mere Interest in Adventure at this age is not necessarily a Bad Thing. Children love Tales, and most Tales are History of a sort. They may play at these Adventures and pretend to be Heroes. This I think is Good, as it may help to get such longings out of their system, and help them to Settle Down when they grow older.

And most Tales show us that other Races: Men, Elves and Dwarves are more suited by Temperament and Stature for Adventuring. With a certain Notable Exception, Hobbits who leave to find Adventure never Return. This alone should eventually serve as a Cautionary.

Hobbits are not meant by Nature to have Adventures, or to go wandering far from Family and Home. While Children may find it exciting to hear such Tales at the hearthside, or to Play at them in the meadow, when Bedtime comes they will be just as glad to be snuggled warm in their own beds.

Of course, certain of the Great Families are Plagued with the Occasional Adventurer, but most Respectable Hobbits take no note of it.

IN CONCLUSION:

Childhood passes all too soon. Parents should take every Opportunity to delight in their Children, for they will need the Memories of Happier Times to help them find their way through a child’s tumultuous Tweenaged Years.

________________________________________

*AUTHOR’S NOTE: This chart may be useful when trying to imagine the ages of the children Miss Dora is writing about.

 http://www.storiesofarda.com/chapterview.asp?sid=4201&cid=19304

CHAPTER FOUR: UPON THE REARING OF CHILDREN, PART THREE-- TWEENAGERS

At the age of twenty, a young hobbit enters the Tween years--that stage Between Childhood and Coming of Age--and it is at this time that a Parent’s most Difficult Task has begun.

Not that every twenty year old will suddenly change Overnight--some do not really begin to exhibit signs of Adolescence until they are twenty-two or twenty-three, while others may have begun to enter such a Stage of Life as early as eighteen. This applies to both lads and lasses, although generally speaking, lasses do tend to Bloom Early, and lads to Bloom a bit later.

However, things have now become much more Challenging for the Parent. In addition to the Actual Changes taking place in their beloved child, there will be the Expectation of Changes from Family, Friends and Acquaintances.

For one thing, most Inns will allow tweenaged lads to enter, and if accompanied by an Adult, to imbibe Ale. Most Inns do have restrictions on this, which tend to vary by location. One is always familiar with those of one’s own Hometown, but in visiting other Parts of the Shire, it is as well to inquire of the Local Custom before allowing one’s tweenager to go there.

At Home, Half an Ale or a small glass of Wine may be offered. A Young Person will need to become accustomed to such Drink. It is as well, however, to keep one’s eye on the tweens when giving a Party or other large Social Gathering, as they may--especially the lads--attempt to imbibe more than is wise. Especially in such Settings, lads are Prone to Daring one Another into doing such Foolishness, and a few of the bolder lasses have been known to engage in such Goings On as well.

Lasses generally come sooner to the Realization that lads are not such Loathsome Creatures as they once had proclaimed. This usually means that the first lads to Attract their Attention may be a good deal older than they. Some brash lasses are prone, as well to Flirting, and to Offering Temptations which are best saved for Coming of Age and Marriage. Most of these lasses, indeed, do not mean to do anything but Tease, and would not actually allow Undue Liberties to be taken. However, such behavior is Not Respectable, and is very Unfair to the poor lad, for lads are far less able to Control their Reactions than are lasses. And it does not reflect Well on the lass’ Upbringing and may indeed earn her a Reputation as a Wanton.

The Parents of such a Daughter will need to keep a sharp eye upon her. It is as well to engage the help of Older Brothers if available, or Cousins and Uncles, who may serve to assist the Father in keeping the lads at Bay. And the Mother may need to keep her Daughter close to hand during any Social Gathering. It takes only a few moments for a lass to slip away with a lad during a Dance to take a Breath of Air, and more than Reputation may be lost. It is Most Unfortunate when Young People find themselves wed before their Coming of Age because they have Put the Dessert Before the Main Course! Such is not an Auspicious start to any Marriage!

There are times when a lad and a lass come Early to the Realization that they have found True Love. If their Regard is proved to be Steadfast and Unshakeable, it may be that they will apply to the Parents for the chance to wed early. In cases such as these, the Parents need to consider how Responsible and Capable the Young People are. If one should think this is the case, then by all means give them one’s Blessing.

On the other hand, one must also be Prepared to deal with the Heartaches of Tweens who are still seeking to deal with their new Feelings about Life. Shyer lads and lasses will often believe themselves Worthless, and may mope and sigh until the Parent is driven to Distraction. It is not uncommon for such a lad or lass to develop an Infatuation with another who is not ready to Return his or her Regard. This may result in Storms of Weeping, and seeking to be Alone.

In addition, it is not Unusual for previously Biddable and Obedient children to turn Defiant, seemingly Overnight.

A Parent may wonder where their sweet Child has gone, and who this Moody and Sullen person is!

Teens who once contented themselves with the occasional midnight Raid on the Family Larder or Kitchen Garden, will turn into Tweens who seem to court the Trouble or Danger of taking their Depredations further Abroad, Trespassing on the Property of Others, and Purloining Comestibles of some value.

In addition, the rather mild Dares and Pranks of earlier years are replaced with those which skirt on Dangerous. Lads have a tendency to allow their friends to Egg them On. When caught at such Mischief, Punishment needs to be swift and Severe.

At this age, the best Punishment is Work. It is best to make certain that the Work will actually be a Punishment. It is of little Use to sentence a lad who loves Ponies to Mucking out the Stable--much better to put him to some onerous chore indoors, such as Copying Records. A Tween who has been caught Raiding the Neighbor’s Crops should not be set to Weeding the Garden where Temptation will Abound--much better to set him to Chopping Firewood. As for Lasses, a day spent in the Laundry Room seldom fails to Impress.

Among Hobbits of the Working Class, most of the lads will have already taken up Apprenticeships or be working alongside their Fathers in the Family Business or upon the Family Farm, or will have gone into Service for one of the Great Families by the time they enter their Tweens. Many of the lasses may have gone into Service, or possibly Apprenticed to one of the Crafts open to them: Weaver, Seamstress, and Cook are the main Crafts in which hobbitesses are the Majority.

An Exception is the Craft of Healer. Most Healers will not accept an Apprentice younger than her twenty-fifth year, and most prefer a lass (or the occasional rare lad) of twenty-seven or older, due to the Distressing and sometimes Difficult Nature of the Craft. Midwives will accept an Apprentice of twenty-three or older. It is as well to realize that a Hobbit needs to have a genuine Vocation for these Crafts. Healers are most Cautious about the Apprentices they will accept, and Rightly So!

Among Hobbits of the Gentry, it is well to begin Training the Heirs in the Responsibilities of their Positions. As I have before mentioned, Idle Hands are not a good thing for the Young.

Most Tweens as they begin to approach the important Occasion of their Coming-of-Age will have begun to Settle a bit. Tweens of thirty or older may be trusted for the most part with more Adult Responsibilities, and it is as well to do so as much as is Practicably Possible, for it is Unfair to allow all such Responsibilities to fall upon his or her shoulders the day after the Birthday! One should trust him or her to do such tasks as one gives them, standing by, however to offer Advice if needed or to Help if called upon.

Guiding Young People through the Difficult and Trying Years of Tweenhood is not an Easy Task. But the Rewards of Realizing that one has given the Shire a Responsible Citizen at the end of the Process is worth it. Of course one’s task is not ended--Family remains Family however old the members are. But one may now take the time to relax and to realize that now one may Watch one’s Offspring undertake those same tasks on his or her Own. Grandchildren are Delightful for many Reasons, not the least of which is that of Watching One’s Child deal with the same problems one had with him or her in the past.

Questions often asked about Tweenagers:

How should I best approach the Subject of the Facts of Life?

If one has waited until the tween years to broach this subject, one has waited too long. There are questions as to the Origins of Babies that will come up years earlier, and they should be answered in a Matter of Fact way as they arise. However, the approach of tweenhood is an excellent time to Reiterate these Facts, and to Stress the Importance of Self-Respect and of Propriety.

What is the best way to deal with a tween who feels his or her heart has been broken?

This is an Inevitable Sorrow for most tweens. The fickle Nature of their Awakening Feelings means that he or she will suffer through a number of Unrequited Infatuations.

Do not make the mistake of belittling these feelings. To tell a child that there are other fish to fry will have no effect. Simply be willing to listen if he or she wishes to Talk, or to simply offer a sympathetic Embrace. Do not try to force Confidences, however, as this will merely foster Resentment.

Why are tweens so often awkward?

Tweens, especially those in the middle of their Tween Years, usually undergo growth spurts which make them sometimes misjudge their steps or the length of their reach. Fortunately this stage soon passes.

IN CONCLUSION:

Being the parent of a Tween is a Challenge, but with Patience and Understanding, all such Difficulties can be Surmounted.

 

 

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CHAPTER FIVE: MEALTIMES AND MANNERS--PART ONE, BASIC MANNERS AND EVERYDAY MEALS

A Hobbit’s Day is properly divided by six Meals: first breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, teatime and supper. In some Families, especially among the Gentry, the Family may sleep later than a Proper First Breakfast, and meals instead may be breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, teatime, dinner and then supper.

Meals are to be approached in the Proper Spirit, and with Respect for the Food. Even if one is eating alone, one should pay attention to one’s food, and use Good Manners--not simply eat distractedly to fill an Empty Stomach!

When one dines in Company, the first Conversation should always be about the Food Before One. One should pay attention to the dishes served, the way in which they were Prepared, and the Ingredients used to Prepare them. It is proper to comment on the Flavors and Textures of the various Dishes set before one, and to discuss the Preparation of the Food. If the Cook is also partaking of the Meal, he or she may choose to describe how it was cooked. And it is not only Proper, but also very well done, to Compliment the Cook for his or her skill.

After this, the conversation may gradually turn to Food in General, and from there, as the meal nears its End and one has progressed to Filling Up the Corners, more general subjects of Conversation may be Introduced. Even so, it is well to keep to Topics of a Congenial Nature, and to avoid Serious or Unpleasant Subjects until the Meal is ended. And it should go without saying that one should not Discuss Business at the Table!

One should also never allow a Companion to Eat Alone. That would be very Rude indeed! If, for example one calls upon a person while that person is partaking of Tea, and one has already had one’s own Tea, it is nevertheless Good Manners to at least Nibble on Something. A biscuit and a cup of Tea will do.

If by some chance, one is served an Unfamiliar food, it is as well to try it. Since Good Manners require one to Talk about the food, it will not be thought amiss to Inquire as to the Ingredients and Method of Preparation. Even if it contains something one dislikes, one should eat a bit of it anyway. It is surprising how much difference a new Method of Preparation makes, and a Vegetable one Loathes when boiled might turn out to be quite Toothsome when fried or baked. If the food truly is something one heartily Dislikes, take at least a bite or two, and by disturbing the Remainder upon one’s plate, perhaps disguise one’s distaste.

It is quite Rude to reach in front of someone else. One should Always ask for the food to be Passed to one. By the same token, if one’s neighbor has asked for the Bread to be passed, it is also Rude to take one for oneself before sending it on. Wait until it is Returned. If it was the Last Piece upon the plate, then one is sadly out of luck.

One should never take such large Mouthfuls that one cannot chew with one’s mouth Closed. It is very Unpleasant to watch someone chewing with his or her mouth open. One should always avoid Speaking with his or her mouth full. To this end, do not Ask a Question of someone who has just placed food in his or her mouth--this puts him or her in the Dilemma of either speaking with a full mouth or rudely ignoring one’s Question!

One should use a small bit of Bread to push one’s food upon his or her Fork, never the Spoon or even Worse, the Knife! Do not cut up all the meat at one time, but cut off small pieces one at a time. Break bread into smaller pieces before putting Butter or Jam upon it.

If one is at table with a number of Persons, one should not begin to take Third Helpings until everyone else has had a chance to take Seconds. Only if one is certain no one else will be taking Thirds should one take Fourth Helpings!

When it is clear that no one will be taking further Helpings, and Afters have been served then one may begin Filling Up the Corners, with small pieces of Bread or Cheese, Pickles, or other Bits that may be eaten with the Fingers. But one should use one’s Napkin afterwards, and not Lick or Suck upon the Fingers!

The most Important Thing one should remember about Basic Good Manners is to eat in a Fashion that will help to make the Meal Pleasant for all who are seated at the table.

FIRST BREAKFAST

First Breakfast is usually a light and simple meal, undertaken soon after arising, usually sometime between Dawn and Seven O‘ Clock. Even though it is Early in the Day, one should Wash and Comb one’s head and Brush one’s feet. If one is alone, it is permissible to eat first breakfast in one’s Dressing Gown, but one should Never do that in Company--it is Slovenly and Unkempt.

The meal usually consists of some sort of Porridge, with some Fruit and a Sweet Bread of some sort or other, along with a cup of Tea, or on Special Occasions, Coffee. Rarely it may be a heartier meal, especially if one faces a morning of Hard Work or Travel before partaking of second breakfast.

At First Breakfast, there may be little Conversation until one has Partaken of Tea or Coffee. It is, after all, very Early in the Morning.

In spite of that, Hobbits who make a Habit of Sleeping Late and missing First Breakfast are missing an Important part of their Day. It is Unwise to habitually indulge oneself in such Indolence.

SECOND BREAKFAST

Second Breakfast is a Larger and more Substantial Meal and is normally served at Nine O‘ Clock of the Morning. In the Great Families, it is often served from a Sideboard, and a number of Dishes may be offered, from which a Guest may serve him or her self. In smaller homes, this meal usually consists of Eggs, prepared in a number of ways, Sausages or Ham and Bacon, Fried Potatoes or Mushrooms, and Toast or Scones, and perhaps Griddlecakes as well. A number of Jams and Preserves, Honey, and Butter, should be offered as Condiments. Tea, Milk or Fruit Juice may be offered as beverages.

At Second Breakfast, it is not considered Improper, if it has been delivered, to Read One’s Post. However, generally speaking, Reading at Table in the Company of others is not considered Good Manners--for it takes away from the sharing of Companionship and the Proper Appreciation of the Food. If one chooses to peruse one’s Correspondence at Second Breakfast, this should always be near the End of the Meal, and any relevant News or Greetings should be shared with one’s Companions.

Second Breakfast is, unfortunately, often eaten More Quickly than is truly Seemly, as many Hobbits are in a hurry to get on with the Business of the Day. This is unfortunate, and is not Conducive to Proper Digestion. The hobbit who Hurries through his or her Second Breakfast may regret it before Elevenses.

ELEVENSES

Elevenses take place, of course, at Eleven O’ Clock of the Morning. This is a very Informal sort of Meal, and is often as simple as a few Biscuits and a Cup of Tea, though if one has Guests, the Meal may be a more proper one. Some hobbits dispense with Elevenses, or take it as they Work.

However those who do not take Elevenses often find that their Day is not Right. It will lead to eating Luncheon too soon, for one thing, which means that one will get Hungry again far before Teatime. It is best to eat at least Something at Eleven O’ Clock, in order to Regulate the Day.

Elevenses is the Meal most often eaten Alone or with few in Company. It is taken by the Master in his study or the Mistress in her solar. The Farmer in the field will take with him a Bucket of Victuals for his Elevenses, or the Child at play may have a Basket from which to Picnic.

It is also the meal most often taken in Inns or Eating Houses, in which case it usually consists of Ale and Bread and Cheese.

LUNCHEON

Luncheon should be served at One O’ Clock of the Afternoon. This is the first Dinner of the Day (the second being Supper), and should be a substantial one.

There should be at least three courses: Soup or Salad, depending on the Weather; the Main Course, which should include Meat, Fish or Fowl of some sort, Vegetables prepared in a number of ways, and Bread; and a Sweet of some kind for Afters. When there are a number of Guests, there might also be Other Courses: Savory pies and the Like.

And of course, there should be some Cheese, Bread, and small Finger Food for the Filling Up of Corners.

It is best, if one should Possess such a room in one’s Smial or Cottage, to hold Luncheon in a proper Dining Room. This honors its Position as a Major Meal, and is Conducive to Better Manners than are often found when dining around the Kitchen Table. However, it must be conceded that many Hobbits do not have such a Room.

In that case, one should take care to Lay the Table nicely, and Observe the Niceties of Manners when taking Luncheon in the Kitchen.

TEATIME*

Teatime, depending on one’s Social Standing, takes place between Three O’ Clock to Five O’ Clock of the Afternoon. Hobbits of the Working Classes, especially those in Service, usually take the Meal earlier, while those of the Gentry tend to take the Meal a bit later in the day.

For a Hobbit taking Tea alone, this may consist of little more than a few biscuits or a piece of cake, with a Cup of Tea. However, if one has Guests, it is customary to Serve more Substantial Fare: savory tarts, sandwiches, boiled eggs, mushrooms, biscuits--both Sweet and Savory, scones, and cakes are all considered Proper Fare for Tea. It is often done to serve Clotted Cream and Jam to Accompany scones or cakes.

Tea is usually taken in the Sitting Room. A tea table and a tea trolley are very Useful to have, although not strictly Necessary, for a tray will serve as well. It Goes Without Saying that Tea should be served in Cups, not Mugs!

It is customary for the Mistress of the home to Pour, or if the gathering is at the Home of a Bachelor, the host may pour, or as an honor ask a Female Guest to do so.

One should pick up one’s cup and saucer together, cup in one hand and saucer in the other. Hold the cup carefully by the Handle. It is an Affectation to extend one’s last two fingers. This is not only Unnecessary but looks very Silly indeed, and sometimes will lead to one’s being Mocked by irreverent Young Persons. (Very Rude of them, of course, yet it Will happen!)

When stirring one’s Tea, one should be careful not to Clink! This is a Most Annoying habit. Do not leave the Spoon in the Cup, either--it is not only Impolite, but can result in Collisions with one’s nose, and the spilling of one’s Tea! Instead, when finished stirring, place the spoon upon the saucer. One should Never pour one’s Tea into the Saucer to cool it! If it is too hot, one should either wait for it to cool, or discreetly Blow Gently--do not Huff and Puff!

If one takes Milk in one’s Tea (and this is best for Children) it should be poured in After the tea has been poured. Sugar should be offered, or Honey, though some Hobbits prefer to take their Tea without.

It is Rude to pile one’s Plate. Instead, one should take only one or two offerings at a time, and then Replace it with another when one is finished. The host or hostess should never eat the last item. Rest assured one of the Guests will take it if Urged.

SUPPER

Supper is usually the Second Dinner of the day. (The exception being Holidays and other Special Occasions, when the Second Dinner is called “Dinner” and Supper is a later, smaller meal.) It is taken, depending upon when one has had one’s Tea, at either Seven O’ Clock or Eight O’ Clock of the Evening.

As with Luncheon, there should be a Certain Amount of formality to Supper. The table should be nicely laid, and there should be three to four courses, not counting the Filling Up of Corners. At Supper, sometimes there is *both* Salad and Soup, and often a Roast of some sort as the Meat, accompanied by as few as three to as many as six, Vegetables, with Bread and other Side Dishes, such as Potatoes or Noodles.

It is usual to have a more elaborate and fancier Sweet for Afters at Supper than at Luncheon, as one will soon be Retiring for the Night, and will not have to worry about the Sleepiness engendered, as after Luncheon. Gravy, Jam, Honey, Butter, Pickles and Relishes are Condiments that may be served with Supper.

And then of course, the Corners may be filled by any Leftovers, as well as cheese or other Savory Treats.

WHEN THERE IS A LATER SUPPER

As has been Previously Mentioned, some Folk are known to call “Supper” “Dinner” and to have another meal somewhat later, which they call “Late Supper”. When this is the case, this last Meal is a lighter one, usually consisting only of some sort of Soup or Stew, a bit of Bread, and perhaps a Salad with a piece of Fruit for Afters. When a meal is eaten so Late at Night, it is best not to Overload the Stomach, lest it lead to Uncomfortable Sleep and Unpleasant Dreams.

THE LAYING OF THE TABLE

One should use a Tablecloth when the Dining Room is used; if eating in the Kitchen, such is not necessary, although at Luncheon and Supper, it is a Nicety. One places the Silverware, Plate and Napkin about an inch from the edge of the table, with the Plate in the Center. Place the Fork at the Left of the Plate, upon the Napkin. The Knife should be to the Right of the Plate, blade facing the Plate. The Spoon should be to the Right of the Knife. The Soup Bowl may be placed on the Plate. The Cup, Mug, Goblet or Tumbler should be placed Above the Knife and Spoon, depending of course, on what Sort of Beverage is to be Served. At a Formal Dinner Party, a Salad Fork and a Soup Spoon may also be placed. To use Other Sorts of Silverware is sheer Ostentation and Showing Off.

Although in some of the Great Houses it is not uncommon to place Flowers on the Table, the best sort of Centerpiece is Food. Usually the Sweet for Afters can make an attractive Centerpiece--a lovely Cake, a platter of Tarts or a pretty Trifle in a Glass Bowl are very nice to look upon during the rest of the Meal. A bowl of Fruit, nicely Arranged is also a good idea for a Centerpiece, as well as being Useful when the time comes for Filling Up the Corners.

Questions sometimes asked about basic Manners:

What if there are Certain Foods one may not eat for Health reasons?

It is as well to Make it Known when Accepting an Invitation which foods one may not Safely eat. It is unfortunately true that some Hobbits have Adverse Reactions to foods which other Hobbits may Eat with Impunity. The Wise Host will take note of this. And it should go without saying that it is Unkind to Gloat when eating a Forbidden Item in front of such an Unfortunate Person!

What is the best way to Reprove a Child’s Manners when at Table?

Of course it is sometimes Necessary to Rebuke a Child. Often a Disapproving Look or a Mild Word will Do the Trick. If not, as I advised in a Previous Chapter, send the child Away from the Table.

When there are large Gatherings, children should, if possible, be seated at a Separate Table, which may be Overseen by a Reliable Tween or perhaps a Servant. It is best for the Adults to pay No Attention to this Table, and Turn a Blind Eye to any Minor Infractions.

What if one must Keep Company with someone who is Ill when they are having their Meals?

Of course, an ill or injured person should never have to be Left Alone, especially at Mealtimes. Yet the person who is Sitting with them may prefer to take his or her own Meal elsewhere. Under those Circumstances, it is a good idea to put a few extra Biscuits or perhaps some Toast upon the Invalid’s tray, along with an extra Cup of Tea, so that the Companion may have something to Nibble, for Politeness’ Sake.

Also, if one is Keeping Company with such a person, do remember that he or she may be somewhat Off his or her Feed, or may have his or her Food regulated by the Healer. Coax only so much as will not Distress the Patient!

IN CONCLUSION:

The most Important Thing to remember about Mealtimes is that one should strive to make them a Pleasant Experience for All Concerned. Refraining from those actions which will Disgust one’s Companions and Observing the Niceties will help to accomplish that.

_________________________________________

*Much of the information about teatime was taken from this site:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/HighTeaHistory.htm

CHAPTER SIX: MEALTIMES AND MANNERS--PART TWO, FESTIVALS, FEASTS, AND CELEBRATIONS

There are any number of Special Occasions that may call for more Elaborate Meals than the Ordinary. From Naming Days, to Birthdays, to Weddings, from Yule to Lithe, from the Spring Festivals and Harvest Festivals--all these may be marked by a Feast of some sort.

And there are other Occasions as well: the Advent of a Guest from afar may occasion a Dinner to Welcome him or her; the announcement of a Momentous Event, such as a Betrothal or the Impending Arrival of an Heir; or a Farewell Supper for a special Guest of Honor. All these and others are reasons to hold a Party, and to serve Fine Food.

FESTIVALS

Festivals are held on Holidays and other Occasions by entire Communities of Hobbits: Yuletide and the Lithedays are Celebrated the Shire over; in Michel Delving is the Free Fair, in Buckland, Budgeford, and the North Farthing are held Spring Festivals, while in Tuckborough and Hobbiton Harvest Fests are held. In the Southfarthing there are the Leafdays and the Cherry Blossom Gala. Many other Towns and Villages have their own various Celebrations throughout the year.

Festivals and Fairs may last only a day or so, or as long as a week. During that time, the entire Community comes together for a number of Feasts. These Special Dinners are provided by All who Attend them. Each family brings a dish or dishes to Share. These are placed on Large Tables, as though on a Sideboard, and all the Guests serve themselves.

The Rule of Thumb is to bring a Dish large enough to feed thrice as many Hobbits as are in one’s own Immediate Family. However, most Families see fit to bring Far More than the Rule calls for. Needless to say, there is more Variety to be found at such a Meal than at an ordinary one.

It is Polite to Inquire who Cooked a certain Dish, especially if it is one found to be Especially Delicious. Questions as to the Reciept may be made, however if the Maker declines to Answer on the grounds that it is a Family Secret, it is most Improper to Press him or her on the subject.

When the Signal for the Meal is given, the Children go first, faunts accompanied by a Parent. (However, the Parent at this time should Refrain from serving his or her own Plate.) The faunts are followed by older Children and Teens, and then by the Tweens. Only after all the Younglings have been served should the Adults then queue up for their own Meals. If one’s family should include the Elderly or Feeble, then one should prepare a Plate for that person first and take it to him or her, before obtaining one’s own.

A number of Tables are provided at most Festivals. Some of these are designated for the Children and Tweens. Adults may choose to sit at the other Tables, or even to Carry their Plates About, and Converse as they eat standing up. At such an Event, this is not Improper. However, it is Ill-Advised, especially with a Heavily Laden Plate. It is very difficult to Juggle one’s Plate, Cutlery and Drinking Vessel while carrying on a Conversation!

One may continue to return for Further Helpings until no more Food is left.

At the meal’s end, there is usually provided a Tent or Pavilion where those items are to be washed. This Service is generally Provided by local Tweens.

FEASTS

Unlike Festivals, these are Dinners prepared and provided by a Family to serve some special Familial Occasion. In the large Houses of the Great Families, there are also Lesser Feasts. At both the Great Smials and Brandy Hall, for example, Feasts are held each week upon the Highday.

On these occasions, the Head of the Family and his (or in the case of Widows, her) Immediate Family, and any Guests of Honor, will be seated at the Main Table. The Head generally is seated at the Center of the Table on these Occasions, rather than at the Head of the Table, as in more Intimate settings.

Other Members of the family will be seated at other Tables placed around the Hall. It is, once more, customary to provide separate Tables for the Children and Tweens.

On these Occasions, the Table should be Laid with the finest of Linen, Dishes, Cutlery and Vessels. In addition to the usual Fork, Knife and Spoon, a Salad Fork and Soup Spoon may be included. The inclusion of other Cutlery is rather Ostentatious. However, if one finds oneself confronted with such an Array, one should simply remember to begin with those items of Silver at the Outside of the Place Setting, and work one’s way in. It is Unlikely that one will encounter such a Display in a Household in which the Family Head is of the Sensible Sort.

I have been informed by a more or less Reliable Witness, that among Other Races, it is Customary for Servants to bring each Dish separately to the Table, and then stand next to Each Diner and apportion out one Serving, after which the Food is returned to the Kitchen! Such a proceeding seems to me Very Impractical. How would they have Seconds or Thirds, or Fill Up their Corners? However, I have also been assured by that same Reliable Witness that Big Folk do not often even eat Seconds, much less Thirds!

Hobbits are Far More Sensible. Servants bring the Dishes and Platters, and place them upon the Tables. The Diners then may serve themselves, and pass the Dishes Round. At a large Table, it is wise to place Two of each Dish, one near each end, to assure that there is Enough for all at the Table.

At Feasts, it is Customary to bring each Course out, one at a time. First, the Soup and Salad, and then the Main Dish and its Accompanying Side Dishes, and then finally, the Afters. However the Servants should not take away any Dishes from Previous Courses unless they are Completely Empty.

At such Feasts, also, it is customary to bring out Platters of small Finger Foods, for the Filling Up of Corners.

In Lesser Families, or in Smaller Gatherings, it is better to place All the Food upon the Table at Once. If space for Eating is Limited, then some of the Later Courses could be laid upon the Sideboard nearby, and brought to the table by a Servant or a Younger Member of the Family at the Proper Point in Time.

CELEBRATIONS

Most Feasts, of course are in Celebration of something Special. However certain Celebrations have their own Traditions, which are then presented within the Feast.

At Birthdays, it is Customary for the Eldest Guest present to offer a toast in honor of the byrding, just before the cutting of the Cake. If the byrding is a child not yet in his or her tweens, he or she receives the First Slice of the Cake. Also if an Adult byrding happens to be Guest of Honor in the home of another, he or she would receive the first slice. However, if the byrding is also the Host or Hostess, then he or she receives the last piece as is normally done. The rest of the Cake is served out, beginning with the Youngest present and working up to the Eldest. If there are no children present, this last rule may be somewhat Relaxed.

At Weddings, there is the Custom of the Wedding Cake. In Shire Tradition, a Silver penny is baked into the Cake. If a child or tweenager, or an adult over eighty, find it, it means Good Luck--which of course is only reasonable since they are now a Penny the richer--but if an older lass or lad, still unwed, find it, it means they will soon Wed. If they are already wed, it means a Child will soon be on the way. But if the Bride or Groom should find it, it means they will have a Child Within the Year. And there are some who even say, if the Groom finds it, it means a Daughter, and if the Bride finds it, it means a Son. This is, of course, only a Charming and Whimsical Superstition, and few put any Stock in it. However, it often leads to a good deal of Teasing of the One who finds the Penny. It has never to my Experience, however, fallen to the Bride or Groom to actually Find the Penny.

Just prior to the Cutting of the Cake, it is the Duty of the Hobbit who stood with the Groom to offer a Toast and a small Speech in Honor of the Newly-wedded Couple.

The Bride and Groom together Cut the Cake, and the first piece goes by Tradition to the Officiator. The rest of the pieces are passed down the table, and the Bride and Groom take the last two slices.

Of course at a Naming Day Feast, the Guest of Honor is not Capable of Appreciating the honor, and it is truly more for the Sake of the Parents. However, it is customary for the Child to be Present, usually in a Cradle placed near the Mother.

Near the End of the Meal, usually during Afters, the Head of the Family will rise and offer a Blessing to the New Family Member, and present a Gift, which usually consists of a Vessel, Dish or Spoon made especially for a small child to eat from. Then each Guest will rise in turn and offer a Wish or Blessing for the Child.

In some Families, it is customary at Yule to have a Flaming Pudding for Afters. This is brought with great Ceremony to the Table, and placed before the Head of the Family.

And it must not be Forgotten, that on the Occasion of Overlithe, it us Usual to have a Midnight Feast!

Questions often asked about Festivals and Feasts:

At a Festival, what is the proper way to deal with a Person who cuts ahead of One in the queue?

If it is a Child or Tween, a sharp word of Reproof, and sending him or her to the back of the queue is in Order. However, should an Adult behave so Rudely, there is sadly no Recourse other than a Look of Reproach.

What is the best way to Respond if one is toasted at a Feast?

This is quite likely to occur if One is a Visitor. It is considered Courteous of the Host to honor a Guest thusly. If it is a brief Word of Welcome, then a Polite Nod of the Head is sufficient Acknowledgement. However, if the Host should offer words of Praise, then one should rise and Thank him or her, and offer a Small Speech in recognition of the Honor.

A Guest should always bow and thank his or her host, both Before and After the meal.

What if there are Two byrdings at a Birthday Party?

This is a not Uncommon Occurrence when more than one Family Member share a Birthday. Under such Circumstances, the Elder byrding is considered the Main Honoree.

IN CONCLUSION:

There are any number of Special Events that should be marked by Celebration. One should always be Careful not to let the Spirit of Merry-making to overcome one’s Manners.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: ON THE RECEIVING OF GUESTS

As has been mentioned at the very Beginning of this Tome, one of the Most Important Virtues is that of Hospitality.

No matter how Humble or how Grand one’s Dwelling may be, one should always tender a warm Welcome to Guests who arrive upon one’s doorstep whether Family or Friends or merely Acquaintances.

A PROPER WELCOME

It is most Unkind to keep Guests standing on the Doorstep. One should quickly invite them Inside with a kind word of Greeting. If they are Family, then of course one will show one’s Happiness at their presence with a warm Embrace. Once within, then Coats, Cloaks or Jackets should be taken. It is wise to have a Coatstand in the Hall, or hooks upon the wall nearby, for the Placing of Outer Garments.

If the Weather is Inclement, then the offer of Towels and warm water for the Cleaning of Feet is a very kind and hospitable Gesture.

Of course, one should also offer Refreshment. If it is near to a Mealtime, then naturally the Guest will be invited to Partake. If it is not, then a simple offer of Tea and Biscuits will suffice.

If the Visit is not a Social one, and the Guest or Guests have been Invited to conduct Business, then the offer of Refreshment may be postponed until after the Business is conducted.

Bring the Guest as soon as may be to a place where he or she may be Seated and be Comfortable. An Inquiry as to the Guests’ health, and to their Family is appropriate, as is an Inquiry as to the Purpose of the Visit. Once Refreshment has been brought out, then Conversation of a Congenial Nature may take place.

ONE’S DUTY AS A HOST

It is one’s Duty as a Host to make one’s Guests feel wanted. When offering Refreshment, the Guest may have the First Choice of all the offerings.

If there is not enough to go around, then as Host, one must simply Do Without. While this may sometimes be rather a painful Sacrifice, especially if the Dish in question is a Favorite, one must not allow one’s Countenance to display Dismay. Instead, enjoy the thought that one has shown Magnanimity and Generosity. For while it may be Distressing to forgo the last Slice of Cake or the last Scone, it is Delightful to see one’s Guest or Guests enjoying such treats.

If one’s Guests are Staying Overnight, then Accommodations must be found. In the Ideal Situation, one would have Proper Guest Rooms for each Member of the Party.

A well-appointed Guest Room should have one or more Beds, a washstand, and a place for the Guest to place his or her Garments. The host should provide a Ewer of clean water, a Basin, Soap and fresh Towels. A tumbler, and another Pitcher of fresh water upon a Nightstand is also a Kind Gesture, saving a Guest from having to wander Unfamiliar halls late at Night, in search of a Drink of Water. If the Guest is expected, then it is a Good Idea to make the Bed with fresh Linens before the arrival. However, a Guest who is Unexpected may, without ill-reflection on the host, be provided with the Linens with which to make his or her own Bed.

However, as is often the case, there may not be enough Guest Rooms to Go Around.

It is Proper for the Host or Hostess to offer his or her own bed if the Guests are of the same Generation or Older. If the Guests are younger, then they may properly be asked to share beds with young members of the Household, or to sleep on the Settees, or to sleep upon a Pallet made up on the Floor. In the latter case one should try to Have on Hand plenty of Pillows and Blankets for the comfort of one’s Guests.

GATHERINGS

In gatherings which have been Arranged by the Host, especially those which are for some specific Purpose, it is Customary for the Invited Guests to assemble in the Designated room at the Designated time. Only after all Guests have arrived does the Host and or Hostess make an Appearance. The exception to this is in Gatherings which are Strictly for Family. In those cases it should be the Eldest Family member who enters last. However, in practice, that is frequently also the Host and or Hostess.

If the Occasion is a Light-hearted one, then there is every Expectation that Refreshments will make an Appearance. A table to one side with a few Comestibles never goes Amiss.

However, on Solemn or Serious Occasions, it is best to offer Refreshments *afterwards*, although it is not a Bad Idea to have restorative Spirits available if Necessary.

ENTERTAINING ONE’S GUESTS

While it is Expected that a Host will provide Entertainment at a Party, when a visit or Gathering is of a less Formal Nature, it is not Incumbent upon the Host to amuse one’s Guests every waking moment. A Guest should be made to feel At Home, and this includes being able to Relax, to have simple Conversation with one’s Host and one’s Fellow Guests, without having every moment Accounted For.

Still, a Host may wish to plan Outings or other amusements to benefit his or her Guests. A Picnic or a quiet Ramble in the Countryside is often sufficient to the purpose. A Host may wish to Treat his guests to Elevenses at an Inn; a Hostess may wish to take her Guests to the Shops and perhaps to a Tea Room. If the Weather is Inclement, then Parlor Games or reading Aloud may also accomplish the Task.

If one is of a Musical bent, then time spent Playing and Listening to Music may be very Pleasant.

An Excellent means of Occupying one’s Guests, and one which is most often met with Approbation is to spend time in the Kitchen. Cooking is always an Amusing task, and even if one does not need the Assistance in the Preparing of Meals, one could perhaps Bake or make other Treats, such as Taffy or other Sweets. These tasks can occupy the Time most Pleasantly!

The Most Important thing is the Enjoy the company of one’s Guests, so that one may delight in their Presence and they in yours.

Questions often asked about the Receiving of Guests:

What if the Guest or Guests are Unwelcome or Uncongenial?

If the Guest who shows up on the Doorstep is one whose Presence is Unwelcome, then one is justified in being “Not At Home” to the Unwelcome Caller. This presumes one is Aware of who has Knocked upon the Door or Rung the Bell. Once one opens the Door, then Courtesy demands that one show the Caller Welcome, and Invite them in.

If, however, the Unwelcome Caller shows one blatant Rudeness, then one is excused for telling him or her “Good Day”! One does not need to Put Up with such Behavior. It is Unfortunate that there are those who are Rude on Purpose, finding that thusly they may Get Their Own Way, when there are those who will not gainsay them out of Politeness and a wish to Avoid Unpleasantness.

What if a Caller Arrives at an Inconvenient Time?

If one is in the midst of Important Tasks when an Uninvited Guest arrives, then one may reasonably ask him or her in, and once one has provided the Caller with Tea, then ask him or her to wait upon the Completion of the Task. This is, after all, the Risk taken when one arrives without Notice.

If one is preparing to Leave the home oneself, then it is Appropriate to ask such a Caller to join one. Or, if the Caller is Family, one may make them free of the Hole or House, until one returns.

What if a Guest overstays his or her Welcome?

While a thoughtful Guest will always Indicate to his or her Host the length of time he or she Anticipates staying, there Occasionally may arise a Guest who shows no signs of Leaving After a Reasonable Time.

If the Guest does not leave in a Week or so, one may begin to Take up one’s Normal Routine, and to drop Hints. If these are of no Avail, one might Appeal to other Members of the Family to extend an Invitation.

After a Month or more, then one is within one’s Rights to Inform the visitor that they are no longer a Guest, but a member of the Household, and to assign them such Duties as would be Expected of one who dwelt there.

For some Reason, this almost Invariably results in the Unwanted Guest deciding to go Elsewhere.

IN CONCLUSION:

Hospitality is one of the Cardinal Virtues. To extend a Welcome to those who come to one’s Door is a Privilege and a Joy. One should not allow a Preference for Peace and Quiet cause one to Forego such a Privilege.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: ON BEING A GUEST

Every Hobbit will have occasion from time to time, to Be a Guest. Most of the time it may be a simple Social Call, to visit a friend or take Tea. Sometimes one may attend a Party, and if one travels at all, there will be times when one may spend days or even weeks as the Guest of another.

One must hope to be the sort of Guest that one’s Hosts are pleased to see, to be Welcomed with open arms, and glad Embraces. One should fervently wish Never to be the Sort of Person whom a Host dreads to see upon the Doorstep. To that end, I offer the following Advice.

AS AN INVITED GUEST

When one receives an invitation to Visit, or to a Party or other Special Occasion, one should respond as Soon as Possible to the invitation, and Accept or Decline. It is unkind to leave a Host in doubt as to how many Persons will attend, or as to who shall be there.

In Accepting, one should also indicate the time of one’s Arrival, if one is coming from a Distance and will be in need of Accommodation. And whenever possible, one should also send a Message if there are delays. This is not of course, always Possible--the Unexpected may come upon Anyone, and disrupt carefully made Plans. However, the effort should be made.

Sometimes, especially for Family, there may be Standing Invitations. Close Cousins and other Relations will have an open understanding as to Mutual Visits, for which no further Invitation is necessary. Even so, it is wiser if possible not to turn up Unannounced for any but the briefest of Stays.

If one is staying some Days or Weeks, then it is best to Accommodate oneself to the Daily Routine of one’s Host, arising at the hour when he or she arises, and offering to Assist in the Household Tasks. It is a Kind Gesture to offer to Prepare one or more Meals as well during the Visit.

It is a good Idea to have with one all that is Necessary for the Visit. While a good Host may have Items of Toiletry that one might borrow, it is far better to take one’s own. A small Token of Esteem for one’s host is also a Kind Gesture.

When one is Invited for a Special Occasion, one should be very careful not to Overstay one’s visit. If one says that one will be there for Three Days, then one should be packed and ready to Depart upon the third. Only extend a stay at one’s Host’s Urging. And one should be very Sure that the Urging is truly meant!

If one is Invited to attend a Party, one should Arrive very near to the time set for the Event. A little Early, or slightly Late, will not be taken amiss. However, if one arrives so Early that Preparations are still underway, then one should offer to Help, and not expect the Host to attend upon one’s whims at such a time.

And to arrive so Late that all eyes are focused on one’s Arrival is the worst sort of Vanity! There are some Lasses, especially, and the occasional Matron, who find this sort of Behavior “Fashionable”. However, it is in very Poor Taste, and may not be Excused on that basis!

One should always remember to Thank one’s Host or Hostess for his or her kind Regard in extending the Invitation. That he or she values one’s Company to the extent of Requesting it should be very Gratifying.

WHEN ONE HAS NO INVITATION

There are times when one may make an Informal visit to Friends or Family, without a previous Invitation.

Whilst a good Host will not indicate dismay at having an Unexpected Guest turn up, one should be alert for signs that the Visit may not be at the Best of Times. If one’s Host seems hesitant in any way, or if one sees indications that one has Interrupted Something, then one should graciously keep the Visit as short as possible, and be on the way as soon as one may.

If one should arrive while the Host is taking a Meal, and one has already had one’s own Meal, one should not decline the offer to sit at Table. One should take at the least a cup of Tea and a Biscuit or other small Nibble, in order to keep one’s Host Company. As has been previously mentioned, it is very Unmannerly to allow someone to Eat Alone in one’s Company.

Often in Travelling one may find oneself unexpectedly in need of Overnight Accommodation. Most certainly it is Preferable to stay with Family, rather than at an Inn whenever Possible. If one knows that one has Kin in a town or village, then it should not be thought Amiss to turn up at the Door. It could in fact, result in Hurt Feelings if it were discovered one chose the local Inn rather than to stay with Family.

An exception to this would be if one should be benighted very at a Very Late Hour. Most householders are not at their best, being knocked up in the Middle of the Night. Under those Circumstances, it is indeed better to seek an Inn, as Innkeepers are used to such Hours.

When one is Not Invited, it is best to keep one’s stay as Brief as one may. While a Host or Hostess may protest that one is not Imposing, simply being there uninvited is, in fact, an Imposition. It is best to be away, and to be tendered an Actual Invitation for one’s next Visit. Far better to have the Host or Hostess regretting one’s Departure, than for him or her to breath a Sigh of Relief to see the back of one!

Questions often asked about Being a Guest:

Can one Avoid making Visits or Staying With certain Persons?

Certainly all have Obligations, especially to Family. When one is invited to the Home of a Relative whom one finds Uncongenial and who lives at a convenient Distance or is on the way of one‘s travels, it is best actually to take the bitter medicine and make the Visit. One may know that one has done one’s Duty, and may take Satisfaction from that. One should Keep the Visit as brief and as Pleasant as may be, taking one’s Leave as soon as is possible. It is a sad Truth that those whom one finds Uncongenial often find one the same way, and so both Parties will be relieved to have the Duty over and done with.

When extended Invitations from those who live at a considerable Distance, and with whom one has little in common, these may be Graciously Declined.

However, one should never Decline an Invitation because the one who extends it lives in Humbler Circumstances than one’s own. This is the worst sort of Rudeness, even if one puts forth some other Excuse.

What if one’s Plans must change?

It is not unknown for Life to present one with the Unexpected. A sudden Illness or Accident, Inclement Weather, a Bereavement in the Family are only a few things that might cause one’s best laid plans to go Awry.

In those Circumstances it is as well to notify one’s prospective Host or Hostess by Post, Immediately, lest he or she worry over one’s not arriving.

What if one has Business to Conduct with one’s Host?

If one has been invited to the hole or house of another with Business in Mind that is one thing. One should conduct the Business first, getting it Out of the Way, before accepting Refreshment offered by the Host.

However, if the Host has Invited one to a Social Occasion, it is extremely Rude to attempt to Talk Business. This is not to say one can never discuss one’s Work, but one should not try to Conduct Business unless that is the clear purpose of the Meeting. Speaking in Generalities about how well (or poorly) one’s Business is doing is one thing; trying to persuade one’s Host to do Business with one is another thing altogether.

What is a Reasonable Length of Stay, when Travelling to Visit Relatives?

There are a number of Factors to Consider. If one has travelled a considerable Distance, especially to another Farthing, one can reasonably expect to stay for a number of Days or even Weeks. One should keep in mind how often one sees that Particular Person--someone that one sees only one or two times a Year would naturally expect a Longer Visit.

The Most Important thing to keep in mind is not to Impose on one’s Host. If one is staying beyond a week, one should Offer to help with household tasks as well as to Prepare a Meal. One should be willing to stay on one’s own if one’s Host or Hostess must go Out on Business or to do Errands.

Even if one’s Host has invited one for an Extended Stay, be alert for signs that one’s Presence has begun to Wear. It is best to leave Early, so that one’s absence is Regretted, than to Overstay one’s Welcome.

IN CONCLUSION

The best way to be a Welcome Guest is to behave as one would wish Guests to behave in one’s own Home. Strive always to be Pleasant, Congenial and Helpful, and then one’s Company will be much in Demand.

 CHAPTER NINE: ON THE GIVING OF GIFTS

The Giving of Gifts is a most important Subject. As every Hobbit should know from the time he or she leaves Faunthood behind, it is far Better to Give than to Receive.

And yet, I may pause here to say a Word on the Receiving of Gifts: a Gift is never to be turned away, whatever the reason. It is a Most Offensive Insult to Refuse a Gift!

For that reason one should always take Care to give Appropriate Gifts. It is most Unkind to give a Gift which the Recipient may find Inappropriate.

A Gift does not--indeed, should not--always be New. It is perfectly Proper to pass along a Mathom of one’s own. However, one should never use the occasion of Gift-giving as an Excuse to Clean Out one’s Mathom Rooms! To give someone an item simply because one does not care for it oneself, or to get rid of it is in very Poor Taste.

Sometimes a Gift is given in Good Humor. As long as these gifts are exchanged Between Friends, and the Joke is Understood, there is noting wrong with doing so. However, such Jokes should not be cruel or Unkind.

One should put care into the choosing of a Gift. A present should show Thoughtfulness on the part of the Giver as to what the Recipient either needs or likes. To pick up just anything, in order to get the task of finding a Gift over with shows a lack of Respect and Esteem for the person for whom it is meant.

TO WHOM DOES ONE GIVE GIFTS?

Although a Gift should always be given Freely, and without a Sense of Obligation, it is quite true that Society expects one to give presents to certain Persons on certain occasions.

It is most certainly Proper to give Gifts to all of one’s Immediate Family--parents, siblings, and grandparents. Beyond that, one usually gives gifts as one Chooses to one’s Uncles, Aunts and Cousins up to and including the fourth degree. However, the burden of such can be Overwhelming. For that reason, Cousins or other Relatives and Connections who live further off should not expect Gifts from one. This has given rise to the Vulgar expression “Twelve Mile Cousin”--which is to say, a Cousin or other Relative who lives further away than twelve miles should feel no Expectation of a Gift, nor feel Offended at the lack of one.

In reality, one may have many Relations who live much further off than Twelve Miles, whom one esteems enough to Give a Gift. And one may have Relations who live in the same town whom one esteems not at all.
Nevertheless, it is as well to make Certain that Family Occasions are not a call for Insult, and make at least a token Gift, even to such Relations as one does not care for.

Gifts are best given in Person, as one is then not at the mercy of the Vagaries of the Post; however, if one wishes to Gift one who lives beyond Twelve Miles, it is as well to do so.

When giving a Gift to a child or tween, this should always be done in the presence of the child’s Parent or Parents. While the child may not Refuse the Gift, the Parent may wish to take it in Hand, if he or she should feel the Child is too young to Properly make Use of the Gift.

In giving Gifts to Friends who are neither Relatives nor Connections, one has a bit more Freedom. However, lads or lasses of Courting Age should be very Careful of What Sorts of Gifts they give, lest a Wrong Impression is made.

Gifts of Food or Flowers are always appropriate from either gender to either gender. A lad may also give a lass a book or a pocket handkerchief, or if he really wishes to Indicate Interest, a Yellow Hair Ribbon. A lass who wishes to let a lad know that he has Engaged Her Interest may choose to give him a Receipt for some dish or other.‡

She should keep in mind, however, that just any Common Receipt will not do, and the mere use of Bay Leaf rather than Thyme in the Soup does not Constitute a Special Receipt! It should either be a Secret Family Reciept or an Original Receipt.

There are many Special Occasions on which the Expectation of Giving is entailed.

NAMING DAY

For a child’s Naming Day, it is usual for the child’s Grandparents to give a Dish or an Eating Implement. Most commonly, the Maternal Grandparents give a Silver Spoon, while the Paternal Grandparents give a Plate or Bowl, often of the appropriate size for a child to eat from once Weaned, and decorated in a manner Pleasing to a Young Child.

Gifts from other Relations or Friends of the Family should be very simple, such as Blankets or Caps, or even Symbolic in Nature. A small box of Salt, for example, for luck, or Flowers according to their Common Meanings. Especially for a lass, it is a nice idea to give her something with either her Namesake Flower or Gem, if she is to be so named. All these Gifts are of course, presented to the Proud Parents, and should be done After the Child’s Name has been inscribed in the Family Book.

THE FIFTH BIRTHDAY

The Fifth Birthday, as has been Described in the Previous Chapter on Childhood, marks an Important Passage in a Child’s Life. The day before the Birthday, he or she should be presented, at either First or Second Breakfast, with Five Gifts, one from each of those who are closest to the Child. Between then and Noon of the Following Day, other Kin or Friends may present gifts for the Child to his or her Parents. This is so the Child will not be Overwhelmed with a Surfeit of Presents, and lose track of the Important Lesson of the Next Day: the Giving of his or her Gifts to others.

It is as well to start as one Means to Go On, and have the Child give most of his or her Presents from among various mathoms, or he or she may gather Flowers, or make some simple Thing, such as a Drawing to give to others.

However, some Parents like to make the Fifth Birthday more Memorable by the giving of Newer Gifts selected by the Parent. It is as well to remember that this should not be a Regular Occurrence in Later Years, or it is likely that the Parent will get a Reputation for Showing Off.

THE GIVING OF BIRTHDAY GIFTS TO THE BYRDING

Gifts given to the byrding should be brought, in person if Possible, on the Day Before the Birthday. By no means should the Gift be Presented after Noon of the Day of the Party, lest they seem to be Payment for Hospitality--a Most Insulting Thing! To do so is in the Worst of Taste!*

Gifts for the byrding most frequently consist of Food: Preserves or Jams, Breads or Cakes, Biscuits or Pastries, are all very welcome. Drink, such as a Bottle of Wine, is also a Nice Gift for the Byrding. However, close Friends or Kin may wish to Gift their Loved One with something more Tangible than Comestibles, and there is certainly nothing Wrong with that!

THE GIVING OF BIRTHDAY GIFTS FROM THE BYRDING

The byrding may choose to give Gifts to his or her closest Family at First or Second Breakfast on the Day, or he or she may choose to wait until the Party.

As to the Gifts for Guests, they may be presented in two different Manners. For an Intimate Party, of Twelve persons or Less, the Gifts may be distributed to the assembled Guests just prior to the Serving of the Birthday Feast.

However, when a Party consists of many Guests, it is more Usual to give each Gift as each Guest arrives, either at the Gate, if the Party is Outdoors, or at the Door if the Party is being held Indoors.

It is Gracious to add a Personal Comment to each Gift, so that the Recipients will know they were considered Carefully in the Selection of the Gift.

WEDDING GIFTS

Let me begin by stating that which Everyone Should Know: It is in the Worst Possible Taste, bordering on the Offensive, to take a Gift to the Wedding!* This should Never be Done! It is in fact, even considered by Many Persons to bring Bad Luck to the Bride and Groom! I would not go so far as to agree with such a Superstition, but it is as Well to Avoid the Possibility!

The only Gifts that may be give At the Wedding are Flowers, which may only be given by Children to the Bride.* This is a charming and sweet Gesture, but should be one Undertaken by the Children themselves, and not at the Instigation of an Adult.

All Wedding Gifts should be delivered Prior to the Wedding. In fact, in most parts of the Shire, the Custom is followed of Sitting for the Gifts: the Bride and Groom abide at the home of the Bride’s family each afternoon during the Week Before the Wedding. At that time, Kin and Friends may call and deliver their Gifts in Person, as well as their Love and Best Wishes to the young couple.

The Gifts may be displayed at that time--there is no Reason save Sheer Ostentation for them to be displayed at the Wedding Itself!

In addition to Gifts given to the Bride and Groom, there are also various traditions in different parts of the Shire.

In Buckland, for example, it is the custom for the Couple who has been Wed the Longest in the hometown of the Newlyweds to be given a Gift from the Bride’s family, as a Token of Appreciation for their Good Example.

In Hobbiton, the Oldest Living Female Relative of the Bride always gives a Gift of Apples, no matter what other Gift she may Present.

And in Tookland among the Tooks, the Groom often distributes Alms to the Poorer Folk after the Wedding.

In the Northfarthing, I have been told, it is the Custom for the Parents of the Couple to Gift them with two trees, one from the Family of the Bride, and one from the Family of the Groom. These trees are to be planted side by side, in the Garden of the Newlyweds’ home, and encouraged to grow ever after, Twined together into One.

YULE GIFTS

On First Yule, it is Usual for one to give Gifts to close Family. Unlike other occasions, on Yule it is not unusual to give New Gifts, in commemoration of the Coming Year. And Children are frequently given special Treats of Sweets, Nuts, and small Toys.

On Second Yule one gives Gifts to Friends and, if one has them, Servants.

Except for the Gifts to Children, Yule gifts are most often Items of Necessity, such as Mittens or Scarves or such.

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT THE GIVING OF GIFTS:

What if it truly is not possible to bring the Gift Ahead of time, to the Byrding or to the Betrothed Couple?

This situation comes up more often than one might Think. If, for example one Trusts to the Post, it may not be delivered in a Timely Fashion. In that case, the Bride’s family should Receive the Gift and set it aside for at least a Fortnight before giving it to the young Couple.

Likewise, if one is prevented from taking one’s Presents while the Couple is Sitting for their Gifts, then one should by no means bring it to the Wedding, but wait that same Fortnight before paying a call and giving them the Gift.

In the case of a Birthday, one need only to wait until the Day After the Party to Present a Late Gift.

Is it all right to Give a Gift given one by Another?

Most certainly one may! One should of course, keep a gift a decent amount of time--at least six months in the case of Birthday Gifts and at least a Year in the case of Wedding Gifts, before Passing them on to Someone Else who might Appreciate them more.

One should take care however, Not to give such a gift back to the original Giver!

What are other occasions one might find for the Giving of Gifts?

The Giving of Gifts is a Delight, and in reality needs no Excuse. However, many people like to mark Special Occasions with Gifts to Family or Friends--such Occasions might be at a Farewell, when one is going Away for an Extended Time. Or one may wish to Gift an Honored Guest on his or her Arrival.

If one has Travelled to other Parts of the Shire, one may wish to bring back to one’s close Family mementoes of the Places one Visits.

IN CONCLUSION

There are Many and Varied Occasions when one may give Gifts to Others. This is something to be greatly Anticipated. There is nothing quite like the look of Pleasure and Delight when a Loved One opens a Carefully and Thoughtfully Chosen Gift!


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‡ The idea of recipes being a courtship gift comes from Larner’s story “Of Courtship Rituals and Wizards” found in her anthology “Moments in Time” on Stories of Arda.

* All the ideas so marked come directly from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien Letter #214

 CHAPTER TEN: ON BIRTHDAYS

To mark the Occasion of one’s Birth, is to mark a very Special day indeed.

For what Reason do Hobbits mark Birthdays? It is said that not all Races do so, or if they do, Mark them but lightly. This is a puzzle, for the Occasion of one’s Birth is a time for showing Gratitude and Thankfulness for one’s life in the World. To share this Gratitude with others, and to make of it a Happy Event is very important. We show this by our Customs and Traditions concerning Birthdays from a very young age.

It has been remarked on Previously, that certain Birthdays are of greater Significance than others: the Third Birthday, in which a child passes from Infancy to Faunthood, the Fifth, in which a Faunt becomes a Child, the Twentieth, in which Childhood is left behind, and the child becomes a Tween, and the Coming of Age, when a Hobbit takes his or her rightful place in the Shire. Other Birthdays of Special Note would be those marking the entry into each New Decade--the Fortieth, Fiftieth, and so forth. And for any Hobbit who has marked his or her One Hundred and Tenth Birthday, every birthday after that would be a Momentous Event, as it could easily be the Last.

I have previously dealt with both the Third and Fifth Birthdays in my discussion of faunts and children, and thus I will not bore the Gentle Reader with tiresome repetitions. However, I will Utter this Reminder: both of these Birthdays are of the greatest importance in setting forth a child’s future expectations of the Day. He or she must experience these Milestones in a way that causes the child to understand what a Delight it is to Give, rather than Receive. All must be done to make these Birthdays as Joyous Occasions as possible--but do not let the Expectation of Receiving overshadow the Giving. It is for that reason this Writer recommends limiting the receipt of gifts for a Young Child to the number of years the Child is Celebrating. This is, however, merely a Guideline, and is not a Rule of Manners.

THE TWENTIETH BIRTHDAY

As a Lad or Lass leaves childhood behind and enters the Tweenage years, it is important to Mark the Occasion in a memorable fashion.

A Twentieth Birthday is a Good Occasion for a young lass to receive her first piece of “Grown-up” Jewelry. A bracelet or necklace is an Excellent Choice, and if the lass should so happen to be named for a Gem, then it is a nice gesture to include her Namesake Jewel. While it is the usual purview of the Grandparents on the Mother’s Side to make such a Gift, other close friends or Relations may also do so.

In some Families, but not all, it is the Custom to present a Lad with his first Pipe, and a pouch of pipe-weed upon the Occasion of his Twentieth Birthday. However, some Families prefer the habit of Smoking to be taken up at a Later Age, and so wait until the Lad turns Twenty-five.

It is also the Custom for a child entering his or her Tweens to act as the Host or Hostess at his or her own Party for the first time, rather than the Parents, as in previous years. Still, it is a Good Idea for the Parents to keep a close eye upon the fledgling Host or Hostess, and to discourage ostentation and excess.

It is important that a Tweenager learn to graciously Receive Guests, and to see to their Comfort, for Hospitality is foremost.

COMING OF AGE

There is no Occasion more worthy of marking than that of Coming of Age, for it is at this time a Hobbit becomes Accountable for his or her own Behavior, and takes up all the Responsibilities of Adulthood.

A Hobbit who is Coming of Age is expected to give a Memorable Party, and to give Gifts of more Substance than in previous years. An especially remarkable Feast is also anticipated.

It is at the Feast of the Coming of Age that the traditional toast to the Byrding is made, by the Eldest Guest present. This tradition will then be kept up through all Subsequent Birthdays.

GIVING A BIRTHDAY PARTY

The Giving of a Party, though the occasion be a joyous one, can also be a Nervous Task. One wishes, of course, to make one’s Guests happy and comfortable, to feed them well and to provide such Entertainment as may be appropriate. When a Party is small, and consists solely of one’s nearest and dearest Family and Friends, it is not so difficult a task. But when one decides to have a more Elaborate sort of gathering, one must realize that many Guests may be mere Acquaintances, or more Distant Kin, whom one sees very seldom.

It is by no means Wise to give a Party beyond one’s means. Ostentation is never in good taste. However, if one has the ability to do so, it is often the best idea to Hire extra Help for the Event.

If one is expecting many Guests from more distant places, it is a Good Idea to make arrangements ahead of time for their Lodging--any who cannot be Accommodated in one’s own house or smial should have found for them places in local Inns, or among Obliging Neighbors.

One can generally expect an influx of Guests the day before the Party, as many will be wishing to gift the Byrding at the Proper Time. Once the Gifts have been opened and appreciated, they should be Put Away.

It is a good idea to have a small and Informal Supper the night before the Party for one’s Guests.

Upon the day of the Party, one should rise early, in order to make certain that all details have been Properly Seen To. There also may be Guests who wish to bring last minute Gifts, which should arrive before Noon.

In the event that a Gift should by happenstance arrive late, the byrding should have a Friend designated to receive it, and to put it by for a few days before it is opened. After Noon, the byrding should not be distracted by having to deal with Receiving Gifts, but should instead be focused on the Giving of Gifts.

There are a number of ways in which the Giving may take place. The most common way is to have a table set aside, near the Entrance. Then the byrding may distribute each Gift as the Guest for whom it is meant arrives. Make certain that all labels are Firmly Attached!

At smaller Birthday Parties, the byrding may wait, and issue the Gift to each Guest just prior to the Birthday Feast. Some Families like to have a small gathering for those who are closest to receive their Presents, separate from the rest of the Guests. This should be done, if possible Before many Guests begin to Arrive.

ATTENDING A BIRTHDAY PARTY

The most important thing about Attending a Birthday Party is that one not bring a gift to the Party. It is most Insulting to the Host to insinuate that one must Pay for Hospitality! While one may wish to gift the byrding, one should always do so Before the Party begins. And it is not at all Requisite to gift the byrding. He or she will not expect Gifts from any but the closest of Family and Friends. For a mere Acquaintance to bring a Gift gives the impression of an Attempt to Curry Favor, which is Most Distasteful!

When the byrding gives one a Gift, one should open it Immediately, and quickly Express proper Thanks for the Thoughtfulness. If a Gift is something one does not care for, by no means should one express Dismay, by any word or sign. If the mathom one receives is Truly Awful, then one should take it gratefully, and put it Aside when one returns Home.

Once the byrding has attained his or her Majority, then it is only right that much Conversation consist of Reminiscing Fondly of experiences that one has shared with him or her.

And one should, of course, keep in mind all the Previous Advice about Being a Guest.

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT CELEBRATING BIRTHDAYS:

Must one Give a Birthday Party every year?

Most certainly one is not Obliged to do so. There are many Reasons, very good ones, for not celebrating one’s Every Birthday with a party. There are Hobbits who enjoy hosting Parties, and will gladly give one at every possible celebration. And there are those, who more Reclusive, would prefer not to celebrate the Passing of Every Year.

Still it is considered Proper to mark the Special Birthdays with at least a small Party.

To which Guests must one Present a Gift?

The Brief Answer to that pressing Question is All of Them. A cousin who Attends one’s Parties is no longer a “twelve-mile cousin” as the Vulgar saying goes. One should never invite more Guests than one is Prepared to Gift.

When holding a very large party, to which an Undetermined Number of Guests have been invited, one may properly have a large store of small and inexpensive Token Gifts for the Majority of Guests, while reserving Special and More Specific Gifts for close Family and Friends.

What if there are two byrdings? Who has Precedence? And might they give Joint Gifts?

Considering the size of most Hobbit Families, it is not Unusual for two or more Members of the Family to share a Birthday, or to have their Birthdays so close together that it is necessary to combine the Celebrations.

In such cases, the older byrding is considered the Host, and takes Precedence in matters of Toasting.

While the Party may be held Jointly, Gifts Must Be Given Individually! It is a shirking of one’s obligation to show thankfulness for two persons to give a single Gift.

IN CONCLUSION:

A Birthday is an occasion on which one may Properly express Gratitude to those Persons who make one’s life Worth Living. Showing Hospitality in the form of food and Gifts is a way of showing that Thankfulness.

ON WEDDINGS

Marriage is an Event which brings together two Families, to create a third new Family, while yet remaining as a part of the Originals. The Occasion of a Marriage can bring out the Best in the hobbits involved--and it can bring out the Worst, as well.

One would think that the Bride and Groom are the ones who would be most Concerned with the Planning of a Wedding. However, this is not so. Weddings are the Province, most of all, of Mothers, but also of Grandmothers, Aunts, Sisters, and Senior Female Cousins! The Bride and the Groom are only considered as a Necessary Means towards the holding of the Wedding. As for Fathers, Grandfathers, Brothers and Uncles, they exist for the holding of the Pocketbook and the moving of Tables and other Furniture, and a few other such Practical Duties.

When the young Couple decides to bring their Courtship to a close with a Betrothal, it is then that the Wedding Plans begin.

THE BETROTHAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Generally speaking, when a young Couple has been Courting for a while, their Family and Friends will know that such an Announcement is in the Making, and will be anticipating such. However, for those who are mere Acquaintances, and are not so close, a formal Announcement is needed.

Most often, the Family of the Bride will hold a Party, at which the Betrothal is made Official. If there is a distance of several days between the home of the Bride and that of the Groom, the Groom’s family may also choose to hold a Party as well, for the benefit of those Kin and Friends who could not Travel so far.

Often the Occasion will be Marked by the Groom giving his Betrothed a Gift to signify their relationship. A small Feast, preceded by an Announcement and a Toast, usually given by the Father of the Bride, marks the opening of the Festivities. At this time it is usually the Done Thing to also Announce the Wedding Date. Depending on the Age of the Couple, and the length of their Courtship, a period of between Six Months and One Year is normal.

INVITATIONS

It is Wise to begin sending out Invitations to the Wedding about Six Months in Advance. When writing out the Guest List, a Good Idea is to put it in Order by Distance from the Wedding Site. Those Guests who live furthest away should receive the First of the Invitations, while the last of them should go to those Guests living in the Immediate Vicinity. This not only gives Allowance for the Vagaries of the Post, but also gives plenty of time for the Guests to make Travel Arrangements.

It is usual for the Mother, Sisters and Aunts of the Bride to undertake the task of Writing out the Invitations. However, in the case of Special Guests, the Bride herself may wish to do the Inviting.

An Invitation is not the Place for a chatty bit of Gossip. It should contain Exactly the information Needed, neither more nor less.

Here is an example of such an Invitation:

Dear Mungo and Photinia,

You, and your son Mondo and daughter Blossom, are hereby cordially invited to attend the Wedding of your Niece, Larkspur Banks, and her Betrothed, Carlo Goodbody.

The Wedding will take place at Noon, on the fourth day of Forelithe, at the home of the Bride’s Parents, Tollo and Hollyhock Banks in Hobbiton.

Please let us know as soon as possible if you will be attending.

Cordially yours,

Lettice Banks, Aunt of the Bride

A letter of Acceptance should follow quickly, and should be addressed, not to the Writer of the Invitation (unless it was the Bride) but to the Bride herself:

Dear Larkspur,

We are very pleased to hear of your upcoming wedding, and will be happy to attend.

Please accept our heartiest best wishes upon your impending nuptials, and we look forward to seeing you at the ceremony.

Affectionately yours,

Uncle Mungo and Aunt Photinia

Likewise, Regrets should also be sent Promptly, and in the same way:

Dear Larkspur,

We are very happy for your future marriage. However, it is unfortunate that we will not be able to attend your wedding upon that date. We unfortunately already have a prior engagement for the Coming of Age Party of Mungo’s cousin Longo.

We do hope to call upon you prior to the wedding to present our gifts and felicitations to you and your intended.

Affectionately yours,

Uncle Mungo and Aunt Photinia

Of course, one would alter the wording to suit the Circumstances of Declining the Invitation.

Once the Initial Letter Accepting or Declining has been sent, it is acceptable to also send another, more Personal and less formal letter to the Bride, detailing a bit more Information.

THE MOTHER OF THE BRIDE

It is the Fond Duty, and oft-times Long and Eagerly Awaited Duty, of the Bride’s Mother to see to the Planning of the Wedding.

The wise Mother will sit down with her newly Betrothed Daughter, and consult with her at once as to her Wishes: does she want a small or a large Wedding? Should it take place in her home or that of her Groom? What sorts of Flowers and Colors does she prefer? Does she have any special Preference for an Artist to make the Wedding Document?

Once all these things have been Arrived at, then the wise Mother will keep all these things in mind as she plans her Daughter’s Nuptials. Mother should not constantly question the Bride, nor should she Disregard her Child’s wishes in the Planning. She has enough to Consider at this time, and her Mother should see to it that the Burden of the Work is lifted from her Child’s Shoulders.

It is a good idea to Consult as well with the Mother of the Groom--if not previously Acquainted, this is a good time to form a Firm Friendship with this future Connection. Most especially if the Groom should hale from Another Part of the Shire, there may be certain Customs to be Observed.

The Mother of the Bride then should make use of all available Female Kin in putting the Plans into place. Grandmothers, Aunts, Cousins and Sisters all should have their Part to Play. Even the very youngest of Lass Cousins may make Flower Chains or Nosegays, or carry Messages. No willing hands should be Disdained.

Some of the things that need to be done: the Guest List and Invitations, the Planning of the Feast, the Planning and Making of the Bridal Dress (unless there is already an Appropriate Garment in the Bride’s Wardrobe), the Preparation of the Document, the making of the Bridal Wreath for the Bride’s Hair, seeing to the Cooking and Setting Out of the Wedding Feast, and seeing to the Music for after the Wedding Ceremony. All of these Tasks may be Given to Other Hands, but it is the Duty of the Bride’s Mother to see that they are Completed.

THE FATHERS OF THE BRIDE AND GROOM

There is far less to be done by the Fathers when a Wedding is in the Offing, yet those Duties which they *do* Need to Undertake are Quite Important.

First and foremost is the Wedding Document. While the Mother of the Bride may choose a Scrivener to write the Document out, and an Artist to Illuminate it, it is up to the Fathers of the Couple to see to the Proper Legalities. Both Fathers should visit with the Lawyer, and explain any Special Concerns or Circumstances that may need to be Addressed in the Contract: for example, if the Bride and or the Groom is Under Age, then the Fathers will need to Attest to their Signatures. If the Groom should be Heir to the Head of the Family, then there are likely to be Special Considerations. Remember that Marriage is First and Foremost about Family--the Union of Two Families, and the Creation of a New Family.

In Addition, the hobbit who Stands with the Groom will likely Consult the Fathers about arranging for the Seven Witnesses to the Signing at the Ceremony.

OF NOTE

A Custom frequently observed is The Talk. The Groom will have a Talk with his own Father and the Father of the Bride, and the Bride with her own Mother and the Mother of the Groom, and they will advise the Betrothed Couple in what it takes to make a Happy Marriage. This is usually done about three days prior to the Wedding.

This Talk is not about what may take place in the Conjugal Chamber (which indeed is a matter that should have been discussed years before) but should concern the matters of Day to Day living with another Person, and how to avoid Quarrels and Hurt Feelings.

STANDING WITH THE BRIDE

Once the Wedding Date has been set, and the Invitations are being written, it is time for the Bride to choose the lass who will Stand by her at the Wedding.

Being Chosen is both an Honor and a Duty. The Bride will choose one who has been a close friend, one who knows her well. It frequently falls out that the Person so Chosen is a Relation, but this is not Required. All that is Required is that the Person take seriously her Station as the Bride’s Witness.

Of course, that it is the first and main Duty of Standing with the Bride--to bear Witness to her Character, and to Testify that she is Of Age and has no Impediments to her Marriage. (Or, in the rare case of an Underage Bride, to Testify that she has the blessing of her Parents in Marrying.)

Yet there are several other Traditional duties of Standing with the Bride. First and foremost is to be available when the Inevitable Nerves strike, and the Bride begins to worry about whether to Go Through With It, or starts to fret over the Details of the Wedding. A Bride should not need to concern herself with the Wedding Feast, or how many Guests are attending, or any of the other myriad necessities which arise in the course of Planning a Wedding. She should be reminded that all those things must rest upon the shoulders of her Mother, and of her Female Kin, and such should ease her mind. But the lass who Stands With her must recall these things, and should check to make certain that they are all being tended to.

The morning of the Wedding, the Attendant should waken the Bride, and help her to see to her Toilet and to getting Dressed, and to Dressing her Hair, and so forth. Since the Bride is likely to be too Nervous to eat Properly, her Friend should make certain that she has Adequate Sustenance before the Wedding.

Should any gifts arrive the day of the Wedding, it is her duty to Intercept them before the Bride sees them, and to put them aside for later Consideration.

When it is time for the Ceremony to take place, the Attendant will escort her to the Officiator, and recite the Traditional Introduction. Once the Ceremony has been Completed, and the Wedding Lines are signed, then it is time for the one who Stood with the Bride to check on the Feast.

Throughout the Day, the Attendant should continue to Watch Over the Bride, and to Anticipate any Needs that might arise, and when the Newlyweds have been seen off, then she should make certain that the Clearing Up takes place--this is not something she need do personally, but she should have Persons designated to that duty. Only once all these things have been Taken Care Of is she then free to seek her own rest.

STANDING WITH THE GROOM

The Hobbit who is Chosen to Stand with the Groom also has a number of Duties, many of which are the same: to Witness to the Groom’s Character and Eligibility to Wed, and to be of Support to him in the Nervous Time leading up to the Ceremony.

Before the Ceremony, he should Awaken the Groom. If (as too often happens) the Groom has made a bit too Merry with his friends the night before, he should see to Remedying the Groom’s Sore Head. (It should go without saying that if the Attendant is with the Groom the night before, he should be Abstemious in his own Imbibing!) He should also assist the Groom in getting dressed for the Occasion, and escort him to wait with the Officiator for the Bride’s Arrival.

Usually the Attendant is among those who sign the Marriage Document as one of the Witnesses. Afterward, he should take the Document into his Safekeeping.

Once the Ceremony has ended, he then should see to escorting the Couple to the Wedding Feast, and it is his duty to raise the first Toast to the New Couple.

After the Feast, he should see to any problems that might arise during the Party afterwards, and he should be Chief among those who see the Couple off.

SITTING FOR THE GIFTS

As has been mentioned before, it is the Custom for the Bride and Groom to spend Afternoons of the week before the Wedding at the Bride’s home, in order to receive their Gifts.

Usually the Couple will await their Callers in a Sitting Room. They should maintain the Proprieties while they wait. The Bride’s Mother or Sister, or another Female Relative, will Receive the Callers and escort them to the room. Of course, Refreshments should be offered--Tea and Cakes are the Usual thing.

Gifts are to be Opened and Admired, and the Givers Thanked then and there. Gifts which arrive by Post may be presented to the Couple by the Bride’s parents at this time, and the Bride and Groom should at once write Notes of Thanks.

If the Wedding is being held far from the Bride’s home, at the home of the Groom instead, then it may be that the Sitting will have to take place there.

A WORD TO GUESTS

When the Wedding has ended and the Couple has been seen off, it is Courteous to seek out the Parents of the Bride and Groom, to offer Thanks for the Hospitality, and tender an Offer of Help in the Clearing Up. It may be that the Offer is unnecessary--some Families will have Servants to see to it, and others will possibly have made arrangements with the Tweens in the Family. Nevertheless, the Offer should be made, and if one is given a task, then one should undertake it Pleasantly and with Alacrity.

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT WEDDINGS

What if one should not arrive in time to present one’s gift before the Wedding?

Do not under any Circumstances attempt to present the Gift to the Bride and Groom. Seek out instead one of their Attendants or a close Family Member, with an Explanation and an Apology.

It is not Unknown--though Extremely Rare--that the Presentation of a Gift at the Wedding itself to the Couple results in Offense being taken. The Families of the Bride and Groom are within their rights to consider such a thing as an unforgivable Insult, fully as Rude as Refusing a Gift.

What if one should Receive two or more identical gifts?

This is a thing that happens from time to time. If one should receive two or more Presents, Identical in Nature, then one should Put Aside the extras for a later time. If nothing else, one may later make a Gift of the said Item to another. But one should keep note of who gave the Gift, so that one might not give it back to the same Person.

What if a Wedding is Called Off at the Last Minute?

This is, once more, and Exceedingly Rare happening, though Not Entirely Unknown. It is, after all, better that the Bride and Groom discover they are Unsuited *Before* the Wedding rather than *After*.

More often, some untoward Happenstance may result in a Delay of the Wedding--an Unexpected Illness or Death in the Family. In which case, the Invited Guests should lend their support, and what Help they may, to the Afflicted Family.

In either Circumstance, it is best to put the Kindest Possible face on the events, and to avoid Tittle-tattle.

IN CONCLUSION

A Wedding is among the Happiest of Events, and one which gives Pleasure to all who Participate, as they share in the Joy of the Couple. It is worthwhile to spend as much time as is Necessary to help the Joyous Occasion run smoothly.

ON FUNERALS

All who Live shall one day Die in their Appointed Time. This is a Natural Occurrence, as Winter follows Autumn, and Summer follows Spring. And yet those who are Left shall Grieve, for never again will they see their Loved One. It is sometimes said by the Learned that one’s Spirit travels on to a New Beginning, and that all will one day be Reunited. This is a Question to which no Hobbit truly has an Answer, and if an Answer may be found among the Elves, none have come to reveal it in the Shire.

Yet we may be Comforted in the Knowledge that our Kin will keep our Memories alive, and that our Blood will continue in the lines of our younger Generations.*

A Funeral is a time in which those Family and Friends of the Departed may show their Grief and may follow that Grief with a Celebration of his or her Life.

THE GATHERING

In the Normal Course of Events, when a Hobbit has come to the Fullness of his or her years, it will be Evident to the Family that the time has come to say “Farewell.” Messages are sent to those close Kin who are not nearby, and all will Journey to the bedside of the ailing one.

All of the Immediate Family--Wife, Children, Siblings and Grandchildren who are able should take their Last Chance to speak and be spoken to. There may be Last Wishes, which should be granted if possible. However, if the Invalid is too ill to speak, he or she should not be pressed, but simply Comforted by knowing that Loved Ones are nearby.

When all is Finished, then it is the Duty of the oldest Surviving Family Member of his or her Generation to assist the Healer into seeing to the Departed.

Any other Family Members who have come should be informed when the Departure has taken place, and messages should be sent immediately to Family and Friends who live too far away to have arrived in time. This task should not Fall on the Shoulders of the closest kin, but should be taken up by other Cousins, Aunts or Uncles, whose Bereavement would be less sharp.

UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES

On Rare Occasions, it is sad to say that Death may have Occurred in a Sudden or Unexpected Manner. In the case of such an Event, there will have been no Opportunity for a Gathering. Such Events are even more Distressing to the Family than a Death which takes place after long Illness, for there has been no chance to say Farewell.

Most Especially are these Events Tragic when the Hobbits whose lives are Lost are Young. The Sorrow of those Left Behind may never really be Diminished, and so Allowances should be Made for their Excess of Grief.

THE WATCH

The Body of the Departed may be held for a few days, Laid Out Respectfully in a Sitting Room (Weather permitting). This will give a chance for News to spread, and for those who wish to come and Pay Their Respects.

Again, depending upon the Vagaries of the Weather, such a viewing may last from one to five days. Even in the dead of Winter, however, it is not Wise to take longer that that to Inter the Departed.

It is the Responsibility of those Family Members who are not so Closely Related to do as much as possible to seeing to this time. Spouses, Children, Parents or Siblings are likely to be far too caught up in their own Grief to properly Attend to the Details. If they are not Prostrate, however, they should be on hand to take the Condolences of those who come.

If one has come a great Distance to show one’s Respects, one should not arrive in Expectation of the Attention of the Close Family. One should greet them, and express one’s Sympathy for their Loss. However, this is not the time to try to Engage them in Extensive Conversation, nor to try and satisfy Morbid Curiosity as to the Manner of Death.

A simple embrace, and an Offer of Help is often all that is needed.

While it is a Sad Fact that many more Scattered Family may only see one another at Funerals or Weddings, this is not an Appropriate time for merry-making, and any Socializing should be kept Discreet and Solemn.

THE FUNERAL

The Funeral will be held when the time is deemed Right by the Family of the Departed.

The Body is usually taken to the Burying Grounds by six pall bearers, who should be chosen from among Family and Friends of the Departed’s own Generation. (The Exception to this is the Burial of Young Children, who, of Necessity, would have Adult pall-bearers.) The Important Question of Coffin or Shroud is generally determined by the part of the Shire in which the Departed is being Buried--customs on this Vary. If one is from a part of the Shire in which it is Done Differently, refrain from unnecessary Criticism. In some parts of the Shire, solemn Music may be played as well.

The Eulogy is usually Delivered by the Head of the Family, or his or her next Representative. This may be a very Emotional Speech if the Loss is a close Personal one.

Those present will cast a Handful of Earth into the Grave, before leaving the Burial Grounds. A Respectful and Subdued Demeanor is Proper for the Occasion. For this reason, it is Not Recommended that children younger than the Age of Twelve attend Funerals. They will become easily bored, and are likely to cause Disruption; furthermore, they often Do Not Understand what is going on.

THE FEAST

The Evening of the Funeral, the Family hosts a Feast, at which time it is expected that Fond Memories of the Departed may be shared, and a Lighter Spirit is not Improper. Laughter and Song will soon be heard before the Feast is ended. Speeches about the Departed are Appropriate.

It is said that the Feast is to Mark the End of Mourning--and for those whose Acquaintance with the Departed was brief and not especially close, it may very well do so. However, it is Unrealistic to believe that those who are the most Affected by their Bereavement will have put it Behind them so quickly. A Spouse or Parent, especially, may very well remain Prostrate. This is a time when one should think about how one might feel in the same situation. Do not be insistent that they “Cheer up!” or “Put it all behind them!” It is too soon for them, and such words simply make them feel Worse.

Generally, the Feast will end when the closest Family Member of the Same Generation gives a Toast to the Departed.

AFTERWARDS

Unless the Family has specifically *asked* for one’s Help, it is Courteous to leave as soon after the Funeral as Possible, that the Family not be put under the strain of playing Host at such a trying time.

It is quite possible that in the early stages of Mourning, and most especially if there was a large Crowd at the Funeral, one’s Presence may not be Remembered. This is why it is well to write a Letter of Condolence to the Family after returning to one’s home.

Here is a sample:
“Dear Aunt Lavender,

I am sorry that I had no chance to speak to you at length during Uncle Wilibold’s funeral. However, the eulogy was eloquent, and the ceremony was memorable, and I was very moved afterwards at the feast to hear all of the fond tributes to Uncle’s memory.

Please accept my sympathy for your loss and let me know at once if I may be of any help to you in your time of grief.

Your loving niece,

Violet Banks”

Such a letter will, perhaps, refresh the Memory clouded by Sorrow, and convey one’s own Sympathy.

If one lives near the Bereaved family, it is appropriate to Call Upon them a few days later, and offer to help. Bringing a gift of food or drink is welcomed at such a time.

HOW ONE MAY HELP

An offer to mind the Children of the Smial, to assist in Writing Letters of Thanks, to help with the Sorting of the Departed’s possessions, to help Greet Guests while the Bereaved take needed rest, all are things which will help the Family as they begin to Adjust to their Loss.

THINGS ONE MUST NEVER SAY OR DO

There are certain things which are Highly Inappropriate, and in fact one may say are Rude.

Do not Gossip or Speculate about the Manner of Death. Most especially if the Death has taken place under Sudden or Unusual Circumstances, such musings are very Hurtful to the Family of the Departed. Such Gossip is Vulgar and Unbecoming, as well.

Do not Gossip or Speculate about the Disposal of the Departed’s Possessions. The Reading of the Will usually takes place very shortly after the Funeral, and all one Needs to Know will be made Public at that Time. It is Shocking and in the Worst Taste Possible, to hear Relations Anticipating a Possible Inheritance; not only does it appear Greedy and Unfeeling, but it may also prove to be a great Embarrassment if the “Anticipated” Inheritance fails to Materialize. One should Never Count One’s Chickens Before They Hatch!

Do not Use the Gathering for the Funeral as an Opportunity to Further Personal Ambitions. It is not the Proper Time or Place for Conducting Business or Attempting to Matchmake. Once again, one risks being called Unfeeling, and with Good Cause.

Do not attempt to Console the Bereaved by saying “It is All for the Best.” While this may be True, it is not something they need to hear in the First Flush of their Sorrow.

Do Not, Under Any Circumstance Speak Ill of the Departed. While he or she may have been an Unpleasant or Disreputable Person in Life, he or she is Gone. It is very Poor Taste to run someone down who cannot Defend Him or Her self.

If Someone Else violates these Dictates of Proper Behavior, Do Not Engage in Arguments. It is far more Effective to give a cold Look of Scorn, and turn one’s Back upon him or her. There is something very Distressing about Squabbles and Rows at Funerals.

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT FUNERALS

What if one is Unable to Attend?

There are a Number of Reasons why one might not be able to Attend a Funeral which one might be Expected to Attend. Foremost, and most Common, is that the Distance is Too Great to arrive in Time. Other Reasons may have to do with one’s own Health, or an Illness in one’s own Family. In such Circumstances, a Letter of Condolence should Suffice. Such a Letter should be written as soon as one realizes that one will not be there; it should be Brief and Sympathetic:

Dear Cousin Lavender,

I was most distressed to hear of the passing of Cousin Wilibold. I hope that it was a peaceful end.

I am sorry that I could not attend the funeral, as there is no way I could make the journey from Michel Delving to Rushy and arrive in time.

Please accept my heart-felt sympathy and my condolences for you and your children. You will be in my thoughts.

Love,
Your cousin,

Hypatia Banks.”

What if the funeral is for an infant or very small child?

All of the above Advice still applies, along with this: Do Not say “At least you will be able to have more Children.” This is very Unkind, even if Kindly Meant. No Parent wants to believe that one Child may simply Replace Another. The time may come when the Parents may Rejoice in the Arrival of Another Child; this will in No Way relieve them of their Grief at losing a Previous Child.

Imagine how Scandalized one would be if someone should say to a Widow or Widower “At least you may find another Husband (or Wife)”!

What should one wear to a funeral?

While it was the Fashion some years ago in the Southfarthing, and for a while, in Tookland, for Mourners to go garbed only in Black, such things are Unnecessary, and may cause the Uncharitable among one’s Acquaintance to feel one is making a Display of Grief. One should wear one’s Best, and present a Neat and Respectful Appearance.

IN CONCLUSION

While most Hobbits do not like to Think on Such Things, Funerals will happen, and one should be Prepared to do the Proper Thing.

When Attending a Funeral, keep in mind the Dignity due to the Departed, and remain Sensible to the Feelings of the Bereaved. A very simple expression of Affection is often all one needs to offer Comfort.
_____________________________________________

*[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Since JRRT very specifically says that Hobbits are *not* a religious society, I have refrained, except in the most general terms, from indicating any belief in the Afterlife. However, I am sure that Miss Dora, as an educated gentlehobbit, would be aware that such beliefs did exist among other races. I think it very likely that after the Quest, such beliefs might become more common among Hobbits, but Miss Dora wrote some years before the Quest occurred.]

 CHAPTER 13: THE WRITING OF LETTERS

One of the Finest Institutions of the Shire is the Shire Post. When Thain Isumbras II became betrothed to Iris Brandybuck, the sister of Calimac Brandybuck, Master of Buckland in the year of Shire Reckoning 924, he undertook a Daily Correspondence with her. Messengers from Tuckborough* to Brandy Hall were passing one another along the Way. Soon they were persuaded to carry other messages as well.

It was Inigo Grubb, the Mayor of Michel Delving at the time, who proposed Formalizing the Messenger Service, and extending it Shirewide. As the Idea came from him, the Mayor was put in Charge of Implementing the Service. Prior to that time, letters were Dependent upon Travelling Tradesmen or those who had Business in other Parts of the Shire, or Private Messengers, hired at great expense. The Arrangement soon became quite Popular, and Hobbits who were Lettered began to Write to their scattered Family and Friends. Since that time the Post has become an Important Part of Shire Life. It is quite Unthinkable now that such an Institution should not exist!

It is now Incumbent on any Hobbit who has the Skill of Writing to send such Letters. One cannot imagine not being Able to Keep in Touch this way; even Hobbits who do not Read or Write may be able to ask a Neighbor to read a Message, or Pay a Scribe to pen one for them.

There are many Reasons to Write Letters: Invitations to such Events as Weddings or Birthday Parties, and the Answers to such Invitations; Announcements of Family News, such as a Birth or Death in the Family, or simply Tidings of How One is Faring; Condolences for those who have Suffered a Bereavement; Congratulations for Good Fortune or Happy Occasions, such as a Betrothal or a Coming of Age; a Simple Message of Good Cheer and Friendly Advice, which should Always be Welcome--all of these may be Entrusted to the Post!

Some People do not seem to know What to Say in Letters. It is hoped that this Chapter may be of use to Such Persons.

INVITATIONS

Though Invitations to Weddings have been dealt with in an earlier Chapter, there are, of Course, other sorts of Occasions for which Invitations must be Sent, such as Birthdays, Feasts of Welcome, a Dinner Party, or simply to Take Tea.

All Invitations for the same Event should be Identical in Wording. Do not attempt to Convey more Personal News or Queries in the Invitation, lest two Persons should compare them. Instead, if one happens to have a Closer Friendship with some Guests than others, send a separate Letter by the Same Post. It may cost an extra Farthing, but that is worth it to Avoid Hurt Feelings.

Here is the sort of Letter of Invitation one might write for a Party:

“Dear Aunt Caramella,

On Monday, the 15th of Thrimidge, I shall be celebrating the occasion of my forty-fifth birthday with a small party. I very much hope that you will consent to be one of my guests.

The party will begin at 2 o’ clock of the afternoon, and will continue through tea and supper.

I look forward to your company.

Your fond niece,
Amalda Boffin”

You will Note that for a Party, both the Day and the Date are included, as well as the time for the Beginning and Ending of the Event. It is as well, also, to specify the Meals which will be Observed. In the above Example it may be seen that by starting at 2 o’ clock, Luncheon would not be Expected, while Tea and Supper are a Part of the Occasion.

For something more Informal in Nature, the Invitation may also be less Formal:

“Dear Cousin Lily,

I am having a few friends to tea, on Mersday next. I hope that I may look forward to the pleasure of your company then.

Love,
Your cousin,
Salvia,”

One Notes that the date is unnecessary, as the Occasion is for the Following Week, and of course the Time does not need to be Stated, as the Invitation is for Tea Only.

There are also those times when one wishes the Company of only One Person. In such a case, the Invitation is not General, and one may thus be more Personal in one’s Invitation:

“My dear Uncle Largo,

It has been too many months since we have had occasion to spend some time together, and I find myself missing your congenial presence. It occurs to me that perhaps you could see your way clear to making a visit to me for a week or two.

I will be free in Forelithe from any pressing business, if you could possibly come during that time.

I hope that all is well with you. We have had a lovely Spring here, and the cherries are in blossom. I did have a bit of a cold in Astron, but am feeling in fine fettle now.

I look forward to your answer, and hope very much that I may see you soon!

Love,
Your Nephew,
Hamilcar”

Note here that the Invitation is not specific as to Days or Dates, but does indicate the Month when such a Visit would be Convenient. One also sees that it is Proper to give news of oneself, and to ask after the Recipient.

There are also those Occasions when one may find it Necessary to Invite Oneself. This should not be done Lightly; Habitually Begging Invitations may gain one a reputation as a Sponger! However, it is always better to Stay with Family when one is Travelling, rather than to stay at an Inn. Therefore such a Letter should be carefully Worded. Also, one should not be ready to take Offense if the Recipient does not find it Convenient. He or she may already have Other Guests, or may be Travelling and Away from Home at the Time. A politely worded Refusal should never be taken amiss.

If one should find oneself in need of such an Invitation, it might be worded Thusly:

“Dear Cousin Uffo,

We find that we shall be needing to travel to Overhill next week on a matter of business, and are wondering if you might find it quite convenient to put us up for two or three days?

Marjoram and I will be making the journey with only little Fosco. We shall be leaving the other children here in the care of their Grandmother Chubb. We would expect to arrive mid-week, probably before luncheon on Hensday, and if all goes well with my business, we will be returning home on Highday, or Sterday at the latest.

We shall await your answer by return post.

Fondly,
Your Cousin Falco”

One may see here that the Request is worded as a Question, and that it is not Taken For Granted that the Reply will be in the Affirmative. A Time and Day for both Arriving and Departing are given, as well as the Number of Persons in the Travelling Party. One hopes that Cousin Uffo will find the visit Congenial.

A Word here to those who Receive Invitations: it is the Polite thing to Answer at Once, by the very next Return Post, if possible. Most certainly one should Reply within Three Days at the very Most! If for some reason one is uncertain of one’s Plans, it is best to make that known as well. One should simply Inform one’s Potential Host of said uncertainty, and let him or her know that a more Definite Answer will be forthcoming As Soon As Possible.

ANNOUNCING GOOD NEWS

One of the Best Sorts of Letters, to both Write and to Receive are those messages which convey Good News to the Recipient. These should be written in the Spirit of Good Cheer which the Happy Event has inspired, and Never Under Any Circumstance should the Appearance of Gloating be Allowed!

A Letter announcing the Arrival of a New Member of the Family should always include the most Pertinent Information: the date on which the Child arrived; his or her Gender and Name; his or her Weight and Height at Birth; and very importantly, the State of Health of both Mother and Child.

“My dear Lilac,

It is with great joy that I announce to you that my son Ludo and his wife Emerald are delivered of a fine son. Little Loys was born on the morning of Highday, 4 Wedmath, at five o‘clock. He weighed three pounds and was nine and three-quarter inches long! A fine healthy lad!

Lilac is doing well, though weary from her labor, of course. The other children are quite taken with their new brother.

I hope very much that you might be able to visit soon, and meet my new grandson.

Love,

Your friend,
Lavender Puddifoot”

One may take note that such a Letter is Not written by the New Parents, but rather by the Child’s Grandmother. It is the Usual Task of Grandparents or an Older Aunt, Uncle or Cousin to inform Friends and Family Members who do not live Nearby. If needs be, a Sibling who is old enough may also write such a Missive. The New Parents will have more than enough to do, after all.

While the Prospective Bride herself may choose to write the Letters of Announcement on her Betrothal, it is also usual for her to receive the Help of her Mother, Sisters and Cousins. She may prefer to write those Letters which are going to Close Family and Friends, leaving the Announcements going to lesser Acquaintances and more distant Relations to her Helpers.
“Dear Great-aunt Wisteria,

We thought that you might like to know that my sister Topaz has accepted the suit offered her by Tico Noakes, and is now betrothed.

They are planning to wed next Spring, and the family is most excited. We will certainly keep you informed as the plans unfold, and will let you know when a date for the wedding is set.

Affectionately,
Your niece Tourmaline,”

There are, of course, other Pleasant Events which one may wish to write Letters of Announcement for. The important thing is to Convey one’s Happiness, while including all the Pertinent Information.

When one Receives a Message announcing Good News it is Important to respond with a Letter of Congratulations. The Congratulations should go to the Principal Persons involved. In the case of a Birth, to the Proud Parents, or in the case of a Betrothal, to the prospective Bride, if one is Connected to her, or to the prospective Groom, if one is Connected to him.

“Dear Topaz,

I was most pleased to hear the news of your betrothal from your sister Tourmaline.

I am sure that you and Tico will have a very happy future together, and I have long thought the two of you were well-suited as a couple.

I look forward to hearing more of the wedding plans. Please let me know if I may be of any help to you.

Love,

Great-aunt Wisteria”

ANNOUNCING BAD NEWS

Sadly, there are also those Events which may cause Sorrow or even Consternation. It is rather difficult to have to announce a Bereavement or the news of Serious Illness, yet in Fairness to Loved Ones who do not live Nearby, it is a task that Needs Doing. Again, it is often a Duty undertaken by Close Relative, but not necessarily the Principals, who will Understandably have Other Things on their minds.

“My dear Isembrand,

I am very sorry to have to tell you that our cousin Bella was taken ill suddenly on Sunday last. She succumbed rapidly to a high fever, which took her away three days later.

Her parents and brothers are very distraught, as you may understand. The funeral is to be on Highday. If you are able to make so swift a journey, your presence would be of much comfort to them.

Love,

Cousin Sapphire”

When one receives such a message, if one attempts to Travel to the Funeral, then of course one will not need to send a Return Reply, as the letter would not Arrive in time. If, however, one is unable to Attend, then an Immediate Letter of Condolence, as described in the Previous chapter should be sent.

Of course, there are other Disasters than Bereavements. It should be left to the judgment of the Recipient of such Sad News whether a Letter expressing Sympathy or one’s own Presence would be better under the Circumstances.

FRIENDLY LETTERS

If one has a wide Social Circle, or a number of Family Members who live at a Distance that Prohibits much in the way of Visiting, then a Nice Letter giving News of one’s simple Daily Doings, and perhaps a bit of Advice, is Always a Pleasant thing to Send or Receive.

Since the Circumstances of every Hobbit differs widely, it would be useless to try and give Examples of such Letters. However, there are some things to Keep in Mind.

First of all, it is needful to Address one’s Correspondent in a manner that Reflects one’s Relationship. There are those who are Mere Acquaintances, whether Family or not, and those who are Heart-friends, whom one would naturally Address in the Fondest Terms.

As to the Tone of one’s Letters, keep in Mind that there are those who would be very Happy to hear every Detail of one’s Day, down to how many scones one consumed at First Breakfast. On the other hand such a Recital might be quite Tedious to others of one’s Acquaintance.

When offering Advice, try Always to Couch one’s Suggestions in the Kindest Way Possible. However, it is Wise to be Firm when the Matter is one of some Urgency.

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT THE WRITING OF LETTERS

How soon should one Answer one’s Correspondence?

If one is Planning a long and Chatty Reply, one may Reasonably let a few days pass. However, one should not Allow longer than one Week pass before sending an Answer. This does Not Apply to Invitations, however, which should be Answered within Three Days at most.

What if one does not wish to Enter into a Long Correspondence with Someone?

There may be Reasons why one would wish to Discourage the Exchange of Letters with another: sometimes a lass may not wish to Correspond with a lad who shows her more Regard than she is prepared to Return; someone may be Uncongenial, and send Letters filled with Unkind or Unpleasant Gossip; or one may simply not have the Time for a Frequent Correspondence. In such case, send Replies that are Terse, conveying the Bare Minimum of Information. This will usually Get the Point Across without Rudeness.

How does one know if one is Sending Letters too Often?

If the Replies one Receives match the Description above, then one may be Fairly Assured that one is sending Too Many Letters to that person.

IN CONCLUSION

Keeping up a Lively Correspondence with one’s Friends and Relations is an Amusing and Rewarding Activity. There is nothing More Pleasant than Receiving News from afar from one’s Loved Ones, and there is no Better Way to Receive Letters than to Send them!
_______________________________________

*The Great Smials was not built until 1083, over 150 years later.

WHEN MISTAKES ARE MADE

 

It is, of course, Impossible to go through Life without sometimes Making Mistakes, nor will one do so without at Some Point, either Offending Someone or Being Offended.  Misunderstandings and Circumstances may Lead to Difficulties without any Ill-intent on one's own part.  Indeed, it is not unknown that one may Offend Someone withough ever being Aware of having done so!
 
In Addition, there are Times when Upsets may lead one to wonder: What to do?
 
INSULT AND INJURY
 
How does one Avoid giving Insult to others?  Of course, Gentle Reader, following the Rules of Proper Behaviour can lessen the Possiblity that one may do so!  If one is Following the Precepts of Hospitality, Predictability and Kindness, this will at least lead to Fewer Occasions of Being Offensive!
 
However, this does not mean that it will Never Happen.  There are times when Circumstances may cause Perfectly Innocent Remarks to be Misinterpreted as Insult.  If one is speaking to Another, who has Unknown to One, recently Suffered an Unfortunate Event or Bereavement of some sort, even the Commonplaces of Ordinary Conversation may scour a Broken Heart. The only Solution here is to offer Sincere Sympathy as soon as one becomes aware of Having Offended.  Time will sooner or later Heal, and the Kindness of one's True Intent will be remembered with Gratitude. 
 
Then, Sadly, there are Those who are Overly Sensitive and who have too High a Regard for themselves, who will Take Insult at the Least Provocation.  It is also an Unfortunate Fact that the latter sort of Person will also Give Offense regularly to Others, and then Become Incensed when that Offense is Taken!
  
In the case of the Latter, when such Persons cannot be Politely Avoided ( for this may sometimes be the case when there are Family Connexions), it is best to Maintain One's Dignity.  One can Acknowledge the so-called Offense with an Apology that is Merely Polite.  One's Tone of Voice and the Look one gives may convey to the So-called Offended Party that One is No Fool.
 
One should not Feel Obliged to Take Insult, either, simply because it is Offered, even Blatantly!  It is a Sad Fact of Life that there are those who find in Rude Behavior a Weapon for Getting Their Way.  These Persons are Quite Aware that other people are disturbed by their Callous Behaviour, and for the sake of Peace and Quiet, will Give In.  Refusing to Acknowledge this Rudeness for what it is, and Keeping a Calm Demeanor while Standing Firm can rob these Rude Persons of a Victory.
 
Of course, there are also Occasions when Accidents may Result in one's Needing to Apologise.  It should go Without Saying, that such Commonplace Occurences as Treading on Toes or Bumping Elbows call for a quiet "Excuse me please!" or "I beg your pardon!"; to which the Polite Response is "It is of no matter!" or more informally "That is all right."
 
But other Accidents call for more than a mere Apology.  While the Apology is still Necessary, if one has Injured a Person or Broken a Possession, Amends must be Made!   
 
If one has Broken or Lost an item belonging to Another, it is inherent upon one to Repair, Replace or Requite the owner of said Object.  If it is an item of Sentimental Value, and the Damage is minor, Repairing it is the best Option.  However, with some things that is Not Practical, or the Damage is too Great.  If the Item is Lost, then Repair is not an Option.  If one can be Assured of getting an Item of Equal or Greater Value, and more or less Identical to that which was Broken or Lost, then Replacing it with another is a good choice.  However, often the only Amends that can be made is to offer Money in the Value of what is Gone.  While this may cause one Hardship, it is the only Honest Thing To Do!  If one has not the Funds to Do So, then one may offer one's Service instead.
 
If one is the Unfortunate Owner of said item, one should be Gracious in Accepting the Apologies, as well as the Offender's offer to Make Amends.  It will not Undo the Deed to Hold Grudges, while Dismissing a true Loss by saying: 'It does not matter!' leaves the Repentent Person feeling Guilt with no means of Assuaging the Offense.
 
If one has, through Careless and Thoughtless Actions, caused actual Physical Injury, one must Immediately offer Help!  This may be anything from Offering a Drink of Water or a Cup of Tea, to calling (and paying for) the Healer!
 
Again, the Injured Party should accept all such offers, and not Hold Grudges.
 
SOCIAL STUMBLES
 
There are, of course, the Sorts of Mistakes in which one has merely Offended Society, rather than a Person.  It may be that in some ways these Indiscretions are more Difficult to Atone for, as there is no One Person to Whom One may Apologise!
 
The problem is that those who are Well-Mannered will Affect Not to Notice!  However, Hobbit Nature being what it is, they most Certainly Have Done So.  Those of a truly Kind Disposition will Overlook any such stumble, realising they could have made Similar Gaffes in the Past and May Well Do So in the Future!  Others may one acknowledge the Situation by Exchanging Looks, and those who are Less Charitable in Nature may find it to be a Later Subject of Gossip and Mockery! 
 
Here is a Truth: One who Mocks the Ill-Manners of Another is displaying even Poorer Manners!
 
However, if one has Offended in some way and then Realised later one's Error, it is As Well to Acknowledge it, Apologise, and Put it Behind One!  For example, perhaps one discovers that a Letter to which one was Expected to Reply, had been Mislaid and is not Found until Long After a Polite Reply should have been made.  This is Not So Uncommon as one could wish; however, the Worst Thing one can do is to Simply Ignore the Lapse!  It may be that the Person who wrote the Letter has long forgotten about the lack of Reply (or it May Not) but it will Prey on One's Mind any time one encounters that Correspondent!  Better to Say Something than to Pretend it Never Happened!
 
A good Rule of Thumb: One should Always Acknowledge and make amends for one's Own Errors, but be Forgiving and Forgetting of the Honest Errors of Others! 
 

QUESTIONS ABOUT SOCIAL ERRORS:
 
What if the Offender is one's child? 
 
This will of course, Depend upon the Age of the Child in Question.  The Very Young, those who are Infants or who have Scarcely Entered Faunthood, may only Offend by Accident.  They do not Know Yet the Rules of Sociable Behaviour, and can scarecly be Expected to Understand what they have done to Offend.  In such Event, the Parent should Offer Apologies, and Remove the Offender.  A wise Parent may Use the Opportunity to Explain to a faunt, so that he or she might Learn from the Experience.  Babes who have yet to Master Language will not Benefit, and should never be Scolded or Punished, as they have no Idea what they have Done.
 
Children and Teens should have their Misdeeds Explained, and should be Expected to Follow a Parental Apology with one of their own!  Older Teens and Tweens should make their Own Apologies, and be Expected to Take Part in any Amends that Must be Made!  For example, a Tween who found it a Lark to Raid the Neighbour's Garden, might be Put to Weeding or other  Useful Work on behalf of Said Neighbor!
 
What if one forgets an Engagement?
 
It is for that Very Reason that one should Always Keep an Appointment Book!  And yet this can happen Even to the Most Punctilious of us!  A Note of Apology, and a Call Upon the Person is best, as well as an Explanation.  While a Reason is not an Excuse, it is perhaps Better that one thinks one is Forgotten Merely due to the Stress of Excessive Busy-ness, rather than to think one is so Forgettable that one simply Slips Another's Mind!
 
What if one finds the larder low when Guests come to Call?
 
One might find it Truly Dire if one has not even a Cup of Tea and a bit of Bread and Butter to offer a Guest!  Yet if such is the Case, Inviting the Guest to Accompany One to the Nearest Inn or Eating House is Acceptable!  However, if one cannot Afford to do that, then perhaps it is Better to Not Answer the Door. 
 
Is it ever Acceptable to Administer a Cut to someone?
 
"Cutting" another Person, by Refusing to Acknowledge him or her in a Social Setting is not Something to Do Lightly!  And yet there are Those whose Behaviour is so Far Beyond the Pale that they should be Shunned.  This is NEVER to be done Lightly or for Petty Reasons!  It should be reserved for those whose Behaviour has proven them to be Utterly Reprobate!
 
There are different Degrees of Cutting a Person.  If the Offense is a Personal one, and one finds that the Offender is also a Guest of another who is a Mutual Acquaintance, the Cut Direct is Rude to one's Host, who may not be Aware of the Circumstances, or who may have the Good Intentions of Effecting a Reconciliation.  In such an Event, a curt nod and a very Coldly Voiced "How do you do?" uttered in a Tone that makes it Clear one does not Actually Care about the Answer is the Best One can do.
 
In a more Public Setting, such as walking down the street, one may give the Cut Direct.  This is done by first Catching the Person's Eye, glaring Coldly, and then Deliberately Turning One's Attention Elsewhere.  Should the Person Approach, one may be Justified in Turning One's Back!  
 
And there may come the Occasion that Certain Persons may be Completely Shunned.  While it is not something that occurs Often (and I myself can Recall No Such Circumstance in My Own Lifetime!) it is not Completely Unheard Of that a Hobbit might Commit a Crime So Heinous as to Call for him to be Marked and Banished!  Thereafter, the Banished One does not Exist, and Until he leaves the Shire, none should acknowledge him in Any Way (save the Shirriffs who must Escort him to the Bounds), nor Ever Again Speak His Name!
 
IN CONCLUSION:
 
Life is Not Perfect, nor is any Hobbit!  By Keeping this in Mind, one may find that one can have Charity for the Foibles of Others, while Striving Ceaselessly to Eliminate one's Own! 
 






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