Trade Off

Author: Ignoble Bard

Nominator: Russandol

2011 Award Category: Humor: Mirkwood Elves - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Mature Language/Themes

Summary: An answer, of sorts, to the question of how Elves feed themselves without farming or raising livestock. Inspired by a discussion of civilization on the HASA group, and the suggested solution of Olorime.

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Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

You are just a very wicked, wicked person. I remember the roots of this discussion and several similar ones over the cheese, I mean over the years. Real Elves don’t eat cheese! Particularly not Nolodrin Elves recently landed in Northern Beleriand, fresh from Aman with not a cow or a goat in their company (at least not any that were written about—if Tolkien had mentioned a goat there argument never would have happened!), although it is written that they brought some horses with them from Valinor. It gets a little silly to try to write a fantasy world, whether flat or round or some other configuration, that perfectly meets all of the logical requirements of our primary world. Particularly when the writer is all hung up over characterization, pseudo-medieval heroism with shades of Anglo-saxon myth, epic battles, love affairs, and all that kind of stuff that air-headed literature majors like me let themselves be distracted by. It’s hard enough to try to keep straight all those language Tolkien invented and the ever-changing canon background. OK. So my elves eat cheese and put milk their tea (tea grown in the Middle-earth equivalent of Ceylon, I guess, whatever, who cares!). Your elves want to live in a giant-spider-ridden primeval forest and entertain and feast like comfortable planters in Virginia of post-revolutionary North America. Drastic measures are necessary! You want me to believe that Elrond and Thranduil were pimping out their sons. OK. I’ll bite. Sounds like a fantastic story set-up to me. Filled with possibilities.

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

This was hysterical. Noticing people's reviews in passing, coupled with that summary, I'd pretty much guessed at the solution. I thought that knowing might detract from the humor, but not a bit of it. The gag is revealed fairly early: it's the belaboring of the point that really drives the humor. Hard on the revelation (heh) ensues a stream of "buts" and "sos" from an outraged Legolas, each countered by Thranduil's exasperated rejoinders. (Honestly, Legolas. Do you think apples grow on trees or something?) [“So we’re in a veritable sea of trees and you never thought of planting an orchard?” “Of course I’ve thought of it. Where do you suggest I put it? In the part of the forest overrun by spiders or the part of the forest overrun by orcs?” “So how about the wine and ale? We can’t brew our own?” “Out of the grapes we don’t cultivate, or the grain we don’t grow?”] There is this to be said for Daddy Thranduil - he does not ask anything of his son that he is not willing to do himself. I had to laugh at the notion of him and Galion manfully doing their part to shore up the Mirkwood economy for so many years: ["Well, you know Galion."] This actually reminds me of a bit of throwaway dialogue from the movie [A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum], when the formidable matriarch gives Captain Miles Gloriosus the wrong impression, saying that she and the suck-up house slave entertained over 200 officers on the anniversary of her father's death. ["200? By yourself?" "Not entirely - Hysterium here was a great help."] (Not that I'm calling Galion a suck-up house slave...) On a side note, with reference to Jael's review, I think there is absolutely nothing about this premise to preclude Legolas dropping out of trees and shouting ["Stand and deliver!"] Come on, it still works. ;)

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 8

Oh, my goodness, Ignoble Bard, you twisted-minded person! Whatever next? You know, silly and bizare though it is, this concept actually makes sense when you consider that their ability to induce swoons can be thought to be the Elves' greatest asset. I bet they could also trade all sorts of electronic gadgets and other mod cons from those high school girls who are BAMFing into Middle-earth all the time. So good thinking there, very logical, and at the same time it's also very funny. I really liked the way Legolas was so totally clueless about the economic situation in his home realm; I can totally see him tra-la-lallying the centuries away without ever wondering where his apples come from. Also, delightful how he anticipates the get-married-and-produce-and-heir speech and how Thranduil then tells him that an heir is really the last thing the realm needs. Indeed, very true! And the final line is a classic. I was expecting "Lie back and think of Greenwood," but the chicken broth is a much, much better way to finish off. Very funny indeed.

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 7

Economics (or elvish age-long wisdom?) applied to one of my favourite kingdoms of Middle-earth. IgnobleBard provides us with the definitive answer to one of the key mysteries left unresolved by Tolkien: how did Thranduil's realm, set in a murky spider-and-orc-infested forest where no crops can be grown, survive through three thousand years of the Third Age without its people starving? The answer seems obvious after reading the, erm, slightly unconventional and hilarious explanation involving handsome elvish royalty (and self-sacrificing butlers!) willing to do their duty for the Greenwood. Seriously, I cracked up when I first read this witty tale and now again when I revisited it. There are too many wonderful lines to quote, and both Thranduil and Legolas are absolutely brilliant. Just a thought - they should add this scene to the script of The Hobbit movie, or at least, film it as an outtake.

Reviewed by: Jael  ✧  Score: 6

Here is Ignoble Bard doing what Ignoble Bard does best-- making drop-dead funny look as easy as falling off a log, in this case a Mirkwood log, where so many of his funniest stories are set. Many students of Tolkien have asked themselves exactly where Thranduil gets all the pocket change to buy all those barrels of apples, butter and wine, not to mention the chicken-barley soup. I used to speculate that Legolas would drop down from the trees on unwary travelers and shout, "Stand and deliver!" Well, this explanation is even better. Trust me. As usual, this story contains the hilarious repartee between father and son that we've come to expect from earlier pieces. And Galion even gets a mention. Because, you know Galion! A worthy contender for this year's humor category.

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 5

Bahahahaa, brilliant. This is probably the least eloquent and quite possibly the most ridiculous review I'm writing this year, but this story does make a disturbing lot of sense. Tolkien never bothered with sussing out the finer details of elven agriculture, but it is true that they *do* need to eat. Now this is making me wonder about all the secluded Elf-kingdoms of the First Age. I wonder, where would Gondolin, Nargothrond and Doriath have found their, uh, "trading partners"? Or were these unfortunate ones forced to sully their hands with fieldwork rather than... make use of other body parts?

Reviewed by: curiouswombat  ✧  Score: 4

You know it is something that has often puzzled me, too - where do Elves get the goods that they don't grow? I always presumed that the Mirkwood Elves traded in silk - but Ignoble Bard has come up with a very different answer to the question - one that certainly gave me the giggles. Although, if you really believe that the mortal who wrote 'Law and Customs of the Eldar' knew what he was talking about, you might be better not reading this for your own comfort and sanity...!

Author response: Thank you so much Wombat. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and I really appreciate you taking the time to write such lovely comments.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

A delightful tale that answers the question of how the Elves of Mirkwood sustain themselves when there are no signs of agriculture in their woodsy home. The story is quite humorous, exploits Legolas' appeal in ways that poor Tolkien would turn over in his grave to imagine, but does not descend into graphic imagery. Very naughty and a lot of fun. I can almost see Thranduil smirking, especially when he mentioned the lack of agriculture in Imladris and the activities of Elladan and Elrohir...

Author response: Thank you so much Raksha. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and I really appreciate you taking the time to write such lovely comments. I especially liked the line "The story is quite humorous, exploits Legolas' appeal in ways that poor Tolkien would turn over in his grave to imagine..." Looks like I nailed it. lol Thanks again, Mike

Reviewed by: Windsurfbabe  ✧  Score: 4

I think a small, naïve part of me died while reading this (probably the Thranduil fangirl inside, may she rest in peace), the rest had a more glorious last stand in laughter. In a frighteningly practical way it does make sense, the endless merrymaking of the elves who seem to be constantly singing and frolicking around (coughRivendellelvesintheHobbitcough) without any work getting done. Maybe they should turn it into a regular, respectful business? It is claimed to be the world's oldest profession, after all.

Reviewed by: Red Lasbelin  ✧  Score: 4

Absolutely funny story, definitely good for a laugh! (it's a quick read too, so no excuse for not checking it out, even at this late stage) Thranduil slowly leading his son through the logicial conclusions was very well done, love the sense of humour there. The scariest thing about this story is it seems rather plausible. It makes me want to go back and check what was said about Mirkwood's resources now!

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 4

I do love it when a story comes out of a discussion of fannish Attempts to Make Sense of aspects of Tolkien's mythology. To wit, how on Arda do the elves of Mirkwood get bread and wine if they don't grow their own wheat and grapes or anything else for that matter and have nothing to barter? Or, er, maybe they do have something to trade. In this amusing little fic, Ignoblebard imagines an answer and gives us the scene in which Thranduil must awkwardly break it to his son what he must do for the good of the realm. I especially love the last line.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 3

Here the author presents an interesting and unique scenario, one that answers certain reader questions. This tongue-in-cheek piece waffled between humor and solemnity, and the story and situation were entertaining.

Author response: Thank you so much Adonnen. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and I really appreciate you taking the time to write such lovely comments.

Reviewed by: Nath  ✧  Score: 3

I pretty much howled with laughter once I realised where this was going. I suppose I could try to quote a few of the funniest parts, but then I’d only end up quoting the whole story. Very funny, and a creative resolution to a serious problem :) Can’t have the Elves go without food, after all... Noblesse oblige... *snigger*

Author response: Thank you so much Nath. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and I really appreciate you taking the time to write such lovely comments.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 3

LOL! This is hilarious. How do the elves get their commodities without farming? This is a solution I wouldn't have thought of. Poor Legolas, this revelation was not what he imagined. But he will do his duty...

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 3

This story is weirdly funny, not least of which because it almost makes sense. The dialogue is a delight to read. When one thinks about what many fans of Legolas are like, it becomes almost a double parody. The tale is a pleasure to read, and should not be missed.

Reviewed by: Fiondil  ✧  Score: 3

Ah! So that’s how it’s done. Trust Ignoble Bard to come up with that particular solution. And trust Legolas to see it through. The dialogue between Legolas and Thranduil was a hoot.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 3

This story is a hoot with a lovely spice of dark humor, and it makes an awful amount of sense, too. So, finally we learn how Thranduil gained all that Dorwinion and exactly what the River Elves were doing in Laketown when they had staked the barrels there. Pretty idea, perfectly executed. well done! ;D

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

This is so wonderfully funny. It certainly is an interesting take on how other civilizations evolve when they have few available resources. It's also proof that the really interesting things never get into histories, except in the most roundabout way.

Reviewed by: Keiliss  ✧  Score: 3

Nope. I will never think of chicken barley soup quite the same again! This was one of the funniest father/son conversations I've ever read, absolutely funny but with just the tiniest suggestion that somewhere within could lie just the tiniest grain of truth... No, hush, I never said that.