Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Miss Dora Baggins' Book of Manners

Author: Dreamflower
Nominator: Inkling
2007 Award Category: Races: Hobbits: Incomplete - Second Place

Story Type: Incomplete : Length: Medium Length
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: The Shire Hobbit's Guide to Proper Behavior for Every Occasion "Dora was Drogo's sister and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she...had written reams of good advice for more than half a century..." In S.R. 1403, at the age of 102, she presented her life's work to the Shire...


Reviewed by: Inkling -- Score: 10

It's a shame that Tolkien didn't do more with Dora Baggins...she always struck me as a character with great potential, comic and otherwise. Fortunately, Dreamflower has stepped into the breach and given us an entire book of etiquette penned by the formidable Miss Dora. I like the foreword's canonical basis, drawing on Bilbo's character in "The Hobbit" for the chief Principles of Respectability: kindness, hospitality, and (pre-Adventure, at least) predictability. And I appreciate the amount of research and knowledge behind this tome, from the invaluable Letter # 214 in "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien" to the conventions of classic etiquette guides generally, supplemented and embellished by Dreamflower's own prolific imagination--providing the reader with reams of Useful Information on hobbit customs and manners. But make no mistake, what I love most about this piece is Miss Dora herself. Tolkien likened the Shire to Victorian England, and Dora is a prim and proper Victorian through and through, with quite a flair for euphemisms like ["Goings On"] and ["Putting the Dessert Before the Main Course"]. She is nonetheless full of shrewd insight and dry humor, even on subjects that, as a spinster, she might reasonably be expected to take a pass on. Consider this observation about older children looking after their younger siblings: ["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."] Yes indeed, this is one spinster who knows how children think! Some of Miss Dora's finest moments, in fact, come in the sections on the rearing of children--topped only, perhaps, by the chapters on mealtimes and manners, in which she extols ["the importance of Respecting Food."] I can just picture her penning those last two words with a flourish! Despite the occasional dig (properly veiled, of course) at her scandalous cousin Bilbo, Dora is never mean-spirited, and in her tireless zeal to anticipate and provide instructions for any eventuality, she clearly has her readers' best interests at heart. We should all be so lucky as to have an Aunt Dora! .

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 8

This story is a wonderful idea developed from just one passage in LotR. It exactly matches the tone of similar books of manner, but stands completely on its own in the execution and individual touches fitting for the characters and the society the book is concerned with. The emphasis on everything to do with food and ["Predictability"] were especially well-done. The tone of the narrative matches that of a prim and proper, older lady eager to spread her advice to all and sundry (whether welcomed or not), and yet it is clear that she is not some dry old spinster detached from the realities of the world, but from someone benign and kind (or rather ["Kind"] *g*?) and very much immersed in the society and, it seems, well-liked. I love the eccentric touch of the quirky capitalising, it gives the "book" another very individual feel. And despite the fun of the story, most of the advice is actually very valid and reasonable, which is an additional "advantage". There are quite a few people in the real world who could - and probably should - take a leaf or two out of that book!

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil -- Score: 6

Modern parents, or those who want to be parents, should read chapters 1-4 and bits of 5, first! I was brought up with a certain amount of Miss Dora's sort of manners, and it distresses me that many children, or even people my own age, think even a simple "please" or "thank you" is useless and stupid. I found one error in Chapter 13 in which the name of the recipient was used in place of the name of the writer's daughter-in-law, though I am sure that was no fault of Miss Baggins'. ;) I just giggled so much reading this story. She reminds me of my grandmother, in the slightly-less-than-warm-fuzzy-but-still-fondly sense. Character voice is excellent, as were the not-so-hidden jibes at a certain nephew, wonderfully hobbity, but I think what I like most is that, to me at least, much of it is still applicable practical advice. Well, except perhaps for the bits about foot hair...

Reviewed by: Bodkin -- Score: 6

Aunt Dora's reflections are wonderful. And particularly accurate, of course, coming as they do from an elderly spinster! Who would, clearly, be completely qualified to Tell Others How to Rear Children. Looking at the day separated into mealtimes, I'm rather surprised that hobbits managed to survive the night without Midnight Snack (midnight) and Early Morning Bite (4 am) added to the list. Two - three hours seems to be the biggest gap they could manage! Some very sensible advice there, Miss Dora. And I imagine that sending Recalcitrant Children away from the Table would indeed be the Worst Punishment they could Envisage! This is a delicious play with the ideas and customs of the Shire - and Miss Dora Baggins and her Words of Wisdom make an excellent addition to Tolkien's works!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 5

Of the characters Tolkien created who are little better than mere names, Dora Baggins and her reams of advice is one of my favorites. So, when I came across Dreamflower's story for the first time I found myself thrilled. Yes, here is this very Baggins Baggins, whose book is filled with advice, common sense, and occasional very Hobbity observations that set us giggling at the same time we so appreciate her. How her feeling that Hobbits must be Predictable must have annoyed Bilbo and Frodo, at the same time other advice would cause them to nod their heads in understanding. A pleasure to peruse, and it has been an inspiration to me.

Reviewed by: Elanor -- Score: 5

This is such a clever, helpful work for other writers, full of marvelous suggestions (well, alright, Rules) for Life in the Shire, compiled by Miss Dora and delightfully executed in her Own, Inimitable Style, which requires judicious use of Capitals and a Placid, Authoritative Voice. The author does a wonderful job rendering both Right and Rule and I have made a study of several sections for my own work. The very existence of this 'book' speaks to the love and respect the author bears Tolkien's creation and the Hobbits of the Shire, not to mention her generosity with respect to other writers. This is an insiders' book, clever and detailed, and deeply appreciated!

Reviewed by: Rhapsody -- Score: 4

I really loved reading how Dora wrote her book, it almost as an essay feel with all the details about proper Shire etiquette, but underneath the long lists on how to go about things, you can really see how the Shirelings interacted amongst each other. I can really see how this project can be of use for those who write stories featuring hobbits, especially given the thought and energy Dreamflower has put in this.

Reviewed by: Garnet Took -- Score: 3

While this story is entered in the humor category, it is clear that Dreamflower did a great deal of research and put a great deal of thought into this story. She covers most, if not all, of the hobbit customs mentioned in the books as well as adding a few that she has created for her other stories.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel -- Score: 3

Reads *exactly* like an old etiquette book. Miss Dora has written wonderful advice for the edification of the Shire - and some of which we could all take to heart as well. Wonderfully done.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 2

This piece is neat, not just for it's insightful world-building about hobbit society but also becasue of the voice. It sounds like the perfect hobbit goodwife. I enjoyed the read.

Reviewed by: SĂșlriel -- Score: 2

I loved this. I giggled and nodded my agreement all the way through this fun and insightful guide into the heads and hearts of Hobbits.