Sorry for being so inactive in such active times!
We almost had a revolution in my country (we failed) which makes for a good excuse for not blogging, but here, in Tolkien community the world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. I see it on my Tumblr dashboard.
The Hobbit changed everything, just as Gandalf predicted. Since the first trailer the fans were roused by the question: who is it at 7:50? is it a dress? do we see a beard? And yes, in the theaters in the full glory of 48 fps everyone could see the wondrous design Alan Lee imagined for our dear Dwarrow Dames.
We quoted Tolkien many times before about bearded ladies whom outsiders could not distinguish from Dwarven lords. And actually Alan Lee, Weta Workshop designers and Jackson could’ve easily avoided any controversy at all by not showing specifically Dwarven ladies saying that we just could not tell them apart from male Dwarfs. But they decided to be bold and tried to develop distinquishable female bearded ladies who would still appeal to a wider audience. This image appeared in ImagineFX magazine #91:
Alan Lee, Concept Art Director: If you had a beard and you were a woman, you wouldn’t just let it grow wild and wiry.
Scott Spencer, Weta Workshop Designer: The Dwarf women and children’s hair and beard brief was a lot of fun. I didn’t want to fall back on the old ‘bearded lady’ cliché, so I explored how Dwarven culture might entwine feminine ornamentation with facial hair styling. I wanted the Dwarf women to be beautiful.
The quotes were scrupulously collected by airyairyquitecontrary, and you can see more of them here along with gifs collected by hobbitdragon of beautiful Dwarven ladies at the fair in Dale and with the blogger’s own analysis of this representation.
I think they were a success. It turns out that with a less radical look people are quite ready to accept the idea of bearded ladies. Some Elves are more rude than that, though…
I wonder if it changed somehow the situation for Dwarven lady characters in LOTRO, and as I personally didn’t have a chance to play there for quite long, I hope that you can tell me if it did.
Outside LOTRO the situation has certainly changed, as I can see. Many amazing fanartists started to explore variations on Lee’s design. One of my favourites is Nebriniel and her DORFS art folder is definitely worth exploring.
Fanfic writers began to explore Dwarven romantic relationships (Dis/Dwalin, for example, became a pretty popular fanon pairing).
On the one hand, we can say, as does hobbitdragon, that movie team was not bold enough to combine a full beard with an exquisite Renaissance-style dress. But I think that since it caused an interests and – finally! – admiration and love for Tolkien’s Dwarfs, it was worth it. After all, we saw how differently male Dwarfs style their beards, and for a true fan imagining that some female Dwarfs wear their beards long is not shocking.
On the other hand, I am happy that LOTRO is not directly connected with Jackson’s franchise, and our Dames are still sporting beards as full and thick as any male Dwarf character.
P.S. This post is overdue at least for half a year, but now instead of sharing every bit of information as it appears, we can look at the whole picture and say that Jackson’s mischief managed.