Basic Membership Standards within the Middle-earth Reenactment Society (MERS)
1) The MERS is a High-Authenticity Organizationa) These Standards are considered to be a minimum, exceptions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. (And we’ll be grumpy about even being asked.)
b) Certain events may have higher requirements.
i) Restrictions may be placed on Age (1A/2A/3A) or cultures, depending on event.
2) Clothing/’soft kit’a) Materials
i) Clothing must be made from approved Natural Materials: linen/flax, wool, silk, hemp, nettle, leather.
(1) Cotton items are not permitted: “Hobbits are represented as using tobacco and this is made more or less credible by the suggestion that the plant was brought over the Sea by the Men of Westernesse… but it is not intended that ‘cotton’ should be supposed to be known or used at that time.” (JRRT: Nomenclature, quoted in Reader’s Companion p. 612).”
(2) Linen items should be 100% linen. Use fabric-store.com: all items come up for sale quite regularly; join the mailing list and be patient. Buy remnants from their ‘doggy bag’ section and piece together.
(3) Wool items should contain no more than 30% synthetic fibers (nylon, &c).
(a) For those with wool allergies, items made from goat or alpaca wool is acceptable.
(4) Leather items should be REAL leather—no synthetics, vinyl, naugahyde, &c.
(a) Traditional tanning methods (barktan, vegtan (tooling leather), and braintan/buckskin) are preferred.
(i) Chrome-tanned (shiny yellow) deerskin should not be used for garments (use wool, linen, or braintan)
(ii) modern tanned leathers are acceptable for footwear, belts, scabbards, quivers, &c.
i) As a High Authenticity Organization, the MERS requires that all visible/exterior seams be hand-sewn.
(1) Machine-sewn unseen/interior seams are permitted, but we highly encourage members to strive for 100% handsewn
ii) No two-piece rivets, or extraneous studs or rivets in clothing or leather ‘armor’
iii) No metal grommets
(1) laced items, such as womens’ kyrtles, are acceptable, if hand-stitched lacing holes are used.
(2) No front-lace ‘pirate’/’poet’/Ren Faire shirts
c) Clothing Colors:
i) Clothing must be made of material and colors/shades appropriate to your impression
ii) Colors should reflect the range achievable with plant-based dyes (i.e. no bold, uniform, modern synthetic-dyed colors); study swatches in natural dyeing books (those by Jenny Dean are recommended) for examples.
iii) Actual naturally-dyed items are highly encouraged.
iv) Leather goods should be neutral, natural colors (black (use sparingly), white (ex. unsmoked braintan), gray, or shades of brown)-no EcoFlo green, blue, red, purple, &c.
i) 100% authentic footwear (without modern soles) is preferred
ii) new members’ footwear are allowed to have rubber soles which are visible when standing flat on both feet.
(1) It is understood that these will be upgraded within 1-2 years of membership?
3) Hard Kiti) Use of appropriate period-analogous materials
(1) Acceptable materials include iron, copper, bronze/brass, tin, lead, gold, silver, and pewter.
(a) Modern materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium, are not allowed.
ii) Ancient Artifacts should be used extremely sparingly (and only if truly appropriate to persona):
(1) Ex. Gondolin blades (First Age), Númenorean blades (Second Age), Barrow-blades (Third Age), or ‘Mithril’ items
(a) “If it makes your persona Oh So Very Special, it’s probably a bad idea.”
(b) No items of ‘curious dwarven make’ or ‘mystical Elvish construction’ unless your impression is a dwarf or an elf. (see section 4)
(2) No elvish ropes, cloaks or lembas for non-elves.
iii) Ratio for documentable-to-historical-to-plausible hard kit? 70% certifiable/30% plausible?
iv) Chain-maille armor is the only acceptable metal armor for 90% of Tolkien’s cultures
4) Culturally-Appropriate Personas/Impressionsa) No impressions of foreground cast/characters: i.e., KEEP IT COMMON.
(1) While the Fellowship (save Sam) was made up of nobles, princes, and an angel, they represent their respective societies’ “One Percenters”.
b) Impressions should be specific and appropriate to both your culture and Tolkien’s world
(1) No ‘hybrid’ personas: for example, Haradrim Hobbits, Half-Elvish Rohirrim, or ‘Dwarven Rangers’.
(2) ‘Ranger’ is a culturally-specific (Dúnedain) ‘career’, not a character class.
(i) For that matter, no generic ‘rangers’: specify Dúnedain of the North, or Ithilien Rangers.
(3) Certain personas are not appropriate for specific cultures
(a) A Hobbit warrior, Dunlending armourer, or Drúedain and Dwarvish farmers would be inappropriate
c) Physical attributes
i) Because MERS is not a LARP-type environment — where abilities are conferred upon participants which they may or may not actually possess—we encourage our members and interested parties to pursue portraying peoples which closely fit their own personal capabilities.
Members are encouraged to live out their personas; since this is not merely a costuming enterprise, if you are not in physical condition to be traveling great distances on foot, pursuing a Ranger persona (a professional traveler, really) may not be a good fit. Similarly, if you are seven feet tall, portraying a Dwarf would be quite a stretch.
d) First person vs. Third person?
i) “A Third-Person Interpreter is one who, when engaging the public, speaks in third-person, e.g., “they did this,” or “they dressed this way.” The interpreter generally remains in the present as a modern person who, while dressed in period clothing, attempts to explain to other modern people the various aspects of life as it was for people of the past. This approach may require a greater commitment to research than what is required of the typical reenactor. The third-person historical interpreter assumes the role of educator and possibly narrator.
A First-Person Interpreter is someone who portrays a persona as though he or she is actually the person they portray. If a first-person interpreter, for instance, portrays Martha Washington, that interpreter takes on the look, mannerisms, and language that the interpreter’s research show Martha herself would have exhibited. First-person interpretation is an attempt by the interpreter to immerse himself or herself in the life and circumstances of the persona. This interpretive role is both that of educator and actor, and it often requires years of research and practice to hone and perfect.” – Jas. Townsend and Son, Townsend’s, “Getting Started in Living History” Course: Session 3
(1) Choosing First- or Third-person is left up to the interpreter; however, as in historic reenacting, it is suggested to start with Third and move to First after a time if/when one is more experienced.
e) By default, MERS is focused on the late Third Age during the War of the Ring
i) other Ages may be portrayed.
ii) Late Third Age between 2942 and 3019? (post Battle of Five Armies, inclusive of War of the Ring).
iii) If a period outside these dates is portrayed, care should be taken to choose an appropriate culture/impression
(1) i.e., an Eorling in TA 2510 is acceptable; a Beorning in TA 1640 is not.
5) Appropriate Sources for Researcha) Primary Sources:
ii) The Hobbit
iii) Unfinished Tales
iv) The Silmarillion
v) JRRT: Artist & Illustrator (Hammond & Scull)
vi) The History of Middle-earth volumes 3-12, giving precedent where conflicted to published material in LR/TH
(1) Vols. 1&2 are early, pre-Legendarium, ‘myth for England’ material
b) Secondary (scholarly) Sources:
i) Atlas of Middle-earth (Fonstad)
ii) Reader’s Companion (Hammond & Scull)
c) Tertiary Sources
i) Art directly inspired by the Books
(1) Bros. Hildebrandt—too ‘70s: avoid.
(3) Other artists pre-2001? Or if post-2001, explicitly non-PJ?)
ii) Peter Jackson’s LOTR/Hobbit movies
(1) While some inspiration is acceptable, kit items should NOT be based directly on PJ/WETA imagery.
(a) DO: wear 19th century breeches and shirts (hobbits), wear leather jerkin (Ithilien Rangers).
(b) DON’T: wear Legolas’ velvet tunic, carry a replica of Gimli’s axe, or wear Boromir’s bracers.
iii) Roleplaying Games:
(1) ICE MERP
(2) The One Ring RPG
(4) These RPG sources are useful in fleshing out ‘blank’ areas of the map, providing names of towns or settlements, extrapolating cultural traits, or visualizing landscapes. While members are free to use these as inspiration, the MERS does not treat them as ‘canon’, and feels they should not be relied upon for building one’s impression.
iv) Combat-focused Video Games:
(1) War in the North
(a) Heavily inspired by PJ/WETA, but story ‘plays well’ with canon.
(2) Shadow of Mordor?
(a) Um, no.
v) Any and all future film or TV adaptations (now that C. Tolkien is uninvolved)