Basic Membership Standards within the Middle-earth Reenactment Society (MERS)

  1. The Middle-earth Reenactment Society is a High-Authenticity Organization.
    1. These Standards are considered to be a minimum, exceptions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
    2. Certain events may have higher requirements.
      1. Restrictions may be placed on Age (First, Second, Third) or cultures, depending on event.
  2. Lore-accurate and Culturally-appropriate Impressions/Personas
    1. Keep it common: no impressions of cast characters from the books.
      1. While the Fellowship (save Sam) was made up of nobles, princes, and an incarnate angel, these are few and far between in Middle-earth.
    2. Impressions should be specific and appropriate to your chosen culture:
      1. A man-at-arms of Gondor is appropriate; a ‘hobbit warrior’ is not.
      2. No ‘hybrid’ personas: Haradrim Hobbits, Half-Elvish Rohirrim, ‘Dwarven Rangers’ &c.
      3. Certain personas are limited to specific cultures
        1. Ex: ‘Ranger’ is a culturally-specific (Dúnedain) ‘career’, not a general character class. No generic Rangers: specify either Dúnedain of the North, or Rangers of Ithilien.
        2. Other cultures have roles which fulfill the ‘armed roving border guard/scout’ function of the Rangers: “march-wardens” in Doriath, Bounders in the Shire, “out-riders” in Rohan, &c.
  3. By default, MERS members interpret the late Third Age
    1. More specifically and most often: Late Third Age between 2942 and 3019 (post Battle of Five Armies, inclusive of the War of the Ring).
    2. If a period outside these dates is portrayed, one should take care that the impression is lore-appropriate, and to ensure that it will not conflict with events to be attended.
      1. i.e., an Eorling in TA 2510 is acceptable; a Beorning in TA 1640 is not.
    3. Other Ages may be portrayed, though 3:b still applies: in a mid-Second Age scenario, an Elf of Ost-in-Edhil is appropriate; a hobbit of Buckland is not.
  4. Physical attributes
    1. Race, sex, or ethnic background do not limit an individual’s choice of impression/persona.
    2. 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, convincingly portraying a Dwarf would be quite a stretch.
  5. Clothing/’soft kit’:
    1. Materials
      1. Fiber content requirements differ by membership tier, but ALL members are encouraged to use only period-correct natural materials (linen/flax, wool, silk, hemp, nettle/ramie, and leather).
      2. Materials used should be appropriate to your impression (ex.: a working-class hobbit wearing silk would be inappropriate)
        1. Use of cotton in blends is allowed at the Member tier only: “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. At all tiers, linen items should contain at least 50% flax.
          1. For 100% linen, we recommend join the mailing list and be patient as items come on sale regularly. Buy remnants from the ‘doggy bag’ section and piece together.
        3. Wool items should contain no more than 30% synthetic fibers (nylon, &c).
          1. For those with wool allergies, goat or alpaca wool is acceptable; synthetic imitations are unacceptable as they are often unsafe for outdoor use and around fires.
        4. Cellulose-based fabrics such as Tenel, Lyocell, or rayon are appropriate for Elf impressions (in light of what we know about the fiber-crafts of the Galadhrim under Galadriel)–and most appropriate for Noldor Elves.
          1. Blends of these with silk, wool, or linen are preferred.
        5. Leather items should be REAL leather—no ‘vegan’ synthetics, PU, vinyl, Naugahyde, &c.
          1. Traditional tanning methods (bark-tanned, brain-tanned (real buckskin), salt/alum, and veg-tanned (tooling leather) are preferred.
            1. Modern-tanned leathers (i.e chrome-tanned) are acceptable for footwear, belts, scabbards, quivers, &c.
          2. Full-grain leathers (chrome-tan, veg-tan, etc) should not be used for garments (use wool, linen, or brain-tan)
    2.  Construction
      1. As a High-Authenticity Organization, the MERS encourages all members to strive for 100% handsewn garments.
        1. Machine-sewing is allowed at Member tier for all seams, and at Traveler tier for interior seams only.
      2. No two-piece rivets, or extraneous studs or rivets in clothing or leather ‘armor’
      3. No metal grommets/eyelets in clothing (and/or gear, such as belts or vambraces)
        1. No front-lace ‘pirate’/’poet’/Renaissance Faire shirts
        2. Laced items, such as womens’ kyrtles, are acceptable, if lacing holes are hand-worked.
    3. Color
      1. Colors/shades should be appropriate to your impression and reflect the range achievable with plant-based dyes (i.e. avoid bold, uniform, modern synthetic-dyed colors); study swatches in natural dyeing books (those by Jenny Dean are recommended) for examples.
        1. Actual naturally-dyed items are highly encouraged.
      2. Leather goods should be neutral, natural colors (black, white, gray, or shades of brown), or colors achievable with natural dyes: no EcoFlo green, blue, red, purple, &c.
        1. See Mappae Clavicula (9th century CE) for traditional recipes for several colored dyes
  6. Hard Kit
    1. Use period-appropriate materials:
      1. Acceptable metals: Iron, Steel, Tin, Copper, Bronze, Brass, Lead, and referenced precious metals.
      2. The prohibition on cotton in 5:a:i:1 is primarily concerned with wearable items; modern-produced cotton oilcloth is an acceptable material for shelter tarps, bedrolls, &c. – though members should still make all possible efforts to avoid using cotton for non-shelter pieces of gear (ex. backpacks)
        1. Period-correct shelter materials such as treated wool, linen or hemp are still highly encouraged as the ultimate ideal.
    2. Preferred Ratios for hard kit:
      1. 70% drawn from Tolkien’s texts and/or historical-archeological examples; 30% plausible – based on conjecture or logic
        1. Members should be able to explain the reasoning behind their conclusions.
      2. Nothing of ‘curious dwarven make’ or ‘mystical elvish construction’ unless your impression is a dwarf or an elf. (See Section 2)
        1. No elvish ropes, cloaks, or lembas for non-Elf impressions.
      3. Legendary/ancient artifacts should be used extremely sparingly (if at all): i.e. blades from Gondolin (1A), Numenor (2A), Barrow-downs (3A), mithril items, &c.:
        1. When ‘Keep It Common’ is the goal, if an item would make a persona Oh-So-Very-Special, it is best to omit.
  7. First person vs. Third person Interpretation at Events
    1. “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.” – Townsend’s, Getting Started in Living History Course: Session 3
      1. 1st or 3rd POV is a choice left up to the interpreter; however, as in historic reenacting, it is suggested to start with 3rd and move to 1st after a time if/when one is more experienced.
  8. Appropriate Sources for Research
    1. Primary Sources:
      1. The Lord of the Rings
      2. The Hobbit
      3. Unfinished Tales
      4. The Silmarillion
      5. ‘The Great Tales’ collections (Fall of Gondolin, Beren & Luthien, Children of Hurin, Fall of Numenor)
      6. JRRT: Artist & Illustrator (Hammond & Scull)
      7. The History of Middle-earth volumes 3-12 (Vols. 1&2 are early, pre-Legendarium, ‘myth for England’ material)
      8. The Nature of Middle-earth
      9. Letters
    2. Secondary Sources:
      1. Atlas of Middle-earth, Revised Edition (Fonstad)
      2. Reader’s Companion (Hammond & Scull)
      3. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth (Robert Foster)
      4. The Road to Middle-earth (Tom Shippey)
      5. The History of The Hobbit (John Rateliff)
      6. Text-focused lectures by Corey Olson
    3. Tertiary Sources:
      1. Art directly inspired by the Books (pre 2001, or if post-2001, explicitly non-film inspired)
      2. Peter Jackson’s LotR & Hobbit movies (discouraged)
        1. While some inspiration is acceptable, kit items should not be based directly from Jackson/WETA imagery.
          1. DO: wear 19th century breeches and shirts (hobbits), wear leather jerkin (Ithilien Rangers)
          2. DON’T: wear Legolas’ velvet tunic, carry a replica of Gimli’s axe, or wear Boromir’s bracers.
      3. ICE MERP, The One Ring RPG, LOTRO (discouraged)
        1. These 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, MERS does not treat them as ‘canonical’, and feels they should not be relied upon for building one’s impression.
      4. Shadow of Mordor &c. / any and all future film or TV adaptations
        1. Udûn, no – lend credence to accuracy by separating your impression from “it’s just fantasy!” popular culture.
2019 Middle-earth Reenactment Society