Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

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Random221B
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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Random221B » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:33 am

Stormcrow wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:04 am
You did ask for other possibilities.
That's true, I did initially. I thought I had previously clarified that I had already gone with the answer that my players assumed when I introduced Frár, and that the "He isn't actually beardless" possibility didn't make sense to me, but looking back, I may have been less than clear about that, so I apologize if my previous comments came across poorly. I do appreciate everyone's involvement in this thread, and I am happy to see folks discuss their thoughts on how they interpret it, even though I have now come to a conclusion on what makes sense for me, personally, and my campaign.

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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Random221B » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:41 am

Glorelendil wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:19 am
So...(cough)..."Frár the Beardless" could be a reference to a single notable event, not a reference to an ongoing state of affairs. (And he probably takes umbrage at its use, either way.)
Again, fair. I just feel like, who would have spread the word/nickname, if he didn't spend at least some time beardless? Also, the illustration of him in HotW shows him as actually beardless. So, unless that's meant to represent him only immediately after he was shaved (like, that day, before he even had stubble again) I still feel like "He spent at least some time beardless" fits all of the text/images/evidence a little better. (Admittedly, the shading on the picture *could* be meant to represent stubble, but it doesn't read that way to me.) I would think, if the intent was that he was shaved, and then immediately started growing the beard back, and the "Beardless" nickname was just a reference to an event, and not an ongoing state of affairs, that the picture would have shown him with a (albeit probably very short) beard.

To be clear, not trying to change anyone else's mind, just explaining why "not actually beardless" doesn't fit the evidence, for me.

But definitely pleased that so many people are interested enough to weigh in. :D

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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Glorelendil » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:48 am

Well, I would also concur with the opinion that Dwarf beards probably grow a lot more slowly than human beards. Otherwise it wouldn't be very difficult to grow them long, and they wouldn't have much pride in them.

So he might have been effectively beardless for months/years.

Also, I wouldn't consider the artwork in the book to be an official 'portrait'. It's a representative image, and what is more representative of Frár the Beardless than when he was beardless.

I don't actually have a dog in this fight...just thinking through it. The real answer is, "Rule of Cool." Go with whatever sounds coolest to you that you can also rationalize.
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Indur Dawndeath
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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Indur Dawndeath » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:16 am

I’m not trying to persuade anyone, but my take on this is that he had a very long beard braided with gold rings and tugged underbeath his belt.
The elves cut the beard, but did not take the time to shave him.
So he remained beardless until he were able to braid it again and insert some gold rings, and perhaps by 2961 he can once again tug it into his belt
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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Falenthal » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:33 am

Glorelendil wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:48 am
Well, I would also concur with the opinion that Dwarf beards probably grow a lot more slowly than human beards. Otherwise it wouldn't be very difficult to grow them long, and they wouldn't have much pride in them.

So he might have been effectively beardless for months/years.
I also went with this interpretation, that opens up a curious connection between their biology and their culture: dwarves value effort and that which is hard to get. If beards (as mithril) did grow easily, it wouldn't be a prominent sign of pride among them.

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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Stormcrow » Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:53 pm

I don't think dwarves take pride in their beards because they're so hard to grow. A dwarf's beard is a status symbol; having a long/full/beautiful/whatever one is a sign of prestige, much as wearing expensive clothes is a sign of prestige among rich crowds. Frar wasn't shamed because—oh, darn!—that beard's going to be so hard to grow back; he was shamed because the elves took away his symbol of manhood (dwarfhood?).

A dwarf could have the longest, scraggliest beard ever and be able to take no pride in it for its ugliness; another could have a modest beard but combed and braided and bejeweled, and he would be thought very highly of.

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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Glorelendil » Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:02 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:53 pm
I don't think dwarves take pride in their beards because they're so hard to grow. A dwarf's beard is a status symbol; having a long/full/beautiful/whatever one is a sign of prestige, much as wearing expensive clothes is a sign of prestige among rich crowds. Frar wasn't shamed because—oh, darn!—that beard's going to be so hard to grow back; he was shamed because the elves took away his symbol of manhood (dwarfhood?).

A dwarf could have the longest, scraggliest beard ever and be able to take no pride in it for its ugliness; another could have a modest beard but combed and braided and bejeweled, and he would be thought very highly of.
A status symbol has to be difficult to acquire for it to be a status symbol. You may be right that this is due to elaborate braiding and ornamentation, but I doubt it's simply a matter of combing it or not.

But I agree the name is probably due to the symbolism of the elves having cut it off, regardless of how slowly it grows. Like MacGregor, the name derives from a symbolic event from the past that may not accurately describe the present.

(That said, I think a bit of Elvish magic that keeps it from growing back is also a fine interpretation, for those who prefer it narratively.)
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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Stormcrow » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:07 pm

Glorelendil wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:02 pm
A status symbol has to be difficult to acquire for it to be a status symbol. You may be right that this is due to elaborate braiding and ornamentation, but I doubt it's simply a matter of combing it or not.
I'm not suggesting that you can just make your beard nice and you automatically have more status. Actually, I have a better, and more obvious, parallel. In Babylon 5, the Centauri show their social status, which is extremely important to them, with their hair-crests. The most important Centauri have the longest, fullest crests. There's no reason to think that Londo Mollari is simply better at growing hair than Vir Cotto; he has the right to wear his hair more fully.

Cutting off a Centauri's hair would be a terrible source of shame to him. I think the difference from dwarves would be that a Centauri would wear a false crest "wig" until his own hair grew back, assuming they don't all wear false crests already (akin to powdered wigs). The Centauri social hierarchy is fairly artificial, and they all know it. I don't think a dwarf would wear a false beard, unless he were particularly craven.

It doesn't have to be difficult to acquire the symbol of status; it has to be difficult to acquire the status itself. A dwarf's beard is not his status; it is a symbol of his status. An important dwarf who loses his beard does not cease to be an important dwarf. At least, that's how I understand it.

Also, remember that in The Hobbit it is said that Fili eventually had to cut off most of his beard because he couldn't get the spider webs out of it. I imagine this would be true of the other dwarves (not including Thorin). On the one hand we don't hear anything about this bringing shame or a loss of status; on the other the narrator isn't particularly sensitive to the sensibilities of dwarves. Still, after they recover in Lake-town part of their proud recovery is that their beards are combed and trimmed.

When Balin visits Bilbo years after the Battle of Five Armies, Bilbo notes that Balin's beard is several inches longer. This is mentioned while both are noticing the prosperity of the other.

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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Glorelendil » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:02 pm

Interesting.

That makes me think there are actually (at least) three categories of status symbols:
  • Those which have some level of difficulty to acquire (e.g. luxury cars, class rings, etc.)
    Those which are legally restricted to certain classes (struggling to think of modern examples)
    Those which are meant to signal membership in (or a desire to belong to) a group. (Basically what fashion is.)
The middle category, of which the Centauri hairstyle would seem to be an example, I think can only really exist in cultures that are both stratified (caste-based) and semi-authoritarian. It's pretty hard to imagine enforcement of such a restriction in, for example, a liberal democracy. Are Dwarves sufficiently stratified and authoritarian? Maybe, but I don't think so.

I also don't see the third type applying to Dwarves much, unless it denotes to which of the original seven dwarven clans a Dwarf belongs.
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Re: Frár's Beard (...or Lack Thereof.)

Post by Majestic » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:05 pm

One entire subclass was known as the Longbeards, too. Did they get that name because they already had the highest status? Or was it more that they got to grow their beards longer than the others because of their place in society?
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