I love the seasonal festivals. Especially the winter one. Winter-home will always hold a special place on my heart as being snowy and wonderful and having a nice satisfying storyline.
That’s why something confusing, and ultimately horrific, has come to my attention. The question is this: What is going on in Winter-home? Seriously. What is happening?
It’s entirely possible that the winter cold has finally gotten to me, and that I’ve been watching/reading/writing far too much fantasy lately, but something isn’t right here. And today, we’re going to get to the bottom of it.
Let’s start with the first, most suspicious piece of evidence. The repeating storyline. This isn’t the only festival with a repeating storyline. The others have them too, or at least have clear reasons for why the festival is happening other than, “Because it’s winter. Now shut up and throw a snowball.” Every fall, the Shire tries to find Bilbo’s missing treasure in a yearly celebration. (If they ever actually find something down there, who knows what they’d do. They enjoy looking far too much to actually have fun finding something.) In spring, the Elves try to tame their gardens, the Harvest festival has the Shire bringing in the fruits of their hard labour and in the summer… I don’t know… There’s fish?
But the other festivals repeating storylines make sense. After all, shrews will always dig up plants, the Hobbits will always look for Bilbo’s treasure, and the Shire isn’t going to stop farming anytime soon. Hobbits need to eat after all. There’s a reason the entire country sat down to farm, think of how much your typical Hobbit eats. Winter-home’s repeating storyline is the most detailed (I believe) and also makes the least sense.
The Mayor treats his workers badly every year? For how many years now? And they don’t expect this? They’re still surprised when it happens? The Mayor is still surprised when you foil his plans? (If you didn’t, congrats you got a cool outfit that you could have easily bought at the Auction House. And you’re probably a jerk.) If this happens every year, why doesn’t the Mayor move the evidence of his treachery? Or at least hire better guards?
Because he can’t. And Mara Sandydowns might just be key to it all. Or maybe not. This is a crazy theory anyways. If you’re looking for an actual guide to the Winter Festival, there’s one elsewhere on this site.
Still here? Good. Every year, the same thing happens in Winter-home. Winter comes, and Winter-home specializes in snow! It is a tourist location; a place to go to have fun and get some cool Grim pets. Through some snooping around, we can determine that most of their revenue comes from the festival they hold every winter. After all, they don’t have enough natural resources to trade any of those. They live in a closed location. They are in a ring of mountains with no way to get out! There aren’t even any roads leading out! They can’t make goods and trade with other towns, because everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is working hard at running the Winter Festival. In real life towns with seasonal festivals, people still have actual jobs while the festivals happen. I’m willing to bet the whole town doesn’t get to work at the festival and quit their day job. But in Winter-home, evidently they do. Makes you wonder where they get the ingredients for all that pastry. How does the town survive if this is how the Mayor runs it?
Next, let’s look at something equally strange. The workers. What exactly are they building? And why is it taking so long? Why can’t they ever finish what they start? Obviously, they don’t know much about construction. Two of them hammer nails into a barrel for hours. Not separate barrels. The same barrel. For hours. How many nails do you need to put a barrel together? You can see some scaffolding on a house, but everyone seems to be violently ignoring it except for one lonely man with a ladder. And even he isn’t quite sure what he’s doing. Is he making the ladder? Repairing it? Killing time? We may never know.
The theater is the same way. Sure their Bloodtusk play is having ‘technical issues,’ but for how long? Days? Two solid weeks? Why is there trouble with the actors? What could possibly happen to them that would render them unable to perform for two whole weeks, but isn’t serious enough to tell the Hobbit trying to attract patrons? Why does it surprise you every time we see a show? And why do you have to take people from the audience? Have your actors gone missing? Maybe they have…
I would like to propose one possibility to this strange series of events. One that answers some questions, and raises others. Winter-home and Frostbluff are trapped in a time loop.
I know. It sounds crazy. But think about it. It would make sense given what we’ve seen. How can Winter-home survive given their strange economy? It’s always winter there. The season never changes. Why is everyone always surprised by the things that happen over and over again? Because to them, it’s always the very first time. Why can’t the workers get anything done? They haven’t actually had much time to work, they’re always starting over. Where do they get the ingredients for pastries? Before the time loop began they had the ingredients. When it loops back, their depleted ingredients are restored. They’ll always be able to make pies and bread because they’ll never run out of wheat. And the missing actors? Probably trapped outside the time loop.
This is why the same thing happens year after year. The Mayor mistreats the workers, the workers revolt, the crisis is resolved (one way or the other). The time loop begins again. The beggars are never able to leave the town, because they can’t leave the time loop. There is literally no where else to go.
There is only one person in the entire town who knows what’s going on, and knows how to stop it. An incredibly powerful person. Someone who can let others into the time loop and might have been the one to start it all. No, not a person. In Lord of the Rings world only spirits (possibly, I haven’t read the Silmarillion yet) of some sort have the kind of power we’re talking about.
Mara Sandydowns. She is the one behind all this. Let’s start at the beginning. It’s the yearly winter festival, and Winston Goodnough, the Mayor, has the entire town working very hard at making Frostbluff into a winter wonderland. Mara Sandydowns is working with her family, though she is just a child. The Mayor treats them horribly and in the awful conditions, Mara dies. The little girl lives on as a spirit and, perhaps because of her innocence, is a remarkably powerful one. She is able to take human form and finds she can alter time itself. Mara decides that she will use her powers to try to end the suffering happening in her home, and so she closes Frostbluff off from the outside world and creates a time loop. The harsh events of that winter will replay over and over again until Mayor Winston Goodnough gets a new personality and treats his workers better.
The loop repeats over and over, and nothing happens. In desperation, she begins to send out horses to bring people to Winter-home, looking for a hero. She finally gets one, and the hero takes action and changes things forcibly. But in truth, nothing has changed. Winston Goodnough hasn’t truly changed. Someone reprimanded him, but Winston is still a greedy miser. The time loop will continue until Winston truly changes, no matter how many heroes come. She still sends out the horses though, just in case.
And every time a hero comes to her, smiling and happy because he’s either foiled the Mayor’s plot or helped Winston suppress the workers. Everyone else responds passionately to either decision, but not Mara. She has seen it all happen before and is calm and collected. “I hope you are satisfied with your decision. There are consequences to either action, and rewards as well.” Perhaps as an inside joke, one that only she understands she adds, “Perhaps this little drama will play out again some other year if you find you regret your decision.”
The real question I have is this. Mara Sandydowns, poor child of Winter-home (I feel confident that she’s a child and not a Hobbit since she wears shoes. The Hobbit by the theater goes barefoot despite the snow and bitter cold) do you regret yours?
Also, where on Earth do you get all those presents???