As a special education teacher of over thirty-five years experience (Yow! Itís been that long??!!!) Iíve dealt mostly with three populations: those with visual disabilities, those with mental impairments (retardation or developmental disabilities), and those with learning disabilities. That being true, I find my profession creeps constantly into my writing. Ruvemirís observations on what it means to be born with recognized differences and disabilities made in "The Kingís Commission" and "Lesser Ring" are a reflection of my own dedication to the disabilities rights movement; while Frodoís part in those disabled by involvement with the Ring War beginning to find their own way to rehabilitation reflects my training in the field and our family experience with the rehabilitation movement sparked by the U.S. Veterans Administration. Ririon of Minas Tirith from "The Kingís Commission" and "The Acceptable Sacrifice" and Ferdibrand Took from several of my stories represent my experience working with individuals with blindness, and now Tribulation Broadloam represents my experience working with those with developmental disabilities.
Iíve had several students and clients and even friends who have had Downs Syndrome. Such individuals typically appear overweight and even doughy; have round faces, are usually significantly shorter than average, oftentimes have overlarge tongues that can cause their speech to be unclear or even in some rare cases totally unintelligible, eyes with an odd fold to the eyelid, somewhat flattened noses, and hands with stubby fingers with the little finger typically at a distinctively odd angle. Such individuals typically have lungs particularly prone to low-level respiratory infections and frequently are born with heart defects peculiar to the genotype. Most often such individuals are singularly affable and affectionate, and are often surprisingly empathic in nature.
And almost all are considered mentally retarded or developmentally delayed, depending on the clinical title to which one is most accustomed.
This condition is due to genetic irregularities, but it is not usually familial in nature. Instead of an inherited genetic defect, this condition is due to improperly duplicated and split genetic material, usually involving the individual receiving three copies of chromosome 21. As a result the condition is often referred to by geneticists as "trisomy 21."
The condition is common to all races in our modern-day world, and whether the individual is of black, white, oriental, or other racial origin all appear sufficiently similar to transcend racial differences.
I must assume that this condition and other conditions due to improper splitting and pairing of genetic material would have been as common in Middle Earth as they are in our reality; as there was no Dr. Downs to name the condition after, and probably an almost total lack of familiarity with oriental peoples to misname the condition as "Mongoloidism" as it was known in my youth, there would have to be a different name assigned to it. "Moon-touched" seemed as good a name as any, and is mirrored in our own culture at one time considering mental illness to be due to lunar influences, to the point we refer to individuals who are out of control mentally or emotionally as "lunatics."
In actuality there is a very large range of abilities associated with this condition. In my first proper classroom I had three students who had Downs Syndrome, all of whom were considered profoundly retarded; in the classroom on one side of mine were four, all of whom were learning to communicate via sign language as their over-large tongues had made it impossible to speak intelligibly and who moved about the institution with moderate supervision; on the other side were four who could speak fairly clearly who functioned largely independently within the community of DD individuals who populated the institution in which I worked. I now work with DD adults, and one of the most independent of the individuals I deal with regularly has Downs.
There are now successful actors with Downs Syndrome, although such individuals more commonly work in undemanding professions such as as baggers at grocery stores, as custodial assistants, as sorters and assemblers in plants manufacturing simple implements such as kitchen tools and brooms, as operators of washers and dryers in laundries, as bakersí assistants, and so on.
But if Tribbals is a tribute to those with Downs I have known, she must be most dedicated to a girl from an intensive public school program that visited the institution in which I first worked. This group did adapations of plays and musicals and performed them in schools, institutions, and for community groups such as senior centers and Rotary Clubs throughout our region. One year they did an adaptation of "Fiddler on the Roof," and this girl played Chava, the third daughter to Tevye and Golda, the one who married a Russian Christian youth. The girl had a difficult time making herself understood verbally; yet she carried off the role of Chava with a dignity and sensitivity that was marvelous to watch. And when she danced to the song "Chavala" we were all deeply moved--she had a natural grace Iíve not seen duplicated by most of the professional dancers Iíve watched over the years.
And so she has now appeared here in my collection of stories, and I hope that if she still lives someone will read this story to her.
I do believe that the compassion that blossomed in Frodo Baggins particularly after the destruction of the Ring would have led him to appreciate Tribbals Broadloam; that he would seek to help her family provide the best environment for her and would encourage them to involve her in the community and would even finance a bakeshop once he found out sheíd learned how to bake cookies seemed very likely.
As for the Broadloams in general--this family has been tickling my imagination for about a year, and was demanding to be let out into the literary world. Iíve dealt with such families, and have seen some of them completely turned around with intensive positive input from the community while others have remained stubbornly asocial. I find I enjoy this family as much as many whoíve commented on the story, and I very much appreciate how well theyíve been received.
As for whether Tribbals will appear in other stories--she and her great-nephew Billigard are mentioned in "Reunion." Iíve been working on this story for several months, and itís been one of those that refused to resolve itself until Iíd managed to mention Tribbals elsewhere--then and only then did she agree to cooperate in seeing this story finished. I suspect she might appear now and then, but sheís already let me know that if she does it will only be because she wishes to be included. Sheís let me know sheís not a tame Hobbit. (Apologies to C.S. Lewis.)