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        “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!” So exclaims Austenian antagonist Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, albeit insincerely, and many readers of Austen continue to echo her sentiments in a much more genuine way (Austen 41). What these readers are poring over, however, has changed since Austen’s time. Today, classic works like Pride and Prejudice have become popular source material for fan-produced adaptations, including transpositions and mashups, which continue Austen’s works and point out why they are so timeless for readers. I argue that, while details like shoe roses and carriages may not be applicable to every new, fan-created version of Pride and Prejudice, the overarching themes of Austen’s work are universal, lending to the adaptability of her novels. Furthermore, the use of Austenian characters and themes allows fanfiction writers to comment on the societies their characters exist within, much as Austen did. Two of Austen’s most prominent themes, relationships and class conflict, prove to be especially essential to any adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. These themes can be examined through two very different fanfictions, Sparks Fly, Tires Skid by OrchidVines and Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale by Lillian C1, which present successful, albeit different, adaptations of their source material, and show the relevance of Austen’s writing to both modern day America and the invented universe of Middle Earth.

        Some Austen fans living in the age of the internet have turned to the writing and consumption of fanfiction to get their mostly-digital fix of Lizzie Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, or, to a much lesser extent, Anne Elliot. Fans come together through a love of Austen, creating a “virtual space in terms of shared communal and physical places,” on websites like and (Mirmohamadi 10). As Sheenagh Pugh states, “A fanfiction writer of my acquaintance once remarked...that people wrote fanfic because they wanted either ‘more of’ their source material or ‘more from’ it,” (Pugh 19). Many fanfictions (shortened to “fics” by many writers and readers) are inspired by Pride and Prejudice in particular, and often involve combining Austen’s novel with another book, movie, or tv show, or moving the setting to a different time and place.  This points out the timelessness and universality of Austen’s themes, presents readers with “more of” what they originally loved about her novels, and also allows them to get “more from” a well-known, classic work through application of these themes to new times and places.

        While Sparks Fly, Tires Skid and Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale bear few surface resemblances to one another and to their inspiration, Pride and Prejudice, they both contain elements of the original novel and manage to adapt it to a new time, place, and even world. Brett Jenkins argues that, “being in character and thus maintaining the historical, individual, meaningful essence of the characters (such as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth) within the realistic confines of a historical storyworld (such as early nineteenth-century Pemberley), is a foremost criterion,” for fanfictions like these (Jenkins). However, both fanfictions analyzed here successfully present the basic storyline and overarching themes of Pride and Prejudice without any pretense of maintaining historical accuracy in the Regency Era or writing a Lizzy and Darcy identical to Austen’s. In fact, as Kylie Mirmohamadi asserts, fics frequently utilize, “playfulness with intertextuality and genre...and a willingness to blur distinctions between parody and homage,” to create something new (21). Thus, it quickly becomes evident which elements of Austen’s original work are most necessary to include in order to craft an adaptation that functions within whichever universe it is set while remaining true to its inspiration.

        Sparks Fly, Tires Skid transports readers to modern day Longbourn County, Pennsylvania, where heroine Lizzy Bennet lives in a townhouse with her best friend, Charlotte Lucas. The rest of the Bennet family live nearby, albeit not all together as in the original novel. When young hotel heir Charlie Bingley arrives in town with lawyer friend and colleague William Darcy, the two run into Lizzy and her sister Jane quite literally when Lizzy and Darcy are involved in a car crash, which subsequently involves a shouting match laced with swearing and threats of physical violence from spirited Lizzy. Gradually, Lizzy and Darcy grow to understand and love each other after Lizzy meets Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, and Darcy saves Lizzy’s wild, art school-dropout younger sister, Lydia, from Wickham. The pair eventually end up living together and are engaged to be married at the end of the narrative.

        Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale transports the same storyline even further from Regency Era England, by placing Elizabeth and Darcy in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth at the waning of the Third Age, alongside characters from the Lord of the Rings series. Elizabeth is the daughter of a human family living just outside Bree, concerned about the entail of their estate to Mr. Collins, a relative working for the evil and elitist Saruman, who functions as a stand-in for Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Darcy, renamed Darcë, is an elf lord, travelling with his friend Binglorn, a Ranger. Elizabeth and her sister Jane meet Darcë and Binglorn when they attend a dance held at The Prancing Pony, the inn owned by the Bennets’ uncle, Barliman Butterbur. Elizabeth and Darcë go through a series of disagreements before they both arrive at Rivendell after Elizabeth travels there with her beloved father. Elizabeth is forced to depart Rivendell when her younger sister Lydia runs away, but eventually, Elizabeth and Darcë are reunited when she finds out that he helped to rescue Lydia from the clutches of the enemy. The two eventually marry, and Darcë gives up his elven immortality to be with the human Elizabeth.

        John Wiltshire states that, “The ‘great subjects’ of Pride and Prejudice, as Lilian Robinson put it, are ‘class, love, money, and marriage,’” themes which are not confined to a single time or place (111). One of the most important of these themes is class, and the conflicts that arise due to social stratification. These conflicts play out in interactions between heroine Elizabeth Bennet and her love interest, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and are also extremely noticeable in scenes featuring Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Lady Catherine, in particular, exemplifies Regency class awareness when she arrives at the Bennet house to address rumors of Elizabeth’s engagement to Darcy, and states, “Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?” (Austen 273). Class divides often appear as barriers between characters like Elizabeth and Darcy, and by portraying Lady Catherine and her strict enforcement of class codes as ridiculous and overzealous, and showing Elizabeth and Darcy’s successful marriage, Austen critiques this social stratification. Adapting the plot and characters of Pride and Prejudice to fit into another society allows writers to both pay homage to Austen’s work, and to critique the society they choose to focus on, through use of Austenian elements in comparison with Austen’s originals.

        The conflict that arises between OrchidVines’ Darcy and Lizzy also hinges on his upper class origins and high-paying job, and her conceptions of him as a cold, uncaring elitist. The two don’t meet at the Meryton assembly, however, and their class differences are manifest in a new smorgasbord of situations: from Darcy seeming haughty and out-of-place at a Red Robin restaurant, to Lizzy feeling fascinated and shocked by a posh dinner she and Lydia are hosted to by Darcy and his sister Georgiana in New York City. Lizzy initially sees Darcy as an “asshat” and “lawyer and asshole extraordinaire,” and declares, “I couldn’t possibly be with someone as conceited and manipulative as you” (OrchidVines). Darcy also lightly mocks Lizzy’s lower-paying, supposedly less prestigious job, when he refers to her “Kindergarten teacher expertise” (OrchidVines). As in Austen, these characters are aware of the conflicts created by the fact that they come from different worlds, which is where some of the most important societal commentary emerges in fanfiction. OrchidVines’ Darcy and Lizzy do argue due to their class differences, reminding readers that material wealth and social class are still salient and divisive today, but class differences seem to be less concrete and oft mentioned, pointing out a change in society from Regency England to present-day Pennsylvania. Additionally, class still seems most noticeable to characters like Lady Catherine, who judges Lizzy for teaching kindergarten at a public school, suggesting a critique of those who are overly-focused on money and social division.

        Class divides are present in a slightly different form in Lillian C1’s Middle Earth version of Pride and Prejudice, and evident in the difference between Elizabeth and Darcë, as a human and an elf. In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, there are class divides, but Lillian C1 focuses on the struggles created for Elizabeth and Darcë as members of two different races, elf and human, immortal and mortal, respectively.  Elves like Darcë are often perceived by other races as believing themselves to be superior, while humans are sometimes seen as more simple and short-lived than elves or even dwarves. Indeed, when Darcë first spots Elizabeth at an assembly held at the Prancing Pony, she overhears him insulting her appearance when he says to Binglorn, “She might be tolerable according to mortal standards, but she is hardly worth a second glance from one whose eyes are accustomed to beauty of a much grander scale” (Lillian C1). Conflict arises from this perceived superiority, which pushes Elizabeth to feel distaste for Darcë. While this conflict due to class and race divides keeps the two apart when they begin falling in love with each other, the boundary between them is actually less strictly enforced than it is in Pride and Prejudice, as no Lady Catherine arrives to attempt to drive Elizabeth away from Darcë. Additionally, Lillian C1 shows that races in Middle Earth are perhaps not so dissimilar as they were widely thought to be when Elizabeth and Darcë reconcile their differences and overcome the hurdle of elf-human conflict, which divides them and creates erroneous ideas about Darcë in Elizabeth’s mind.

        In addition to class, relationships are crucial to both plot and detailing of societal ideas and norms in Pride and Prejudice, Sparks Fly, Tires Skid, and Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale. Relationships are crucial to Austen’s, OrchidVines’, and Lillian C1’s work, demonstrating the continuing and universal importance of human connection. Whether these relationships are familial, platonic, or romantic, their existence in each story, and similarities and differences between each, show the importance of different types of bonds to different societies. One character who frequently (and especially noticeably) does not receive the same treatment rendered by Austen in fanfiction is Charlotte Lucas, who willingly married Mr. Collins in the original novel in order to gain financial stability and a household for herself. Differing fates for Charlotte point out how ideas and goals for marriage have changed since the Regency Era, both in Sparks Fly, Tires Skid and Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale, and indicate the differing importance of marriage and female friendship in each society.

        In A Hobbit’s Tale, Charlotte appears once again as Elizabeth’s neighbor and closest friend besides her sister Jane. Notably, Jane and Elizabeth are closer than Elizabeth and Charlotte, pointing out the importance of family ties to the Bennet family in Bree. Mr. Collins, as in the original Pride and Prejudice, arrives in the neighborhood early in Lillian C1’s narrative, and proposes marriage to both Elizabeth and Charlotte; however, Lillian C1 makes a major departure from the Austenian plotline in this regard. Collins is denied by both Elizabeth and Charlotte, and it is stated that this Charlotte never even thinks about marrying Collins. According to a note from author Lillian C1, “Of course the reader familiar with Jane Austen’s story will note that Mr. Collins’ marital fate- or lack thereof- is a significant change. I am sorry, but I just could not do what Jane Austen did to poor Charlotte!” (Lillian C1). This author’s note points out, perhaps not necessarily just in Middle Earth, how much more objectionable a loveless marriage to someone insufferable, solely for financial stability, might be regarded as in the present day when she wrote her mashup.

        Even more interestingly, Sparks Fly’s Charlotte, Lizzy’s roommate and best friend, begins dating “douchenozzle” Bill Collins while living with Lizzy and does, eventually, marry him in an ostentatious wedding held in Southern California, stating, “...maybe he’s not exactly my type. But Bill is nothing but a perfect gentleman, and I’ve been missing that in my life.” (OrchidVines). This incarnation of Charlotte does not settle for decently stable finances and a household of her own to run, however; her marriage to Collins quickly ends in divorce, and she moves back to Philadelphia. In addition to pointing out the shifting perceptions of marriage from something permanent to something less definite, and the modern day acceptance of divorce, OrchidVines’ choices for Charlotte also show the increasing importance of female friendship, even after marriage, to women like Lizzy and Charlotte. When Charlotte leaves her marriage, she returns to Longbourn County, Pennsylvania, and hopes to rejoin Lizzy in the townhouse that the two originally shared. Charlotte expresses her guilt over losing touch and her hopes to move back in when she states, “I know I’ve been awful at keeping I can’t expect my room to be empty. I mean, if I were in your position, I’d be renting it out or something. Is that the case?” (OrchidVines). In essence, Charlotte gives up a marital relationship to fall back into a more satisfying platonic female friendship, where she finds more support and satisfaction than she did in her married state. This prioritization never occurs in Pride and Prejudice, a fact that points to the importance of its inclusion here. Female friendship is valued highly in modern America, and rises from something mostly subordinate to a marital relationship to something at least equal, and possibly more stable and longer lasting.

        Lizzy and Darcy’s romantic relationship and courtship are additional facets of Sparks Fly, Tires Skid and Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale that are both central to their plots and important to examine in contrast with Austen’s original. Sparks Fly’s Lizzy and Darcy share a relationship similar to their original counterparts, in which they exist as equals who complement each other in personality and disposition, but other aspects of this relationship depart radically from interactions between the two in Pride and Prejudice. Most noticeably, OrchidVines’ Lizzy and Darcy have a much more physical relationship than Austen’s Lizzy and Darcy do. The two end up engaging in sexual activity in chapter fourteen of Sparks Fly, after Charlotte’s wedding, when Darcy takes a drunk Lizzy back to her hotel room and stays the night to make sure she is safe. They are much less restrained than Regency Lizzy and Darcy, and continue their sexual relationship until they end up cohabitating in chapter thirty. Indeed, Lizzy announces her pregnancy to Darcy before being called Mrs. Darcy, and before even accepting Darcy’s repeated  marriage proposals, a far departure from the course that Regency era courtship would have run. Through comparison with the original Pride and Prejudice, one notices that courtship has become a more informal process for modern Lizzy and Darcy, and that there is no set order of actions leading up to their marriage. Sparks Fly, then, becomes a reflection on modern sexual behaviors, and seems to provide commentary on the confusion of modern day dating and romance. While the path to modern day matrimony may be less structured and often more sexual, Lizzy and Darcy end up in a relationship just as felicitous as that of their Austenian counterparts, pointing out that dating may be different, but not necessarily worse, than in the Regency era.

        Elizabeth and Darcë’s romance in A Hobbit’s Tale departs, perhaps, a bit less from the Austenian storyline, but it is still altered for the Middle Earth setting. While courtship for the Bennet girls proceeds in a similar fashion to Regency England courtships, some steps in the process are altered slightly. Elizabeth and Darcë first meet at an assembly at the Prancing Pony, and end up encountering one another again in Rivendell, at the house of the half-elf Elrond; they begin to overcome their negative feelings for one another as they fall in love, and are eventually married. Interestingly, they do elope, suggesting that their cross-racial marriage still might not be widely approved of or socially sanctioned by other elves and humans, but otherwise, their courtship does not differ much from that of Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. This may point to a more traditional, marriage-oriented society, as Elizabeth ends up leaving her family and friends to be with Darcë, for a romantic relationship that takes priority over familial and platonic loves; however, Lillian C1’s modern-day views are also mixed into her narrative, as noted in relation to her author’s note about “poor Charlotte” (Lillian C1). Elizabeth does leave her family behind, but it is hinted by Mr. Bennet that he will at least be able to see her again in Rivendell, though she may not return to Bree. Elizabeth’s family and friends may be important to her, but in this setting and this narrative, romantic love takes precedence, reflecting the near-universal romanticization and prioritization of romantic love in settings past, present, and otherworldly.

        Fanfiction may be derivative, but it is certainly not meaningless; in fact, its derivativeness can add to its meaning by pointing out the importance of key elements of the original works that inspired it. Writing fanfiction, Pugh asserts, involves, “both relying on...readers’ knowledge of their shared canon and sometimes making them rethink it” (Pugh 33). Pugh continues to explain that fanfiction readers use the existing canon of their source material to set up reader expectations, but often do not adhere to the original storyline exactly, or alter some elements of it in their versions of famous works, reinforcing that by wanting “more of,” a beloved work, fanfiction writers and readers can also get “more from” (Pugh 29). In the cases of Sparks Fly, Tires Skid and Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale, contrasts between the Austen original and fanfiction help the authors depict class and courtship in different settings, and show meaningful changes to courtship narratives and class divisions in each version.

        By creating works like Sparks Fly, Tires Skid and Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale, OrchidVines and Lillian C1 have written new and unique versions of a classic story that can be enjoyed on their own or supplemented by the original Pride and Prejudice, while participating in and contributing to an active community of modern day Jane Austen fans. Additionally, and most importantly to this examination of Austen, these fanfics also point out what makes Pride and Prejudice so timeless and placeless in the first place. While it may not be necessary to include every character and detail of Pride and Prejudice in every adaptation, some elements of the original recur in every successful adaptation, most notably themes of class divisions and how relationships are influenced by these social distinctions. Through representation of class, and detailing of courtship narratives and relationships between characters, it becomes clear that while these themes may be represented in different ways, they are still present in both fanfiction and their original source material, and are necessary to any Austen adaptation.

1. Both fanfictions are posted on by OrchidVines and Lillian C1, respectively, and will be cited using author pseudonyms for the purpose of in-text citations.

Works Cited

Primary Sources

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.

Lillian C1. “Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit’s Tale.” Pride and Prejudice/Lord of the Rings crossover fan fiction. Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy ship., 1 August 2006.

OrchidVines. “Sparks Fly, Tires Skid.” Pride and Prejudice fan fiction. Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy ship., 20 May 2014.

Secondary Sources

Jenkins, Brett. “I Love You to Meaninglessness.” The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 48, no. 2, April 2015, pp. 371-384.

Mirmohamadi, Kylie. The Digital Afterlives of Austen: Janeites at the Keyboard. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Pugh, Sheenagh. The Democratic Genre: Fanfiction in a Literary Context. Seren, 2005.

Troost, Linda and Sayre N. Greenfield. Jane Austen in Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Wiltshire, John. Recreating Jane Austen. Cambridge University Press, 2001.