Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Happy Anniversary!

Today it’s been nine years since Fellowship of the Ring was broadcasted on Flemish TV for the first time, and subsequently nine years since my loving relationship with everything Tolkien began. (Some might call it a relationship, some might call it a religion. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to)

So I thought I might tell you some anecdotes about these years. I wish there was an appropriate banquet to celebrate, but you can just picture me standing up at the end of the table, spoon and glass in hand. As it should be.

Elvish Ewoks
I first saw the Lord of the Rings films in 2005- they had been released on VCR and DVD for years by then. My sister actually had the VCR of The Fellowship, so I had seen bits and pieces in passing before my obsession officially started. And so, for the longest time, I thought the Lothlorien scenes were part of Return of the Jedi. Don’t judge me. They’re also in a huge forest at some point. Granted, elves and ewoks look nothing alike…
(I also thought Jack from the Titanic came back alive, because he’d been frozen like Han Solo… plot twist!)

It took me years to find the extended version of Fellowship of the Ring.
Those babies cost me about 30 euros a piece back then, so I had to save up for at least three weeks to be able to buy them. But I couldn’t find the Fellowship anywhere. I was too young to understand I could buy things from the internet. I searched through every media store in the local shopping mall for about a year or two, to no avail… until eventually I found a battered copy in a commercial book store somewhere else. I’m pretty sure I squeed out loud. I might have even jumped up and down- it’s all a happy blur.
(Of course nowadays you can buy the whole 16-disc set for 30 euros, god damn it)

But it’s not all happiness.
In 2006 I still used to go to the library frequently, and they had a lovely copy of The Hobbit. I borrowed it several times. So when our class went on a three day trip to the zoo (to work there, of course), I took it with me, and put my very old, but very much loved map from my Lord of the Rings books in it. This map was the map of my dreams. The world was still new to me so I kept discovering new things on it. It was foxed with age, and slightly torn at the folds, and it smelled great. My dad bought the books when he was studying at uni so it was at least forty years old.
And then we returned after three days. I unpacked my suitcase in my boarding school bedroom. And the book wasn’t in my suitcase. I checked again- and again- and then I burst out in tears so loudly the caretaker heard me from all the way down the hall. She probably thought I’d broken something.
My mother later called the hostel we’d been staying at, but they found no trace of the book or the map. The book was stolen.
Several years later, I found the exact same version of my LOTR copies at a convention- and they still had the map. My map. But some kids had drawn on it to make it look like a treasure map. I felt like crying.
Now, of course, I got my own new copy of the map now, printed on silk, but if I could ever get the chance to get my map back… I’d pay big money for that.

You can find Lord of the Rings everywhere, if you look hard enough.
For a couple of years, my family used to go on holiday in the Dordogne-area, near Bergerac, ergo middle of nowhere. One of the most memorable things from those days is that we had a flying ant Armageddon happening every evening, but that’s a whole other anecdote altogether (if you ever saw the Prince of Egypt movie, when all the plagues start happening- it was kind of like that).
There wasn’t much to do there, apart from going for walks, riding horses and swimming. We’d go to the nearest village every two days for groceries and looking at souvenirs, but you soon get tired of the same old stores.
I saw a jewel glittering in a shop. It was the evenstar, and never had it been more beautiful.

It cost seventy euros- a huge amount of money for me, back in the day. I couldn’t buy it. My parents wouldn’t buy it for me. I had nightmares where I had the necklace and lost it.
Every day onwards since I had seen the necklace, when we would go to the village I’d go look at it. I can’t quite remember if I had ever wanted anything so badly as I wanted that necklace back then. So my parents made a deal with me: I could ask for the shop’s business card and if I had earned the money they could send it up.
So I saved up all my money- took me more than a month. But I got there. I was so proud; I was finally going to have my very own evenstar. My mom and dad congratulated me. My dad went upstairs to get his wallet… and came back with the evenstar. I was so damn happy. I probably did a bunch more squees and jumping around than when I finally found the Fellowship extendeds.

those dandelions had it coming. They made very easy to kill orcs. I used to put them in hollow bamboo sticks that I’d put in the ground and then hack them off with the most sword-looking twig I could find. I loved to imitate the swooshing moves that Aragorn does when he tells Haleth he has a good sword and that “there’s always hope”. I also tried archery a few times and I wasn’t too shabby. Cue epic grin.

Spellcheck is important.
My copies of Lord of the Rings are so old that I’ve always assumed that they’re the most correct ones. It makes sense that the newer versions are always slightly edited either in choice of words or in order of words. So when I saw that the people of the internet wrote Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo, I was sure they were wrong, because in my copy it’s Elen síla lúmenn' omentielmo. But since they seem to write it with a V everywhere, I had to accept I’ve probably been saying something like “May the stars shine upon the ass of our meeting”.

Pronunciation is important.
When I was about 15, I had a crush on the actor who played Legolas. And it was my first crush, so it was a MASSIVE one. Unfortunately I wore braces at the time, and ONE time I said “Floom” instead of Bloom. And my sister was there to hear it. She never forgot. Luckily that embarrassing crush died after a couple of years, and I even nicknamed myself “Floomkicker” for a while.

Naming my pets and my guitar.
I used to have a lot of bunnies and guinea pigs. They tend to breed, and if you accidentally buy a pregnant female, one thing tends to lead to another. Suffice to say that I had a lot of naming opportunities. I had a bunny called Elanor until I found out it was a male, then I called it Estel- which is actually still a very feminine name, but oh well. I had a guinea pig called Voronwë because I liked the Silmarillion character. I bet there were more, but those are the ones I remember.
I got my guitar when I was about sixteen, and I named it Niniel, because I was in my sad rebel phase and Niniel means Tear-Maiden. (I wasn’t much of a rebel actually, I just cut my hair, got my ears pierced and wore a fake leather jacket)
(If you haven’t, read Children of Hurin! It’s such an awesome story. It’s very Shakespearean with deceit, curses, pride and incest!)

Tolkien makes you smart.
After high school I studied journalism. It wasn’t that much fun because the classes weren’t as big as in uni so that I couldn’t yet choose between hundreds of people to make new friends. But English class was entertaining; this was what my years of talking English on the internet had been for. My shining moment was when the teacher thought the plural of ‘dwarf’ was ‘dwarfs’, and although not incorrect, she didn’t know ‘dwarves’ is also an option. You know why? Because Tolkien didn’t like the letter f and his plurals of elves and dwarves were soon more popular.

Cursing in elvish will make you grin.
Jukette. ‘s all I’m saying.

Enthusiasm will get you free dwarves.
I used to go to a huge flea market every other weekend. It was held in a two-story mall, so you could easily spend several hours wandering about the place. It’s a flea market, so there usually isn’t that much to find unless you’re obsessed with Asian swords and phone chargers, but I once found a tiny Gimli figurine in a cardboard box filled with smurfs and other plastic toys. I must have looked so damn happy because the owner gave it to me for free. Ever since this little man has been sitting in my handbag, as a sort of lucky charm. A Burger King lucky charm, but a lucky charm nonetheless.

Tolkien inspires.
I used to have a white shoe box at the end of my bed (back then part desk, part bunk bed) for several years. And in it I kept my journals, my book of shadow, made-up spells and my story. This story was about a girl who had really awful parents and decides to take on a new hobby- archery. Then eventually she gets chased out of her home by a banshee and she flies away on a Pegasus horse with her new friend she’d made at the archery club to a hidden island called papillon. I think she finds out she’s an elf, but I’m not sure. But she has to fight against kappas and banshees and wolves, and she has her own horse and wolf that take care of her. I never finished it, because when have I ever finished a story? :p

sneaky reading isn’t all that bad.
For the first two years at boarding school we had to spend 1,5 hours in a study hall every evening. And because I’m the type who absorbs just enough knowledge in class that I never really had to study, I had a lot of free time to spend in those long hours. So I read; I figured my copies of Lord of the Rings looked enough like dictionaries that the caretakers wouldn’t notice amongst those hundreds of students. And in hindsight, they probably did notice but didn’t care because there were at all times at least twenty students more mischievous that I was…
those study hall hours were also good for my creativity. I wasn’t writing on my story anymore, but I did start writing poetry, in Tolkien’s style, about nature. It would take me a few more years before I wrote my first English poem:

searching, searching
in a land of whores I'm a virgin
crack is looking at me with hungry eyes
darkness is surrounding, just like the lies
now I'm bleeding with my heart and soul
touches are empty, and deadly cold
if I speak your name
I do it out of pain
you confuse me, but let me pass
walking on a bridge made of broken glass
trapped in the sky that seemed to be blue
I dumped my mind, I did it for you
don't make me beg, but take care of me
together, we're a broken symphony

Oh god. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since then… right, Creative Writing friends? … Friends?

Being a big fan will make you proud.
This year alone has been filled with anecdotes. I won a Gandalf Poster and a Stephen King book in a competition where you had to answer questions about The Hobbit movies, I won an online competition where you had to describe why you’re such a big fan and won two tickets to see a sneak peek of Desolation of Smaug, Desolation of Smaug came out, and now we’ve just had the Fellowship competition where I created two videos (in one I am swimming in Tolkien books), a tile, and a song.
Being able to be immersed in this world with the three new movies is such a lovely experience- and the road goes ever on. I might see Sylvester McCoy this October at a convention. And I will be going to New Zealand in November; I can hardly believe it. I might even be in Wellington on time to see the last premiere happen. It just makes me squee my heart out with giddiness when I think about that.

And there will be more in the future. On the tenth anniversary I’m planning to get the Tolkien logo as a tattoo on my left ribcage (at least if I’m not too chicken). There are still two new extendeds to obtain. And one day, I want to own my own Anduril sword because that sword looks fucking awesome.

Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo,


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