Since I don’t live in New Zealand, England, or even on either coast of the US, there haven’t been a large number of Tolkien-related events for me to attend. Therefore, it was my great pleasure to discover the Tolkien Reading Day celebration hosted by The Grey Havens Group at Barbed Wire Books in Longmont, Colorado!
The group’s website listed a number of activities and contests, including a costume contest. Though I was a bit anxious about it, I dressed as Rosie Cotton (and only got a few strange looks while driving.) The moment I walked through the door, I knew I was among kindred spirits; everywhere I looked, there were citizens of Middle-earth!
The nice man at the door offered to write my name in Hobbit runes on my name tag, and also wrote my name in English using beautiful calligraphy. I was instantly welcomed by a number of members of The Grey Havens Group who pointed out the refreshments, the silent auction, the craft table, and the sign-up sheet for readings and performances.
After a bit of mingling, Kelly Cowling started things off. “I have learned two very important things as a charter member of The Grey Havens Group. The first is the extraordinary power of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion to bring people together,” she said. “The second is that Tolkien fans are some of the best, brightest, kindest, noblest people you will ever meet.” Though their group is in its infancy, Kelly likened it to a family and welcomed the rest of us to their second annual Tolkien Reading Day bash.
Kelly went on to quote C.S. Lewis on his friend J.R.R. Tolkien. “The value of myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance that is hidden by the veil of familiarity. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into myth, we do not retreat from reality; we discover it. As long as the story lingers in our minds, the real things are more themselves. The Lord of the Rings applies the treatment not only to bread and apple, but to good and evil, to our endless perils, our anguish, and our joys. By dipping them in myth, we see them more clearly.”
Next began the readings. It was fascinating to listen to the different voices as they read some of their favorite passages. John Hitchcock read from The Two Towers, though he apologized for not performing Treebeard “properly.” He said, “As a tenor, I cannot do him justice.” I read about the gifts that Bilbo gave to friends and relatives, but most people chose moving pieces. Deirdre read from The Passing of the Grey Company, Kate read the “Arise Riders of Theoden” speech, Ivan read about the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog, and Amia read from The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, accompanied by Deirdre on the harp.
Others spoke of the effect Tolkien has had on their lives. Jason, a Dungeons and Dragons player, said, “If it weren’t for Tolkien, fantasy wouldn’t be quite as fantastic as it is.” Charles, a founding member of The Grey Havens Group, presented his own poem inspired by The Professor’s appreciation of the land.
Later, The Grey Havens Minstrels performed a number of songs from the Lord of the Rings films, including “Into the West,” “Pippin’s Song,” “May It Be,” and “Gollum’s Song.” Deirdre played the harp, David played guitar, and Courtney provided the vocals. Deirdre was particularly excited to perform a harp solo of “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold” for the very first time.
Interspersed amongst the performances were Elvish language quizzes, trivia quizzes, and rounds of “Name that Character.” I’m pleased (and only barely surprised) to announce that every single contestant answered correctly and won a prize!
As the event was nearing its end, Kelly announced the winners of the silent auction. I was very happy to have won a t-shirt that said, “Hobbits are Tolkien Minorities.” Other prizes included posters, handmade scarves and gloves, and an autographed picture of David Wenham who played Faramir in the films. Overall, the silent auction raised $200! The participants in the coloring contest and costume contest won gift certificates to Barbed Wire Books.
Can I brag a little? I won first place in the costume contest and immediately spent my gift certificate in the store. Owner Kathe Heinecken took very good care of me, as she does for the group. They have been meeting at her shop since the very beginning, and she is a friendly and magnanimous host!
I was sad to have to leave, but everyone encouraged me to join their usual meetings on the first and third Tuesday of every month at Barbed Wire Books. I hope to be able to join them in the future!
More photos are available on my Flickr page.