Late March is the time in which we mark the end of the Third Age of Middle-earth and celebrate the defeat of Sauron. In this age, we honor the date with an event known as International Tolkien Reading Day. In the past, Reading Day has been quite an elaborate affair for the Grey Havens Group. This year, however, we have a number of projects in the works, including our upcoming Real Myth and Mithril Symposium, so we will be keeping things simple. The party will be hosted by Roger Echo-Hawk in our Hobbit Hole. All will be invited to read their favorite passages from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and works inspired by or in the tradition of Tolkien but our Reading Day would not be complete if we neglected the limerick challenge issued by Katy Colby each year. This year, she issued the Call to Rhyme in a verse of her own composition. Who can resist?
On our very next meet-up
You’re in for a treat-up
As we celebrate our favorite bits
Of our great author’s works.
And if your talent lurks
In twisting words round with your wits,
Each year we have shared,
And all those who dared
Were rewarded with praise and much fun.
This time, for a change
Just to add to our game
There is a sweet prize to be won.
Now, here are the rules:
Your words are your tools,
Create a new limerick verse
Draw your inspiration
From fantasy creation;
The Professor’s most fair Middle Earth
Or from George R.R. Martin,
If that’s where your heart’s in.
Who knows what your talent is worth?
Keep it five lines, no more
With rhymes by the score.
For our young folks, we keep it PG.
The winner decided
By vote of those present.
It’s bound to be fun, don’t you see.
We came down to the Grey Havens Hall of Fire. There we found many folk of Middle-earth standing on the shore of an ancient sea. In their finest raiment they stood waiting.
Claywise had on his traveler’s hooded cloak, just back from Woody End; Amia wore her Grey Havens Map Glass; the Colby Clan had donned their wonderfully creative anachronisms; Kate had become one of the first women to serve in the soldiery of Gondor; Michele and Courtney came arrayed in whirls of starlit beauty; Ivan and Andrea and Pallando and Liritar and Withywyndle chose to wear raiment displaying the glyphs of Grey Havens. And Badgaladriel wore Nenya, the Ring of Water. The White Ring.
And there appeared Rosie Cotton. I heard later that Queen Arwen had paused upon her throne in Minas Tirith, and she had determined to send Rosie upon a quest. They wished to know something of the way it was that day at Grey Havens. Of how we had remembered the Fall of Sauron; of how we had toasted Gollum.
We had a guest visiting from the Havens of Umbar, a Corsair Captain. He planned to wrest a prize from us. When he returned to the quays, he indeed took a prize with him. On his ship he would tell everyone the strange tale of his new friends at Grey Havens.
There crept a deadly Ringwraith among us. This Nazgûl had left in the parking lot her winged creature from some cold mountain eyrie under the Moon. Withywyndle spoke with her briefly, peering into the darkness of her hood. I felt too afraid to say anything.
Waiting, I heard in the Hall of Fire the shimmering of a gentle waterfall. Dyhrddrdh’s harp swirled. I entered to listen. It reminded me somehow of Tuor “watching the swirling of the stream and listening to its endless voice[.]” I don’t know exactly why.
People gathered slowly. A calm flaming lit our eyes when Badgaladriel greeted us. We clapped for the joy of the day.
In this celebration of the Middle-earth New Year, we would together subcreate the next version of our mythology. For this was Tolkien Reading Day. Today we would meet for the first time in the Grey Havens Hall of Fire at Barbed Wire Books.
Badgaladriel stood before the Grey Havens Banner with its Swan Ship lit by a lantern. Her words somehow invited us to peer into a mirror. There she would weave with her gestures a kind of spell to begin the storytelling. I’m not sure, but maybe she said, “This is what some folk would call magic.”
Many storytellers stood up to speak their wonderful sayings. When John read we felt a joyful sorrow in our hearts. I began to feel as if… well, sometimes we wish for certain stories to carry us away and keep on going. Like what happens when the raveled fabrics of our lives get woven into a seamless epic tapestry that never ends.
When this happens we must clap. We must smile. We must weep. Let us laugh together.
In the outer hall I happened to see Pallando. The Blue Wizard stood next to… I wondered if she might be from Lothlórien. I was right. Heather had met Pallando at the University Flet of the City of Caras Galadhon.
I spoke with Pallando as he peered into his palantír to search for someone across the bent seas. Pallando would find this person; he would set his palantír in the Hall of Fire. And across the bent seas someone would gaze into his distant palantír to see our doings at Grey Havens. Clapping later, I thought I also heard tiny faint hands from the other side of the world.
In the Hall of Fire Liritar Taur’ohtar stood to read a poem he had been composing in the corner. It told of the Land of the Moon and how that enchanted realm breathes and endures. The Ranger had journeyed here from a rumored secret fastness there, but he would not say where that place was.
Badgaladriel smiled and we applauded and she said to Liritar, “Now we had better have it again!” And she didn’t say that very often. Not many poets in the Hall of Fire ever get asked for a second reading.
Withywyndle read a poem of Lothlórien. An Elvish legend of lost love it was. She said she had learned this poem and its lore from Steve, an Elven poet who had gone into the West – Claywise the Hobbit peered over his feet and shouted, “Into the far East!” It all depends, replied Withywyndle, on which way you go when you leave Grey Havens.
And the Grey Havens Minstrels sang to us. I closed my eyes. I slowly murmured to myself, “This is like an enchantment that becomes more and more dreamlike… an endless river of swelling gold and silver…” I opened my eyes to see Courtney singing. And David strummed his magic guitar. And Dyhrddrdh’s harp swirled.
So yes, this is the legend of what happened when Grey Havens met for the first time in the Hall of Fire at Barbed Wire Books. Long we wandered… Strange roads sometimes… Roads that go ever on…
Together we set sail at the end of that day. For the New Year had brightened our hearts and our faces – now a star was shining at the edge of a forever lengthening twilight. And the Blue Mountains echoed and echoed at the first rising of the Moon that night.
On the eve of the fall of Sauron, after setting up activity tables and seating at Barbed Wire Books for Tolkien Reading Day, Grey Havens adjourned to dinner at The Dickens. There Courtney and Charles told the story of our banner. Charles was inspired by Courtney’s Tolkien-themed scarf, and asked her to create a banner for Grey Havens. He consulted with Kelly, who immediately suggested the swan ship as our group symbol, and Courtney proceeded to create this beautiful work of art! The Grey Havens Group banner stands as a wonderful symbol of how we work together in friendship to create our communal mythology. Our banner makes its debut appearance at today’s Tolkien Reading Day festivities.