I dreamt last night I was in Middle-earth. I visited Bilbo in Bag End and watched as hobbits celebrated his 111th birthday. I stood before the bar in the town of Bree. I saw riding Nazgul and Orcs in full armour. I saw Men of Gondor standing guard to the gates of Minas Tirith. I walked through the Golden Hall and knelt before the thrown of Theoden. I WAS in Middle-earth. Or so it seems. When I wake from these kinds of dreams, I can usually only remember bits and pieces. For your sake, I will try and relate the events, people, and atmosphere of this dream for all to understand.
The dream begins…
Here I am walking up a cobblestone hill with three of my good friends, Amy, Leo, and Maurice. The sounds of music intermingle with the ear-piercing shrills of a Nazgul in the distance. Leo and Maurice run ahead to talk to some fellow Dutchman, as Amy and I continue up the hill lined with candles. In the haziness ahead, I can make out two giagantic horses with riders dressed in dark black robes. As we get closer, I realize that the Nazgul are approaching us. You haven’t really felt fear until you stare down the nose of a Nazgul’s black steed in full armour. Surpisingly, Amy reaches out and touches this foul beast. We continue on.
Ahead is a bluish light illuminating a gazebo, masterfully hand carved. Inside are two elves, dancing and singing merily to a haunting theme. The lights of the candles dance wildly with the movement of the elves.
Leo and Maurice catch up to us again as we near a gate. Nothing exceptionally special about this gate except the eight or ten strongmen surrounding it. Beyond the gate, we can see a horde of cameras and reporters that seem trapped behind a fence. As we pass through the gate, by benefit of our medallions, the magic really begins.
A red carpet, scattered with rose petals, is laid at our feet. On a hill to our left is a castle. At its gates are two Men of Gondor with pikes double their size. They are dressed in full armour with an emblem of a white tree on their chest. Their helms have plumes of white sprouting out from boths sides of their head. As we look closer, the same emblem seen on the warriors, adorns the castle wall.
To our right is a sea of reporters and tv crews. One by one they pull Samwise and Boromir and others into their web of questions. Behind the sea are a few hobbit holes with rather unique signs on the doors. One looks like a universal symbol for a man, the other, looks to be the universal symbol for woman. Indeed, these are the bathrooms!
As we walk over the carpet, we immediately are greeted by two hobbits inviting us into what looks to be Bag End. These hobbits, with rather realistic looking hairy feet and traditional old english dress, request we duck down as we enter this subterreanian home.
But right before we enter through the round door of the Baggin’s household, guess who comes out the front door! Gandalf himeself! Gandalf was very well dressed, not in his typical costume, and rather happy to be at a party. He was kind enough to talk a few minutes with us and compliment TheOneRing.net. I made doubly sure, that he knew, we ‘the fans’ loved what we saw of the screening.
We said our pleasant goodbyes and entered Bag End. As I look up and around, I see the same hobbit hole that I had seen days earlier in movie footage. Here is the chandelier where Gandalf bumps his head. Oh, look, there is the map from the Hobbit! And yes, of course there are pipes and presents and many other hobbit like things in this hole. This is definitely Bilbo Baggins’ home, but where is he? I was quite surprised when Aragorn walked down the hall with as much interest as I had for this place. We all followed him out the back entrance and were immediately greeted by…
A Troll! It was one of the Trolls that had been turned to stone by the sun so many years ago after attempting to eat Bilbo and company. This hideous creature had one arm resting while the other seemed to be reaching out towards us. Two more hobbits where camping in front of this aboinmation, as if they were tempting fate. It also could have been a result of the fully stocked bar that just so happened to be right next to them.
After escaping the view of the Troll, we walked through a small hobbit market with food and wares for all to enjoy. At the end of this market were stairs to what looked like a hazy pond. The blue glow and the haze made it hard to see what was below, so we decided to descend the staircase and have a look for ourselves.
Behold! Elves were singing and dancing around another gazebo. An arcade of simliar hand crafted construction was on one side of a pool that stretches the entire area. In this pool, you could see the Lady Galadriel’s swan ship floating softly on the water. While Galadriel was not there herself, the ten or so elves more then covered the required atmosphere. At the far end of the pool was a cookery where roast pig, salmon and fish were cooked for all to have. And of course, another bar.
As we climbed out, of what was Rivendell and Lothlorien at the same time, we ran smack into Saruman himself. The man was intimidating and had a large group of people around him. We tried to sneak into the conversation, but failed miserably, as the crowd was too big. The tone and demenor of this man was too attractive for anyone to resist. He managed to demand your gaze and attention with much ease, and we could see how a multi-colored wizard could cause some problems. Thanks to Amy, who wanted to look around more, we managed to pull away and continue on.
We walked passed a live band playing Frank Sinatra and proceeded to near the original entrance. We must have missed these fellows before, but now, standing directly on the side of the castle, were 3 fully garbed orcs. They were VERY ugly. The armour they wore looked extremely disorganized and disheveled, but definitely functional. I approached one and asked if I could touch his shirt. He obliged. I was happy to see that this armour was in fact rubbery to the touch and probably could not withstand a blow from a Gondorian pike.
The orcs were standing next to two sets of pillars. The first set had four sides, each with a vulture skeleton at the top, hideous claws in the middle, and deep gauges at the base. The second set was much more intimidating, with an evil creature’s foul face protruding from the front. The chin jutted out with an wicked gotee, and horns adorned its head. We quickly moved away from this area.
Now it was time to enter Minas Tirith and see what treasures were held inside. As we passed by the two Gondorian guards, I could swear one of them grunted something in French, but I wasn’t sure.
In the main hall were two large cases and a series of chairs, each with a framed image above. As it looked, everyone from Lord of the Rings was pictured above these chairs in beautifully photographed poses. The cases held treasures of middle-earth that anybody would love to get their hands on. There was a Wraith’s blade, Galadriel’s vial, Haldir’s sword, and Gandalf’s staff, just to name a few. Many people crowded around these cases staring at the craftmanship and detail these objects displayed.
Four very well armoured men guarded the next room. To our surprise, we were standing in the Golden Hall! You ask, How can we tell? Intricately designed and decorated horses adorned everything, from horse framed paintings to horse heads atop the room’s pillars. Even the armour of the men in this room had the horse image on it. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the front of the hall where shields and swords surrounded an imposing throne. While Theoden was not seated in the thrown himself, there were two long haired bearded men standing guard at its sides. This time, when I asked to feel the armour, it was real. The chain metal skirt that they wore undearneath the breastplate would be useful in battle. The orcs don’t have a chance.
We exited the great hall and found ourselves in a small courtyard. This area was also decorated with colorful banners and flags, but from what looked to be places all over middle-earth. We stopped at the bar here to get some wine, and moved on down a very unstable cobbelstone walkway that wrapped around the back of the castle. And voila, we were back near the band.
It was at this point, that we finally decided to get something to eat. The roast pig, fish, fresh side dishes, and drink were just too much to resist. To avoid the lines, we travelled back down to Rivendell and Lothlorien to join the shorter lines. I feasted on skewered lamb shesh-ka-bob , scalloped potatoes, and some bread, while Amy ate salmon shese-ka-bob. We both drank some fine wine. Leo and Maurice also shared in the food and we all sat near the arcade of Rivendell.
What happened next is unclear. All at once, I was overcome by a sense that something great was near us. Something that could control the vision and style of middle-earth with a stroke of his hand, and there he was, John Howe. Leo had interviewd Mr. Howe at a conference in the Netherlends, but nothing had prepared us for meeting one of the great Tolkien artists ever, here, in Middle-earth. Equipped with an ‘eye of sauron’ pin and his sketchpad, we politely called out his name and said Hello. John was a great person and very fun to talk to. He loved the footage we had seen as much as we did, and couldn’t wait to see the rest. I mentioned how the Balrog seemed to be similar to the one he drew for the recent board game, and he nodded. He expressed his honor in seeing his creations on paper come to life on the big screen. After talking with John, and finishing our meals, we decided to head back to the castle to look around more.
Just as we walked through the front gates of Minas Tirith again, guess who we saw! Bilbo Baggins and his daughter! Bilbo was much shorter then I had imagined, but seemed genuinely happy to be at this occasion. After all, there was a huge sign hanging on a wall outside wishing him Happy Birthday! He was very pleasant, but had never seen TheOneRing.net. His daughter had, however, and we talked briefly about how wonderful his work was in the footage, and how we can’t wait to see the final product.
We moved again into the courtyard…
Thus ends part one of my Middle-earth dream. The next installment involves meeting a bunch of people from Middle-earth, the visionary behind the entire process, and a wonderful time with the dwarf that the whole movie is based on. Gimli of course. (Or so he likes to say!)