A real castle near the center of Holland was the location for this years Elf Fantasy Fair last weekend. Amongst a whole range of special guests were Tolkien-illustrator extraordinaire Ted Nasmith and Gamling-actor Bruce Hopkins. I was fortunate enough to be there as well and spend some time with both, here’s a short report.

The Elf Fantasy Fair is said to be the biggest Fantasy-event in Europe. This year some 10.000 people attended, a little bit less then expected, and it was just a pity that the weather didn’t hold. We have had a few weeks of great weather over here but Murphy’s Law kicked in and during the weekend (and especially saturday) we had mostly rain. Because the Fair was an outdoor event (a lot of the activities were outside save for the many lectures, signing sessions and music perormances that were held in tents) the bad weather put its stamp on the weekend. On sunday however it cleared up and we actually got some sun, which made for a nice change.

Despite the bad weather a lot of people still found the time to attend the Fair, which offered something for everyone. There was a large fantasy-market where one could buy pretty much anything even remotely fantasy-related, there were special tents dedicated to fantasy-games, there was a real Middle-age battle and many other such things. A special part of the Fair was reserved for tents which hosted lectures and signing sessions from famous authors such as Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, Juliet Marillier and Cate Tiernan. Lord of the Rings-fans could spend their time listening to lectures or a musical performance from Ted Nasmith and Alex Lewis and several q&a sessions with actor Bruce Hopkins. Because I would be there for two days I figured I’d spend one day attending Ted Nasmith and Alex Lewis’ lectures and performance and the other day Bruce Hopkins’ program.

I have had the pleasure to meet both Ted Nasmith and Bruce Hopkins before. I met Ted on the opening night of his exhibition in Chalk Farm Gallery, London in 2001 [Ted Nasmith: A World of Dreams and Nightmares] and Bruce of course attended our Two Towers: One Party. Amazingly enough they both recognised me (must be my height) which made introducing myself a bit easier. Ted Nasmith is one of my favorite illustrators. I especially love his landscape-paintings such as ‘Rivendell’ or ‘Turin and his Band led to Amon-Rudh’, they are truly gorgeous and I don’t think anyone can deny that. What struck me during Ted’s lectures was that they weren’t that crowded, and I think that’s a pity.I like Ted’s work because it hasn’t been so much inspired by or served as an inspiration for the movies. Ted’s vision of Middle-earth is straight from the books and that makes for a very nice change. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what John Howe and Alan Lee have done both on the movies as on their own but for me (and I think for a lot of people) their work will from now on always be linked to these movies.

Anyway, as I was saying: there wasn’t a huge crowd in the tent when Ted spoke so a lot of people missed his very interesting lecture. The first one dealt with how he came to be an illustrator and how he first started reading Tolkien’s books. He also talked about his preparations before starting on a piece. Very interesting stuff. In his second lecture, later that day, he talked for a fair while about his other occupations and how he filled his days. He revealed he will be illustrating a new version of the Illustrated Silmarillion with six new works and he will also be doing cover art for the 5th George R.R. Martin
book of the ICE AND FIRE Series.
(thanks to Cirdan from Herr-der-Ringe-film.de for correcting me). Last but not least he talked about how he got asked to be involved with the movies and why he had to decline. It didn’t keep him out of work though and looking back Ted admitted he was actually kind of glad he didn’t do it.

Except for giving lectures and signing autographs Ted Nasmith also performed a few songs twice a day with Alex Lewis. Lewis, the author of ‘The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien’, gave a lecture about Tolkien’s Rings of Power which dealt with some interesting points. Although I have to admit I haven’t read the book I guess most of the stuff from his lecture is in it. Anyway, the two are apparently good friends and were kind enough to perform some of the Tolkien-inspired music they wrote together which was just wonderful. If anyone happens to know if they have a cd out let me know!

Bruce Hopkins was the opposite of Ted Nasmith. Ted was quiet, well thought-over and, for lack of a better word, a bit shy on stage. Bruce on the other hand was a stage-animal, something that probably ties in with his non-acting related jobs which include MC-ing conventions and being part of a comedy duo. During his Q&A’s (twice a day) he broke the ice with the crowd by having them participate in a great Rohan-ritual: a charge on thousands of Uruk-hai and he showed off his t-shirt (one sent to him by an American fan which said ‘Isengard Swim Team’ on the front and ‘Team Elf’ on the back, great stuff). There were quite a lot of people in the tent when Bruce was doing his sessions and most of them ended a bit later then expected due to the fact that Bruce every question very thoroughly. He spoke how he got his part, what is was like on set, how long it took for him to get read for filming and pretty much anything else that people asked him. Unfortunately he couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about his involvement in The Return of the King saying that he didn’t know how much he would feature in it. He did reveal that at a certain point during the production Bernard Hill (Theoden) tried to get the script changed in such a way that Bruce’s character (Gamling) would get his own deathscene. Now contrary to popular belief getting your own deathscene as an actor is a good thing (really it is, Bruce told me so!), but unfortunately by that time someone from higher up decided that there couldn’t be any more script changes so the idea was abandonned.

Talking to Bruce Hopkins was undoubtedly one of the best things of the entire weekend because he really is a great guy. This was his first convention and from what I gathered he’ll be doing a lot more of them in the future. He’s a good speaker and took time out for everyone who wanted an autograph or a picture. I managed to ask him a few questions as well, so be sure to keep an eye out for that on TORn Digital sometime in the future. I think that just about wraps up what I wanted to say, if you are in the neighbourhood for the Elf Fantasy Fair 2004 next year be sure to check it out!

For more information about Ted Nasmith or Bruce Hopkins check out their websites: www.TedNasmith.com and/or www.Bruce-Hopkins.com!