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Festival in the Shire 2010

Member's reports from Tolkien related events.
#1) 

Festival in the Shire 2010

Postby Iolanthe » Wed Aug 18, 2010 6:45 pm

Festival in the Shire


Image

13-15 August 2010

Pontrhydfendigaid, Wales



Well, Marbretherese, Jonick and I are back from another Excellent Adventure at the Festival in the Shire and had a fantastic time listening to Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, John Garth and a host of other major speakers, listening to some wonderful music, seeing Tolkien inspired art and hearing the Tale of Beren and Luthien magically told. There are many more things to tell you, so I've created this thread where we can share our Festival reports with you when we manage to get around to writing them!

© Festival in the Shire TM

Last edited by Iolanthe on Thu Aug 19, 2010 6:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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#2) 

Postby Pam » Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:35 pm

Oh how I wish I could have been there! Cant wait to read about your adventures!
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#3) 

Postby Iolanthe » Thu Aug 19, 2010 6:55 pm

We had a great time! All I need now is an opportunity to write up an account of it but it takes time to do it properly. I shall start on Part 1 tommorrow :D . Watch this space!
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...
Iolanthe
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#4) 

Postby Merry » Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:39 pm

What a teaser! :twisted:
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.
Merry
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#5) 

Postby Iolanthe » Fri Aug 20, 2010 5:09 pm

Festival in the Shire 2010

or

Three go Wild in Wales


Image
The Pafiliwn Bont – Festival Pavillion

© Iolanthe


It’s a long way to Wales from where we live. Almost as far as Mordor to the Shire but with motorway service stations. Marbretherese and Jonick picked me up from home and, because I was exhibiting at the Festival, I had a mountain of paintings and prints and assorted exhibition sundry filling my hallway alongside the usual suitcase and Other Essential Holiday Stuff - sun cream, umbrella, too many shoes, extra holiday pants (why????) and the kitchen sink. Jonick was momentarily struck dumb by the sight of it all. Probably because he realised getting it in the car would be like stuffing an Oliphaunt into a Hobbit Hole. But somehow we managed to get all of it (and me) into the backseat of the car without putting Marbretherese on the roof (my plan B).

Several long hours later during which I tortured Marbrertherese and Jonick for hours with my free I-Spy book ‘On a Car Journey’ (15 points for a Highland Cow! 10 points for a statue of Queen Victoria! 50 points if we’re pursued by a police vehicle!), we arrived at Pontrhydfendigaid, a village not far from Aberystwyth but very much in the Shire. My delight at arriving in what was a really beautiful area of Wales was only shadowed by the lack of Highland Cattle. I mean, if Marbretherese can’t spot one, who can?

We found our holiday bungalow (no I-Spy points for holiday bungalow :( ) and dumped our stuff, then headed over to nearby Pafiliwn Bont, the pavilion where the Festival was going to take place, loaded with all my exhibiting bumf. Everything was all over the place and still being assembled for next morning’s opening and – from the amount to do – the volunteers deserve 10 Gold Stars for getting it all done in time, because in the morning it looked just great. We found out where the Exhibition area was and all the other paintings apart from mine were already up. Seeing them all made me feel like stuffing mine back in the bubble wrap and taking them home again because the exhibition was wonderful. Lots from Ruth Lacon (a lovely new mermaid painting caught my eye), Rodney Matthews (a wonderful Old Man Willow!!!), Paul Raymond Gregory, some Roger Garlands' (who, alas, couldn’t make the Festival), Stephen Walsh and a few others. It looked as though Orcs had been ripping trees apart in there, as there were bits of branch and twigginess all over the place but it turned out that they were going to be used in an artistic Middle-earthy way to protect visitors from tripping over wires and floor lights. Phew. Though I think Treebeard would have had a heart attack or two!


Image
My paintings in the last space, with assorted twigs

© Iolanthe


After leaving all my stuff to be hung in the dismembered forest, we headed back for a meal and so to bed. I was especially lucky because I had a Skating Bed which rolled about on the wooden floor every time I turned over. Whenever I put the light on I was somewhere else in the room, sometimes near the wall, sometimes near the door, sometimes sideways. Once I swear it did a triple lutz (I was probably dreaming that one). About 4am I rolled out of the bed altogether. I’ve haven’t had such an exciting night since I fell out of a bunk crossing the North Sea and thought I was being strangled by my duvet.


Day 1 of the Festival

We were up bright (well, Marbretherese and Jonick anyway) and early and I left Marbretherese and Jonick to a more leisurely pace while I headed off for the first talk of the Festival, which the two of them had already heard at last year's Oxonmoot while I was off doing something else. This was Colin Duriez, who was going to speak on JRR Tolkien and the Inklings in Wartime. This is where I have to make a confession. My notes made during all the talks are awful. I found I could listen better when I didn’t write and – looking back over what I did write, I can’t read my own handwriting which looks like it was done by a blind spider after a few too many. I think this, more than anything, is a testimony to how good the Conference talks were because I didn’t want to miss listening to anything!

Duriez had a lot of interesting things to say about the Inklings, the dynamics of the group and the support they gave to each other. I hadn’t really appreciated that the Inklings existed as a literary club from 1933-49 (meeting mainly in Lewis’s rooms) but lasted much longer as an informal ‘talking’ club in the Bird and Baby (Eagle and Child) and other favoured pubs. Duriez said that ‘Christianity and the tendency to write’ were the core reasons for the group and that they probably started calling themselves the ‘Inklings’ in 1933. Both Lewis and Tolkien were, of course, ‘clubbable’ with a tendency to form groups. Duriez thought that the years during WW11 were the most important for the club, which is when Charles Williams joined. The battle of good and evil became a very important theme for the writers in the group, handled in different ways by each of them as they wrestled with the idea of power, the rise of the machine and the nature of evil. Lewis wrote The Problem of Pain and for Tolkien the Ring took on increasing power and influence in his developing Lord of the Rings. Another growing theme in the group was the idea of Purgatory which Lewis explored in The Great Divorce and Tolkien in Leaf by Niggle. The Inklings presents a challenge to anyone studying it as there are very few accounts of the meetings, but Duriez talked about one recorded meeting where Tolkien read from either The Shadow of the Past or The Council of Elrond, Lewis from The Problem of Pain and Williams (I think) from a Nativity based story. Much of Lewis’s writing showed the influence of Tolkien’s and William’s thoughts on these issues. Duriez described how the Inkings would meet in different combinations depending on who was free and that where one or two are gathered together “there it was” (i.e. the Inklings). A very interesting talk and one that left me realising that I don't know enough about the Inkings. I feel another book order coming on.

After Duriez’s talk we had Tom Shippey’s first talk of the weekend, which is where Marbretherese and Jonick appeared. All the conference talks were in the ‘Library’ a room filled with beautiful old book cases filled with old volumes, and amazing stained glass window and a magnificent carved table good enough for Gondor (as someone pointed out to me).

I’ll save Shippey for my next instalment as I want, at least, to get something posted today for you all. But, I mean Shippey…. wow! Perhaps the nearest thing you can get to Tolkien :lol: !
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...
Iolanthe
Uinen
 
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#6) 

Postby Merry » Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:53 pm

As Sam said about Dwarvish, Welsh must be a jaw-cracker! I have no idea how to go about pronouncing the name of the town you visited!

But, as always, I enjoyed your beginning report immensely and the display of your work looks wonderful! I like how you matted and framed it all. How were sales?

I think I read Duriez' biography of Tolkien and I didn't appreciate it much. (Not sure it was his, though: it left the house after I read it, because whoever wrote it claimed that JRRT suffered from clinical depression.) He's probably right about Charles Williams' influence on the Inklings, though. And The Great Divorce is one of my favorite books; I have purchased it often, since I never get it back when I loan it out! It's a great explanation of purgatory and it would be interesting to compare the date of its writing with whenever Tolkien had Frodo sail out to the West because, in a letter, Tolkien calls that purgatorial.

Looking forward to hearing about Shippey!
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.
Merry
Varda
 
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#7) 

Postby Iolanthe » Sat Aug 21, 2010 8:50 am

Sales were very good, Merry. I was pretty pleased. I only had prints and cards in the shop area as I intend to keep all the Tolkien originals for display - mainly because (at the moment) I don't have so many of them compared to my other paintings!

Duriez wrote 'Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings'. Is that the book you were thiking of?

Pontrhydfendigaid is (I think) pronounced Pont-reed-fen-dig-guide. Welsh is a lovely language to listen too. I can really understand why Tolkien fell in love with the sound of it and based Sindarin on it.
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...
Iolanthe
Uinen
 
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#8) 

Postby marbretherese » Sat Aug 21, 2010 11:40 am

Fifty points if we’d been pursued by a police vehicle? I wish you’d mentioned that . . . I’m sure we could have arranged it somehow!!

I’ll add in bits to Iolanthe’s commentary as we go along, as usual.

Image
Parc Teifi
© marbretherese 2010


Having spent several hours dodging lorries on the motorway, we were relieved to cross the Welsh border and travel on civilised roads into Ceredigion, a part of Wales I’d never visited. Even in the rain the scenery was glorious, and although I was navigating we didn’t get lost once!

The holiday complex at Parc Teifi is right next to the river, which we could hear running at night, and each chalet is named after one of the Welsh monks who used to live at the nearby Strata Florida Abbey, now a ruin. I was delighted to find that our chalet had a name which could have come straight out of the Tolkien legendarium:

Image
Deíníol
© marbretherese 2010


We were only a short walk from Pafiliwn Bont but Iolanthe had so much stuff that we took the car round and the three of us staggered inside under a weight of framed originals, paintings, prints and cards. Luckily the young team of volunteers didn’t seem at all fazed by this and happily relieved us of everything so we could go and get supper; however first Jonick and I had to physically prise Iolanthe away from her artworks. She was devasted to learn that she couldn’t actually sleep with them in the Pavilion overnight :D .

Jonick and I headed to the village shop the next morning, having already heard Colin Duriez talk about The Inklings in Wartime at Oxonmoot - I bought his book JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis there. Colin was one of the conference directors and worked extremely hard throughout the weekend, as did everyone involved in the Festival. Several people had been unable to get to the Festival until after the conference started on Friday morning so by 10am there were quite a few of us waiting to join those already inside the Library for Tom Shippey’s talk . . .
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/
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#9) 

Postby Merry » Sat Aug 21, 2010 4:30 pm

My apologies: it was not Duriez' work that I was thinking of. :oops: It was Grotta's biography. Duriez was featured a lot in the LOTR movie extras, right?

Wales, including your little holiday village, sounds wonderful! Thanks for the link to Strata Florida.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.
Merry
Varda
 
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#10) 

Postby Philipa » Sat Aug 21, 2010 6:47 pm

What a wonderful beginning. :clapping: Iolanthe you'd be a great back seat partner for my 12 year old son. He loves playing such games in the car. :lol:

Interesting talk about the Inklings though I know very little of the group. It never much interested me I guess. :oops:

I can't wait to read the Shippey report and what follows. :D
Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!

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#11) 

Postby Lindariel » Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:57 pm

How wonderful to return from my vacation and then a business trip to Chicago to find such goodies! Can't wait to hear more!
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#12) 

Postby Iolanthe » Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:17 pm

Day 1 Part 2: Did I mention Tom Shippey?


Image
Tom Shippey gets ready for his talk

© Iolanthe


I last left off where Mabretherese and Jonick had arrived for Shippey’s talk. His theme was in keeping with the Welsh nature of the conference and was on Tolkien’s Welsh Library, and (again) my notes are all over the place because I think I was hyperventilating. Duriez introduced him and, in an unusual moment of complete fluster, managed to call him a Professor of English Literature. Shippey is, of course, a Profession of English Language and feels as strongly about the distinction between the two as Tolkien did (as we know, Shippey has followed in Tolkien’s academic footsteps). Poor Colin. Shippey’s correction was very funny and Duriez said ‘At least I got your name right.’

Shippey said that Tolkien’s Welsh library contained all the standard texts, dictionaries and grammars that you would expect and that he had dated them all 1922. This is when Tolkien was developing his ‘B’ scheme at Leeds University, which contained Middle Welsh as part of the course. The ‘B’ scheme collapsed in 1983 leaving Shippey to pick up the pieces and he told a very funny story about a student arriving and insisting that he took Middle Welsh as part of his advertised course, even though there was no one to teach it. Tolkien probably felt Middle Welsh had been a necessary part of the overall course he had set up and probably intended to teach it himself. Shippey quipped that talking about Welsh things in Wales was a delicate matter and ‘the nice things about delicate matters is that you can put your foot right through them’. The whole talk was very entertaining with much laughter, as well as being interesting. We wouldn’t have expected anything less from Shippey and I thought it was worth every penny of the conference fee and the long journey!

Shippey pointed out that Tolkien felt that native English tradition was the most thoroughly suppressed in Europe, squashed into near extinction by the Normans and later the Hanoverians. I must admit I hadn’t quite thought of it with that perspective before. For Tolkien the heart of England was the Welsh border lands and Shippey asked ‘so what was Tolkien’s attitude to Welsh tradition? And his answer was that there was an element of envy and prickliness, which he went on to illustrate with excerpts from several of Tolkien’s letters. Although Tolkien thought the Mabinogion (Wales's main collection of Celtic stories) was incoherent and garbled at least they had them. Shippey then went on to illustrate that what was incoherent could be made coherent by feeling back through names to the original stories. He described the story of Rhiannon as three stories muddled into one, not by a skilful Welsh storyteller but a ‘literary executioner’. Shippey meant to say ‘executor’ but we all enjoyed the appropriate Freudian slip! He said that Tolkien would have been most interested in the names and then took us back through the story, linguistically, to the original meaning. Very Tolkienian, illustrating that what Tolkien loved was the sense of ‘hidden depth through the cracks’.

The Q&A afterwards was equally enjoyable with Shippey describing Philologists as ‘nigglers’ with Tolkien niggling at names he’d made up until they were finally, by a long process, just ‘right’. He also described Philologists as ‘1,000 word footnotes in search of a text’. Too funny. I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed the talk. And yes…. I did grab the poor guy afterwards and burbled some embarrassingly naff thank you’s. I may even have touched my forelock and kissed his feet. I don’t think Shippey’s ‘does’ the fan thing :lol: . I just about redeemed myself after his second talk later in the day, by managing to talk properly to him without geneflucting. I asked him about Roots and Branches, especially his piece on Beowulf and Lejre which I reported on at Mej here. I mentioned that some of us had been to Lejre and how interested I was in the finds there. He told me that many earlier halls have been uncovered on the site since he wrote that piece, and (amazingly) the halls get bigger the further back they go!

After Shippey (too much happiness) we checked out the Art Exhibition which now looked just wonderful. My stuff was up on the walls and the room felt a bit Fangorny with all the twiggy bits and the underlighting. There was a wonderful selection of Tolkien related collectors items in display cases down the middle of the room, including an early Dutch (?) hardback edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, apparently written by somebody called JJR Tolkien. At least they got the other two volumes right! I’m sure Marbretherese will remember more about the display than I do. After standing for rather too long in front of the Rodney Matthews’ wondering why I bother to paint at all, Marbretherese finally managed to prise me away like a limpet before I built a flet in the surrounding branches and moved in. When we came out we saw a couple of people buying my prints :D . There’s hope for me yet and I have to confess that I was now drifting with an annoyingly beatific glow on my face.

After lunch we sat down to hear the Tale of Beren and Luthien told by Robin LaTrobe, who is a storyteller as well as an author. When we grow up we forget what’s it’s like to listen to a story and I found the experience really mesmerising. The Tale lends itself to being spoken out loud and I have no idea how she remembered it all. I think I hardly moved a muscle for nearly an hour - it was like being hypnotised. All we needed was a blazing fire and a few tankards of mead.

After the storytelling we had another talk by Shippey :D so I’ll save that until next time :wink:. This is a long Festival and it's coming in small intallments so there'll be a LOT of these to come!
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...
Iolanthe
Uinen
 
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Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
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#13) 

Postby Merry » Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:49 pm

:lol: I had the same experience with Shippey--I gushed and babbled. I tried to justify taking up his time by telling him stories of the Jesuit after whom his chair is named at Saint Louis University, but I think he saw right through that!

His talks strike exactly the right note: scholarly, funny, and accessible, something for everyone. What a skillfull speaker.

Now I will ask a dumb question: I've heard and read all along that England doesn't have these basic myths, but what happened to them? Did the Normans just supplant them? How do you kill an oral tradition?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.
Merry
Varda
 
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Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

#14) 

Postby marbretherese » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:01 pm

Merry, this was the thing that amazed me about Tom Shippey, and indeed all the speakers we heard: they deliver their talks in a way which is completely accessible even to someone like me, who doesn't regard themselves as particularly academic.

I can't add a great deal to Iolanthe's account of Tom Shippey's talk apart from a couple of remarks which stood out for me:

- firstly, that Tolkien considered himself a West Midlands regional writer: Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire meet at Birmingham, while Herefordshire and Shropshire are just across the Severn; all these counties meet or are close to Wales.

- secondly, a point about Welsh surnames which I hadn't realised: the Mab of Mabinogion is the same as the Scottish "Mac" ie "son of" and has evolved into "Ap". The English rulers of Wales, when recording names, shortened this to a "P", so that "David Price", for example, is actually "David ap Rhys" - David son of Rhys.

- thirdly, in relation to the Mabinogion: that even badly told stories may fascinate due to their underlying myth & significance. Shippey's actual phrase was "a highly coloured cracked surface with hidden depths"; he went on to say that this is what Tolkien was trying to do with the Silmarillion (I assume he meant the whole mythology rather than the published book), which was founded in this Welsh tradition.

We finally dragged Iolanthe away from Tom Shippey's feet with the lure of seeing her paintings in the Art Exhibition. The whole thing was fabulous, and yes, the hardback edition of the Fellowship with the misprint on the cover was Dutch. I asked Rene van Rossenberg, who runs a collector's store in the Netherlands (http://www.tolkienwinkel.nl/) and who had provided much of the stuff on display, whether this misprint made the first edition particularly valuable, but apparently not. The misspelling has found its way into Dutch culture - even today, the newspapers often get his name wrong!! there were several items relating to the Amsterdam dinner given in Tolkien's honour (which is mentioned in the Letters), including a couple of menus. Lots of film-related stuff too, including a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Aragorn which I dared Iolanthe to appropriate after the Festival. She turned down my challenge on the basis that there wasn't enough room in the car.

Image

the shopping area at the Festival
© marbretherese 2010

One regret: during the morning we missed the talk given by Dimitra Fimi on "The Welsh Language and Tolkien's linguistic aesthetic". I can't remember why now - it may have clashed with something else, there was so much going on!! Jonick bought her book and is enjoying it very much. In fact, he paid extra for her to sign it but we were so busy he never did manage to get her signature! We mooched around the sales area for some time, enjoying the variety of goods on sale, from jewellery to art prints, from books to carved wooden furniture.

Image

carved wooden furniture on sale at the Festival
© marbretherese 2010

Robin La Trobe's storytelling was fabulous and just a little bit scary. I couldn't work out how she could possibly remember all that off by heart. It certainly brought the Tale alive, and I began to imagine all sorts of art possibilities. Hearing the story aloud brought home to me how some stories just beg to be spoken rather than read, and what a great tradition we have lost over the centuries by so much emphasis on the written word! She was sitting on one of the carved wooden chairs from the furniture stall, the armrest of which was in the shape of a duck's head. Unfortunately I was too intimidated to take a photo - plus being in the front row I didn't want to put her off!

Which brings me back to your question, Merry - how do you kill off an oral tradition? the Anglo Saxons certainly had one. The Normans managed to pretty much eradicate Anglo Saxon culture; they took over their land and made the former landowners into tenants. There's a newspaper article here which might explain things a bit more: the BBC are right in the midst of a "Normans" season at present. Let's hope a revival of interest in the Anglo-Saxons is imminent!
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/
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#15) 

Postby Lindariel » Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:17 pm

Iolanthe, shame on you! I cannot BELIEVE you turned down the opportunity to swipe the life-size cut-out of Aragorn! Didn't you mention the possibility of strapping marbretherese to the top of the car in order to transport your paintings? Wouldn't that work for the Aragorn cut-out too? :twisted:

I am thoroughly enjoying these reports, as always. EXCEPTIONALLY jealous as well. You folks across the pond have all the luck with these great events!

And Io, don't be embarrassed about your fan-girl reaction to Shippey. It would happen to every single one of us, I have no doubt! Just remember poor Duriez -- "At least I got your name right."

Could I inquire whether Robin LaTrobe told the Beren and Luthien story as related in The Silmarillion, or did she recite the Lay of Leithien storyteller fashion? The first would be impressive enough -- the second would be simply mind-blowing -- but we do have to remember that the ancient bards could recite/chant ancient tales and oral tradition for DAYS on end without repeating anything in their repertoire. The capacity of the human mind to memorize and retain is amazing. I have singer friends who keep DOZENS of complete opera scores in their heads. I don't know how they do it!
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”
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