Beyond Bree, November 2015 –
[ Edited by Nancy Martsch ]
Oxonmoot, the Tolkien Society’s annual conference,
Sept 10-13, St Antony’s College, Oxford, England.
2015 marks the 60th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings.
I don’t want to miss this year’s Oxonmoot.
I brought ten [copies] of my book «The Hobbit: An Art Book by Octo» on sale and six copies of my art in the Art Show. This year’s venue is St. Antony’s College. I reached Oxford quite early. When the taxi driver was driving me to the College, I noticed that «The Eagle & Child» is nearby! The College is a mixture of old and new buildings. Most of the activities took place in Hilda Besse Building, Gateway Building & Nissan Institute. I put down my luggage in my room, made preparations and went to make the registration.
The Art Show took place on 4th floor of Gateway Bldg. But I had quite a trouble finding it. There I met Shaun Gunner [Tolkien Society president]. (I saw that they were still busy setting up things.) I gave him my arts and books, but there was not enough space for the Japan fan comics, so I have to carry them in my backpack for the next 3 days. There was a tour of Oxford at 16:00, but I missed it. I busied myself with trying to contact my family, walk around in the College, taking photos and reading the Oxonmoot Information booklet. In the bar, many attendees were talking with each other. I was nervous among so many Westerners and wondered if my English is good enough, but they greeted me friendly.
The Welcome Buffet begins at 19:00. At about 19:30, the Chief Steward Maggie Bailey gave the welcome speech. She said this year’s Oxonmoot have the greatest number of newcomers – over 40 of them. Brian Sibley failed to attend this time, but the Tolkien Society have made an interview with him, the video will show in the bar after buffet. After she finished the speech, she went back to her seat, but then she remembered something and she got up so hastily that she knocked down her chair! She went back to tell us that at this moment, Viggo Mortensen was in British Library, reading a poem by TS Eliot called «The Wasteland». We all applauded!
When I got to the bar, it was already full of people. I have to sit on the entrance.
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In the video, Brian Sibley told us that he started reading «The Lord of the Rings» when he was older, when he stayed in the hospital; how he got involved in the production of the films, becoming good working partners and friends with John Howe and Alan Lee. He showed to us some artworks and a book inside with Tolkien’s handwritings, correcting some mistakes.
In the bar, there were also two Tolkien portraits by Janet Georgiou for silent auction.
After the video, the Percival Quiz begins, but I have to go to bed.
On Friday, after breakfast, I went to the Art Show to see my arts and other artists’ works. There were many impressive arts by Jay Johnstone (very big picture of Gandalf the White), Peter Xavier Price (Gwindor’s Charge), Fabio Leone (Ulmo appears before Tuor) and many others (from monochrome to GC arts).
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At 10:30 I went to hear the talk «Tolkien & Dr Who» [Forthcoming in «Beyond Bree». Ed.]. The host Joel Cornah told us that there are many similarities between Tolkien’s books and Dr Who series. The most amusing thing is he showed a photo of Tolkien standing besides a police call box! As we know the Doctor’s TARDIS’ outlook is a police box, too. We all laughed! There was also a cartoon of Tolkien appeared in Dr Who Comic. I learnt that Sylvester McCoy (Radagast) was also the 7th Doctor. After that I went to the Hadid Room to see the demonstration of arts & crafts, but the LEGO Isengard was not complete yet.
After lunch, I went to the Art Show again.
There in display was the first edition of «The Hobbit». One of the biggest differences in the story is that Gollum led Bilbo out of the tunnel, not chasing him. What a rare edition, I almost dare not touch it. And I talked with some attendees who enquired about my book and art. Also in display were the costumes of Ulmo, Oromë and glittering Varda. Then I went to the Dealers’ Room and it’s a treasure house! There were Jay Johnstone’s medieval arts, beautiful hand crafted ornaments, CDs & DVDs, all kinds of Tolkien or non Tolkien-related books, calendars, «Amon Hen» and «Mallorn», old books. I spent hours inside and have a hard time choosing the goodies. It made me miss some talks. At 17:00 the debate’s title was «Jackson made The Lord of the Rings for the fans & The Hobbit for the studio», but pity that it was changed.
The dinner started at 19:30. Before we eat, we all stood up, turned and faced West in a moment of silence, just like the custom in Gondor. The food was very good and people talked merrily on all topics. In the middle of it the Chair Elena Krysova made a toast, together we said: «For the Queen, The Professor and Eternal Friendship!» The Dinning Hall was decorated with the banners of Gondor and Rohan. After dinner, they were still talking, I said good night to the people and went back to my room .
On Saturday, in breakfast, I met a beautiful India lady. She is Ashna Jacob, the host of the talk «A Reading of The Hobbit and Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy». She have learned some Chinese but not good at it. I told her about Bollywood movies in Hong Kong. After that, we went to hear the talk «Portrait of Denethor» by Dominic Russell. He said Denethor have such a strong character, his responses to life’s challenges is making his mind even stronger. And Tolkien uses fire, a force that can turn strong things into ashes, metaphorically, to show the destruction of Denethor. Especially in «The Siege of Gondor», he describes when the City is burning, in despair Denethor said Faramir «is burning, already burning.» «We’ll burn like heathen kings.» After that, we also attended «Tolkien and Shakespeare.»
The Oxonmoot Information mentioned that Tolkien’s tree Pinus Negra is in the Botanic Gardens of Oxford. I went out to see it. But when I was in the town, I saw a map in the bus station and found out that it is quite far away. Instead I visited the Eagle & Child, the famous pub Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet with friends.
After lunch, I went to Dealers’ Room again. For in Obelisk Books have a whole set of «Amon Hen». I searched them one by one and found issue 184 which featured my art «Beren & Luthien». It was sold out in TS Archive and now finally I found it! I also bought «The Pitkin Guide to Tolkien». The keeper of the stall told me that the author Robert S. Blackham was there and he signed his book for me! But this made me late for «Sauron and Dracula: The Transylvanian Connection».
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The host Denis Bridoux said that both Sauron and Dracula have a castle and tower for their stronghold, have bats as servants and the map of Romania, when turned upside down, looks like Mordor. One of the attendees was a Romanian man, too!
After that, I went to the Hospitality Room, hoping to take a photo of the LEGO Isengard. There I met Beregond [Anders Stenström] of the Swedish Tolkien Society. He had bought my book and wanted my signature. We have a good talk (I forgot the photos) and I showed him my Japanese fan comics. But I have to say goodbye to him before 17:00. First I rushed to the Dealers’ Room for a last minute shopping. Then I rushed to Art Show to collect the rest of my books. Five books were sold. Pretty good results.
I have to go back to my room to put down my books. So I was a bit late for the Show and Masquerade, but I still saw some excellent performances. The hall was often full of our laughter and we sang together with the performers. A lady played Thuringwethil, her bat wings were long and magnificent. She have got a reward. But after the Show, I cannot find her to take photos. (Maybe she have flown away to tell the good news to her master?) (When the Show was going, I don’t know whether it was allowed to take photos or not.) «The Sister of Mercy» played «Errantry»: 5 guys walking on stage, the leader carried a rod with a seagull dangling, the last man carried a machine gun & his wings can open automatically. (Is this Tolkien-related or not? [Tolkien wrote a poem titled «Errantry». Ed.] Many people sang songs. «Raven» sang «Lothlórien» from the Musical and «The Song of Queen Berúthiel». Another lady sang Sam’s song from the radio series, when he was seeking Frodo in Cirith Ungol, another song was about Elbereth Gilthoniel. Seven girls played Dwarves and they performed «Live Dwarf Tossing». They divided into two groups, one group tossed two smaller girls and the other group caught them. The most hilarious part is «Sauron» and «The Mouth»‘s stand up comedy. «Sauron» sang a song «This is me», adapted from the super popular «Let it go» from «Frozen». The lyrics were full of names related to Sauron such as Mount Doom, the Ring, etc. We burst into laughters!
There was no dinner provided on Saturday night. When I was considering going out, Mr Blackham invited me to have dinner with him and two other Swedish friends in the bar. We ate and talk with breads, canned fishes, tomatoes, ham & bacon, cheese & wine. I’m very grateful to Mr Blackham. It was almost 21:00 when I said goodbye and went to the Dinning Hall on 1/f to see the Party. Many people were dancing merrily with the music from the Ceilidh band. When it was near to 22:00, I went to my room.
On Sunday, we went to Wolvercote Cemetery.
On Tolkien’s grave, we found a copy of «The Hobbit». At first they thought it is Chinese, but I saw that it is Korean. I told them it is a remarkable thing that someone from South Korea came all the way to pay tribute to the Professor. Wonder who that person is?
Soon the Enyalië begun. Shaun Gunner, in a serious voice, told us that this year the Tolkien community lost many people: Sir Christopher Lee, Jef Murray and some core members of the Tolkien Society. I saw some ladies were already weeping and hugging each other. Mr Gunner said after much consideration he chose to read the following part from «The Silmarillion», it’ll be quite long and please forgive him for indulge into the world of Tolkien. He read the Hunting of Carcharoth, the death of Huan, Beren and Lúthien. How Lúthien came to sing before Mandos, her song and her sorrow moved him and the choice she made: to become mortal and join with Beren and return to Middle-earth. Until they were gone and left the world forever.