This past Saturday, Hannah and Susanna, with much help from many friends, hosted a Feast of Middle-earth for about 30 friends of theirs who are lovers of J.R.R. Tolkien.
A Feast of Middle-earth offers a wonderful opportunity for a festive, end-of-summer occasion. We’ve organized one 5 times over the years, and Candace and I have enjoyed it every bit as much as our kids. Activities past or present have included:
- Names in Elvish: everyone gets a name tag with their name translated into Quenya.
- Dress in costumes!
- Outdoor games such as “Catch the Dragon’s tail” or “Bill Ferny’s Apple throwing contest.” In the former, about ten people get in line with hands on the waist of the person in front. The last person in line tucks a handkerchief in his back pocket. At the signal, the dragon begins to chase its tail like a puppy – the first person in line tries to catch the handkerchief. The people toward the front try to help the head catch the tail, the people toward the back try to help the tail escape, but no one can let go of the waist of the person in front of them. When the dragon “head” catches the handkerchief, the “head” becomes the new “tail” and the person who was second from the front becomes the new “head.” For extra fun, create two or more dragons and they all can catch any dragon’s tail, including their own. You can imagine many similar outdoor fun games!
- Dancing in Elvish and Hobbit styles.
- Sword fighting lessons and tournament.
- Archery instruction and target practice.
- Display Tolkien memorabilia of all kinds, and share our own Tolkien-inspired art and crafts.
- Tolkien Trivia group contest.
- Scavenger hunt – think up riddles about Middle-earth places for groups to solve, and then each group will search for clues at the places in the yard or house decorated in that manner.
- Storytelling: Rebecca read dramatically the lay of Beren and Luthien this year.
- Singing and music: Sarah played an original hammered dulcimer composition. Other songs: Donald Swann song cycle “The Road Goes Ever On and On”; “Smaug the Magic Dragon” from The Tolkien Scrapbook edited by Alida Becker; “Bilbo’s Last Song” by Stephen Oliver.
- The Feast itself offers many opportunities to get creative with mushrooms, lembas, rabbit stew, etc. Thanks to Brian for bringing the delicious stag venison this year – or was it oliphant?
- In the Rivendell Library, Middle-earth residents may browse at their leisure, look up old lore, and research at will – even perhaps find long-forgotten clues to the history of the ring.
The Prancing Pony. Rachel drew this sign for a Middle-earth Feast scavenger hunt back in 2002, I think. Here’s the clue that led people to this sign during that scavenger hunt: “Beds for four, and stabling for five ponies, if that can be managed.”
But this year, Hannah made the mistake of asking me to give the opening prayer, and so the professor in me came up with a liturgy to be read responsively. She gave me the opening, and I took it! (Download a pdf.)
My prayer is in green, interspersed with related quotes from Tolkien. I expected a few groans at its length, but everyone was utterly polite and I think some even liked it!
In any case, it helped to justify the laying out of Tolkien’s works for perusal in Rivendell Library (our living room), where we kept a playlist in iTunes running all evening so we could listen to Tolkien himself reciting poems and stories from his writings.
Many more great photos are in Joshua Martin’s Facebook album, “Feast of Middle-earth.”