There and back again; Joe’s Dwarf storyPosted by lodur
This is another personal post, it’s as much an exercise in catharsis as it is anything else.
I am not a Hobbit. Though there were times growing up that I was compared to one by other geeky kids. No, I’ve been filled with a love of Tolkein since I was but a wee lad . What spawned this post was seeing the trailer for the Hobbit movie in theatres for the first time this weekend. There was the big scene that they showed in it inside Bilbbo’s house where Thorin and the party sing The Dwarven Song About Old Wealth. I’m sure that those of you that are fantasy geek fans and Tolkein fans had a chill hearing music set to the 27 stanza poem many of us have committed to memory. For me though it stirred up a set of emotions that I thought I had long since moved past, or laid to rest.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.
You’ve already heard in my bully post about some of my relationship with my father. It’s something right out of an after school special. But for all my father’s faults, of which there are many, there were a couple things that he gave me that had a huge hand in shaping who I am today. The first thing you should know is that my father loved fantasy. The high fantasy of sword and sorcery, the gritty fantasy of Ariel. Our house was full of dragons and crystals. Books made to look like tomes and even a hand carved stave with the sigils of the grey carved upon it. He played Dungeons and Dragons, and all of the fantasy fed into his music allowing him and his imagination to weave incredibly intricate tales inside of the music. It is a rare gift that he possesses and one that I will never deny that even now he has.
The second thing that you have to know is that he shared all of this wonderful world of fantasy with me. And as a youngster with quite an imagination, it was like opening up the bottle on a magical world of wonder. He introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons by taking me with him. Explained to me how Wizards and Knights were the powers of their day. We talked about dragons and magic, and he read to me. Not just children’s stories like Clifford the Big Red Dog, but full fantasy novels like the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books. He wouldn’t just read them though, he would present them as revered tomes of ancient knowledge. Each word was sacred in the adventure. Every day we spent reading was an adventure itself.
The dwarves of yore made mightly spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.
What do I mean by being an adventure? Well, to be perfectly honest, it was as if each reading was a theatrical experience in and of itself. He would use different voices for the characters for sure, but he would act out the dramatic scenes, leaping from piece of furniture to piece of furniture. Brandishing a cardboard tube as a sword and a seat cushion as a shield, we would slay dragons together as our living room transformed into moors, fields of battles, caves and mountain lairs. Sofar cushions became walls of a fortress or castle. Every time was a delight, an experience I will never forget and forever cherish because it instilled in me the love of fantasy I have now, and will never get rid of.
It was a ritual with us, and one that started apparently from the day I was born. He would read to me these stories, these tales of adventures. They became my lullaby, my childrens stories. Elves and Dwarves. Orcs and Goblins. Dragons and other mythological creatures. These were the things I talked about as a kid.
For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sward.
One particularly memorable accounting happens from The Hobbit and Tolkein. I’ll never forget it for as long as I live. We were sitting around on a particularly dreary day, I was home from school, my mom was still out with my sister and it was just me and my father stuck at home while a storm raged outside. The power had gone out, which wasn’t too uncommon at the time, and we already had the candles lit. We decided it was story time and he took out The Hobbit. If you’ve never read The Hobbit, there is a part called The Dwarven Song About Old Wealth. It’s essentially a Dwarven folk song, and Tolkein put all 27 stanzas in the book. My father, being a musician, loved this part so immensely that he had it practically memorized.
He sang it to me. Not in some cheesy manner, but in the style of the monk chanting, with reverence. It entranced me immediately. It was a story of the Dwarven folks past given musical voice. It was absolutely amazing. When it was done I was completely sold on Dwarves. I asked about, and learned, everything I could about Tolkein Dwarves, Dungeons and Dragon Dwarves and others from various other stories. In all honesty it was the day that started me down the rabbit hole of just loving fantasy Dwarves in pretty much every setting.
On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.
Fast forward to current day, and seeing and hearing the trailer for The Hobbit and listening to Thorin begin the chant of the song in the same style that my father sang it to me. Not exactly the same obviously, but that same reverent tone, that same style. Add in the chorus of the adventuring party which gave more depth and filled out the sound and they had me. I was there in the theatre watching it, I was also 6 again sitting on my living room floor listening to my father intone the stanzas and giving them voice.
As excited as I am for the movie, and I really truly am. It comes with a certain sadness, and it may sound cheesy or silly, but it’s the same sadness that I had when I went to see the Lord of the Rings movies. I will not be seeing them with my father, for the various reasons of our sordid relationship with each other, we are no longer a part of one another’s lives and simply cannot be. It’s a great pain, something that will always be a little dark spot in my heart, but it’s something I will have to deal with. That doesn’t mean I won’t get misty eyed when I hear the song, or during the movie, that’s pretty much a guarantee. It just is what it is. So there you a go, a little insight into Joe’s obsession with Dwarves and how it all started.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeouns deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.