21 December 2014

A Hobbitish Affair

If there is one thing my crew is good at it's theme parties -- e.g., Dr. Who (Part 1 and Part 2) and our occasional, friendly wizardish group's gathering. We even have parties for things we may not like. In this instance, it was the last of Peter Jackson's cinema renderings of J.R.R. Tolkien's whimsical book The Hobbit: or There and Back and Again. The "not liking" has to do with a simple, even whimsical tale being transmorgified into a bloated, faux epic.

(L) The book I read at age 12.
(R) Movie poster of the latest movie.

It took me years before I would watch Mr. Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. Like many who love the books, I have my own images and ideas of the stories. And since I also was the person who initially processed the original, handwritten LOTR manuscripts for Marquette University's Special Collections and University Archives back in the 1970s, my attachment to the original works by Professor Tolkien runs pretty deep.

When I heard that Mr. Jackson had decided to make three movies out of a slim-volumed tale Tolkien had created as a night-time story for his children, I knew pretty much right away that I wouldn't be seeing them anytime soon.  

But I am a purist, and my aforementioned crew is hardier when it comes to movie adaptations than I. So for each of the 3 movies, we have gathered, hobbit-like, to share much food and much mirth, before those that will head off to the movie theater. This year it was our turn to host the gathering. As it was so close to the December holidays, we made it a combined Christmas and Cinema Party.

Inspired by the presentation approach my brother Architect uses when giving tours of the straw-clay Natural House he designed and built -- which entails posting informative signs throughout the home -- and inspired, too, by the sheer fun of the event, we "decorated" primarily with signs. 

These are the editions I read in high school and college.

The painting on the mantle was done by my sister,
Door County (WI) artist Jan Marie Jablonski.

"Party Tree (Seasonal Variation)"

The wood print behind the tree is
Proud Woman
by artist Judith W. Nelson.

Over the entry to the dining room.

There are three pieces of dragon art in the dining room. Obviously only the one in flight could be Smaug!

Those of you familiar with The Lord of the Rings will recall the mithril-edged Doors of Durin that lead into Moria. 

"Ennyn Durin Aran Moria. Pedo Mellon a Minno. Im Narvi hain echant. Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thiw hin."
"The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs."

Our version, leading thru the doors into the kitchen, where the party buffet was laid out, was much more prosaic.

The most grand piece of all was the oil painting of Lorien of Middle Earth by my sister, Door County (WI) artist, Jan Marie Jablonski, gave to my husband and me as a wedding gift. The signage for this echoed the architect's tradition of the truth window.
"A truth window (or truth wall) is an opening in a wall surface, created to reveal the layers or components within the wall. In a strawbale house, a truth window is often used to show the walls are actually made from straw bales. A small section of a wall is left unplastered on the interior, and a frame is used to create a window which shows only straw, which makes up the inside of the wall.M Many designs exist for truth windows. Glass may be placed over the window, or an openable wooden panel, or it may be a simple framed opening." [Wikipedia entry]

In our case, we imagined the window looking into Middle Earth!

The dining table was elegantly dressed.

Included were sparkling (non-alcoholic) wines from the Prancing Pony pub in Bree and . . .

. . . wee dragons guarding their golden hoards (chocolate coins) as party favors.

Not even the bathroom was overlooked. Though I confess my inner snark emerged. Fortunately, all guests found it amusing.

The meal itself was potluck: 2 large pots of homemade deliciousness: cream of chicken/wild rice soup and midwestern chili (i.e., not too spicy); a fresh vegetable platter; sourdough and French bread with loads of Wisconsin butter; and West Coast smoked salmon and crackers. The dessert was something special. Asked to bring one of his special fruit pies, Architect -- anticipating another murderous Jacksonian cinematic debacle -- demured saying,
"Methinks that, with the experience that we will face and need to endure, we will require something stronger than mere pie. I'm planning a battle dessert."
Said dessert turned out to be a thoroughly decadent, very rich bittersweet chocolate bread pudding topped with hot butter-whiskey sauce!

Thus fortified with good food and good cheer, the movie-goers departed to meet their fate. Two hours later I texted my sister Cee: "So, how was it?"
"Just got out," she replied, "You know . . . we . . . liked it! General opinion! So surprising! Best of the three somehow. And we were so stoked to hate it [like the others] . . . go figure!"
I'm thinking it was the battle dessert that made the difference.

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