Mystical Realms Newsletter for October, 2011
And welcome to my newsletter for October, 2011! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com ) or at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
The 2012 Jef Murray/ALEP2 Fantasy Calendar was a bit hit at ALEP2, and continues selling fast! It has now been sold in the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands(!). This 2012 calendar is loaded with painting images from Middle-earth, and sales proceeds continue to support the ALEP (A Long Expected Party) gatherings of Tolkien fans in Kentucky (see www.alep2.us). And any proceeds above and beyond ALEP2 expenses will be applied to future ALEP gatherings! You can order your copy at www.JefMurray.com .
[The following tale, entitled "A Cerulean Sorcerer", was first published this month in the newsletter "Beyond Bree" J]
The two men walked through the conference hotel's main corridor and stopped at the hospitality suite.
"Hey, Rebecca!" the man in the green t-shirt said, "Can you give us a few minutes? I'm going to do an interview."
The young woman left and the two sat down at a table. "I'm Anthony," said the man in the green t-shirt. "And I apologize up front if I come across as a bit scattered. I've been going through a rough patch, personally, and I'm a bit short on sleep. I'll spare you the details; let's just say it's been a horrible month .
"If it's OK, I'd like to record our talk." Anthony placed his cell-phone on the table. "Cell phones: they're the new Swiss Army Knife," he joked, and he turned on the voice recorder.
The older man looked at the device and smiled. He was wearing a black caped duster, black boots, and a wide-brimmed hat. His shirt was a vivid blue, and its hue was mirrored in a matching hatband and in the crystal orb atop his wizard's staff. His hair was thick and graying, and his beard was close-cropped.
"First things first," said Anthony. "What's your name?"
"I've had many," said the man with the staff. "Nereus, I once was. Manannan and Alatar I've been called. The names I've been given by those I've met in all my travels are legion. But at present, most simply call me Poole."
"Fine," exclaimed Anthony. "Now, where did you come up with all of your `past names'? I mean, that would have taken some real research, right? Or did you get them from a particular book?"
"Oh, no, they're not from any books," said the old man. "They are genuine. I truly have been given all of those names over the years."
"Ah, OK I see. So, you want to talk about your persona first then, right? And then we'll talk about how you personally got into all of this ." Anthony gestured at the hospitality suite and at the open doorway, beyond which other costumed men and women could be seen walking past. "Is that what you'd prefer?"
"This is your interview," said the older man. "Pray proceed as you see fit."
"Well, alright, but let's start with any names of yours that might mean something to folks at the conference. Has your character been featured in any books or movies that would be well known?"
"I suppose quite a few, given how many names I've collected through the years." The older man smiled.
"Yes, but which would be the most familiar to ah fantasy fans?"
"I suppose that would be 'Alatar'."
"Alatar? And who was he? It doesn't ring any bells with me ."
"But you have read the "The Lord of the Rings" by Ronald Tolkien, have you not?"
"Ronald Tolkien? You mean J.R.R. Tolkien, don't you?"
"Yes, the same," answered the older man. "I was mentioned in his books, but only in passing."
"I don't remember a Alatar. There was Gandalf and Saruman, and let's see Radagast I think "
"Yes, those were the wizards that Ronald included in the main action of his book. I was `offstage', if you will."
"The only other wizards he talked about were the `blue wizards' the ones who traveled to the east but were never heard from again. But I don't think he ever mentioned their names ."
"Actually, he did, but of the `Ithryn Luin', as he called them, only `Alatar' was an actual name. The other wizards' names all the others, mind you were invented by Ronald himself. Mine was the only one that was real. A bit of vanity on my part, I'm afraid." The older man smiled again.
"You see, with all of the histories I passed along to Ronald, I usually did not assign names, because the tongues of the people in those days would have made them damnably difficult to pronounce, and meaningless to boot, for 20th century English speakers. Ronald was a philologist he loved words, so he was able to conjure names that distilled in them the fragrance of olden times, but that were also comprehensible in this century."
Anthony smiled and shook his head. "I've got to admit, _Alatar_, you've got a great angle on all of this. But, I don't want to interrupt your story. Tell me, then, why do you think the blue wizards disappeared? I don't believe much was known about them, and wasn't it Tolkien's assumption that they had `failed' as wizards, rather like Saruman failed by becoming too much like Sauron, and Radagast failed by what was it? Yeah, I think he spent so much time with birds and beasts that he lost interest in fighting Sauron, wasn't that it?"
"Yes, that was how Tolkien portrayed it," said the wizard. "`Radagast' was depicted as `losing his way', and the same was said of the Ithryn Luin, but these were primarily literary devices. Ronald wanted writings related to the Istari to focus on Gandalf and Saruman, because these exemplified two distinct paths that of the soul who continues true to his quest, and that of the soul who is corrupted along the way.
"Not that that is _just_ a literary device, of course. We've had many cases of great figures taking those same two paths, often with disastrous consequences: Abel and Cain, Michael and Lucifer even Superman and Lex Luthor." Alatar chuckled at Anthony's look of surprise. "Oh, yes, I do keep up! The names change but the story is very old. We see echoes of it in literature as well as in real life, and we'll continue to do so until the end of all things, I suspect ."
Anthony looked disconcerted. "OK but, getting back to the blue wizards ."
"Ah, yes. Ronald shewed us offstage, but in the actual battle that inspired his tale, we were quite involved, although not so much in person as behind the scenes.
"The Istari, as Ronald named them, were first and foremost beings allied to the elements. Gandalf was wed to fire as Radagast was to earth. Saruman was a creature of the air. And `Alatar' (Tolkien's name) and I were spirits, if you will, of water. We were vassals of the Lord of the Seas, and our love has always been for rain and river, for stream and surf. All of what you would call our `magic' comes through the workings of the primal baptismal waters of this earth.
"We were not, then, absent in the fight against Sauron, for, ever were we called upon to refresh the faithful and fend off the forces of evil. We guarded the fords of Bruinen and stifled the senses of the Watcher in the Waters. We tapped springs for the Halflings in the Emyn Muil and on the road to Orodruin. We blessed and broke the waters that deluged the Wizards' Vale.
"No, we were not absent. Nor will we be until the Last Day is come. For our quest did not end with the unmaking of the One Ring. It continues ."
"But what could your quest possibly have been, once the One Ring was destroyed?" asked Anthony, now completely absorbed by the wizard's words.
Alatar smiled. "Do you believe that all evil, grief and pain was destroyed once the One Ring perished? Do you think that the world in which we live now is devoid of corruption, or horror, or misery?"
"Well, no, of course not. But in the story, it seemed that the whole point of the wizards "
" was to fight Sauron, yes." interrupted Alatar. "Of course. That was certainly the point in Ronald's book. But, again, that was a literary device. Reality is always a bit trickier than fiction. And in a fallen world yes, I did say a fallen world! In such a place, evil morphs maddeningly and strikes capriciously throughout the long centuries. In such a place, there will always be a need for guardians and messengers: for those who can offer counsel and be counted upon when no other help comes. Take your own case, for instance ."
Anthony started. "My own case? What do you mean?"
"I mean, you are struggling with fear about your wife's illness, are you not? She is about to undergo a difficult surgery ."
Anthony's mouth gaped. "How could you possible know that?!"
"That does not matter," answered the wizard. "What matters is that this is yet another place and another time when evil creeps in and attempts to destroy goodness. Illness is not a cause for despair, nor is death ."
Anthony blanched, opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it.
"Yes, I said death. But I did not say that your wife will die, only that evil will try to use that possibility to gnaw a hole within you, to bring you to a place of desperation and anguish; to bring you, if possible, to the point of cursing God and wishing that you had never been born...or that you had never met Annie."
Anthony turned red. "You can't possibly know about this, or about Annie! This is some sort of a sick joke! You show up out of nowhere, and now you're playing playing some kind of a game and mocking me and my wife's situation .!"
"Anthony," said the wizard soothingly, "_you_ picked _me_ out of the crowd. _You_ did. You thought you were going to interview some eccentric, some silly old man in a wizard's suit. You hoped to focus on a task that might help get your mind off of your own fears. But what you were really seeking was simply someone to listen to you....
"I am here. And that is precisely why I am here. It is why I and my kind will _always_ be here. For on this journey, none of us can ever be truly alone.
"Now tell me about Annie ."
"Anthony, are you OK?" Rebecca touched his shoulder. Anthony looked up from the table. He had fallen asleep.
"Uh, yeah, I'm fine." Anthony rubbed his eyes. "I was having such a wonderful dream...I don't know, it was something about Annie ." He shook his head, trying to remember.
"You've been so worried about her, you probably needed the sleep. How's she holding up, by the way?"
"She's doing alright. And, you know, I think maybe I've been too worried about her these last weeks. Somehow I think maybe everything is going to turn out OK." Anthony yawned. "I feel so much better after that dream ."
"And no wonder! You were asleep for over an hour! I checked in on you but I didn't want to wake you up too soon."
"Thanks. By the way, how did I get here?"
"You don't remember? You brought that guy in, you know, the wizard? Said you were going to do an interview. Did you finish it? Because he must have left a long time ago "
Anthony looked at the table. His cell phone was still recording. He stopped it and replayed the file, but all he could hear was background noise. Somehow, it reminded him of the roar of the ocean, and as he listened, he thought he could hear the distant cry of seagulls....
A Long Expected Party 2 (ALEP2) was held last week in Shaker Village, Kentucky. For those of you who missed it, please go to the ALEP page on Facebook for great photos and info on the event. To find out when the next ALEP gathering is to be held, keep an eye on the ALEP2 website at www.alep2.us.
The Middle-earth Network ( http://middleearthnetwork.com ) is fast becoming the "Go To" place for news about Tolkien-related events and for discussions on the social network, http://mymiddle-earth.com/ . There are contests, postings of artwork and music, plus Middle Earth Radio. Although there have been some server issues of later, these "growing pains" should result in faster and better tools becoming available very soon. Tune into the Middle-earth Network for rebroadcasts and other great news and features!
The Return of the Ring 2012 (see http://www.returnofthering.org/) will be a huge Tolkien-themed conference and gathering at Loughborough University on 16-20th August, 2012. I am delighted to have been invited to appear as a guest of honour at the event and am looking forward not only to sharing my paintings and sketches, but also to participating in panels and presentations. You can book reservations now online.
Tolkien biographer Joseph Pearce and I collaborated on an EWTN TV special on J.R.R. Tolkien that is now available on DVD. The production includes dozens of my illustrations of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and it focuses on the Catholicity of Tolkien's magnum opus. You can order the a DVD of the show at: http://www.ewtnreligiouscatalogue.com/TOLKIEN+S+LORD+OF+THE+RINGS+A+CATHOLIC+WORLD+VIEW/shop.axd/ProductDetails?x=0&y=0&keywords=Pearce+Tolkien&edp_no=22609