The London Experience
I am back from London, from one of the most wonderful experiences that
you could imagine.
My sister and I went to the LotR exhibition,
together with Varda, which was a pleasure in itself. She knows London
quite well and is a brilliant guide (…and only when she said ‘Long ways
to go yet, follow me, Varda will show you the way…’ in that strange
voice I was a bit concerned, hehehe…). You will have read her fabulous
reports, and there is not much that I could add apart from my personal
This exhibition has touched my heart and soul
so deeply that I still find it hard to come to terms with it. From the
very beginning it had me under its spell, so to say.
We had tickets for two days, which was
good, as on the first day I walked through the artefacts like in a
dream. I do not think that I saw anything with seeing eyes; I just
soaked up what was there without realizing much. On the second day,
though, I took notes to be able to remember. You are not allowed to
take photos, which is terrible, but on the other hand this way you can
concentrate much better on what you see which makes it a very intense
The exhibition halls are guarded by the
Argonath and if you dare to ignore Gandalf’s voice shouting ‘You shall
not pass’ you enter a quite dark area, and you also enter a wonderland
for every LotR addict.
You hardly could wish for more: there are
dresses, armours, weapons, the most beautiful Elvish jewellery,
including Galadriel’s, Celeborn’s and Elrond’s crowns and belts ,
stunning banners, Elvish, Gondorian and Rohan, including the torn
banner that tumbles down the hill when Aragorn enters Edoras, props of
every kind: there is the telescope from Rivendell, artefacts from
Saruman’s study, the ‘bigature’ of the Hobbiton mill, ruined as seen in
Frodo’s vision in Galadriel’s mirror (the Orthanc ‘bigature’ was not
there because it was needed at the moment for more shooting), you have
Sam’s backpack in two sizes to illustrate the size magic the wizards at
Weta conjured, manuscripts from the Minas Tirith library, including
Isildur’s report on the ring, an Elven Heraldic trumpet, the Three
Rings of Power as well as the rings of the Nazgul , evil looking with
the symbol of the red eye, a Gondorian saddle, … too much to tell you
all the details.
Many of the main characters are represented
by their dresses: Frodo’s outfit in Hobbit size, his Mithril shirt,
Arwen’s beautiful blue requiem dress and her riding garb, Aragorn’s
ranger outfit, Legolas’ woodland outfit, Théodens armour from
Deep, Galadriel’s white robe from Lothlórien, Gandalf’s grey and
Saruman’s white robe. Gimli’s armour had been temporarily replaced by
the formal dress of one of the dwarves at Elrond’s council because
Gimli’s dress was needed for shooting. Even Treebeard was there, as a
life-size model. He did not impress me much, though, although I love
Treebeard, because his eyes were dead in the model, no sign of the
twinkle that makes him so gorgeous in the movie.
Representing the dark side are Sauron himself
in full size, the cave-troll, a ring-wraith and Lurtz, again in full
size…and I tell you, seeing them in the dark rooms is a nerve-wrecking
All over the exhibition you find text
displays and monitors showing short videos to explain things, very much
like on the DVDs. In fact, some of the videos were from the FotR-DVD;
some will probably be on the EE of TTT.
You could touch a few things, like
different models of swords or chain mail and there was a chance to get
a picture made in Gandalf’s cart, where you were digitally shrunk to
Artwork they had, paintings, sketches,
drawings, many by Alan Lee, some by John Howe, some by other artists.
The most beautiful of all is the watercolour by Alan Lee, showing
What was so striking in this exhibition was
that at no time you had the feeling that you were shown movie props and
costumes, everything, every single item, no matter how small or
unimportant it would seem, is done with such great art and care that
you really, really have the feeling to see an exhibition of
archaeological rather than contemporary artefacts.
And the colours!!! Through the filters that
they used in the movies very often you don’t see the true colours of
the dresses or weapons, which is a pity, for they are most beautiful.
The Dwarf’s robe for example is glowing in a dark, deep wine red, rich
and earthly, Gil-Galad’s shield has a veil of unearthly shiny blue
among gold, and the blue of Arwen’s dress is unbelievable.
Théodens armour left me breathless. This is
by far the most beautiful work I have seen in a long time: not one
piece without decoration, every millimetre covered with patterns and
designs beyond belief, the colours indescribable. The video even states
that the makers of this masterpiece have left the equivalent of ‘Made
in Rohan’ on the inside of the helmet, where it will never been seen by
the public, just to give Bernhard Hill the feeling of really being King
The love, pride and dedication of everybody
working on these artefacts speak to you through every single piece. It
is so touching to imagine how much work went into these most beautiful
items, each single one a masterpiece.
And Boromir is there, lying still and pale in
his Elven boat…need I say more? He was so real, it was frightening.
Now, my reason told me that this was just a double, made of
polyurethane or some other magic stuff. But my heart told me that this
was indeed Boromir, beloved son of the Steward of Gondor. And what
nearly finished me was to see the little bit of dirt on his brow and
the mud under the sole of his boots! There were people crying as if
they were standing at the coffin of a beloved friend, and I shed more
than one tear myself!
Funny enough, this was not the most touching
moment during my visit. The real breakdown came right in the beginning,
when my eyes first fell on Arwen’s requiem dress, the gorgeous blue
velvet one with the silver trims and sleeves. This was the first thing
I saw in the exhibition, and it was then that I realized that this was
for real, that this was no screen or pic in a book or magazine but a
real thing that had been used in the movies. Oh the joy…and the pain!
The same happened again on the second day
when the people at one of the displays moved aside and suddenly I saw
Frodo’s Mithril shirt, Galadriel’s phial and Sting. It was as if
somebody had hit me, when I realized that these were the true props,
the true shirt…
As I said before it took me a couple of days
to come to terms with the experience of this exhibition. I was
wondering why and I think I found out.
To see all these dresses and props is so
deeply touching because this is as close as I will ever get to…not the
actors, not the movies, but the characters that bring LotR to life.
When I look at Aragorn’s torn and worn
ranger outfit before my inner eyes I do not see Viggo Mortensen but
Aragorn, Strider, Elessar. And this is Legolas’ dress here, not
Orlando’s and Frodo’s Mithril shirt, not Elijah’s.
It is not the actors that my heart is
longing for but those who inhabit Middle-Earth: I want to meet Aragorn,
stern and upright, not Viggo. I love Frodo, the brave, stout,
true-hearted Hobbit, not Elijah. I want to see Legolas, who sleeps with
open eyes and sings songs of the far sea, not Orlando. I am longing to
be in Rivendell and hear soft voices fill the air with song and
laughter, I long for the mystery and magic of Lothlórien where
Peter Jackson once said that one of the
most fabulous experiences during the making of the movies was the fact
that he could walk in Rivendell and for a time believe that he was
really there. And this, I think, happened to me: for a short while I
could allow myself to think that these were not movie props but the
real dresses of the real people. This was as close to reality as the
Lord of the Rings will ever come for me, and it was absolutely
overwhelming. The LotR has been with me for many long years, but in
this very moment it was right there before my eyes! Not far away in a
long gone past, not far away on the screen, no, right here…
And then I had to leave…
Lucky I call myself that I had the chance to see it, and although I am
still very sad I will never forget these days.
Thanks for listening.
Love to you all