Varda and Avondster Meet an Ent

by Varda
I know the Bag End board is where you put write-ups of moots, but I thought I should put my account of the mini-moot Avondster and I had here, as we…..met an Ent.

It should have begun in Rohan…but it began in Donegal, where Avondster was a guest of the Elves of Kincasslagh, Indis and Elentari. She arrived in my DublinSouthfarthing not on a cart driven by a pointy-hatted wizard but in an old and very bumpy bus driven by the McGeehans.

Avondster is a Merry fan, and I am a Faramir fan, but we spent the usual session looking at our prized LOTR possessions, which have rather taken over my house, and pop up, or rather fall down, all over the place. We had dinner in a restaurant with orcs for waiters and decided to do some sightseeing in Wicklow the next day.

The next morning was dull and windy but as Avondster only had the weekend we decided to risk it and set off down the motorway to Wicklow. As Indis can confirm, I am a lousy driver. I drive like a hobbit, crawling along at about 25 miles an hour looking at the trees while BMWs with orcs in them fly past at 90. I soon had a line of annoyed motorists behind me. One overtook me with a shout of;
‘Ye wagon!’

Now there is no real translation for the Dublin word ‘wagon’. It means an annoying female who is getting away with murder in great style. My hobbit name, according to that mad translation thing we did on the (*sob*) old board, is Polly Foxburr of Loamsown but my Ranger name is now Ravenwing Wainsdaughter


What does that mean? asked Avondster.

‘You’ll see, you’ll see….’ Said Varda, our guide….

We drove to the estate, called by the old Norman name of demesne, of Lord Powerscourt. This land was taken in war from the O’Toole’s of Wicklow and given to the Wingfields, who built a Great House which became one of the finest in Ireland.

The way up to the estate is lined with trees that meet overhead, turning the road into a green tunnel quite dark even in the middle of the day, very Shire-like…

‘the trees that shade the road that leads to Bywater’ as Sam sees in Galadriel’s mirror.

When we entered the estate we knew at once that here was a place where trees reigned over all; the roadway led through a grove of giant beeches, standing like sentinels, never cut or carved or burned, just apart and stately like a crowd of nobles of Gondor awaiting their king.

At last the road swung round to reveal the front of the house. All along it is niches with classical statues, and the house looks across fields to the setting sun, Powerscourt’s ‘window on the West’. On the other side, the house faces a natural amphitheatre in the Wicklow Hills, dominated by the quartzite cone of the Sugar Loaf, called the Silver Spear by the Cuala, the tribe who lived here in ancient times.

The house is only a shell; along with all its antiques and the most magnificent ballroom in Ireland, it was destroyed by a terrible fire in 1971. By great irony, after surviving all Ireland’s wars it was burned down by a blocked chimney.

But a lot of restoration has been done, and the ballroom has been rebuilt, its plaster ceilings restored.
‘crops can be resown, homes rebuilt….’

Some of the antiques might have been fakes, anyway….

Galadriel know what she was doing when she gave Sam the Mallorn seed; it is in gardens that healing and rebirth occur, and in gardens we can see the measure of a country’s care for the land and for civilised existence. At the back of Powerscourt stretch away a whole landscape of gardens, formal giving way to informal, with the two great winged horses of Powerscourt flanking the view over the lake and groves to the mountains.

After posing for pictures at the famous pond Avondster and I set off on the walk round the gardens, starting with the trees nearest the house. These trees are up to 200 years old, planted by generations of the Powerscourts. Untouched by cattle or sheep, or axe or fire, they have grown vast, great roots eating up the ground and boughs reaching across whole acres of land.

Avondster let me know before setting out that trees were her thing; she is a true Elf, waking up the trees and making them talk. She even wore a jacket with a motto ‘hug a tree’ on the pocket. I am more an axe woman myself…

We paused on the hill to survey a monumental cedar. It had not one trunk but a dozen, textured like a carving, its vast branches reaching out over the grass. A strong West wind streamed over the hills and the boughs waved and dipped. Avondster went up to the tree and put her hands up to feel the bark and just then there came a sound, sharp, deep and definite, just like a voice.

Avondster jumped back. I looked up; getting flattened by a falling branch is just what would happen during a visit to an ornamental garden in Ireland. But although the branches were moving, no more noises escaped from the tree.
‘It sounded just like a voice’ I said
‘Yes, that was what I thought…’ agreed Avondster.

The wind was making the branches move against each other, which made a sort of creaking, but not like this sound; this was deep and loud, just like human speech.

We stayed by this Entish tree for a long time, but it did not speak again. We went on feeling quite strange...

There is a valley near the house in Powerscourt where the last of the O’Tooles was killed by the Wingfields. It is called Killing Hollow, and there is a small tower built there. We climbed up it, and looked out over the magnificent trees, but it is a haunted place. The tower was ringed with cannon. Avondster said;
‘Did any of these cannon kill?’

I looked about and most of them were small ornamental guns, used at best to signal or scare birds. But there was one very old cannon that would have done service in the endless 16th and 17th century wars of Ireland. So I pointed to it;
‘That one, definitely’ so Avondster put her hands on it then said;
‘I don’t think that was a good idea, I feel quite overshadowed by something….’

We came down from the tower and crossed Killing Hollow. And even I felt the dark vibes. At the place where O’Toole died there is a great Sitka, tall and as big around as a small car. We both felt it was a haunted valley.

We walked on out of it, not sad to leave Killing Hollow, and went round the Japanese Garden. At the end of the ponds and little bridges and paths is a grotto sunken into the rock. When we walked into it we felt a great silence descend on us. It was just like Galadriel’s sunken grove where her fountain ran. And here was a fountain as well, but it flowed down the walls of the grotto on all sides and collected in clear pools, the mirror of this Galadriel. In the centre was a pillar with a great chunk of quartz set into it. We put our hands on it and it was as cold and white as marble.

Although the wind was streaming through the trees above, this was a silent place. For a long time we just stood there, and it seemed as if everything was utterly still. Then a convoy of Spanish tourists broke the spell and we walked on, but feeling strangely different…

On the way up to the walled garden we passed more giant cedars, and then we saw Frodo’s tree; one of the cedars had a long low-curving bough, just like the one on which Frodo lies while he is reading. It was the very same! We did not want to damage the tree by climbing up, so Avondster put her Merry figure on it and we did a ‘Garden Epic’ photoshoot to show the world….hopefully….

The walled garden is one of the largest in Europe and Sam would be pleased, herbaceous borders and cottage garden perennials, and above all, Roses, yards and yards of Roses, stretching on and on….

We finished up in the souvenir shop, where Avondster combined Ireland and LOTR in her choice of t-shirt; black with the logo; ‘The leprechauns made me do it.’

It was nearly five but we drove on up to see the Powerscourt Waterfall.

This famous beauty spot was made famous by John Boorman in his film Excalibur, which was made entirely in and around the estate and on the surrounding mountains. Peter Jackson had a whole country and its natural beauties to use, but Boorman does almost as well with a tiny pocket-handkerchief of Ireland.

In the film, Arthur breaks the sword Excalibur dishonourably trying to beat Lancelot and it is reforged in the lake at the foot of the waterfall. It is given back to Arthur by a mysterious lady in the lake, an Arthurian mixture of Arwen and Galadriel clad in golden mail and with long golden hair. Rather like Peter Jackson uses his own children in his films, Boorman used his daughter for the beautiful Lady of the Lake, although she was not named in the credits. Sadly she died not long after, giving the film a haunting element of tragedy.

Then we climbed the little path to look out over the valley.
‘Look!’ said Avondster. ‘Ithilien!’

I looked and the valley below the waterfall was just the scene which Frodo and Sam see when they hide during Faramir’s ambush of the Haradrim.
‘I almost expect the Mumakil to burst out of the trees over there…’ said Avondster. In fact, where we were standing was a perfect little hiding place for Sam and Frodo….

When we drove up out of the mysterious valley of the waterfall with its sacred oaks and stately beeches we felt sad, as if we were leaving Lothlorien or Rivendell. Before we left we walked down to the little stream and Avondster drew an Elven star in the sand, just in case an Elf should wander past when we were gone……

The next day we traded the country for the town and went into Dublin for some sightseeing and shopping.

I brought Avondster, a very patient listener, to the Natural History Museum first to see the three Giant Irish Elk skeletons. These early Irish natives were amost eight feet at the shoulder with great antlers the same span. Truly a lost First Age…..

Then I took her to the National Museum in Kildare Street to see my favourite objects; I often walk up to the museum during my lunch just to go in and see them; Boromir’s shield and sword and hunting horn.

Well, not quite! The shield is a great round bronze shield found in Lough Gur. It has concentric rings of embossed studs and is such a magnificent artefact of war it is impossible not to think it belonged to some chieftain or champion as high-ranking as Boromir was in Gondor. Beside it is a leaf-shaped blade just like Sting, and close by great bronze war horns. Far bigger than Boromir’s hunting horn, played in pairs to warn approaching enemies and signal to allies to commence the conflict, which was carried out in swift two-horsed chariots.

Back out into the street and this century, and its toyshops. We netted a cool haul of Toybiz figures. It was nice because all the shops were playing ROTK on a little tv above the LOTR section, so we could watch the film, especially Merry, as we browsed the stock…

Taking a last evening walk before dinner we went down the pier and saw…dolphins. Avondster was delighted. So close to a city, and there are dolphins, a mother and offspring. I acted cool, blasé…but actually I never saw them there before….but it was a beautiful note on which to finish our moot, little outriders of the Western Sea……

Thanks, everyone for listening to my account of our....Entmoot. Thanks, Avondster for a wonderful weekend….and have you figured out what the tree said to you?

Can anyone here speak Entish?