The Cloak and the Sword: Costume Fandom, A Rough Echo

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[page 2] <Font to mimic handwriting.> costume fandom A ROUGH ECHO Ruth Berman <end Font> "Strider sighed and paused before he spoke again. 'That is a song,' he said, 'in the mode that is called _ann-tnennath_ among the elves. It is hard to render in our Common Speech, and this is but a rough echo of it.'" In 1954, 1955 and 1956, the 3 volumes of _The Lord of The Rings_ appeared. The reviewers expressed their delight immediateiy in, for example, The New York _Times_, The _Nation_, and _F&SF_. The readers expressed their delight, too, and by the time _The Two Towers_ appeared, _The Fellowship of the Ring_ was already out of print. In 1958, at the Solacon, fans began demonstrating the sincerest form of flattery; the imitation, in costume, of the Tolkien characters. Ted Johnstone describes the Solacon costumes as follows; "I was Frodo, in a costume which I had worn to an LASFS Hallowe'en party the year before; pink shirt, flowered vest; pink knee-breeches with silver buckles at eadh @each@ knee; a heavy gold ring on a chain of odd manufacture (it looked more like scales than links) a green-lined grey cloak and hood, fastened at the throat with a silver veined green lea£. I also took an old pair of socks and sewed curly brown crepe hair on them. Hair from the ankles to the knees was ample enough and natural. My costume was enhanced by a long-stemmed pipe. I also had a short sword, made from a British WWI Bayonet; it had a wooden handle, not much of a hilt, and a perfectly shaped blade for a short sword. I put an edge on it and carved _Sting_ in runic letters on the leather scabbard that came with it. [page 3] A ROUGH ECHO: COSTUME FANDOM GOES TOLKIEN; Ruth Berman, reconstructor Rick Sneary came as the leader of the Ringwraiths. He wore a shimmery black cloak and hood, black shirt and trousers, carried a black sword, and wore a silver-and-black gauze mask. Steve Tolliver was Strider, in leather jerkin, green doublet, sword and criass @cuirass@. George Fields, as Gandalf the White, wore white robes, loose and flowing, and a broad-brimmed hat, designed after a number of Kelly Freas hats; flat and low-profile, with a curiously pointed brim. Milo Mason as Sauron wore a costume designed and constructed by George, which was one of the best Tolkien costumes I've ever seen. To begin with, Milo is six feet four, and rather thin. The costume, naturally, was all black, including black gloves. The Eye was painted on the chest of the shirt, and repeated in the center of the cloak, which was draped over both shoulders. Over his head was not a hood, but a stiff cardboard helm, shaped to fit the head closely and descending to a point between the eyes. Here another Eye was inscribed. Rising behind the head, as high as the helm, was a stiff high collar. The face was masked by a black curtain mask with gold-ringed eye-holes. The effect was quite dramatic; when he arrived at my house to pick me up, Miriam Dyches went to the front door and ran back screaming "There's _something_ at the door! He's big, and he's black, and he's ten feet tall!" " Bjo, who was the Arwen in the group, (<words rubbed out>) says "This was the very first Arwen costume, drawn from the first exuberance of the book's first listening. Later I realized that Arwen was a good deal more dignified than this, but the sketch remains my idea of a young, sylvan Arwen. The skirt and sleeves were of silver-grey taffeta, with forest green lining in the sleeves; the bodice of grey-green brocade with thin curlycues of pale green-gold embroidery. The neck scarf is sheer crystalline, shimmering grey-silver-green. The sleeves touch the floor, as does the scarf, and have jewels sewn into the V-shapes; stones of amber against the green, green against the grey. " In 1959, at the Detention, there were two Tolkien costumes, planned independently. I came as Frodo after the One Ring had been destroyed. I came as Frodo because it is Fredo with whom I identify most strongly, and of course, because my height and coloring suit the character of a hobbit. I chose to be Frodo after Mount Doom simply because I had a beautiful white jewel to represent Arwen's gift, but did not have a suitable ring. My costume was simple and unimpressive, but, I thought, close to the proper spirit; after all Frodo was simple and unimpressive except to those who, like Gandalf, could see beneath the hobbit exterior. I wore bright blue slacks and a red shirt because "they dress in bright colors" and brown shoes because I could think of no better way to represent hobbit fur. I also wore a silver-grey cloak fastened with a pin of a dragon holding a vaguely leaf-shaped green stone,; my jewel was an ear-ring of my mother's, set on a chain; a white stone surrounded by silver filigree. I crooked the [page 4] A ROUGH ECHO - Costume Fandom goes Tolkien - Ruth Berman, reconstructor long finger of my left hand down, and held it that way; this gave a startlingly real appearance. My choice of fingers caused some comment, but I was able to cite chapter and verse; "He sat up, and then he saw that Frodo was lying beside him....one hand behind his head and the other resting upon the coverlet. Iu was the right hand, and the third finger was missing." I _had_ mixed the hands, but I had the right finger. That is, I was right considering that Tolkien numbers fingers beginning with the first finger and I have always started counting with the thumb. Bruce Pelz and I first met in costume at the Detention. He asked who I was, and I said "Would it help if I told you my sword was called Sting?" A gleam came into his eye and he smiled slowly. "It would," he said. I asked who he was. "Would it help if I told you my ring was called Nayya?" How's that for a wild set of introductions? Bruce has a strong feeling for Gandalf; Gandalf is his favorite character. Since he was unable to find grey or white robes, he came in black; black shirt, trousers, cape and hood. Also black beard. He wore a gold colored ring, with a large red stone. Gandalf appeared again in 1960, at the Pittcon, in the person of Den Studebaker, who describes his costume as follows; "As soon as I had decided, I started to work on my staff. I walked through the park with machete in hand. In the process I tripped and fell flat on my face over a fallen tree. The tree was only nine to twelve feet tall. Whipping out my hacksaw, I hewed away the top half of the tree. Then I cut away the lower portion with the roots, and the smaller side branches, leaving a piece about five feet high. After several months of carving and burning with an electric stylus, the staff had the general outline of a dragon -- whose face reminded me of a cross between Arlene Francis and a lovesick cow-- with a head, a horn behind the head, twenty-seven yes, thousands of scales, and still wasn't finished the night before the Pittcon. Dying torn sheets and placing them piled on various grades of porcelain surfaces to give them a faded look, I dried them and sewed them into a huge ragged cloak and hood of the most nondescript color and form. My mother and I went digging in old chests and found an impossible white material which had the property of letting light in and diffusing it, so that the material seemed to glow, though it was opaque. Mother worked half the night sewing and fitting until I had what I wanted, an alb of irridescent white. We then dug out a gold chain belt with a gold cage change purse attached. A plaster and wax ball went into a blue and silver knit sack. The corners were bound with gold thread, and this served as a palantir. The hardest part of the costume was the wig and beard. Nobody had a white wig and beard in August, so we got hold of some Angel Hair, that spun-glass stuff, used on Christmas trees. This was sewed on a cheesecloth base. Accessories to the costume included some of that good old Martland red clay, which I put on my face and built in layers and [page 5] A ROUGH ECHO - COSTUME FAMDOM GOES TOLKIEN - Ruth Berman, narrator wrinkles to add about a hundred years to my age, some "stardust" and tinselly powder which Harriet Kolchak provided and sprinkled throug my hair and beard; a white plastic moonstone glued in the middle of my forehead, and an elaborate fire opal which was actually a brooch glued to my real ring. "More surprising was the act I staged to give the costume impact. Doc Barrett asked who I represented. 'Gandalf,' I said, 'Gandalf the wizard.' Then I swept off the cloak and hurled a fireball into the audience. It went off with a superb puff of smoke and a loud bang. " _The Lord of the Rings_ will probably continue to be much in favor as costume material. In the first place, it includes many different, yet real-seeming characters. Almost everyone identified with someone in it. In the second place there are so many different societies in it that almost every house has the materials to represent the costume of one of its peoples. And last, _The Lord of The Rings_ is a great book. We love it. The highest form of flattery is imitation; and even Strider wanted to put something of the Elves' into the Common Speech. _Ruth Berman_

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