A report by Nickos Themelis aka Eomer
Saturday, May 13th. I woke up a bit late. Am I going to make it? I put on my favorite Greek Tolkien Society polo, the black one with the embroidered Pony, and leave home in a hurry to catch the bus for downtown. I hope I get there in time. “It’s still early”, I think to myself, “not many will have come yet”. I reach the venue, the bookshop and cultural café “Ianos” in full anticipation. The first happy surprise awaits for me at the entrance. Two old friends, just chilling, waiting for the event to begin. “Am I late? Is everyone else already here?” I ask. “Not at all,” they say. “Just go up and see who’s here for yourself!” At the top of the wooden staircase I see the first familiar faces, behind the stand with the mementos and the new Society 2018 Calendar. Happiness feels me and a big smile appears on my face. “Hi, Nicko! Welcome back! Have you got the newt-shirt yet?” And they hand me my brand new, 15th anniversary, beautiful burgundy t-shirt.
I look around. The long and wide room is already filled with many people, friends and acquaintances but many new faces as well. And more are coming! People get their coffee or refreshments from the bar and settle down. I place myself in front of the stage and get my camera ready. The President of the Society comes on stage and after giving some useful information, starts the event with a brief “history” of the previous 15 years. Her words and the accompanying photographs bring vividly to mind many happy moments. Events big and small, excursions in Greece, trips abroad to meet other Tolkienists. So many things have happened during these past years! We recollect then now and realize that all this has turned us into one big family.
After this trip down memory lane, it is time for pure Tolkien bliss. A beautiful, concise presentation on “Beren and Luthien” by Spyros Sampsonas, their unique love story brought to life by the recitations of our Bardess, Dimitra Benisi.
Then, it is the turn of translator and author Thomas Mastakouris to talk to us about “The King’s broken sword”. An analysis on heirloom swords, their meaning and significance in myth and the lore of Tolkien. From Ancient Greece, to Norse sagas and the Niebelungenlied, on to the Arthurian myth and even Hindi tradition, we traveled and learned all the legends surrounding famous shattered and reforged blades. The audience is captivated and afterwards there are many questions for the speaker.
And now, it is time for our special guest from England, Mr. Colin Duriez, to take the stage. He talks about young Ronald Tolkien, his family, his friends, his love for Edith, the War, the studies. He informs us on many important aspects of his life, which helped form the Professor we all know and love. The audience sat rapt and paid close attention. Afterwards there were many detailed questions, that Colin was happy to answer. The session ended with a half hour if book signing. “The Making of a Legend” is translated into Greek by Thomas Mastakouris and both author and translator obliged us by signing many copies.
The first day closed with magnificent music. Sólastas, a Greek world music trio, specializing in Celtic and Nordic traditional songs, gave a stellar performance. They even included a few of the more lyrical songs from the “Fellowship of the Ring” film, to the delight of us all.
The second day begun with storytelling, by the exceptional narrator and story-weaver Andreas Michailides. He told fairy tales and myths and Tolkien stories about “Smiths and Wyrms”, transporting us into the mystical lands of wonder and adventure with just the sound of his stentorian voice and the ringing of his magical bell.
Then came the lecture we had all been waiting for. Dr. Dimitra Fimi, went on stage and bewitched us with a lecture on “Tolkien and Faerie”. From the tiny, winged faeries of Victorian romanticism, to Peter Pan, to the legends of the Tuatha Dé Danann, to Tolkien’s noble High Elven warriors, we learned fascinating details about the evolution of Faerie and the Professor’s deep knowledge of all pertaining lore. Dr Fimi has a unique ability to captivate her audience. We all wished we were her students. One thing is certain: we’ll never again be certain that the little lights we see at dusk aren’t fragile winged beauties. Numerous questions followed and we really could have spent the rest of the day discussing this very interesting topic.
The next subject was Languages. Dr Athanasios Karasimos presented us with a comprehensive analysis on how Tolkien worked on the structure and historical development of his invented languages. We were amazed by the depth of knowledge and amount of sere work put into them. The questions that followed the presentation proved that the audience understood and appreciate both the subject and the speaker.
The last talk was not academic. Kaethi Karageorgi, gave a personal, nostalgic reminiscence on her first encounter with Hobbits and especially her admiration for Bilbo Baggins. A touching account to bring the event full circle, ending with a beautiful rendition of the “Misty Mountains” song by the Fantasy Choir.
The Athens Tolkien Symposium could end without a traditional “hobbiting”, at a tavern in Plaka, the old part of the city at the foothills of Akropolis.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to our speakers, our visitor, the venue and all our members who worked hard for the first Athens Tolkien Symposium. It has been a wonderful experience.